Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome is a common condition with more than 3 million cases in the United States each year. The condition is typically characterized by localized pain and compromised jaw movement that can make it difficult to chew. TMJ syndrome can cause a wide range of health concerns, such as headaches, ear pain, neck pain, and facial pain. Many people with this condition also experience problems with biting, popping sounds, and jaw clicking. Common treatments for TMJ syndrome include bite physical therapy, medications, and bite guards.
Causes of TMJ Syndrome
The temporomandibular joint is located at the base of the skull. It connects the mandible (lower jaw) to the maxilla (upper jaw) and consists of a rounded protrusion of bone and soft cartilage. The TMJ is held together by ligaments that originate from various parts of the neck and head. Together, these ligaments help support the jaw and aid in its movements.
The exact cause of TMJ syndrome can be difficult to determine. Pain can be associated with a jaw injury, arthritis, or genetics. In some instances, jaw pain can develop in people who regularly clench or grind their teeth. TMJ disorders generally occur when the joint is damaged by impact, the cartilage is damaged by arthritis, or when the disc becomes dislodged or erodes.
Symptoms of TMJ Syndrome
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw joint, shoulders, neck, or face, as well as in or around the ear area when you speak, chew or open your mouth
- Jaw that “locks.”
- Swelling on the side of the face
- Grating, popping, or clicking sounds from the jaw joint when chewing or while opening or closing your mouth
- A general tired feeling in your face
- Sudden uncomfortable bite or difficulty chewing
How a Mouth Splint Can Help
Splint therapy is a common treatment option for people suffering from the effects of TMJ syndrome. These appliances are worn over a period of time to relieve pain and hold the jaw in a comfortable resting position. A TMJ mouth splint is designed to be worn 24 hours a day to manage symptoms. However, some dentists may recommend that patients with mild symptoms only wear the appliance while sleeping. As splints are removable, they should not interfere with your ability to brush your teeth or maintain proper oral hygiene.
There are many benefits to wearing a TMJ mouth splint. This includes reduced pressure on the jaw joints and surrounding ligaments and muscles. Wearing a splint also makes it more difficult for patients to clench or grind their teeth which can exacerbate the problem.
During the initial period of wearing a TMJ mouth splint, you can expect to experience some muscle soreness or discomfort. As the jaw becomes accustomed to its new, healthy position, the discomfort should subside. You may also find it difficult to speak for the first few days. However, normal speech should too return quickly.
Learn More About TMJ Mouth Splints
Are you experiencing pain in your jaw or mouth? If so, contact your dentist today for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.