Many children and adults suffer from TMJ with unbearable symptoms including facial pain, headaches in the temples, inability to open to the mouth widely, sensitive teeth, or aching and throbbing jaw muscles. There are numerous remedies for jaw-related symptoms that include massages, home exercises, physical therapy, modified diets, and changes in daytime behaviors/postures.
At times, an oral appliance is an important part of care. These devices are commonly used for the treatment of TMJ problems and can be used in a number of different ways.
What is an oral appliance?
An oral appliance is a device that fits over your teeth with the intent of reducing tooth wear, tooth mobility, tooth sensitivity, muscle pain and soreness, and joint pain and instability. At times, these devices are designed to “align the jaw.” They can also be used to discourage some of the daytime behaviors many patients don’t realize they’re doing, such as resting their teeth together, clenching their teeth, or biting their nails or cuticles. These appliances can be worn at night and/or during the day.
Following are some of the TMJ appliance options we offer at Park Smiles NYC
- Night guards:These appliances are commonly chosen by dentists to address tooth wear, soreness, and mobility that occur as a result of night clenching or grinding of the teeth. Many patients that develop tooth wear do not even realize that they have a problem and often deny grinding their teeth at night. These devices, when used for patients without active symptoms (just wear of the teeth), don’t require much adjustment and should be brought by the patient when they return to Park Smiles NYC for tooth cleaning visits. Typically, these devices are custom fit so that they are retentive, not too thick, and modifiable over time. Over-the-counter devices sold in pharmacies and online are usually not as effective, as they are often too thick, poorly retentive, and inadequately cover all of the teeth. As a result, these devices can often prompt more clenching, and/or allow tooth shift.
- Night appliances to address TMJ problems: Based on the specific jaw problem that is diagnosed (muscle soreness, morning temporal headaches, limited jaw opening in the morning, etc.), oral appliances at night are designed to reduce overuse and loading forces to the TM Joints and jaw muscles. The biting surface of the appliance is therefore designed and modified to most efficiently address the problems at hand. Most commonly, the biting surfaces are flat, but at times inclines and ramps are used to confront unstable joint ligaments and displaced discs. When used for patients with active symptoms, these appliances require frequent modifications requiring patient follow-up visits.
- Day appliances to address TMJ problems: At times there is necessity to have a patient wear an appliance during the day. For the most part, these appliances are needed when there is extreme instability in a TM joint that has led to clicking, locking, and pain problems. These appliances are not worn all day and virtually never during chewing. At other times, oral appliances worn during the day hours can be used to get in the way of day behaviors and/or remind patients that during the day the jaw should be in a rest position with the teeth apart.
- Bite Splints: This form of therapy uses a mouth guard to physically correct the bite, rather than just relieve pain or reduce damage to the teeth. Bite splints are best for you if you have more extreme TMJ symptoms that need correcting in order to have a hope for any long-term relief. The primary difference between a bite splint and a night guard is that bite splints are worn around the clock, 24-7. It’s a full commitment to correcting the misalignment issues that are causing your TMJ.
If you suffer from the painful symptoms of TMJ, you may be a candidate for an oral appliance to relieve your pain and even help realign your bite over the course of time. Schedule a consultation today with Dr. Cohen at Park Smiles NYC to discuss your options. No one should have to suffer from TMJ!
Dr. Ruben Cohen, Park Smiles NYC
Announced in 2017 in New York Times Magazine as one of the top 20 oral surgeons and “Super Specialists” in New York City – selected by local medical experts!