Every case of TMJ is different, and because of that, every treatment must also be different. One common treatment is a bite splint, which is popular because it’s a quick-working solution that isn’t permanent, providing flexibility of treatment.
While a bite splint isn’t the right treatment for everyone, it’s a good start for many people suffering from TMJ symptoms. Read on to learn how a bite splint works, and if it could work for you.
What is a Bite Splint?
A bite splint, which is similar to a mouthguard like the ones that athletes wear, has a dual purpose. Not only does it protect teeth from any grinding or damage that a bad bite might inflict, but it also moves the jaw into the correct position, relieving tension and resolving a wide variety of related symptoms.
The jaw and the temporomandibular joint are part of a complex, fragile system that has lots of moving parts. Unlike the simpler joints in the knees or the elbows, the temporomandibular joint needs to allow for all kinds of varied movement, yet must also be incredibly durable to handle the amount of work it does. With TMJ, the jaw is misaligned, so it is constantly experiencing tension. This ongoing tension can further damage your teeth and jaw, and lead to painful symptoms throughout your body.
The goal of a bite splint is to help your jaw find the proper position to rest in — a position without tension. By holding the jaw in the ideal position, the symptoms that have arisen from that tension will disappear, and further damage can be prevented.
How Does it Work?
First, your dentist will examine your jaw and work to identify your ideal bite, where your jaw is aligned and you are experiencing the least amount of tension. Once your dentist has determined that a bite splint is indeed the best solution for your particular bite, it’s time to construct a bite splint that suits your mouth. The dentist will take a full-mouth impression of your bite in its ideal position. That impression will then be used to create a custom bite splint that can shape your jaw to relieve your symptoms.
For some patients, the bite splint will successfully retrain the jaw, and the patient can then be weaned off of the device. For others, wearing the bite splint at night will be enough to keep symptoms in check long-term. For yet others, a bite splint might simply be the first step to identifying the ideal bite and then using other methods, such as orthodontics or reconstructive dentistry, to permanently adjust the teeth for it.
Although the pace of recovery varies from person to person, most patients start to see relief from symptoms localized near the jaw immediately. Marked improvement of more distant symptoms should be apparent within six weeks. Full relief may develop as early as three months into treatment. By six months, the majority of people using bite splints have even seen relief of the more far-reaching symptoms.
There are many ways to treat TMJ and its symptoms, and Denver TMJ dentist Dr. Kevin Berry can determine the path that makes the most sense for your specific experience. Call us at (303) 691-0267 or contact us online today to make an appointment and learn whether or not a bite splint is right for you.