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Jaw Pain

Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ, TMD, or TMJD, is a general term covering any disorder causing inflammation of the temporomandibular joint, which connects the skull to the mandible. Several conditions can cause pain in the jaw joint and the muscles involved in the closing and opening of the jaw. Disorders affecting the temporomandibular joint can affect a person’s ability to eat, speak, swallow, chew, and breathe.

The set of TMJ disorders are commonly divided into three general categories, though multiple conditions may be present at once.

Inflammatory Joint Disease:

Arthritis is a disease that causes inflammation of the joints. Several forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, traumatic arthritis, and infectious arthritis, may affect the jaw joint.

Synovitis is another condition that can bring about TMJ pain where the synovial membrane that lines the joint and lubricates it becomes inflamed.

Muscle Pain 

Myofascial pain: The jaw joint and muscles around it can be affected by myofascial pain. This is a disorder where trigger points and muscle tension, commonly in the neck, back and shoulder areas, cause pain in a localized area and referred pain from another region of the body.

Joint Pain

Internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint: Between the mandible and the skull is a disc that acts as a cushion. Displacement or deterioration of the disc can cause pain and inflammation of the joint.

A person suffering from TMJD may experience:

TMJ disorders are still a relatively unexamined area of medicine, and as such, diagnosis and treatment of these conditions can be difficult. There is no standard accepted test for diagnosing TMJD and both the American Dental Association and the American Medical Association have not established the TMJ area as a specialty due to insufficient scientific research.

Still, what is known about TMJD has been used to effectively treat or manage the symptoms of the condition, and ongoing research continues to evolve treatments and a broader understanding of the causes and risk factors for TMJD.

Occasional discomfort or pain of the jaw joint or facial muscles is not uncommon and can occur for any number of reasons. Often TMJ pain goes away within days or weeks, but if the problem persists for a month or more, a doctor should be consulted.

What is Splint Therapy?

In the case of splint therapy for TMJ disorder, the term “splint” refers to a mouth guard, bite plate or other types of oral apparatus prescribed by an experienced dentist, Dr. Leon D James. These splints can be either hard or soft and can cover a few of the teeth or all of the teeth.

Just how does splint therapy help resolve TMJ pain and discomfort? It does so in a few ways:

When worn, splints allow jaw muscles and ligaments to relax, therefore preventing the occurrence of teeth grinding, clenching or other jaw reactions that may trigger TMJ pain and discomfort.

Aside from teeth grinding, or bruxism, it’s hypothesized that TMJ disorder can also stem from either an underbite or an overbite. This is thought to put added pressure on the jaw. However, administration of a splint can help angle the bite into a more optimal position, which can help alleviate tension in the jaw.

Another benefit to splint therapy, especially in the case of people who grind their teeth, is that splints can essentially prevent teeth from becoming worn down and help offset the other negative side effects of bruxism.

The Two Types of Splints

While splints can be either hard or soft and cover either all of the teeth or just a few of them, there are two general types of splints that do the job. These are:

Stabilization splints, which are worn to prevent teeth grinding and clenching. These types of splints cover all of the teeth and are typically just worn at night.

Repositioning splints, which are splints designed to correct bite occlusions. These splints are typically worn all day, every day.

While splints are effective for managing things like teeth grinding and bite occlusions, it’s important to note that they aren’t necessarily a permanent fix for them. That’s where dentists may recommend Phase II treatments, which include the likes of orthodontics, special dental work, or even surgery to ensure that individuals don’t fall back into bad habits. For example, for those wearing a repositioning splint, the bite may have changed as a result. However, failure to wear the splint will cause the bite to fall back into the same uneven alignment.

For more information on splint therapy, how it works, and other options for treating and managing TMJ disorder, contact us today.