Do you wake up with sore jaws or experience clicking sounds and discomfort while opening and closing your mouth? These seemingly subtle signs might indicate the chances of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Beyond the physical pain, TMJ disorders can significantly impact various aspects of daily life. Astonishingly common, these issues silently affect 60 to 70% of individuals in Australia alone. However, fear not, the solution lies in a surprisingly simple remedy – the dental splint.
In this article, we will explore how dental splints serve as a treatment and the prevention of these TMJ disorders and other oral health issues. Join us as we offer valuable insights into the vital role of occlusal splints in maintaining optimal oral health.
Understanding TMJ Disorder
TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorders, refers to a range of conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint, which is the joint connecting your jawbone to your skull. This joint is essential for everyday activities like talking, chewing, and yawning. This joint can result in TMJ disorders when something goes awry. Common symptoms include:
- jaw pain and stiffness
- discomfort while chewing
- headaches or migraines
- Sinus problems
- neck and back pain
- ear aches or ringing ears
- difficulty in opening or closing your mouth
- clicking or popping sounds when you move your jaw
- toothaches or teeth that don’t like like they are biting correctly
TMJ disorders can be caused by various factors, including jaw injury, arthritis, teeth grinding, or stress. The good news is that there are ways to manage and treat TMJ disorders, and one such solution is using dental splints, which can help alleviate symptoms and promote jaw health.
What is an Occlusal splint?
A dental, occlusal or bite splint, is a dental appliance designed to protect teeth and improve jaw alignment. They are typically made of a durable and flexible material, like acrylic, and are custom-fitted to your mouth. They are designed to be worn simultaneously on either the upper or lower jaw and sometimes on both. These splints serve various purposes, such as preventing teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism), protecting the teeth from injury during sports, and, most notably, addressing issues related to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ disorders).
In TMJ disorders, an occlusal splint is often used to cushion, reduce pressure on the jaw joint, and promote proper jaw alignment. Depending on your specific needs, they can be worn during the day or at night. By creating a barrier and offering support, occlusal splints are essential in managing symptoms associated with TMJ disorders and promoting overall oral health.
Benefits of Dental Splints
Occlusal splints are particularly effective in managing temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders by providing the following benefits, making them valuable tools in oral health:
Aligning the Jaw
Occlusal splints are designed to help align the jaw in a stable position, reducing strain on the TMJ. This alignment prevents immediate discomfort and contributes to long-term oral health by mitigating the risk of TMD development.
Preventing Dental Damage
Bruxism is a leading cause of dental issues such as worn-down enamel, fractures, and tooth loss. Occlusal splints act as a protective barrier, preventing direct contact between the upper and lower teeth and reducing the risk of dental damage associated with bruxism.
One of the primary functions of occlusal splints is to absorb and distribute the forces generated during teeth grinding or clenching, commonly known as bruxism. If left unchecked, these forces can contribute to TMJ disorders by placing undue stress on the joint.
Stress is a common trigger for bruxism and TMJ disorders. Occlusal splints provide a physical barrier that can help reduce the impact of stress-induced clenching, relieving the TMJ and surrounding muscles.
Occlusal splints can help alleviate pain associated with TMJ disorders by providing a cushioning effect and reducing the impact of grinding or clenching teeth.
Splints can help relax the jaw muscles by promoting a more natural and comfortable resting position. This can contribute to reducing muscle tension and discomfort.
Improved Sleep Quality
Due to teeth grinding, people with TMJ disorders often experience discomfort and pain during sleep. An occlusal splint can enhance sleep quality by minimising the impact of bruxism.
Reduction of Headaches
TMJ disorders are frequently associated with headaches, especially in the temporal region. By addressing the underlying causes, an occlusal splint can contribute to headache relief.
Occlusal splints are often custom-made to fit for your mouth, providing a comfortable and precise fit. This customisation enhances their effectiveness in addressing your specific needs.
TMJ Dysfunction Treatment with Occlusal Splints
At Superior Smiles, we offer a comprehensive treatment for TMJ disorder. Our approach involves the creation of custom-designed occlusal splints tailored to meet your specific needs. These personalised splints serve a dual purpose, assisting in managing bruxism while providing essential protection for teeth and gums against potential damage. We also offer alternative therapies to compliment your treatment such as physiotherapy and facial injectables to relax jaw muscles and help manage pain.
The first step towards getting TMJ treatment is an accurate diagnosis. This can be challenging because of its various causes and symptoms. Our Fremantle Dentists perform a comprehensive consultation, listening and understanding to your concerns and obtaining your oral and medical history to rule out all possible causes before treatment can begin. We also consult with other healthcare professionals to prepare a treatment plan so that all aspects of the problem, being physical and/or emotional, are managed correctly. This systematic approach ensures that nothing is missed and that your treatment is tailored to your unique needs. If the issue is not dental, we refer you to a medical practitioner who can handle the problem accordingly.
If it’s determined you need TMJ treatment after the consultation, then we will begin the process of creating your custom dental splint.
Here’s what the process typically involves:
- The dentist will thoroughly examine your jaw, teeth, and bite. This may involve imaging studies like X-rays to comprehensively view the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
- Based on the diagnosis, the dentist will discuss various treatment options, and if an occlusal splint is deemed appropriate, they will explain the benefits and the process involved.
- To create a custom-fitted occlusal splint, the dentist will take impressions of your teeth or use digital scans. This ensures that the splint is tailored precisely to the contours of your mouth.
- Using the impressions or digital scans, the occlusal splint is custom-made. The dentist will ensure that the splint fits comfortably and functions effectively to address your TMJ issues.
- It’s common for adjustments to be made during the fitting appointment to ensure optimal comfort and effectiveness. The dentist may schedule follow-up appointments to monitor progress and make any necessary modifications.
The dentist will provide detailed instructions on how and when to wear the occlusal splint. This may include wearing it during sleep or specific activities that trigger TMJ symptoms.
The procedure can vary slightly based on your needs and the dentist’s approach. Regular communication with the dentist is essential to address any concerns and ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the occlusal splint in managing TMJ disorder symptoms.
Treat Your TMJ Disorder with our Custom Occlusal Splints
If the signs of jaw discomfort, clicking sounds, or teeth grinding disrupt your daily life, our custom-made occlusal splints can help you regain a restful night’s sleep and improved oral health. Our gentle dentists At Fremantle Clinic are ready to guide you through the process, ensuring a proper fit of occlusal splints that addresses your unique needs. Schedule a consultation today.