If you had dizziness, ringing in your ears, or a headache, your first thought most likely wouldn’t be to go to the dentist. However, these are a few common symptoms that can indicate that you may have a problem with your jaw. TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder impacts millions of people each year.
You can have varying degrees of symptoms starting from mild headaches and facial pain to more severe dizziness and earaches. They can get severe enough to make you call into work. Because all of these symptoms can slowly come up, and they usually don’t seem related, it’s easy for this disorder to exist for years without a proper diagnosis. In turn, this can have a huge impact on the quality of your life.
There are several risk factors that can lead to issues with this joint, including bruxism, injury, posture, and arthritis. Making an appointment with your dentist is the first step in helping to relieve these symptoms because they can both diagnose your problem and recommend treatment options like a bite guard for TMJ. They may want you to try other lifestyle changes before they recommend a nightguard.
General Information Regarding TMJ
Your jaw has two joints, and they are on either side of your mouth. These joints work together to move your mouth back and forth, side to side, and up and down. The joints are your temporomandibular joints, and they connect your lower jaw to the top portion of your mouth. These joints get cushioned by a soft disc that doubles as a shock absorber when you chew or move your mouth. If you’re someone with TMJ, something sets off inflammation or an irregularity in the joint. This can impact your ability to chew, talk, smile, swallow, or even breathe.
Even though there are several debated theories on what exactly causes this issue with your joints, the most likely cause is a combination of different issues. Things like autoimmune diseases, arthritis, injuries, depression, habitual teeth grinding, and infections can contribute to it. The symptoms are as varied as the causes, and this is why it can take years to diagnose. People who have TMJ usually complain about limited jaw movement, jaw stiffness or pain, clicking or locking in their jaw, headaches, shoulder pain, neck pain, ringing or fullness in the ear, visual problems, or dizziness.
To make it more complicated, there aren’t a lot of tests available to diagnose this problem. Most commonly, you’ll get a diagnosis based on any symptoms you describe and your history. Talking to your dentist will help you find the best treatment plan. This could include simple lifestyle changes like eating soft foods, reducing stress, avoiding extreme jaw movements, and applying ice. If these don’t work, you could be a good candidate for a bite guard for TMJ.
Defining a Bite Guard for TMJ
A bite guard for TMJ is also known as a stabilization splint or a mouthguard and is made from a very hard resin. There are several different designs available to fit over the lower and upper teeth, or they can fit over both. It can correct your jaw’s position or prevent you from grinding your teeth. Ideally, you’ll only use your mouthguard for a short period of time, and they’re usually very effective. You should stop using your bite guard for TMJ before it permanently alters your bite. If you have worsening or new pain, you should notify your dentist and stop using it right away.
There are over-the-counter mouthguards available, but every mouth is different. To make sure that it doesn’t do more harm than good and that your bite guard for TMJ is the correct pick for you, you should only use it if your dentist fitted it. They design it based on an impression they made of your teeth and mouth. Once they make it, they will readjust it to fit your mouth. You want to follow any and all recommendations your dentist makes about wearing your bite guard for TMJ. They may recommend that you wear it at night, daytime, or both.
How a Bite Guard for TMJ Can Help Alleviate Painful Symptoms
There are several ways that a bite guard for TMJ can help alleviate any pain you may be having related to this disorder. We’re going to cover some of the biggest ways below.
Prevents Jaw Clenching
As the nightguard gets specially fitted for your mouth and jaw, it fits snugly to your teeth. This will create a barrier between your upper and lower jaw, and you won’t be able to clench your jaw when you sleep. In turn, this can help relax the muscles, so they’re not so tense and stiff in the morning.
Stop Teeth Grinding
Grinding your teeth will quickly wear down the enamel on the teeth. You can also apply so much pressure that it chips or cracks your weakened teeth. A bite guard for TMJ provides a buffer that doesn’t allow your teeth to come together. It can also prevent you from grinding your teeth and shifting your jaw from side to side by stabilizing it.
Improves Teeth Sensitivity
When you’re constantly clenching or grinding your teeth, you could very easily be doing damage to the enamel. As this protective layer wears away night after night, you could notice sensitive spots beginning to form on your teeth. These spots are usually concentrated where your teeth meet, so a bite guard for TMJ cushions them to prevent wearing anything away. In turn, you won’t have nearly as much sensitivity.
Supports the Jaw
A bite guard for TMJ will force your jaw to sit in a much more natural position than it normally would. When this happens, it reduces the strain on the muscles and bone that encase your jaw. Having a more relaxed jaw can reduce pain and stiffness, and this can help improve your overall sleep patterns.
For people with TMJ, this can be a frustrating and painful condition until you get a proper diagnosis. We’ve outlined how a bite guard for TMJ can help relieve your symptoms, so it may be a good idea to contact your dentist and get a proper diagnosis so you can take steps to live a pain-free life.