If you’re experiencing pain in your jaw or the muscles around your jaw, you may benefit from a bite guard for TMJ disorder.

Are you unsure what a TMJ disorder is, if you suffer from it, or how a night guard for TMJ may help? You’re not alone in your uncertainty. 

Many Americans suffer from a TMJ disorder without knowing what’s causing it or how to fix it. However, there are professionals you can reach out to and treatments for suspected TMJ disorders.

In this article, we’re providing expert insight into TMJ dysfunction, its causes, and the various treatment methods. Keep reading to learn more about how a mouthguard for TMJ can alleviate your jaw pain.

What is a TMJ Disorder?

Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your jawbone to your skull. It holds your jaw in place and allows it to move up and down, side to side. Without a functioning TMJ, you can’t open or close your mouth, chew, or speak.

A TMJ disorder is any irritation that affects your TMJ from functioning correctly. TMJ dysfunction is common, with around 12 percent of people in the U.S. experiencing TMJ disorders at any one time. Women are affected more often than men, with nine women to every one man experiencing severe pain and restricted jaw movement. 

The most common signs of a TMJ dysfunction are:

  • Facial pain
  • Headaches or earaches
  • Pain or tenderness in your jaw
  • Aching pain in and around your ear
  • Difficulty chewing or pain when chewing
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth

When these symptoms arise, a TMJ disorder may be the culprit. 

What Causes TMJ Problems?

The exact TMJ causes and risk factors can be challenging to pinpoint. 

The most common causes include:

  • Erosion or misalignment of the TMJ disk
  • Arthritic damage to the TMJ cartilage 
  • Physical trauma to the jaw or TMJ

Factors that can lead to an increased risk of a TMJ disorder are:

Unfortunately, you can’t control some of these causes and risk factors. But some can be avoided or treated to decrease the pain or discomfort, with occlusal guards for TMJ being the first line of defense.

Bite Guards for TMJ Dysfunction

If you go to the dentist complaining of TMJ disorder symptoms, your dentist may recommend a bite guard as the first treatment option.

There are many names for a bite guard for TMJ, including:

  • Mouthguard for TMJ
  • Night guard for TMJ
  • Occlusal guard for TMJ
  • Night mouthguard for TMJ

In particular, people often hear “mouthguard” and think of the mouthpiece worn during sports. Though not false, a mouth guard is simply anything worn in the mouth to protect your teeth from trauma.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about mouthguards for TMJ.

How Do Night Guards Help TMJ?

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction dental mouthguards are appliances that go in your mouth to cover some or all of your teeth. They’re often made of acrylic resin for rigidity and durability.

Occlusal guards for TMJ work in one of two ways:

  1. Preventing grinding
  2. Correcting jaw position

Grinding and Clenching Prevention

Dentists point to nighttime teeth grinding or clenching as the most significant contributing factor to TMJ disorders. Night guards for TMJ clenching problems are very effective. 

These mouthguards cover the teeth to protect them from clenching or grinding forces. The guard shields the teeth and relieves overall pressure (as well as keeping teeth from chipping or breaking!).

Some night mouthguards for TMJ cover all your teeth, while others create space between the upper and lower back teeth. This space keeps your teeth from putting too much pressure on each other.

Correcting Jaw Position

Other types of bite guards for TMJ dysfunction reposition the jaw forward or backward. Moving the jaw helps relieve jaw pressure. However, this type of bite guard can change your bite over time. You should talk to your dentist before using this method, so they can expertly monitor your treatment.

It’s best to talk with your dentist before purchasing a bite guard or starting a nightguard treatment. They can provide professional insight into the correct occlusal guard for your situation.

How Long for a Mouthguard to Help TMJ?

The time it takes for a TMJ bite guard treatment to work differs for everyone. It depends on your unique situation, the severity of your condition, and how regularly you wear your device. 

Some people may experience relief from TMJ disorder symptoms as soon as they begin wearing a bite guard. Others may not have comfort for a few days or weeks. 

It’s also important to note that regularly wearing your occlusal guard for TMJ will alleviate symptoms faster.

Can Mouthguards Make TMJ Worse?

It’s possible to start using a bite guard for TMJ and:

  • Get little or no relief
  • Experience worse pain

Lack of relief or increased pain often comes from a poor-fitting night guard. Some over-the-counter bite guards are marketed as “one-size-fits-all,” but everyone’s mouth, jaw, and bite are different.

Additionally, purchasing a soft or squishy nightguard can hinder TMJ disorder relief. A soft or squishy guard doesn’t protect the teeth. People often chew on the night guard throughout the night, which is what a guard is supposed to prevent.

When used correctly and fitted properly, a mouthguard for TMJ dysfunction can effectively relieve pain. However, before you start wearing one, you should always:

  1. Talk to your dentist
  2. Follow your dentist’s recommendations

Your dentist can provide professional advice and insight into your unique situation and needs. They can also order you a personalized mouthguard for TMJ that correctly fits your mouth. 

A custom bite guard costs around $685, but is a worthwhile investment for long-term relief. Otherwise, you’ll continue to experience daily discomfort and possibly spend thousands of dollars to fix cracked teeth due to clenching.

Professional Dental Advice on Night Guards for TMJ

The pain and discomfort of a TMJ disorder may not always be severe, but it can be very annoying. TMJ irritation can include:

  • Jaw pain
  • Pain when opening or closing your mouth
  • Headaches and earaches 

The most common reason for TMJ dysfunction is grinding or clenching teeth. Talking to your dentist and getting a bite guard for TMJ is the best first step for relief. A night guard will help decrease grinding and alleviate discomfort. You can try an over-the-counter guard, but it’s often better to get one custom-made.

At Northside Dental Co. in Richmond, VA, we have a team of professional staff ready to provide you with the dental advice and care you need. Whether you’ve been dealing with TMJ pain for a while or recently recognized some discomfort, you’ll be in good hands. Our expert dentists will take the time to understand your situation and prescribe the best treatment plan for you.

Book your appointment online today. New patients are always welcome!