Temporal mandibular dysfunction (TMD) is a condition that affects the movement of the jaw. TMD can be caused by a number of different factors. Arthritis for example can affect the joint just as it does other parts of the body, or you may develop a temporal mandibular joint (TMJ) disorder as a result of clenching or grinding your teeth.
Many people who suffer from TMD experience only occasional pain, but others are in chronic pain. They struggle to eat, talk, and sleep.
TMD can cause a variety of symptoms including:
- Pain around your jaw, ear, and temple
- Clicking popping or grinding noises when you move your jaw
- Difficulty opening your mouth fully
- Your jaw locking when you open your mouth
The pain may be worse when chewing and when you feel stress. TMD may also stop you getting a good night’s sleep.
Wear of the teeth will cause a change in their appearance and increase the chance of cracking or fracturing of the teeth and fillings.
There are a number of treatments available including:
- Having a soft diet. By eating foods that do not require a lot of chewing, you can give your jaw bones and muscles a chance to rest and heal.
- Ice packs, exercise, and moist heat.
- Taking muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory drugs
- Wearing a bite guard or splint. Custom made to fit your mouth, the appliance slips over the upper teeth and keeps them from grinding against the lower teeth
- If other treatments are not successful it may be necessary to refer you to the hospital for jaw joint surgery.
To help stabalise and maintain your temporal mandibular joint (TMJ), the dentist may advise that you wear a therapeutic splint.
Therapeutic splints are designed to help reposition your jaw reducing the pressure on the TMJ. Splints are made from plastic and are worn on a daily basis. The purpose of wearing a TMJ splint is to retrain the jaw and over time, force it into the natural and comfortable position. This relives TMJ symptoms and helps to create a bite that keeps the jaw aligned properly.
Splints are available for both upper and lower teeth. Most people will have lower teeth splints because they are the more comfortable option and they have less of an effect on speech. Since splints need to be worn round the clock, you want something that is as unnoticeable and as comfortable as possible.
The dentist would first take an impression of your teeth from which the splint can be made. Due to the precise nature of this treatment you will need to attend for 4 weekly reviews for at least 6 months.
After this you would need a review every 4-6 months to ensure that the splint is still effective in reducing the TMD.
How to use the splint
- The dentist will advise you on when to wear the splint. Generally, splints are worn 24 hours a day, but the dentist may prescribe one just for use at night.
- The appliance may feel a little strange at first. However, persevere in wearing the splint as you will find it will get easier.
If you feel the appliance does not fit properly, or starts to rub your gums, contact the surgery as it may require adjustments. In this case, remember to bring the appliance with you!