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Splint Therapy

3.1.16 in General

As has been mentioned in the last blog, there are many reasons for signs and symptoms associated with disorders of the TMJ. The most important factor is determining the source of a problem.

Today I’d like to talk about just one treatment modality, for disorders associated with the Temporomandibular joint.
It is likely that the most common story I hear from patients with “TMJ issues” is, either pain in one or both jaw joints, especially while chewing, or frequent headaches. Neither of these presenting symptoms are simple in nature, and often there are multiple contributing factors. But once I have determined the source of symptoms to be muscles that are overacting, or acting inappropriately, I know there are a few treatments that can go a long way to alleviate symptoms.

We begin with some common sense avoidances. Avoid wide open of the mouth. Avoid chewing gum. Avoid chewing tough food like bagels, pizza, tough meat. As much as possible “put the joint at rest.” Often I will recommend splint therapy for these patients.

After determining that something in between the teeth does not worsen the situation, I can scan the mouth for a very accurately fitting splint. These are made of hard clear acrylic and typically cover only one arch. My preference is usually the lower teeth. These splints are designed to create a perfect bite. As long as the splint is in place, I can eliminate any disharmony from teeth. As the muscles that were sore calm down, the bite pattern on the splint may change, and I can merely adjust the acrylic surface to continue the perfect bite pattern.

Splints (often referred to as nightguards) are generally very comfortable and durable to wear. When prescribed correctly for the problem, these patients will not part with their splints. Since we recognize the stresses of life to wax and wane, keep your splint always at the ready is a smart idea.

Stay tuned in and keep smiling. Dr W.

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Gary Williams, DMD

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