Even though head and neck pain is often multifactorial, the majority of patients that are treated at TMJ Treatment Atlanta are suffering from myofascial (muscle) pain. This is manifested as jaw pain. These patients usually experience tightness in the muscles of the face and neck, headaches, limited ability to open their mouth or a locking of their jaw, pain on chewing and facial pain. Many times this will be in conjunction with a popping jaw. Quite often proper splint therapy can relieve the muscle symptoms, however, many patients we see have been given a splint (mouth guard) that is made of the wrong material, or has never been fitted properly for the patient, and is therefore too uncomfortable to wear for any extend time. The patients get frustrated with this and are reluctant to try a properly fitting splint.
TMJ Treatment Atlanta will customize every splint we make for our patients and provide them with follow up therapy to insure that the appliance does what it is designed to do, get patients feeling better.
What are the goals for TMJ Splint Therapy Treatment?
Comfort and stability are the main goals of splint therapy. In almost all cases, reducing excessive muscle activity is the primary goal. Muscular forces that are not in harmony with the teeth and skeletal components of the jaw always lead to some compensatory muscle activity from the neck, shoulders, and even deeper in the body. It also leads to teeth loosening in their sockets, worn teeth and failing dental restorations, as well as further damage of the cartilage elements inside the jaw joint and even popping jaw.
Muscle activity is reduced by having a custom fitted bite splint. A splint is a hard plastic tray that fits over either the upper or lower row of teeth and protects the teeth from trauma. For patients with loose teeth and/or periodontal disease, this protection will lead to helping the teeth tighten within their sockets, and increase chances of keeping teeth for a lifetime.
For patients with the instability of the TMJ, the splint will serve as a brace. The flat surface of the bite splint allows the jaw to slide easily in all three dimensions which ultimately allows the joint itself to come to a healthier resting position.
A secondary goal of splint therapy is the confirmation of the initial diagnosis and will facilitate the preview of any definitive dental treatment needs.
For example, some patients may require orthodontics (braces) to move the teeth into a more optimal bite alignment or in others, the teeth may simple be reshaped or polished into a healthier orientation for both the teeth and jaw joints. The doctors have seen successes in complex cases benefit greatly from coordinated therapy with other medical care providers: the fields of physical therapy, chiropractic, and massage are examples.
Maintenance of the Bite Splint
Maintenance of the bite splint is simple: handle it gently and keep it clean. Because the bite splint is custom fitted, it will be thinner in some areas by design – these thinner areas are more vulnerable to breaking if the splint is dropped. Small chips can be polished away, but a broken splint must be remade and frequently cannot be done so without repeating the whole process and fee.
Cleaning can be done with a toothbrush and soft toothpaste, or by soaking in a cup with a denture tablet. Bring your bite split to every hygiene and dental appointment for evaluation and cleaning. In the event that restorative dental care is needed while you are in bite splint therapy, the splint can usually be refit around new dental work!