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Bite Splint Therapy – TMJ Treatments

Bite Splint Therapy - TMJ Treatments | MN Center for Dental Care

Bite Splint Therapy – TMJ Treatments

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the skull to the jaw, is one of the most important joints in the human body, but it is also one of the most problematic. “TMJ disorder” is characterized by pain, tenderness, swelling and other symptoms around the face and jaw. TMJ disorder is fairly common, and it can be managed with proper treatment. The Minnesota Center for Dental Care offers Bite Splint Therapy as one of the ways to manage TMJ pain.

C2O (Condylar Centering Orthotic) therapy is a proven and predictable way to stabilize the TMJ, or jaw joint. The C2O is an acrylic horseshoe-shaped splint that looks like a night guard, but it is not. The C2O must be worn 24/7 to stabilize the jaw joint. It can be worn even while eating and should only be removed to brush and floss.

Signs and Symptoms

There is a direct correlation between the health of the TMJ joint and the occlusion (the bite, or the way the upper and lower teeth fit together). The key to stabilizing the joint and relaxing the inflamed muscles is to keep the teeth apart and to center the TMJ into its most stable position. If this is not done the TMJ joint will continue to get worse over time. Other signs and symptoms of an unstable bite/joint are one or more of the following:

  • Headaches
  • Neck/shoulder pain
  • Facial muscle pain
  • Facial muscle tension
  • Earaches/ear pain
  • Tooth wear, gum recession
  • Unexplained tooth or mouth pain

Bite Splint Therapy

Splint therapy for TMJ refers to a mouth guard, bite plate or other type of oral apparatus prescribed by a dentist. These splints can be either hard or soft and can cover anywhere from a few teeth to all of the teeth. How does splint therapy help resolve TMJ pain and discomfort? A couple of different ways.

When worn, splints allow jaw muscles and ligaments to relax, preventing the occurrence of teeth grinding, clenching, or other jaw reactions that might trigger TMJ pain and discomfort. Aside from teeth grinding, TMJ disorder can stem from either an underbite or an overbite. Both of those afflictions put added pressure on the jaw. However, administration of a splint can help angle the bite into a more optimal position, which can help alleviate tension in the jaw.

Another benefit to splint therapy, especially in the case of people who grind their teeth, is that splints can essentially prevent teeth from becoming worn down and help offset the other negative side effects of teeth grinding.

At the Minnesota Center for Dental Care, C2O therapy allows us to stabilize the joint as we make calculated adjustments on the C2O every week, thereby allowing the TMJ to move back into a healthy position. Often our patients see a relief in discomfort within the first weeks of wearing a C2O. In many cases we achieve complete cessation of adverse and painful symptoms with C2O therapy.

It’s important to note that while C2O therapy is therapeutic, it is not a cure. Splint therapy is recommended because either your teeth or your TMJ have signs and symptoms indicating instability between the teeth and jaw joint. Other symptoms that may or may not occur due to this instability are headaches, facial and muscle tension, pain in the joints, fractured or broken teeth, gum recession, bone loss around the teeth and even periodontal disease.

After C2O therapy, your bite will be re-evaluated for stability with the jaw joint properly centered in the jaw socket. Additional treatment may be required, such as coronoplasty, orthodontics, and/or conservative restorative dentistry to stabilize your bite for long-term health.

Once again, while bite splint therapy is effective for managing things like teeth grinding and bite occlusions, it’s important to know that they aren’t necessarily a permanent fix for them. The Minnesota Center for Dental Health may recommend further treatment, which might include orthodontics, special dental work, or even surgery.

If you think you might be suffering from TMJ pain and that you’re a candidate for bite splint therapy, give us a call today!

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