In trying to find some relief from your TMJ symptoms, you may have stopped into your local drug store and seen various “night guard” products that are designed to be worn during sleep. Although these may seem similar to a custom-made orthotic, they are not able to give relief from TMJ symptoms and should not be used until you check with a dentist to make sure they are okay in your situation.
Often people use these terms interchangeably, which can make them confusing. We can explain the difference to you in person, if you would rather talk to us about your TMJ treatment options. Please call 509-532-1111 (Spokane) or 509-927-2273 (Spokane Valley) or email Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics today for an appointment at our Spokane or Spokane Valley location.
What Is a Night Guard?
A night guard is a premade oral appliance that you can buy without a prescription to protect your teeth from damage due to grinding. It is basically a soft spacer that keeps your teeth apart so they cannot rub one another and cause damage.
Although tooth grinding or bruxism is often a symptom of TMJ, a night guard doesn’t actually address the cause of your tooth grinding. Similar to taking medication to conceal the pain of headaches, a night guard is only a short-term relief, and it may actually make your TMJ worse.
Because night guards aren’t designed for you, they may actually be putting your jaw in a position where your muscles, joints, and nerves suffer more tension or irritation than ever. Although you may be stopping your grinding, your other TMJ symptoms may increase.
What Is an Orthotic?
An orthotic is a custom-designed oral appliance that you can only get with a dentist’s prescription. The goal of an orthotic is TMJ treatment: it puts your jaw in the position of maximum rest, reducing muscle tension and nerve irritation. In the short-term an orthotic will stop your teeth grinding, and in the long term it will reduce your tendency to grind your teeth. It will also reduce your other symptoms, such as jaw pain and tinnitus.
An orthotic is a good long-term treatment for many TMJ patients. After joint surgery and full-scale dental restoration, an orthotic is the best solution for long-term TMJ relief.
What Is a Bite Splint?
The term “bite splint” should be another name for an orthotic. However, night guard manufacturers also use the term to refer to their product. If you are talking to someone about a bite splint, make sure you know whether they’re referring to an orthotic or a night guard.
For more information about TMJ treatment options, please contact Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics today and schedule an appointment at our Spokane or Spokane Valley office.