Treating TMJ pain: how do splints work?

When you suffer from TMJ pain, getting help to relieve the symptoms is almost always on your mind. Your orthodontist will be able to recommend some treatments specific to your particular situation, but in general, there are several ways that you’ll be able to minimize the pain you experience on a regular basis.

TMJ really stands for temporomandibular joint, and isn’t the name of the condition, but the name of the area where you’re feeling discomfort. TMJ disorders–the pain you feel–are commonly caused by a misalignment between your upper and lower jaws, impacting the muscles around it. The muscles become strained and that further contributes to your jaws travelling in the wrong path. But how can you get your jaws to realign and your muscles to relax?

A TMJ splint can help


At Docbraces, we often recommend that our patients suffering from TMJ pain use a splint. A TMJ splint is fitted to your mouth, and you wear it during the day (even when you’re eating!) and at night removing it only when your brushing your teeth or cleaning it. When you first get your appliance, we recommend that you take a week to become accustomed to it, slowly wearing it for longer and longer periods until you’re wearing it full time. When you first get your splint, you might find that it takes a little while to get used to it, and that the muscles in your face, head and neck feel a bit more achy than usual. This is a normal and necessary part of the process of getting them to relax and more to a more comfortable position. Don’t worry–it should subside quickly.

The splint works by providing your tight, tense muscles the ability to relax. As they relax, the TMJ splint helps to guide them toward a more natural position. This also helps your jaws travel in a more efficient way, helping to prevent further wear on your teeth. Once you begin to wear your TMJ splint regularly, you’ll be able to feel how much more smoothly your jaws are working and your pain will be significantly reduced.

Other ways to reduce TMJ pain

Prior to visiting your orthodontist to have your appliance made, or while you’re getting used to your TMJ splint, you might find that you’re in need of a few ways to ease your discomfort. There are a few simple but tried and true remedies that we recommend to our patients:

  • Over the Counter Medication: your orthodontist or pharmacist can recommend a mild pain reliever to help reduce swelling.
  • Physiotherapy or Massage: massage and physiotherapy can help reduce tension in your face, head or neck, and help to encourage the muscles to move on the right path.
  • Moist Heat or Ice: using moist heat (like a hot water bottle wrapped in a damp cloth) or ice (like an icepack wrapped in a towel) can help relax muscles and reduce swelling. You can even alternate between the hot and cold to see if that helps. Use heat for 10 minutes, then cold for 10 minutes as regularly as you can.
  • Avoiding Hard Foods: when you avoid hard, chewy or dense foods, you prevent your jaw joints and muscles from having to work too hard, reducing strain and pain while you’re at it.

Ready to discuss your unique options for long-term reduction in TMJ-pain? Schedule your FREE consultation today!