You have been provided with an appliance that will provide support for your lower jaw as we seek to find a position in which your jaw joints and muscles will work smoothly and comfortably. The appliance is designed to relax the muscles that control your jaws with the goal of reducing your pain and/or protecting your teeth from further wear.
For patients experiencing significant pain, the splint is designed to be worn full-time, even while eating. We recommend a week long ‘break-in period.’ during which time, the appliance should be worn more and more frequently, until it is being worn full-time by weeks end. During this initial period of appliance acclimation, you may expect some discomfort and even a slight increase in muscle soreness, until the muscles become accustomed to a ‘healthy’ jaw position. You may find it difficult to speak with the appliance at first, but normal speech returns quickly after a couple days. With time, you will become comfortable eating and speaking with the appliance in place.
The good news is that you’ll get used to all these. The following are recommended to help you through the initial stages of becoming accustomed to wearing your new TMJ splint:
- Advil (please follow drug manufacture instructions)
- application of a warm towel or hot water bottle to the side of your face
- soft foods
- avoid excessive talking
- try not to yawn or stretch your jaws wide open
- drink lots of fluids
- and get the proper amount of sleep every night
Work up to full-time wear and then stick to it! Part-time wear will not allow your jaw muscles to be de-programmed, as every time the teeth bite together without your splint in place, your improperly aligned teeth will guide your jaw and associated muscles into the position that caused the pain in the first place. Think of it as someone who has been given a knee brace because they damaged their knee joint, what do you think would happen if they spent part of the day walking around without the knee splint? Would the knee get better or start to hurt again? The answer is obvious. Well your jaw joints are just like any other joint in your body and your new appliance functions similar to a splint for an injured knee.
To clean your new TMJ splint, simply brush it with your toothbrush and soak the appliance once a day with a denture cleaner such as Efferdent to ‘freshen’ it up. We have provided you with some cleaning tablets to get started and additional denture cleaning tablets can be purchased at your local drug store. Please be careful to store your splint in the case provided, as it can be easily misplaced or lost due to its clear appearance.
We realize that becoming use to wearing a TMJ splint is not an easy process. However, we encourage you to persist and don’t give up, as simply wearing this splint can improve your symptoms dramatically once you have over come the initial adjustment period. Our general experience has been that most patients experience significant improvement and relief of pain after about two to three weeks of diligent wear. Typically, we request patients to wear their splint full-time (24 hours a day) for about six months, at which time we re-assess subsequent treatment options. Sometimes this may involve orthodontic treatment to move the teeth into a position that ‘fits’ with the newly established/healthy position of the jaws.