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What Are the Pros and Cons of Mouth Guards for TMJ?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 17, 2024
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Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a disorder that affects the jaw, the jaw joint and nearby muscles. Mouth guards for TMJ are among the less expensive treatments that attempt to correct this problem, but they do have some pros and cons. There are night mouth guards that keep people from grinding their teeth while sleeping, which otherwise can be uncontrollable and worsen TMJ symptoms. These mouth guards may not be as successful as exercises and surgical methods, however, and they may increase the amount of pain TMJ sufferers encounter. This device also tries to keep the mouth open, increasing the chances of a bacterial infection in the teeth and gums in the process.

There are many ways of fixing TMJ, and mouth guards for TMJ are one of the least expensive. This is especially true for over-the-counter mouth guards, but over-the-counter versions are not fitted to the user’s teeth and may be uncomfortable. Custom versions can be created to exactly match the user’s jaw and teeth, and while custom-fitted guards are more expensive than the over-the-counter variety, they still are cheaper than other methods.

TMJ sufferers will often grind their teeth and tense their jaw while sleeping, which can result in migraines, soreness and pain when awake. To keep this from happening, sufferers can purchase mouth guards for TMJ made specifically for nighttime usage. This helps people keep pain to a minimum, even if they cannot control their mouth or jaw movements.

One of the major cons of mouth guards for TMJ is that they have a lower success rate than other methods and may make symptoms worse. TMJ affects muscles in the jaw, and this device tends to force sufferers to use those and other muscles more than they commonly would. The increased muscle use in turn increases the stress on the jaw, which can lead to increased pain. This is especially true for mouth guards that are not custom fitted.

Mouth guards for TMJ keep the mouth open slightly to avoid grinding; some leave the mouth open a small amount, while others leave a noticeably large opening. This opening, big or small, makes it easier for bacteria to enter the mouth, which can cause infections of the teeth and gums and an increase in diseases. To decrease this problem, it may be best for sufferers to get mouth guards with the smallest possible mouth opening, because larger devices make it even easier for bacteria to enter the body.

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