False Teeth - Making the Right Choices

Suffering From TMJ Dysfunction? How An Orthodontist Can Help

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ, can cause headaches, tinnitus, jaw pain, and worn enamel. While you could pay for an expensive surgery to fix this issue, there are other options at your disposal. An orthodontist can set you up with an orthotic bite splint. Read on to learn more about these orthodontic appliances.

What is an Orthotic Bite Splint?

You may have heard of orthotics for feet, but dental orthotics do exist and have a similar goal: to provide support for ineffective alignment. These appliances look very similar to mouth guards, but a little more work goes into their manufacturing.

Bite splints help eliminate bruxism—or teeth grinding—which is a main problem for those with TMJ. Instead of just blocking teeth from grinding, the splints retrain the muscles in your face so that you can get out of the habit of clenching.

Who is a Good Candidate for One?

You'll need to visit your orthodontist to see if an orthotic bite splint is the best option for your TMJ. If you don't need other orthodontic treatment and you've got severe TMJ, then the splint is usually a good option.

If you have very mild symptoms and only grind your teeth while sleeping, a custom night guard might be a better option. If you have an underbite, cross bite, or overbite, then correcting those issues first with braces could resolve the TMJ since you'd be improving the overall functionality of your bite.

How are They Made?

You'll need to go into your orthodontist's office so that he or she can take an impression of your upper and lower teeth. During this visit, your dentist will use a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device on your cheek muscles. This device isn't painful—it sends a very low current through your facial muscles so that they relax completely.

Once your muscles are relaxed, your orthodontist will take a bite registration. A bite registration is a special impression that records how the upper and lower teeth occlude or come together. Because your muscles will be relaxed from the TENS unit, your orthodontist will be able to take a bite registration of an ideal bite, or how your bite should come together when you are relaxed.

The impressions and bite registration will be sent to a dental laboratory where the technicians will create an orthotic that follows the bite registration pattern. The splints are fabricated from acrylic and then returned to the orthodontist's office for a try-in.

Many of these splints are worn all day and may take some getting used to since they cause your teeth to fall into a new bite. Contact a office like Moricz Orthodontics in your area for more information on orthotic bite splints.