Why You Shouldn’t Try an OTC Nightguard for TMJ
You might think that there’s no harm in trying an over-the-counter (OTC) nightguard to try to help with your TMJ. You might think that it’s an inexpensive way to protect your teeth and jaws from further damage, but the truth is that these bargain solutions aren’t likely to improve your TMJ and might make it worse.
The Nightguard Isn’t Fitted to You
TMJ treatment has to be precisely fitted to your bite. OTC nightguards are designed to fit some specific parameter that the inventor or manufacturer decided on. Sometimes they may say that they’re fitted to you, but in most cases this just means that they are boil-and-bite mouthpieces. You can heat them up to soften them, then bite into them so that they fit to your teeth. It’s similar to inexpensive sports mouthguards.
Your jaw is an extremely complex system, with many moving parts that need to be able to move freely in three dimensions. A mass-produced oral appliance is unlikely to match the precise degree of imbalance for any one component of your jaw, let alone for all of them.
Your Muscles Are Still Tense
When you have TMJ, your muscles develop tension. Not only does this tension cause you pain, chip your teeth, and put pressure on your nerves, it locks in bad habits that your jaw has acquired. If you don’t eliminate that tension first, there’s a good chance that your jaw will just go back to the bad habits that were causing you problems in the first place.
That’s why we begin TMJ treatment with TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), a kind of electric massage. It helps to relax your muscles so we can properly measure how they’re supposed to function, not just how they have been functioning. And it makes your jaw receptive to adapting to your properly fitted bite splint.
You Can Strain Your Jaw Joint
When you put an OTC nightguard in your mouth without releasing muscle tension, you could be setting yourself up for worse problems in the future. You haven’t reduced the forces in your mouth at all. The force that used to go into chipping, cracking, and grinding your teeth has to go somewhere.
And that somewhere is often your jaw joint. This can displace the cushioning disc between the bones in your joint. Or, if the disc is already displaced, it can contribute to grinding between the bones of the joint. This can lead to other TMJ symptoms or a worsening of your current symptoms.
Protect Your Jaw with Accurate Treatment
If you are experiencing the symptoms of TMJ, it’s important to get treatment. TMJ is a progressive condition, and the longer you postpone treatment, the more damage your teeth and jaw will sustain. If you postpone treatment long enough, you may need surgery to treat your condition. The same can happen if you get a treatment that either doesn’t work or causes more damage.
But if you act quickly and get accurate TMJ treatment, you can stop the progress of the condition. Your symptoms may never worsen, and you may get relief with simple, noninvasive treatment.