Can Wearing A Nightguard Make My TMJ Worse?

Nighttime teeth grinding is on the rise, and it’s wearing our teeth down and causing jaw pain.

That’s been the thinking for the past few years as the UK has been hit by a tooth grinding ‘epidemic,’ with six million adults believed to be affected.

Dentists have identified the habit, also known as sleep bruxism, as a leading cause of worn, cracked, and broken teeth.

It’s also linked to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), which causes intense facial pain that stems from the jaw.

The temporomandibular joint is located in front of the ear and attaches the lower jaw to the skull.

It has long been assumed that teeth grinding overuses the muscles around the joint, putting pressure on the joint and causing pain.

TMD can also cause your jaw to ‘pop’ and ‘click,’ as well as trouble opening your mouth. According to the NHS, up to 30% of adults are affected.

The belief that bruxism is the leading cause of TMD has contributed to the use of procedures such as mouthguards (which can cost up to £700 privately) to prevent teeth grinding.

Botox injections into muscles across the joint are now available in hundreds of clinics around the UK to reduce the force of the bite.

However, a recent study in the United States found that people with TMD are less likely to grit their teeth, implying that mouthguards or jabs might be unnecessary for many.

The Problems with Night Guards

Night guards are only intended to protect the teeth from wear caused by chronic tooth grinding or clenching, not to treat the underlying cause of TMJ pain (people with TMJ disorder tend to grind or clench their teeth at night).

The disc — the cartilage that divides the TMJ into two compartments — becomes displaced in many cases of TMJ disorder. When opening and closing the mouth, this displacement prevents it from maintaining the usual relationship between the articular surfaces. Since night guards do not return the disk to its original position, they do not address the underlying issue that causes symptoms.

Furthermore, the nature of many night guards allows the posterior teeth to make contact with the guard’s plastic while the anterior teeth barely or never do. The night guard’s uneven tooth contact can lead to even more clenching, grinding, and TMJ issues.

Another issue with night guard use is that many people purchase mass-produced, “one-size-fits-all” night guards from Walmart or Amazon. Mouth arches and tooth sizes vary so much that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. A bad-fitting guard also doesn’t protect the teeth; in fact, it can cause more serious issues like jaw pain and soreness. A standardized night guard’s poor fit can be dangerous.

Recurrent jaw pain is normally a sign that the night guard isn’t fitting properly. Patients with TMJ disorder should have a custom guard made to their specifications if they want to be relaxed.

Are You Looking for Relief From TMJ Dysfunction? 

Pace Physical Therapy in San Jose, California specializes in non-surgical neck pain relief and recovery therapies for TMJ Dysfunction.  Physical therapy is probably one of the most common interventions for TMJ disorder if you choose to stop taking pain-relieving drugs and use a more holistic method. A thorough examination will be performed on your neck, shoulder girdle, and thoracic spine at your initial consultation with Pace Physical Therapy to decide whether those structures are triggering your symptoms. One of our dedicated physical therapists from San Jose, CA, will then develop a care plan based on the extent of your symptoms and your particular needs. Our physical therapists are patient-centric and committed to your health, working hard to help you manage and eliminate symptoms. If you are in San Jose, CA suffering from the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction, request an appointment at Pace Physical Therapy. Don’t suffer from jaw pain and stiffness any longer.