Doctors usually prescribe a mouthpiece, protector or splint to treat their patients suffering from temporomandibular disorders, the TMD, which involves the chewing muscles, or to chew, and the TMJ, which consists of the jaw joints. These conditions cause non-dental pain that can be amplified by certain psychological factors, especially when the pain becomes more chronic.
ATM is a psychogenic disease, which means that it has an emotional rather than a physical cause. Stress factors such as depression, anxiety and prolonged negative feelings can increase your level of tension, insecurity or feeling of anguish. These stressful feelings can create tension in the masticatory system, increasing the pressure on your parafunctional habits; movements related to speech, breathing and chewing. For example, you may suffer from the usual clenching of the jaws or teeth grinding, called bruxism.
As your condition worsens, the pain, over time, can become difficult to tolerate and manage. Your dentist may choose a treatment strategy that includes a combination of mouth guards, medications, cognitive therapy and surgery. Interclusion splints, orthopedic bite guards, night protectors, and bruxism devices are commonly used in the treatment of temporomandibular disorders, and the results vary widely among patients.
There are three types of ATM nozzles that are commonly prescribed: Soft acrylic protectors, hard acrylic guards and the Talon splint. If your illness is mild or moderate, your doctor may suggest a soft acrylic protector. It molds to the shape of your mouth, but you can bite it until you break it over time. A hard acrylic guard provides greater durability and is appropriate if you suffer from severe bruxism. The Talon splint is composed of hard acrylic on the outside and a softer on the side of the teeth. The researchers do not agree on the operation of the splints or the most effective design. Although patients report that the use of a mouthpiece provides greater comfort, mouth guards should not be used throughout the day, every day. Instead, nightly use of splints is recommended in almost all cases.
Studies of therapies with these devices have generally reported that patients experience a reduction in the level of facial pain, pain in the mouth, and other symptoms, however, most studies involve small sizes of the samples, short-term results and inadequate control groups.Several articles report slightly favorable results, but the devices did not work better than other dental appliances or other types of therapies such as behavior modification or self-management strategies.