What is TMJD?
Temperomandibular Joint Disorder — sometimes called Temperomandibular Joint Dysfunction, TMD (Temporomandibular disorder) or Myofascial Pain Disorder — is the name given to problems affecting not just the joints between the skull and lower jaw, but also the supporting muscles, i.e. the muscles we chew with.
TMJD is quite common, with many people experiencing symptoms at some point in their life. It may be caused by injury; a disease such as fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or gout; or by biomechanical problems or behaviours such as teeth grinding (bruxism), jaw clenching, occlusion (incorrect ‘bite’) or stress. However, there is not always an obvious cause.
It’s not normally a serious condition, but it can have a negative impact on your wellbeing. TMJD sufferers may experience headaches and migraines, aching in their back, neck or shoulders, earache and pain in front of the ear, pain in their jaw, clicking or popping in the jaw joint, tightness in the jaw and difficulties eating. Sometimes this can lead to problems sleeping, and persistent aches and headaches may cause depression.
What devices are available to treat TMJD?
While many people find physiotherapy and lifestyle changes help, some people may need steroid injections, surgery or a TMJD device. There are a few different types available: mouthguards, dental or occlusal splints and intra-oral appliances. Ear canal inserts have also been developed in the USA but so far their effectiveness hasn’t been satisfactorily proven.
How do mouthguards and dental splints help TMJD?
Mouthguards are plastic devices that fit over your teeth, and although they are sometimes called dental or occlusal splints, mouthguards are softer and normally worn just at night. Proper dental mouthguards are specially measured and fitted just for you by your dentist to form a proper bite, and this can help reduce teeth grinding and jaw clenching.
Dental or occlusal splints are harder and far more durable appliances that are specially fitted and usually worn all the time, although they have to be removed before eating. Their major disadvantage is that they can affect your speech.
If these devices work for you, it may be an indication that having orthodontic work or surgery to correct your bite permanently may be the best option.
How do or Mandibular Adjustment Devices help TMJD?
Intra-oral appliances or Mandibular Adjustment Devices are similar to mouthguards but have extra features to control the position of the tongue and/or decompress the joints. MADs hold the lower jaw and tongue forward and have primarily been developed for preventing snoring and sleep apnoea, but can be useful for preventing jaw clenching and teeth grinding too. However these are not always custom-fitted and results are variable, with some patients finding them very uncomfortable.
How much does a TMJD Device cost?
Prices for MADs start from around £35, with fitted soft mouthguards available from around £60 and dental splints ranging from £150 to £450.