Are TMJ Nightguards Different from Regular Dental Nightguards?

Medically Reviewed By
Jonathan G. Campbell, DDS, FAGD
One of the top rated Dentist in Salt Lake City, UT
TMJ Nightguards
TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is a condition that causes pain in the jaw joint and the muscles involved in jaw movement. The symptoms of TMJ include:
  • Pain/tenderness in the jaw
  • Pain in/around one or both temporomandibular joints
  • Aching pain in/around the ears
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Facial pain
  • Locking of joint

At Legacy Dental, one of the most common and most conservative treatments for  TMJ is a splint, which is similar to a nightguard with a few differences in functionality. This treatment will help you alleviate your symptoms and get a good night’s sleep.
The purpose of the two treatments is to stabilize and support the joints/muscles to prevent misalignment when the jaws are closed. A TMJ splint offers more vertical support than a traditional nightguard, guiding the lower jaw into a more natural position.

In this article, we will explain the differences between a TMJ splint and a regular dental nightguard.

Difference between TMJ Nightguards and Regular Mouthguards?

Anyone can be affected by TMJ disorder. If you believe that you are suffering from TMJ, the team at Legacy Dental will do a thorough evaluation to reach a diagnosis and then explain your options: TMJ splint and regular dental nightguard.
Both devices are used to meet the needs of patients with TMJ and can be used to prevent teeth grinding. However, their functions are different.
A TMJ splint is customized and stabilizes the jaw, while a regular dental nightguard simply prevents teeth grinding. Additionally, splints are designed to provide temporary comfort, as prolonged use may have an impact on your bite. A nightguard is typically worn on the upper or lower jaw, while a splint is worn on both and is only meant for patients with TMJ.

  • Splint
    There are several different names for a splint:
    • Dental splint
    • Dental appliance
    • Bite guard/splint
    • Occlusal splint
    • Dental appliance

    Each offers a distinct way to treat TMJ, allowing the jaw muscles to relax, realigning the jaw, distributing pressure evenly across the teeth, and easing tension in the joints. Our dentists can examine the splint’s wear to pinpoint your condition. These splints are available in permissive and non-permissive types and alleviate the pain of TMJ.

  • Stabilization Splint
    A stabilization splint is known as a permissive splint. It is designed to prevent teeth grinding and provide a bite surface compatible with the jaw joints. It allows your jaw muscles to relax, alleviating pain.
  • Repositioning Splint
    A repositioning splint realigns the jaw into its ideal position. This device has indentations that prevent the teeth from sliding across the biting plane.
  • NTI-tss Device
    An NTI-tss, or Nociceptive Trigeminal Inhibition Tension Suppression System, is designed to be worn on the top front teeth to prevent clenching/grinding. However, since it only fits on a few teeth, there is some concern that it places them under stress and could cause damage. In addition, since it is so small, there is a risk of aspiration if it comes off.
  • Occlusal Splint
    An occlusal splint is the most effective nightguard for TMJ. This splint allows the jaw joint and muscles to relax by repositioning the lower jaw into a more natural position. This splint is designed to be worn temporarily, usually while sleeping. Eventually, the muscles will realign, and the splint may not be needed. That being said, some patients must continue to wear it to promote recovery.
  • Nightguard
    A nightguard, on the other hand, is primarily designed to treat bruxism, which is a condition in which the patient clenches their jaw and/or grinds their teeth. Many times, this treatment is recommended before a splint- especially if bruxism is the cause of TMJ.
    A nightguard is worn while sleeping to separate the upper and lower teeth, preventing grinding. You can purchase a nightguard at your local drugstore, in a dental office, or online. When you purchase one through the dental office or online, it is made to fit your teeth properly. The nightguards available at your local drugstore are one-size-fits-most and may not fit comfortably.
    A nightguard is designed to be worn on the upper or lower teeth. Most patients prefer an upper nightguard because it is more comfortable. On the other hand, patients who have had dental work on their upper teeth choose the lower nightguard. There are three common types of nightguards:
    • Soft
    • Hybrid
    • Hard
  • Soft
    A soft nightguard is made from rubber and decreases grinding by creating a barrier between the teeth. This type of nightguard is often recommended for patients with mild bruxism.
  • Hybrid
    A hybrid nightguard incorporates both soft rubber and hard acrylic. The interior portion that contacts the teeth is made of soft rubber, while the exterior is hard acrylic. This type of nightguard also creates a barrier between teeth with a pleasant feel on the inside and a strong barrier on the bite surface of the teeth. This type of nightguard is often recommended for patients with moderate to severe bruxism.
  • Hard
    A hard nightguard is made entirely of hard acrylic. Due to its durability, this type of nightguard is often recommended for patients with extreme bruxism.

Schedule Your Consultation with Legacy Dental Today

If you are suffering from TMJ, schedule your consultation with the team at Legacy Dental today. We will discuss your symptoms and evaluate your jaw by:

  • Listening and feeling your jaw when opening/closing your mouth
  • Observing the range of motion in your jaw
  • Putting pressure areas around the jaw to pinpoint pain and discomfort

If we determine that you have TMJ or bruxism and may benefit from treatment with a dental nightguard or TMJ splint, we will discuss these options and determine which is best for your condition.

Legacy Dental blog is proudly run by our Salt Lake City dentists team; We share knowledge about general dental care and practices. Apart from running this blog, we offer various dental services such as general dentistry, emergency dentistry, and dental implants for the community in Salt Lake City, Utah

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