How Night Guards Can Cause or Worsen TMJ Pain
Submitted by Michael R. Cortese, D.M.D. on Wed 06/22/2016 - 09:00
Night guards are a commonly prescribed solution for nighttime bruxism (tooth clenching or grinding). Unfortunately, many people that use night guards are dismayed to experience new or worsening pain in their temporomandibular joint (TMJ) after wearing the appliances. Here, Dr. Michael Cortese of Princeton Prosthodontics explains the connection between night guards and TMJ pain.
The Problems with Night Guards
Night guards don’t actually address the root of TMJ pain; they are merely meant to protect the teeth from wear due to chronic tooth grinding or clenching (people with TMJ disorder tend to grind or clench their teeth at night).
In many cases of TMJ disorder, the disc — the cartilage dividing the TMJ into two compartments — becomes displaced. This displacement prevents it from maintaining the normal relationship between the articular surfaces when opening and closing the jaw. Night guards do not return the disc into place; therefore, they don’t fix the underlying problem that causes symptoms.
What’s more: the design of many night guards causes the posterior teeth to touch the guard’s plastic while the anterior teeth hardly touch the guard or do not touch it at all. The unevenness of tooth contact with the night guard can lead to even more clenching, grinding and TMJ problems.
Another problem with wearing night guards is that many people buy mass-produced, “one-size-fits-all” night guards sold at Walmart or on Amazon. Mouth arches and teeth size can be so varied that it is truly impossible for one size to fit all. And, a poor-fitting guard doesn’t protect the teeth; in fact, it actually leads to greater problems like jaw pain and soreness. The ill fit of a generic night guard can throw off the alignment of the jaw.
Recurring jaw pain is usually a clue that there is a problem with the night guard’s fit. To be comfortable, patients with TMJ disorder are better off having a custom guard made, based on their specifications.
Talk to Our Prosthodontist
If you notice a connection between wearing a night guard and new or worsening TMJ pain, Dr. Cortese can perform an examination to determine the root of the problem. He can also answer any questions you have about teeth clenching, grinding or TMJ disorder. To schedule a consultation with the doctor, please call (609) 552-0800 or send us an email today.