Many people grind their teeth for months or years before they realize they’re even doing it, and then when they discover the issue, often their first instinct is to go out and purchase an over-the-counter bite splint from the store. But is this enough to help you overcome the problem?
More Than a Tooth Problem
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is often an indication that a person has a temporomandibular disorder (TMD). If you’re grinding your teeth, the underlying causes go far beyond just tooth problems. Many people with TMD grind their teeth due to jaw misalignment, stress, hormonal issues, illness and many other factors.
With TMD, simply protecting the teeth from damage does not solve the underlying issue. In fact, some of the bite splints people buy in the stores can make grinding more severe, further irritating the jaw, interfering with sleep, and causing a vicious cycle that can cause pain and interfere with life.
Signs of a Bad Bite Splint
If you use one of these over-the-counter bite splints, it’s best to have it checked by a dentist who is trained in treating TMD. He or she can examine the device and see how it fits into your mouth. Unfortunately, many people use these splints for years and don’t realize that the splint may not be helping them at all. They can actually make you bite down harder, leading to more jaw problems.
In general, a bite splint should allow you to properly relax your jaw, and will not cause discomfort, irritation, or headaches. You should feel that the bite splint allows you to sleep better and wake feeling refreshed and without jaw pain. If it doesn’t meet these criteria, it’s probably doing more harm than good.
How TMD is Treated
So what should you do if you can’t use an over-the-counter bite splint? First and foremost, see a TMD professional who can properly diagnose you and discuss your symptoms. Treatment for TMD should be highly specialized for your individual needs.
At our practice, we find that many people benefit from an appliance that is tailored to their specific anatomy that helps them achieve better jaw alignment and minimize grinding. This will often lead to relief of jaw pain, headaches, earaches, neck pain, and clicking and popping of the jaw.
However, an appliance alone may not be enough for many people. TMD treatment must include a comprehensive plan of lifestyle changes such as diet and stress reduction, changes in sleep position, mattress, pillow, and much more.
If you have symptoms of TMD, don’t try to self-treat it with bite splints that could aggravate the issue. The problem can persist and get worse without a multi-faceted approach designed for your needs. Contact MedCenter TMJ to schedule your appointment so you can start feeling great again!