Cleanings & Prevention
Nightguard and TMJ


Causes of TMJ.  The exact cause are unknown, it is believed that the following may be contributing factors: lost teeth, clenching or grinding of teeth during the day or night, mental or physical stress, arthritis, misaligned or unstable bite, head and neck injuries, muscle spasms and frequent headaches.

Symptoms of TMJ.  If the joint is not functioning properly, certain symptoms can occur: frequent headaches, dizziness, light headedness, ringing in the ears, pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the muscles of the face, neck and shoulder, clicking or grinding noises of the jaw, pain on opening or chewing, facial or jaw pain, inability to open the jaw fully, locking of the jaw, fullness in the sinus, pain in the back of the eyes.

The TMJ is the joint connecting the skull and lower jaw.  Utilizing numerous motions, the jaw aids in speech and chewing food.

Diagnosing TMJ.  X-rays of the teeth and jaw can help determine if the problem is dental in nature.  If it is, procedures can be done to improve the alignment of the bite, such as bite re-contouring to reform the teeth and the addition of crowns.  If the problem is not dental in nature, then your dentist can refer you to a medical doctor, an orthodontist, an oral surgeon or a physical therapist.

Treatment of TMJ.  There are several treatment options: an acrylic appliance or “night guard” if grinding is a problem, massage, prescription or nonprescription medicines, relaxation techniques, muscle stretching, ice packs or heat packs to ease symptoms, cutting food in smaller pieces to help alleviate stress to the jaw, switching to a soft diet, avoiding ice and chewing gum.  In rare cases, surgery is required only after other forms of treatment have been exhausted.

TMJ dysfunction is being recognized by an ever increasing number of medical and dental practitioners.  Please let your dentist know if you have any concerns or symptoms of TMJ.  Early detection is the key to eliminating the symptoms of TMJ


Why Do I need To Wear It?

The bite guard is a custom fit plastic shield that can protect your teeth in several ways.

Bruxism:  (Grinding, Clenching or clamping of the Teeth)

This destructive habit can cause damage either to the teeth, their supporting bone or the jaw joint and muscle.  This habit can wear the teeth down, cause pain in the jaw joints, or loosen the teeth by destroying the supporting bone (like rocking a fence post, destroys the earth around it).  Your bite guard helps control the distribution of these excessive forces.

Habit Control:

Many destruction subconscious oral habits, such as grinding and clenching, can be overcome by increasing the individual’s awareness of it, which then helps “deprogram” the habit.  Used regularly, the bite guard and sometimes occlusal equilibration (bite adjustments/evening of bite), can assist in this process.

Loose teeth:

When teeth are loose, the weakened bone which supports them may repair if the mobility is limited.  This is known as “stabilization” and can be accomplished in several ways.  Your bite guard does this by placing the teeth at rest (as a cast would) so that bone can heal.  By distributing the forces evenly, the stress to individual teeth is reduced.

Bite Adjustment:

Your bite may have to be adjusted to allow the teeth to function harmoniously.  Your bite guard can aid in the process of bite adjustments and help in the maintenance of achieved arrangement.

How Long Do I Have To Wear My Bite Guard?

This depends on many factors.  However, the most important factor is whether healing has occurred.  This healing can usually be determined clinically.  Some people need to wear the appliance for a few weeks, whereas others wear it as long as they “wear” their own teeth.

Break-In Period:

At first, you may notice more saliva in your mouth, your speech may be slurred and it may take a little longer to fall asleep.  This will soon pass.  In fact, many people tell us their sleep is more restful when wearing the appliance.

Appliance Care:

To ensure that your new appliance remains as comfortable and clean as the day you receive it, please follow these instructions:

  1. Soak your appliance in warm water before inserting.
  2. Clean your appliance with mild detergent or toothpaste and water and brush well once per day.
  3. Do not use denture cleaners, bleach or alcohol.
  4. This appliance may be stored dry or if you wish in water, never in mouthwash or alcohol.
  5. To restore shine, rub with a few drops of cooking oil.
  6. If for any reason your appliance becomes uncomfortable, please see your dentist.


Bring your appliance with you for any future dental preventive care and/or restorative visits.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

The TMJ is the joint connecting the skull and lower jaw. Utilizing numerous motions the jaw aids in speech and chewing food. If the joint is not functioning properly, certain symptoms may occur.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness and/or Lightheadedness
  • Ringing, buzzing, or clogged ears.
  • Spasm and tightening in the back of the neck, shoulder, or face.
  • Clicking or grinding noises on opening or closing the jaw.
  • Inability to open the mouth fully.
  • Pain on opening of the jaw or chewing.
  • Locking of the jaw joint.
  • Fullness in the sinuses.
  • Pain in the back of the eyes.

Patients with TMJ disease or dysfunction can exhibit some, most, or all of these symptoms. Patients generally do not bring these above symptoms to the attention of their family dentist. However, headaches, backaches, dizziness, or ringing in the ears can be associated with their teeth or jaws.

Treatment of TMJ dysfunction may include occlusal adjustment, i.e., balancing of the biting surfaces of the teeth, and/or the placement of all acrylic appliance covering the biting surfaces of the upper or lower teeth (sometimes called a bite guard or night guard) constructed by the dentist. The patient is sometimes instructed to wear this appliance close to 24 hours per day (to remove it only when eating and for cleaning) while at other times only night wear is sufficient. The length of treatment varies from several weeks to months. Some types of appliances closely resemble a “sports mouth guard”, only thinner and relatively inconspicuous. Most patients respond favorably once treatment has begun and notice a decrease in the intensity of their symptoms. Once the symptoms are under control, the treating dentist will re-evaluate the relationship of the upper and lower jaw to determine if further treatment is necessary.

The patient with the TMJ dysfunction is being recognized by an ever-increasing number of medical and dental practitioners. In some cases, the coordination of medical and dental therapy may be indicated. The dentist will treat the diseased relationship of the teeth and the spasms of the muscles of the joint mechanism, while the physician will be called upon, if necessary, to treat the psychological status of the patient. Remember, TMJ dysfunction is real, and the problem may lie in your jaw, not in your mind.