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Results of Our Splint Therapy Poll – Are Splints Helpful for TMJ Disorder?

A couple weeks ago we started a poll about splint therapy. We were wondering whether splints have been helpful for your TMJ pain…or did they make it worse?  Well, we have the results!
Drumroll please….

Has Splint Therapy Helped Your TMJ Disorder?

Splint Therapy Poll

As you can see in the above pie chart, the results were very close.

  1. 12% of you said that you have not tried splint therapy (we suspect you are the ones that are waiting for a TMJ disorder diagnosis or are early in your treatment)
  2. 42% said that splints DID help your TMJD
  3. 47% said that splints did NOT help your TMJ disorder.

TMJ Disorder InfoWhat do we think this means for TMJ disorder patients?
Well, we aren’t doctors, of course, but we think it speaks to the huge variation in types of splints, techniques, and expertise. Since there is no board certification for doctors that treat TMJD, anyone can treat it. Maybe if the rules were more strict, there wouldn’t be as much variation? It is hard to say. The other thing is that there have been hardly any studies to show that splints are even helpful for jaw pain. The studies that have been done are either reviewing past literature (stating that it was inadequate), do not use a big enough sample of TMJ patients and controls, or have another huge flaw. This leaves us totally unsure of splint therapy.
With any treatment, splint therapy or otherwise, if it causes increased levels of pain, it is wise to call the doctor and discontinue the treatment until further evaluation. There is absolutely NO need for TMJ disorder treatment to cause more pain. Let me repeat this: TMJ disorder treatment should NOT increase your pain.
At this point, the only thing we can be sure of is that conservative, non invasive treatments are best. Splint therapy that changes the bite and/or creates the need for irreversible treatments like changing the shape of the teeth or orthodontics is not recommended until more research has been done. The National Institute of Health urges that with TMJ disorder, “Less is Best.”
Here at TMJ Hope, we encourage you to research, ask questions, and become a partner in your healthcare. It is always best to question what you don’t understand, not making decisions until every one of your questions is answered.
The more knowledge you gain about your health and TMJD, the more confident you become, and the more able you are to make wise decisions based on that knowledge. By eliminating the fear of the unknown, anxiety is lowered, which improves overall health (both physical and mental). When you are confident, the people around you tend to respond in a more positive and supportive manner. In the end, the increased confidence and support can only have positive results.
There is no cure for TMJ disorder yet. Until there is, it is vital that you as a patient understand your options.
47% of TMJ patients were not helped by splints, 42% found them helpful, and 12% have not tried them – these are mixed results.
How does this poll affect your opinion of splint therapy for TMJ disorder? Tell us in the comments below!
If you are looking for more information on TMJ disorder, read our TMJ Disorder Overview, Self-Care for TMJD, and TMJ Symptoms articles.

17 thoughts on “Results of Our Splint Therapy Poll – Are Splints Helpful for TMJ Disorder?”

  1. It would be interesting to see out of those who HAVE tried splint therapy, what type of splint they had, whether it was made for them or bought at the store, how long they wore it, daytime or nightime or both, etc.. I guarantee it’s a huge variation within the general “does splint therapy work” question that so many patients ask. TMJ disorders are just so varied there is no one size fits all treatment – especially splints!!
    my two cents.. 🙂

  2. I was diagnosed with TMJ just over two years ago ( after two years of nobody listening to me) – my family doctor listened and made referrals. I went to 13 sessions of physiotherapy trying to get my mouth open so I could fit more than a knuckle in between my teeth. It did not work – It would cause me more pain – so acupuncture was tried – it did relieve some of the pain and pressure for a short period of time. I was then referred to a dentist who deals with TMJ patients – after x-raying me he told me I would need a splint. After wearing it for just over a week 24/7 – my mouth came open enough to fit about 2 1/2 knuckles in. The splint did relieve pain and pressure. I wore it 24/7 for a month and then had to start weaning myself down to only wearing it at night. I loved my splint – it was a pacifier for me- I wore it to bed every night and would put it in after having a bad day at work. Was told I would have to wear this at night for life. In between I would go for acupuncture treatments – sometimes up to 3 times a week. About three months ago _I was having one of my worst bouts of pain – had my splint adjusted, physiotherapy and my family dr had to prescribe me pain killers and muscle relaxers – none of it worked. Prepared to go on a holiday and all of a sudden my splint did not fit – and with a new precription of pain killers -pain was going away. During the holiday – no pain- came back and went 2 1/2 months no pain. It started to act up again so went to see about my splint not fitting – got a major adjustment done – tried wearing it again and just bought on major headaches and pressure. Today I am not wearing the splint, not much pain and waiting to get a referral to a specialist and a precription of Tramacet on hand incase of a major outbreak again. So yes the splint did work but does not now.

  3. 20 odd years ago I was presecribed a splint for bruxism. What I didnt realise is that I had clenched so much my jaw was dislocated. I wore the splint half heartedly for several years then it stayed in the drawer as I felt it made no difference.TMJ started to play up again by which time I had moved country. The Ortho surgeon I was referred to by my dentist was horrified at my old splint and threw it ceremoniously in the bin stating that it would make matters worse and was highly inadequate. He then made me another one and reccommended physio. That was 4 years ago now and I have been relatively pain free so far.So yes I agree with Tina that there are splints and splints. The 10 pointers left by the author on TMJ management has also given good advice as my physio also told me all these things and they have really helped. However we are all different and therefore it is important to find what works best for you.

  4. I have enough different splints to make a windchime. I do not think they work, unless your are the person making them and hoping for a good retirement.

  5. I believe and continue to believe that splint therapy is one of the effective ways of diagnosing and treating tmj. But it is not easy. It has to be custom-made depending on individual tmj problem. Much will depend on doctors’ skill in fabricating and adjusting the appliance and at same time the patient has to be very patient in trying out different splints. Note- A good splint splint can solve the problem and a bad splint can aggravate the problem.

    1. It is not mainstream enough for it to be effective overall, hence not a top pick for me even if some doctors can do it right. I think physical therapy and botox have been most helpful. If you calm the muscles with the botox, it will give your joint a much needed break. Slowly, you can strengthen the muscles and get them working as efficiently as possible without pain.

  6. I have had quite a history. Over the last 2 years I’ve had 2 surgeries and had braces to correct a really bad overbite. The surgeries were both successful (one widened my upper jaw and the other lengthened my lower jaw). The braces were just about ready to come off and according to my orthodontist my bite was “beautiful”. Then I had a terrible fall and dislocated the right TMJ joint. My oral surgeon re-located the joint under sedation. However, ever since the dislocation I complained about the left jaw joint really hurting. Once the elastics stabilizing the dislocated joint were removed, the left jaw joint started popping audibly and very, very painfully. My oral surgeon decided that an MRI was necessary as he was concerned the cartilage in the left TMJ was damaged. My braces were removed about 3 weeks ahead of schedule to allow the MRI to be done. The MRI showed a tear in the cartilage and showed that the cartilage was dislocated. My regular oral surgeon (whom I completely trust) brought in another surgeon in the same practice who is the TMJ specialist. He decided that I had muscle spasms that needed controlling prior to thinking about arthroscopic surgery to fix the TMJ cartilage tear and dislocation. This is being done by splint therapy. It was agreed that I would be sedated for bite impressions to be made as I’m pretty much locked shut. When I arrived for that procedure, plans had been altered, and the TMJ surgeon wanted to try trigger point injections of marcaine and then try force my jaw open for the impressions. After being told the injections would feel like mosquito bites (very funny … they were extremely painful), my jaw would still not open. I was asked if my jaw joint felt any different. Other than being numb my answer was no. I’ve kept repeating to the TMJ specialist that as I go to open my mouth, the left jaw joint gets to a point and feels completely stuck. After repeated failed attempts of prying my jaw open, my original oral surgeon took over, sedated me and carefully got the impressions. Tonight I’ve been reading about splint therapy and am concerned about it changing my bite, which has just been corrected with orthagnathic surgery and braces. Any advice/thoughts on this would be appreciated. I also don’t understand how splint therapy would begin to help the torn cartilage and dislocated cartilage. I’m in constant pain, which is making working very difficult especially since I completely support myself.

  7. Hi guys,
    I got my splint from an orthodontist and have regular check ups to keep it in working order. It got rid of the pain that plagued the right side of my face and made every one of my teeth hurt. But would I recommend getting one? No, no I would not.
    Why not you might ask? Well because it’s been five years now of wearing the thing non-stop and It’s changed my teeth, I can’t function with out it, and I’m constantly wondering if I could have managed some other way! Don’t get a splint unless your all out of options people, they aren’t worth it other wise!

  8. i am a dentist treating tmd for 25 years.my practice is limited to just TMD and orofacial pain patients.you are correct that the ADA (American dental association) has no specilaty or board for TMD. i am a member of the AAOP American Academy of Orofacial ain. We do establish and regulate 12 graduate programs in dental schools throughout not only the USA but also throughout the world. Graduates of these dental school graduate programs in orofacial pain are welcomed to take a standardized Board both written and oral examination which establishes basic knowledge in treating TMD according to the standard of care established both by us and the NIH and the ADA (the standard was established by the ADA committee on dental accreditation Jan 2010). The dentists who pass this are given the diplomate of the American Board of orofacial Pain (ABOP) So there is a standard of care for TMD evidenced based that is available to all sufferers.
    You can go to out website AAOP.org to learn more.
    Hope thei helps

  9. I’ve been dealing with my own TMJ for about 8 years but actually trying to treat it for 2 years. At my wits end with my own current splint. It’s an LVI orthotic made by a NM dentist for my lower teeth. I wear it constantly during the day then swap it for a different one at night. I’ve been wearing it constantly for nearly 6 months and it’s making my TMJ problems worse than they already are. It’s been adjusted many times and my dentist assures me that we’re stabilising the bite but I’m finally at the point where I want to stop wearing it. My face hurts, my jaws hurt, I just have a constant dull ache everywhere around my head and face and feel it’s to do with this splint. I really thought I was doing the right thing entering into this expensive treatment but I don’t think it’s been right for me.

  10. Just had arthrocentesis yesterday after jaw being unable to open for 5 days. Dr gave me a daytime splint and a nighttime splint. It would be great if they helped, but mostly I just pray they don’t make things worse.

  11. I wish they would have included one more question on the survey “Is your TMJ WORSE after using splint therapy”? That is my real fear…I am coping with my symptoms now.. I use a combination Chiro/Massage Therapy and Valium. I also avoid gum and crunchy food. I keep my stress levels as low as possible, but at least once a week a get “tight face syndrome” and my neck starts hurting. I can live like this, but I couldn’t if a splint made it WORSE.

    1. Botox actually helps a lot with headaches and relaxes the muscles in your face. I think that it should probably be a first line treatment for tmj related pain and headaches.

  12. Tried it, didn’t work, dentist really just blindly adjusted it using bite marks. No idea of the overall problem. Kinda micromanaged TMJ. It needed adjusted every two days, kinda ridiculous to have to do that so much. Stopped the splint and have been doing pretty good without it for a 1 year and a half. Just like TENS, ULTRASOUND, and other machines or ORTHOTIC devices, the body may experience a short benefit, but it really doesn’t last long for most people. We are built in ways that just don’t respond to simple fixes. It sucks, but there is a longstanding pattern of medical gadgets that have failed for one reason or another. I wish the medical world would start writing prescriptions for relaxation and peace like you get to take off work if you feel like crap that day. That may go farther than any pill will take you for those in pain.

  13. does anyone know how to find a professional who will inject botox into your cheeks to keep that muscle from hurting…..I’ve been calling around without luck

  14. I went to the Dentist and found out my jaw was dislocated. I also found out I have
    TMJ. I have the splint in my mouth at this very moment and ive had it for
    About a year. I’ll be honest with you, they told me to try wearing it only at night.. but once I take it out my teeth can’t touch. It had helped me a little bit although
    Wearing it at night makes my teeth hurt like heck in the morning. One side
    Hurts more than the other every other day but I get less headaches. I went to TMJ
    Therapy.. didn’t help. I wear it all the time. I had it specially made just for my teeth also!

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