If you have TMJ, chances are at one time or another you've experienced pain from clenching your teeth in your sleep. On top of the discomfort it can cause, jaw-clenching can also damage your teeth, grinding away at surfaces and enamel over time. If you've heard about dentists making custom-fit dental guards and think that you can buy an inexpensive, generic dental guard to protect your teeth, you might be surprised to know it's a bad idea. This guide will explain the difference between custom and generic dental guards, and why generic-fit guards can do more harm than good for someone with TMJ.
Dentists can create custom-fit guards for people with TMJ by taking a mold of your mouth and an MRI or x-ray of your jaw and neck. With the mold and scans, your dentist will analyze what parts of your mouth are receiving the most pressure, and what isn't aligned correctly in your jaw, neck, or temporomandibular joint. By adjusting the shape of the guard to correct these problems, your teeth will be protected and you'll be less likely to grind your teeth at night. As a result, you may also experience less pain in the joint and surrounding muscles, because they won't be stressed and tight during your sleep.
Generic dental guards can be bought at almost any drugstore, and they're relatively inexpensive. Some advertise that they can be heated in hot water to mold to the shape of your mouth, but it's not the same as a custom-fit guard. While it may fit the shape of your teeth and jaw, it doesn't account for the misaligned parts of your jaw or neck, and may actually intensify the stress on these areas. In addition, many generic teeth guards actually say right on the packaging that people with TMJ shouldn't use them, as it can cause the jaw to lock. This can be a very scary and painful thing to endure, and while your teeth may benefit from reduced wear and tear, adding additional pain and stress to your jaw isn't worth it.
If your TMJ disorder is making you grind your teeth at night, it's a great idea to try and take steps to protect your teeth from unwanted wear and tear. However, while custom-fit guards account for misalignments in your jaw and can even improve the pain in your jaw, generic ones may cause more pain and trouble than they're worth.
For more information, speak to your dentist or read more.