What else can you do besides mouth guard to help TMJ pain?

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Mouth guards, also known as occlusal appliances or splints are a part of the treatment of temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ). This subset of treatment is known as occlusion related therapies and is commonly used as a basic dental treatment to help with TMJ pain amongst other things.

Occlusal appliances are commonly used in the treatment of patients with TMD and have been reported to improve signs and symptoms in these patients. They can alter the position of the TMJ and the splint changes activity patterns of the jaw closing muscles during clenching.

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The mouth guard (occlusal splint) is not always specific to a TMJ issue, therefore, can have “missing links” in its effectiveness. In fact, systematic reviews, the highest level of evidence in research, have reported that there is a lack of evidence of occlusal splints offering benefit in TMD treatment. We find that in some patients they work and in some patients they do not work!

Either way, the splints may work in isolation but usually works best in combination of other therapies provided by physical therapy.

What does physical therapy do?

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Physical therapy can reduce pain and improve strength, mobility, coordination, proprioception, range of motion (ROM) of the TMJ and surrounding structures, including the neck and shoulders. Additionally, physical therapists

  1. reduce muscular hyperactivity,

  2. re-establish muscle function

  3. establish strategies to improve posture

  4. and re-establish joint mobility.

The decrease in pain and improved range of motion (ROM) is part of a solution to promote exercise to maintain healthy function.

Several procedures help the symptoms and can include:

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  1. active exercises (to the orofacial region in combination with cervical spine)

  2. manual mobilization (to the orofacial region in combination with cervical spine)

  3. postural correction (to the orofacial region in combination with cervical spine)

  4. and relaxation exercises

PhysioFit of North Carolina offers 1:1 specialized physical therapy care, where individuals are categorized based on a comprehensive clinical evaluation in order to initialize individually tailored therapy and patient management programs.

We perform our precision rehabilitation and Feel it to Heal it Physio approach to work the appropriate muscles of the neck to help with your pain and improve posture to help TMJ pain. We find that adding this specific component to an individualized, tailored program yields the best results. .


Harrison Vaughan is a physical therapist and co-owner of PhysioFit of North Carolina. He provides physical therapy assessment and treatment of TMJ pain in Wake Forest, NC. He utilizes patient education, ergonomic changes, cervical spine strengthening and/or mobility training, and local TMJ manual therapy procedures to help you.

If you are having pain, contact your dentist to see if you are a right candidate for PT services by PhysioFit of North Carolina. Feel free to contact us below too for direct care.