There are a variety of temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, disorders that result in headaches, damaged teeth and a sore jaw according to the experts at Mayo Clinic. Many of the symptoms and damage of TMJ can be prevented with a properly designed and fitted mouthpiece. Not all mouthpieces are designed for all uses, and some may actually exacerbate the problem.
Pre-formed Mouth Guard
The most common and easiest to find mouthpiece used in the treatment of TMJ disorders is the pre-formed mouth guard, according to Mayo Clinic. These soft plastic or rubber devices feature a special groove to fit around the teeth and protect them from damage. These devices work best for patients suffering from bruxism, or night time tooth grinding. Many people with large or small mouths find these devices uncomfortable. Patients can only trim some parts of the guard to fit their mouth, and if their teeth do not align with the guard, it will not fit.
An orthotic splint is a smaller device worn 24 hours a day. It works to realign the jaw and change the improper bite pattern developed with many TMJ disorders. It is a small mouth piece with two fitted pads that sit over the molars. It can be removed for cleaning, and must be custom fitted by an orthodontic specialist. It is not generally used to prevent grinding of the teeth, but it may stop this symptom.
Boil and Bite Guard
A boil and bite mouth guard is very similar to a pre-formed mouthpiece, but offers some level of customization without a visit to a dentist. These soft devices are made from thermoplastic that softens when dipped in boiling water. The patient then bites down on the guard, making a unique impression of their teeth, according to the US Lacrosse Association. This creates a custom fit that other mouth pieces available in drug stores cannot offer.
Custom Fitted Piece
A custom designed and fitted mouth piece is the best choice for patients suffering from TMJ disorders. A orthodontist takes a series of measurements of the jaw muscles and determines the proper alignment of the joint. A cast of the patient's teeth is made and a device is created that works to prevent all of the symptoms of TMJ. These devices work to align the jaw and prevent tooth grinding or other unwanted symptoms.