TMJ Appliances and Night Guards

TMJ Appliances and Night Guards


TMJ is an acronym for the tempromandibular joint, which attaches your jaw to your skull on either side. TMJ disorder or dysfunction (TMD or TMJD) is used to describe a group of symptoms that result when the jaws, teeth, and muscles in the area fail to work in harmony because the jaw joints are out of place.


People with TMJ disorder or dysfunction often suffer from a wide range of symptoms that adversely affect their lifestyle, including…

  • Clicking or popping jaw joints
  • Pain in or around the jaw joints
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Limited ability to open the mouth
  • Problems or discomfort when eating or chewing
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the neck and shoulders
  • Earaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness
  • Toothaches


Many of these symptoms are caused by muscle spasms that take place when the muscles connected to the jaw bones and joints are stressed or strained by an unstable or misaligned bite, which can be organic or caused by specific traumas like a blow to the mouth or head, whiplash injuries, contrecoup injuries, or a combination of these factors. The jaw joint is a ball-and-socket joint which, when functioning properly, is cushioned and separated by a thin disc of cartilage. An unstable bite can pull the joint out of alignment. Mild displacement causes a clicking or popping sound; more severe displacement can be very painful. Left untreated, TMJ dysfunction may worsen, but the prognosis for treatment in the early stages is good.


Treating TMJ can involve various stages due to the jaw joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and teeth. At Riggs Family Dentistry, the initial treatment may involve physical therapy and specific exercises that help alleviate the pain and muscle spasms. Dr. Riggs may then have an apparatus known as an orthotic or splint fabricated, which the patient wears over their teeth until the bite is stabilized.


Other treatments to permanently correct TMJ disorder or dysfunction may include reconstructive dentistry, orthodontics, or selective reshaping of the teeth. In serious cases, when the jaw itself is damaged, surgical treatment may be required.


In a somewhat related circumstance, nocturnal bruxism – grinding your teeth when you sleep – may be related to TMJ disorder or dysfunction, even though its cause is likely to be stress. Besides disrupting sleep and potentially exacerbating any TMJ issues, night grinding can damage teeth and jaws. If you wake up in the morning with a sore jaw or your spouse notices the noise, Dr. Riggs can fit you with a custom-designed night guard that will solve the problem.