How Long Does it Take for a Mouth Guard to Work for TMJ?

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The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has found that 5-12% of adults suffer from TMJ disorders. It is the most common cause for facial pain and the second most occurring musculoskeletal condition.  While TMJ disorders are not life threatening, it does have the potential to affect quality of life.

Most people will seek treatment to relieve the pain caused by TMJ.  A common and effective remedy is using a TMJ mouth guard.  What causes TMJ problems? And how long does it take for a mouth guard to work for TMJ?  Read on to find the answers to these questions. 

What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull.  Each side of your skull has one joint and it is located in front of each ear.  Your temporomandibular joint is responsible for movement in your jaw – up and down and side to side.  You use this joint for eating, talking, and yawning.  

Sometimes people have problems with their TMJ.  The most obvious symptom is pain in the joint or muscles around the jaw. Problems with the temporomandibular joint is called TMD, short for temporomandibular disorders.  However, many people call it TMJ, for the joint.  

Symptoms of TMD

If you have any of the following symptoms, you may have TMD.

  • Pain in the temporomandibular joint
  • Locking of the temporomandibular joint, either when opening or closing your mouth
  • Facial pain around jaw
  • Facial pain in or around ear
  • Difficulty and/or pain when chewing
  • Clicking sound when opening mouth
  • Grating sensation when opening mouth
  • Headaches, ear ache, visual problems, dizziness 

What Causes TMD?

It’s hard to say what causes TMD. Some obvious reasons are injury to the head or neck, but most cases are difficult to determine. Some factors that can contribute to TMD are grinding of the teeth, clenching, arthritis, articular disc shifting, and stress.  

TMD can be temporary, or it can be chronic and last for several years. TMD is typically diagnosed by a physical exam.  X-rays, CT scans, or an MRI may also be necessary if the doctor would like to check for bone or soft tissue problems. 

How to Treat TMD

If you suspect you have TMD, it is best you consult with your doctor or dentist.  Depending on the severity of your disorder, you may be referred to a TMJ specialist. 

To reduce TMJ pain, you need to rest your jaw.  If necessary, medicines can be used for this to relax your muscles and stop swelling. Soft foods should be eaten during this time and anything chewy, such as chewing gum should be strictly prohibited. 

Ice packs or warm compress have also been known to be helpful in relieving TMJ pain. Place the compress directly on your jaw for 15 minutes, several times a day. 

Sometimes physical therapy may be recommended to help prevent and manage TMD symptoms. Chronic TMD if often treated by using a splint, or mouth guard. 

What is a TMJ Mouth Guard?

By Metalhead64 – Own work, Public Domain,

A TMJ mouth guard is a clear piece of plastic that fits between the upper and lower teeth.  The purpose of a TMJ mouth guard is to prevent the wearer from clenching and grinding their teeth. 

Other benefits of a TMJ mouth guard are preventing the jaw from locking, holding the jaw in the proper position, helping the jaw and facial muscles relax, and easing pain in the articular disc. 

TMJ mouth guards are made of either hard or soft plastic. There are also different designs – some fit over the upper or lower teeth, and some fit over both.  Your doctor will choose the mouth guard that best corrects your problem. 

TMJ mouthguards are especially effective for those who suffer from grinding their teeth.  You can get TMJ mouth guards over the counter or your dentist can make one custom fitted for your mouth. Your dentist will also recommend how often you should wear your mouth guard. Some people wear it in the daytime, nighttime, or both.

How Long Does it Take for a Mouth Guard to Work for TMJ?

TMJ mouth guards are known as an effective alternative to TMJ surgery. But how long does it take for a mouth guard to work for TMJ?  

Of course this answer differs from person to person, but in general, you can expect to find relief in 1-3 months.  Many people even experience some level of pain relief immediately, but this depends on the cause of their TMD.  

A study done in 2018 has also found that when patients consistently use their mouth guards, 84% were pain free after 12 months.  Overall, TMJ mouthguards have been found to be quite successful in treating TMD.  


The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects the jaw to the skull.  Problems with the temporomandibular joint is called TMD, or temporomandibular disorder. A TMJ mouth guard is an effective treatment for TMD.  It typically takes 1 – 3 months for a mouthguard to work for TMJ.