TMJ Splint Therapy Success Rate

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The joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull is called the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ for short. It is one of the most complex joints in the body. Therefore, disorders of the joints and surrounding jaw muscles can be difficult to correct.

Sypmtoms of TMJ disorders are jaw pain, headaches, lock jaw, clenching or grinding teeth, and limited mouth motions. Doctors will often use a splint, or mouthguard as treatment to correct the disorder. The TMJ splint therapy success rate is rather high, however it does not come with some risks.

What is TMJ?

TMJ is an abbreviation that stands for temporomandibular joint. These joints are found on both sides of the face in front of the ears. Your lower jawbone is connected to your skull by the TMJ, which help with functions like chewing and talking.

What is TMD?

TMD is an acronym for temporomandibular joint disorder. This is a general term for problems with the jaw joint. TMD and TMJ are often used as synonyms.

Inflamed or irritated muscles and ligaments around your jaw joints cause TMJ dysfunction. One might have moderate or severe pain depending on how long the problem has persisted.

What Causes TMD?

TMD is caused by a variety of factors.

Damage to the jaw joints or the surrounding tissues may lead to temporomandibular joint dysfunction. TMD may also be caused by:

  • Bruxism (tooth grinding/clenching)
  • When the ball and socket joint’s disc becomes dislocated
  • Arthritis of the TMJ
  • Stress
  • Acute trauma
  • Improper chewing

Splint Therapy for TMJ

Those with a history of discomfort or dysfunction in their bite or temporal-mandibular joints (TMJ) or who have had a full mouth reconstruction may benefit from an occlusal splint, also known as an orthodontic device. In dentistry, a splint is a kind of dental device that may be taken out and put back in as necessary.

Custom occlusal splints are manufactured by simulating the jaw movement on an articulator using detailed research models. The dentist will fit and re-adjust the splint after it has been made.

With its processed acrylic resin, splint guides the jaw as it swings sideways and backwards, making it ideal for those who have difficulty chewing. In addition to protecting the teeth from detrimental habits, this exact personalized orthotic device supports the TMJ and the muscles engaged in chewing.

Wearing the splint at prescribed periods (all day, solely at night, or both) as well as attending follow-up sessions will be required to monitor your development and alter the splint if necessary. For the greatest results, follow your dentist’s instructions.

The repositioning of the lower jaw to allow for better airflow while the patient sleeps has been a recent advancement in the field of orthotic devices and occlusal splints.

How Does a Splint Help Treat TMJ Disorders?

It is important for patients to know that different dentists may have different reasons for recommending the use of a splint. People may fall into one of two general categories:

  1. The splint is designed to alleviate discomfort and enhance jaw function, allowing it to move more easily.
  2.  Splinting is only the beginning of a multi-step process. A substantial dental procedure, such as orthodontics, crowns on teeth, etc., will be required to create a new permanent jaw position if one wears it.

 In contrast, the second technique is not supported by existing scientific data and offers major concerns due to its inability to be undone. Because of this, you should ask your dentist any questions before utilizing a jaw-repositioning splint. You will find a useful list of questions at the bottom of this article.

Types of Splints

Stabilization (centric), Distraction (pivot), and Anterior Repositioning (advanced) are the three major functional categories of occlusal splints that can be identified.  

For lateral movement alone, the lower canines are in touch with the stabilizing splint, which is normally placed on the maxilla at night when the patient is not chewing.  The occlusion, muscle, and joint are all stabilized by this method.

Reducing discomfort and stress on the joint structure is the primary goal of using a distraction splint. Because the occlusal contact is concentrated in the posterior portion of the splint, the patient is unable to eat or wear the splint for 24 hours.

For the treatment disc displacement, the Anterior Repositioning Splint is employed. Its style (full or partial coverage) as well as the amount of time it is worn and how long it takes to treat differ. Some dentists advise their patients to wear it all the time, while others advise them to take it out when they eat, and still others tell them to wear it only at night. 

To add to the confusion, some doctors advise 2–3 months for full recovery, while others advise six. Additionally, some designs are worn on the maxilla, while others are applied to the mandible.

 Is TMJ Splint Therapy Safe and Effective?

Many doctors have differing opinions on TMJ splint therapy. Some say TMJ treatment using splints can be of low quality and have variable effects, according to 2020 National Academy of Medicine research.

The problem is that many splint appliance designs can be so varied, so it is doubtful that any research will be satisfactory to a dentist who already has an opinion on the usefulness of one device.

While generally safe, side effects of TMJ splint therapy can include altered occlusion, aspiration of small anterior teeth appliances, dependence on a device, lack of self-management skills, and a belief that the appliance is necessary to “fix” a problem with the chewing system.

If you are currently using a splint and experience increased pain, clenching, or grinding, you should speak to your doctor and perhaps stop using the splint. That being said, researchers have found that treatment using TMJ splints give faster results than other TMJ treatments.

TMJ Splint Therapy Success Rate

Despite some risks, the TMJ splint therapy success rate is quite high. A recent study found that splint therapy has improved TMD in 96% of patients. By the end of the study, 88% of patients were considered completely healed.

In this study, it is important to consider how long the patients wore their splints. At the 3 month mark, only 44% of patients reported any healing. However, at 6 months, 96% of patients were able to function normally by the end of their treatment.

These patients all used a 3mm thick splint, worn for 12 hours a day. While a majority of patients experienced full healing after 6 months, a small number of patients, about 12%, were not fully healed and had to be referred to further treatment.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Trying TMJ Splint Therapy

While the TMJ splint therapy success rate is high, there are some questions you should ask your doctor before beginning treatment. This therapy is not for everyone, so by asking these questions, you can get a good idea if you should try TMJ splint therapy.

  • What are my other treatment options?
  • What type of splint do you recommend for me?
  • Is the goal of the splint to reposition my bite or to relax my jaw muscles?
  • Will the splint need to be work during the day, night, or both?
  • How long will I have to wear the splint?
  • Is there a long term goal of permanently repositioning my jaw?
  • Will I develop changes in my bite after wearing the splint?
  • What should I do if I my pain worsens while wearing the splint?
  • What happens if the splint doesn’t work?


To treat disorders of the jaw joints and muscles, doctors often use splint therapy. A recent study shows that TMJ splint therapy has a high success rate when patients wear the splint for a minimum of 6 months.