There are many potential treatments for temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD). We prefer to use nonsurgical and drug-free treatment that often starts with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), then continues with oral splint therapy.
But is oral splint therapy effective for TMJ treatment? Yes, and there are a number of good studies that show how effective it is.
Probably the most recent study doing a serious analysis of this question comes from Croatia in September 2019. Researchers randomly assigned 34 TMJ patients to receive either a TMJ treatment splint or a placebo splint that was designed to seem therapeutic, but didn’t actually achieve the necessary jaw repositioning.
After six months, researchers evaluated the benefits both groups received from their splints. They found that the group with the actual treatment splint saw greater improvement in their oral health-related quality of life, as well reduction in the frequency of spontaneous pain. They also could open their mouth wider without pain. They also saw tremendous improvement in almost all aspects of jaw function, especially chewing and the ability to open their jaw. The placebo group didn’t see any improvement in jaw function.
However, don’t take the word of one study. Individual studies can be statistical anomalies, and they might be designed or executed to favor one particular conclusion. It’s a good idea to look at groups of studies that cover more patients to get an idea whether a treatment is effective. This is called a meta-analysis, where researchers group together studies and analyze their data as a single, larger data set. They can also check for bias in the studies by looking at the different ways the studies were performed.
In 2016 researchers used meta-analysis to look at the effectiveness of oral splint therapy for TMJ. They looked at 13 studies. These studies covered 538 patients and didn’t have any evidence of bias. They found that the use of splint therapy achieved three primary goals:
- Wider mouth opening
- Reduced pain intensity
- Fewer painful episodes
On the basis of this effective treatment, and the low risk of complications reported in the other studies, researchers recommended Oral appliance therapy for TMJ treatment.
If you are suffering the symptoms of TMJ, such as jaw pain and limited jaw opening, you don’t have to live with these symptoms. TMJ treatment can reduce or even eliminate your symptoms. Then, once we’ve achieved the relief you’re looking for, we can talk about whether you want to keep using the oral splint, or if you’d rather use restorative dentistry for a full mouth reconstruction.
To learn how you might benefit from oral appliance therapy, please call (918) 528-3330 today for an appointment at élan by TMJ dentist Meghan Hodges in Tulsa. We can evaluate your jaw health and recommend an appropriate treatment.