What’s the Difference – TMJ Splint vs Night Guard

Do you suffer from jaw or facial pain? If so, you’re not alone. TMJ can affect anyone, and if you aren’t sure if you need a night guard or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) splint, your Fairview dentist will conduct a full examination and help you understand your options. A night guard and a TMJ splint are two dental devices made to meet the diverse needs of patients suffering from TMJ issues. To help you decide whether to use a TMJ splint or a night guard, our Fairview dentist explains what the differences are.

Difference Between a Splint and a Night Guard

The term TMJ splint and night guard are typically used interchangeably. However, they treat different TMD symptoms as they serve different purposes. A splint has many names, such as a dental splint, occlusal splint, bite splint, bite guard, occlusal appliance, and dental appliance. The biggest difference between a TMJ Splint and a night guard is a night guard is a type of splint, and not all splints are night guards.

What is a Splint?

There are many types of splints to treat TMD, each designed specifically to help relieve jaw pain. They come in two styles, permissive and nonpermissive. A permissive type splint allows the teeth to move freely over the biting surface, and a nonpermissive type splint uses ramps or indentations to restrict movement over the biting surface. In general, both types have the same goal – to stabilize and support the joints and muscles to prevent malocclusion or the incorrect positing of the teeth when the jaws are closed. 

TMJ splints provide more vertical support than night guards and move the lower jaw, guiding it to a more comfortable natural position. The length of time for patients suffering from TMD is recommended to wear the TMJ splint will vary depending on the severity of their symptoms.

What is a night guard?

A night guard, also known as an occlusal guard or mouth guard, is an excellent option for people who suffer from bruxism. Bruxism is a condition that causes chronic clenching or grinding of the teeth. Over time, this can lead to tooth wear and fractures and myofascial pain, headaches, and other painful issues. Using these guards does not eliminate all symptoms, but it will help protect your teeth from further damage when you sleep. Besides protecting your teeth from bruxism, just like TMJ Splints, night guards are designed to provide movement of the lower jaw, but they do not always provide the best forward and vertical support for people with jaw problems.

While it may cost less by buying a night guard over-the-counter, the cost of a custom night guard is well worth it in the long run. When you get a night guard from your general dentist, the night guard will have your lower or upper teeth’s impression on it, making a comfortable, snug fit and protection against bruxism.


Common Types of TMJ Splints to Treat TMD

Individuals with TMD can now find relief from symptoms by wearing a splint that is designed specifically for their condition. Splints for TMD come in many shapes and sizes, but they all perform similarly. They allow your jaw muscles to relax while evenly dispersing pressure across the teeth, so it’s not focused on one spot or joint. Preventing the pressure to focus on one spot or jaw joint helps to reposition your jaw into the proper alignment.

Silicone – Silicone occlusal splints are a myofascial pain dysfunction treatment that can ease the discomfort of tight muscles in your face.

Permissive splints – Permissive splints, also known as stabilization splints, are made from acrylic resin and are worn at night while sleeping. They provide support for your jaw joints so that when you move them during your sleep, it does not cause pain. This type of splint is most commonly used to treat TMJ issues.

Non-permissive – A non-permissive splint is designed with ramps or indentations that limit the movement of the jaw.

Soft Night Guard – A soft night guard for teeth grinding is a must-have for those prone to suffer from bruxism while they sleep. With the help of this soft rubber material that sits between your teeth, you’ll be able to reduce many symptoms associated with bruxism, such as tooth sensitivity or headaches, in addition to experiencing less discomfort from morning jaw pain. This type of night guard is typically recommended for people with milder teeth clenching or teeth grinding cases.

Hybrid Night Guard – A hybrid night guard is a new design that features a soft rubber interior paired with a hard acrylic exterior. This design offers both comfort and strength, giving you peace of mind throughout the evening to prevent and protect yourself from grinding your teeth at night. Your dentist near you may suggest a hybrid night guard if you’re a moderate to heavy teeth grinder.

Hard Night Guard – A hard night guard is the best option for heavy grinders because of its durability and strength. It’s constructed with durable acrylic material, providing extra protection for those who severely suffer from teeth grinding at night.

Reasons for Occlusal Splints

A dentist may recommend a splint for a variety of reasons, especially if you experience teeth grinding, clenching, or early TMJ pain. Getting a night guard for TMJ, or an occlusal splint is an efficient, low-cost way to remedy the movement that’s causing pain, helps your jaw and facial muscles to relax, and prevents it from getting worse. Patients typically get a splint if they suffer from:

  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
  • Bruxism – Teeth clenching and grinding
  • Sleep apnea
  • Headaches or jaw joint inflammation

Which TMJ Splint is For Me?

If you are experiencing pain in and around your jaw or hear clicking noises when you open or close your mouth, you may suffer from TMD or bruxism, and you shouldn’t let it affect your quality of life. While a night guard or mouth guard is one way to mitigate TMJ pain, your TMJ specialist in Fairview can help you decide which treatment option is best to help stabilize your jaw in the correct position.

If you have any questions, want to learn more about how Dr. Feng at Sloan Creek Dental can help you with TMJ issues, the effects of bruxism, or schedule a dental appointment at our office, please contact our dental office 972-468-1440, or leave us a message.  

Our dental office is located in Fairview, Texas, and our patients visit us from across the surrounding areas, including Allen, Plano, McKinney, and Lucas for their dental care.