Usually, if a Dentist recommends a mouth guard, it is because the patient is grinding down their teeth. Now, if a person is grinding down their back teeth, then there is a problem with the bite. If you blame grinding down your teeth on Stress only, read on...When people have "Good bites", it is impossible to grind down your back teeth. But it is still possible to grind down your front teeth even though you have a good bite.
Jaw pain is mostly "Muscle Pain". So, when a night guard, mouth guard or TMJ splint is worn, whether it is at night or daytime usage, it will reduce the muscle contractions of the jaw muscles (masticatory muscles) and/or reduce the amount of forces on the being placed in the Temporo Mandibular Joint (TMJ). That reduction in muscle contractions will Relax the muscles and that feels good! Sometimes, the tissues in the joint become inflammed and they hurt when you use it or bite down.
Many people have clicking and popping in the TMJ's. It's not a good thing but it is fairly common...maybe 15% of the population. Now, the clicking and popping usually is not a good enough reason to recommend TMJ therapy. Only if it is accompanied with pain, and/or if it is so loud that you just can't stand it anymore. Generally, the clicking and popping will not be eliminated or stopped, it can mostly be lessened, or reduced so that you don't notice it as much anymore.
Sometimes in times of stress, people that have clicking and popping in the TMJ's, the tissues will become more inflammed or fatigued to reduce the function of the TMJ capsule. This sometimes can cause the jaw to lock closed. A locked jaw mean that the person can only open their mouth for about 10-20 mm or so.
This is a multi-appointment therapy directed by your TMJ Dentist. He/She will recommend the appropriate treatment depending on your situation. More about this on the TMJ Therapy page...
Mouth/Night Guard Reviews
Ok, there are dozens of mouth guards out there. I will write reviews about each guard that I have tested, talk about the characteristics of each guard, talk about the likelihood that each will relieve pain, and give you my recommendations.
One thing that I need to make clear is...that basically every guard has the potential to relieve Jaw or TMJ pains! BUT, most of them also have the possibility to CAUSE TMJ pain. Some have a greater possibility of causing more pain. And some have a greater probability to reduce TMJ pain.
This is what happens when pain is relieved with a mouth guard...
When you put a guard in your mouth, it changes the proprioception of your nerve/muscle sensories (when the nerves in the teeth sense when the tooth is touched, either by a guard or opposing teeth).
Then the muscles that are hurting, a lot of times stop contracting as much, because the new guard or appliance in your mouth has just changed the contact sensory messages to your brain...resulting in a change of contractions.
That means that some muscles that are hurting...stop contracting and relax and stop hurting. Also, it starts contracting other non-hurting muscles to contract...and eventually may cause those new contracted muscles to hurt over time. So, what does all of that mean? Well...
Bottom line is...most any guard can help you relieve your TMJ pains OR CAUSE you more pains. So, it's better if you know which guards have a greater probability and possibility to reduce your pains, and those that will probably cause you more pains, it just depends on the individuals' specific situation and how the different guards are used and fit your mouth.
For Example...The Doctor's Night Guard is a good guard, but if you don't bite down hard enough to fit it to your mouth, you'll most likely have worse problems wearing it. So, what do you do?...You need to understand a few aspects of each guard that you're are considering purchasing. So, first off, it is better to buy the guard that has the lowest probability to CAUSE you more pain. Then, make sure that you are wearing it correctly.
Sometimes it depends on how the person fits the new guard to their teeth or mouth. And in general, any mouth guard can disrupt your hurting muscle contractions during the night to allow relief. It's a roll of the dice if you don't know which mouth guard has a better probability to reduce pain.
I'll give you my recommendations and tell you the ones that I like and don't like...BUT remember, even the ones that I don't like (because they are likely to cause more pain), may infact work just fine for you. So, keep an open mind with all guards and make a choice. You just need to understand what might go wrong if you continue to have pain or even have more TMJ pains, and what you should do when that happens.
Let's go over the popular guards that are available on the internet and "over the counter" in the stores.
The first one that I'll talk about is...
The first guard is The SmartGuard:
This is the best "Overall" best Night guard for TMJ Symptoms available. It also protects your teeth from the affects of grinding. The downfalls of this guard is that it won't be the best guard for you if you have a very small mouth, a small arch width of your teeth or a very high palate. Generally it will work for about 80% of the population. Also, if you have an end to end bite in the front teeth, it may not work well for you.
The problem is that the alternatives are much worse in many different areas, so my recommendation is to try the SmartGuard first, because it most likely will work better for you.
The surprising symptom that this guard reduces, is the tension headache and even some "migraine" headaches. It seems that the most common symptom relieved as much as jaw pain, is the headache. Statistics show that 82% of headache sufferers will have a 77% reduction in their headaches from wearing this guard.
The SmartGuard is the best one that I've found that you can buy off the Net, and it's a lot cheaper compared to the ones you get from your Dentist.
There are big differences, and you as a Consumer would never know the difference of which one works best unless you tried multiple guards.
Now I have done the work for you. If you're wanting a Night Guard, get this one...
The SmartGuard Night Guard.
The second guard is The Doctor's Night Guard:
I recommend this one for teeth protection only. But be carefull, because if you want it to reduce TMJ pain, it's best if you modify it as I describe in my "TMJ Appliance" page on my website www.mytmjdentist.com. If you don't, it's a 50/50 chance that it'll reduce your pain.
This guard has a flat biting surface which is what you want to reduce pain (with a full tooth coverage guard) the quickest and have the fewest possibilities of causing you pain.
The biggest problem with this guard is the difficulty of molding it to your teeth/mouth. Here are some tips to help you successfully mold it to your teeth...
#1 After pulling the guard out of the boiling water, place it in your mouth on your top teeth and...bite down hard...I mean hard. Bite down so that your upper teeth bite all the way down to the inside bottom hard layer material.
#2 Keep the guard in your mouth for about 3 minutes when fitting it to your teeth. It's a long time to keep in but it'll help reduce distortion after taking it out to cool it in cooling water. After the 3 minutes, then take it out and cool it under running tap water.
#3 Now, if you want to relieve pain, cut the back ends off. Cut off of the guard where the last two big molars are impressed in the guard. That will give you the best pain relieve possible other than the SmartGuard of any guard available right now.
The third guard is the Dentek Custom Comfort Night Guard:
This is was a very good one as well, but Dentek changed the design, and now it is worse for TMJ sufferers. I don't recommend this one for pain relief unless you modify it like I've described on my website.
This guard is lighter and fits more loosley than The Doctor's Night Guard.
It has a flat surface to bite against, which helps reduce the chances of causing you pain, and hopefully will reduce your pain. Cut off the back ends like I've described and it'll reduce your pain better.
This one is lighter and comfortable but it may not last as long as others.
The fourth guard is the Aqualizer:
This guard is one of the few guards that I've tested that is specifically made to reduce TMJ pain...but, it is not a slam dunk. this one is better than all others to wear during the day, because it allows you to speak almost normally, so you can wear it during the day. I didn't like this one personally at night though, it kept me up thinking that I was going to inhale it and it flopped around in my mouth a bit that kept me awake.
But, it is the best guard to wear during the day when you have to go to work etc.
The Dentek Comfort fit Night Guard:
This is a very small and light guard. It was developed primarily to prevent you from grinding your teeth. It does protect your teeth, but then again any guard made will protect your teeth if it stays between your teeth and in your mouth.
This guard is on the low end of my recommendation list because it is small enough to inhale and can flop around your mouth a bit. But, some people may like this one, and does have the possibility to reduce TMJ pain due to the change in proprioception of the muscles and how they contract. Still, this is on the bottom of my recommendation list to reduce TMJ pain.
Tip #1 if you purchase this one...push the biting tabs all the forward towards the front of your mouth to help reduce pain, and reduce the chances of causing more pain.
The Sleep Right Rx famliy of guards , made by Splintek:
They have two guards, the Dura-Comfort and the Slim-Comfort.
The Dura-Comfort is more durable and stronger. I personally like this over the Slim-comfort.
Ok, both of these will protect your teeth from the affects of grinding. But, they are not the best ones to choose for TMJ pain reduction...although, because of different muscle contractions due to the changes in proprioception, these guards can reduce your TMJ pain, not as likely as others, but might work.
Tip...If you choose to purchase one of these guards, move the biting tabs forward, towards the front of your mouth for best results.
The RCM family of guards:
RCM has three guards. The double arch guard...the upper arch guard...and the lower arch light guard.
I wouldn't buy either of the upper or the lower (light) arch guards for pain relief. They might relieve some pain, but they also cause more clenching. More clenching can make your pains worse or slow down your pain treatment.
The double arch guard can help you reduce your popping and clicking in your TMJ joints as it holds your lower jaw in a forward position. This can reduce TMJ pain and at the same time reduce your dislocating TMJ disc.
You'll wake up in the morning with the teeth unable to close together of an hour or so. So, it is a trade off...can't bite teeth together for an hour or so, verses, sensitive teeth as this guard does promote a bit more clenching throughout the night.
I recommend this one only if you have significant issues with popping, clicking or locking jaws while you sleep.
The TMJ Appliance:
This night guard was specifically designed to relief TMJ symptoms as well as the Aqualizer and SmartGuard. The design of it is creative and fundamentally is good to position the jaw more forward during sleeping time, to relieve pressure on the TemporoMandibular Joint. That it does, and does work well. The problem with this guard is that it does promote clenching at the same time, and is a mouth full. It is the biggest guard on the market which makes a good night's sleep improbable.
The best aspects of this guard is that it'll reduce your jaw locking, popping and clicking, which is a great benefit that most all other OTC night guards fail miserably at. Only the RCM Double Arch performs better at preventing Lock jaw and the popping and clicking that occurs with the slipping disc in the TMJoints.
The TMJ Appliance is Not a boil and bite, so it's easy to fit in your mouth. The problem is that it is a One size fits all nonmoldable big cumbersome guard.If you have severe Lock Jaw and popping, this guard can reduce those symptoms
The Doctor's Night Guard Advanced Comfort:
This guard was developed to reduce the bulky feeling at the front upper lip area. I don't like this one much because, it is not as stable as "The Doctor's Night Guard Classic". If you just want to protect your teeth from the affects of grinding your teeth, then this one will work. But, for TMJ pain reduction, try other guards, as others will work better, more often, for more people.
If you modify this guard like I describe on my website, it'll probably fall out of your mouth easier than other guards.
Not high on my recommendation list.