We treat most patients with a TMJ Splint, Even when Stress is the Primary factor.
Since most TMJ jaw pain is "muscle pain", and since the splint changes the proprioception (what the nerves in the muscles feel and how they direct the jaw to contact on the teeth) which alters the contractions of individual muscle fibers, it relieves those individual muscle fibers of work and pain.
So, the TMJ Splint really is an "All purpose" modality of most TMJ Symptoms. It is therapeutic as well as Diagnostic, meaning it eliminates pain AND it can tell your TMJ Doc if the cause of the problems is a bad bite or other factors.
Even with Stress issues, the muscles still hurt, and the Splint will relax the muscles. The TMJ CURE is not the Splint however, the cure will be the cessation or reduction of the factor(s) causing the stress, which causes tension and/or clenching, which causes muscle fatigue and pain.
The TMJ Splint also is mandatory if you have a Lock Jaw situation. You want to address this symptom immediately before the Temporomandibular joint tissues bond or adhere permanently. If that happens then surgery is needed to unlock the Lock Jaw. Your TMJ Doc may add an Anterior Repositioning Ramp on the Splint. This can help with the unlocking sometimes, and/or it will be necessary to hold the jaw forward after TMJ surgery. This ramp can do that.
What we do with the Splint is adjust it so that it creates a Perfect Bite. Of course it is temporary because it's the splint that is acting as your teeth. So, the splint gives you the perfect bite so that the muscles work how they should work, and when they should work. That is the natural way to heal the body. Let it heal itself (with a little help).
The TMJ Splint can be adjusted for your specific needs. If the TMJ Doc sees that you need more relief compared with an adjusted "Perfect Bite", then he/she can remove "Back Teeth" contact off of the splint to move the forces towards the front teeth.
This significantly reduces the overall forces when biting down, the resulting forces maybe more than 50% of normal forces on the back teeth. This can help expedite pain relief adjusting the splint this way.
Now, if you have clicking joints or a popping jaw (one of my patients call it klunk klunk), This complicates things where sometimes, the front or anterior adjusted splint can cause a locked Jaw or more popping. It depends on the individual and situation in the TMJ and what the tissues are doing.