Every now and then a new product will hit the market that’s designed to assist in the management of the chronic pain problems that impact the lives of millions of people every year. And when it comes to pain caused by TMJ/TMD problems, one such product is The TMJNext Generation™ Device. Having been sold in Europe for the past few years, this device is now available in the U.S. It is being aggressively marketed not only to dentists but to other healthcare practitioners, as well. As a result, many physical therapists, chiropractors, physicians and wellness clinics are advertising that they provide the device. As a board-certified orofacial pain specialist, I’m often asked, “Does the TMJNext Generation work?
Does The TMJNext Generation Device Work?
The TMJNext Generation™ Device is an ear insert which has been designed to create awareness in the patient of his or her jaw position. Here’s how it works:
First, impressions of your ear canals must be made. Although your dentist may have recommended the TMJNext Generation™, you may be referred to an audiologist (or another type of health care professional) that is willing to assume the liability of making the impressions, which may be outside of the scope of practice.
The impressions are made while your jaw is in a relaxed posture with your teeth apart. In this posture, your ear canal will assume certain dimensions in volume and shape. These dimensions get smaller when you bring your teeth together or clench them.
The ear canal impressions will be used to create custom ear inserts for you. The inserts feel comfortable when your jaw is in a resting posture, but when you bring your teeth together you feel an unpleasant pressure on the devices. The theory is that the uncomfortable feeling will get your attention and you will immediately relax your jaw. It’s like having a pebble in your shoe that makes it uncomfortable to walk.
For some people, the devices might serve as a sort of reminder to keep their jaw muscles loose. In this way, TMJNext Generation™ is essentially a biofeedback device. Anything that can help you keep your jaw loose during the day can be part of overall TMJ/TMD therapy.
Here’s the rub: Countless people who suffer from TMJ/TMD problems have NO NEED for daytime awareness because their jaw is always in a restful position during the day. It is at night while they are asleep that their grinding and clenching happens. For them, these devices could represent an unjustified expense. If physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists, and dentists who have limited expertise in the management of jaw problems are making decisions about the use of The TMJNext Generation™ Device, I’m afraid that overutilization is a real concern. So, does the TMJNext Generation device work?
As of today I have not found scientific articles that provide an understanding as to how these devices could stop or diminish the impact of sleep-related teeth grinding and clenching (bruxism) which is the way many patients get in trouble. Since the devices can apply unpleasant pressure on the jaw joints during a grind or clench, one would have to assume that the irritation would merely wake the wearer up, as opposed to helping him or her stop the activity altogether. I don’t think that would have a favorable long-term outcome.
My limited distribution of these devices at the present time precludes an endorsement or negative commentary. As always, I believe that a careful assessment must be done to adequately understand the type of jaw problem of each patient and what the initiating and perpetuating factors appear to be.
Only with that information can the treating professional guide the patient with sound advice.
Photo credit: http://tmjnextgen.com/