Lips Together, Teeth Apart!! Lips Together, Teeth Apart!!

Lips Together, Teeth Apart!! That’s What Most Dentists Told Me!!

Over the years I have seen different philosophies for the treatment of TMJ, Jaw Pain, Bite Malocclusion, etc. One popular treatment or comfort item (depending on your situation) is a dental night guard. That is what I personally like….to wear a dental night guard. That works best for me to prevent grinding and damage to the TMJ. Orthodontics, is another often mentioned solution, although I could never understand how the permanent movement of the teeth could be done in a scientific enough way to know where the teeth need to be to correct a TMJ problem. A couple of dentists told me about a TMJ treatment that uses botox injections to lubricate the joints and that helps relieve jaw pain. I never liked the sound of that one. Injections? I took a pass. I had one dentist even tell me, to do nothing… treatment, no nothing! That wearing a night guard confuses the mouth, tongue, etc, into doing endless compensating with a foreign object in the mouth…..that more damage could actually be occurring by wearing a dental night guard appliance. So the use of a dental night guard, is probably best decided by a board certified dentist who see’s TMJ patients as a regular part of his/her practice. And that is one of my pet peeves….if you wear a dental night guard, it is very important to find a dentist who does a lot of night guard fittings every week….not just one or two times a month when a patient with a TMJ complaint wanders into the office. Any dentist can make a night guard for you by taking impressions and sending them off to the lab. That is the easy part. The hard part is the actual fitting, when that piece of acrylic comes back from the lab and must be fitted, adjusted, filed, etc. It is sort of like an art form that takes a lot of practice, even for the best dentists. A proper fitting could take several office visits, of trial and error, to get it just right. I still hear the voice of my dentist who fit mine using black wax paper…..”tap, tap, tap….tap, tap, tap.” And it still took 2 or 3 visits to find that right balance.

TMJ treatment has always been a murky area, even for the best dentists trying to figure out how to help their patients. And because TMJ can also effect the muscles or nerves in your mouth, I sometimes use the analogy of it being like an electrical problem in your car…..very difficult to figure out where the “short” is. And don’t think an MRI will easily pinpoint the problem either. It takes a skilled dentist to look at those “still” images, and include a correct interpretation as to how jaw motion is effecting your mouth, jaw, etc.

But, finally getting to my point with this article….there was one thing, that almost all dentists have told me. One thing that they almost all universally agreed on. That is the concept of “Lips together, teeth apart.” That really is the best resting position for when you are not talking or eating…..lips together, teeth apart…with your tongue gently and naturally resting on the surface of your palate. It takes a lot of practice to remember to do this, especially when you may not be in the habit of doing so. I still have to work at that correct mouth posture…..constantly reminding myself….”Lips together, teeth apart.” If you are a TMJ sufferer, you will probably still need to work with your dentist to discover your best treatment options, but usually “lips together, teeth apart” is simply good mouth and teeth posture…..and it’s non invasive, costs nothing, and may actually help you. The only hard part is increasing your awareness……”lips together, teeth apart, lips together teeth apart.” You will inevitably find that you don’t easily follow this rule. When you notice yourself not doing that correct posture, simply correct your mouth and tongue positioning. And begin again….Lips together, teeth apart.