Bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching) is a common condition, often occurring while sleeping. Teeth grinding can lead to a range of Dental problems and injuries such as toothaches, jaw pain, sore gums and fractured teeth.
A custom-fitted Occlusal Splint can assist in preventing Dental damage from Bruxism.
What is an occlusal splint?
An occlusal splint is a custom-made and removable dental appliance, designed to help prevent and protect the teeth, jaw and muscles from overuse, wear and damage.
It is a device that is often designed to be worn while you sleep.
An occlusal splint can also be called as dental splint, a bite splint or a night guard.
What are the benefits of a splint?
An occlusal splint aims to help protect your teeth and their supporting structures, from damage which can be caused by clenching and/or grinding of the teeth, a condition known as bruxing.
Bruxing is an involuntary habit that often people do while they are sleeping. And often people do not even realize that they do it!
However, when we clench and grind our teeth together, it can cause significant and irreversible damage to the teeth and their supporting structures. As bruxing puts the teeth under immense stress and force.
Bruxing though, can also put excessive strain and cause the overuse of muscles, which can become uncomfortable and painful. It can also lead to other issues and disorders relating to the temporomandibular joint.
So, a dental splint is designed to help protect your teeth, jaw and muscles from damage, overuse and strain which can be caused by bruxing.
BUT… a splint can also be recommended and be beneficial for people who have a history of pain or dysfunction related to their bite (occlusion) or their temporomandibular joint.
This is because an occlusal splint helps to open the jaw, creating increased vertical height, which helps to put the jaw in a more neutral or resting position. The splint also helps to guide the jaw as it moves. This again helps to reduce strain on the muscles and prevents the jaw joints from being overloaded.
So, there are a few reasons why we may recommend a splint to you.
How do you know if you need a dental splint?
We are often the first person to notice, or mention to you, that you may need to consider a dental splint.
For example, when you come in for your routine dental check-up, your oral health professional may notice wear to the biting surfaces of your teeth, crack or chips in your teeth, or they may notice marks or indentations on your cheeks and tongue. Often these changes in the mouth, which cannot be related to other causes, can be a sign that you may clench or grind your teeth.
Sometimes, you may start to experience symptoms which can indicate that you may need a splint. These symptoms can include:
- Pain, aching or discomfort in the jaw, muscles or teeth
- Difficulty chewing food
- Limited or difficulty opening your mouth
- Tension headaches
- Increased sensitivity of the teeth.
Based on your symptoms and along with a thorough dental check-up, we recommend and talk to you about considering an occlusal splint.
What are occlusal splints made from?
Occlusal splints are mainly made from acrylic.
Most splints are clear, helping to make them discrete when worn.
Are there different types of splints?
There are a few styles or types of splint which can be made.
For example, a splint can be made for your top teeth or for your bottom teeth. They can be made to be hard, soft or semi-soft. And they can be made to cover all of your teeth in the arch or just some of the teeth depending on your mouth and why the splint is being made.
We’ll suggest the splint that suits you best depending on your teeth and their condition.
How long does it take to get a dental splint made?
Getting a custom-made dental splint usually takes two appointments.
The first appointment is to take moulds (impressions) or scans of your teeth. These are then sent to a dental lab or technician who will make your splint.
At the second appointment we insert your splint and make sure that it fits comfortably. At this appointment we will also talk to you about how-to best care for your new splint!
How long do occlusal splints last?
Putting a time frame on the lifespan of a splint can be difficult as it depends on how often it is worn, how much you brux (clench or grind your teeth) and how well it is cared for.
we find most people will have the same splint for at least 2-3 years before it needs to be replaced.
When should a dental splint be replaced?
There can be a few reasons why you may need to have your splint replaced.
- If the splint no longer fits
- If you have had significant dental treatment done since the splint was made
- If the splint becomes warped, worn, chipped or breaks.
If you are concerned that your splint needs to be replaced, then have it checked.
we recommend that you always bring your splint along to your dental appointments so that we can routinely check it for you.
When are occlusal splints worn?
Dental splints are mainly worn when you are sleeping. As when you are asleep you can involuntarily brux and you are unable to stop yourself from doing it.
Some of our patients also choose to wear their splint while they are working or studying. This is because they notice that when they are concentrating, they also tend to clench or grind!
How do you care for an occlusal splint?
Looking after your occlusal splint is important for getting the most out of it and ensuring it lasts for as long as possible!
we recommend that you:
- Always clean your splint with cold water
- Make sure that you clean it before and after wearing it
- Store it in its container when not in use and somewhere safe.
We’ll give you more instructions on how to best care for your splint when they give it to you. As it will depend on the type and material used to make your splint.
we find that one of the main reasons why people need their splint replaced is because the dog or cat ate it!! So, please be mindful of where you keep it when not in use.
Are dental splints comfortable to wear?
The first time you wear your splint it may feel unusual, bulky or strange. However, we find that most people adjust to it pretty quickly.
Often patients even comment that after a few weeks of wearing their splint, they can’t sleep without it!
Also, it isn’t uncommon that the first few nights when you start wearing your splint that you wake up to find it no longer in your mouth! Sometimes you may subconsciously take your splint out during the night… and as you can probably imagine, searching for a clear acrylic object amongst your bedsheets isn’t fun. But give it time and you will find you will stop doing this!
It is also quite common that your new splint makes you salivate more. This can occur initially, but generally stops after a few nights of wearing it, so don’t worry!
Why does my splint feel tight?
An occlusal splint is designed to fit snuggly to your teeth. This helps to prevent it from falling out and ensures that it stays on your teeth. After a few minutes that feeling generally should start to disappear.
When we insert your splint, we’ll ensure it fits well, but If you notice that it does feel too tight in certain areas or is uncomfortable, make sure you let us know so we can fix it for you.
Does a splint stop you from clenching and grinding?
A splint will not necessarily stop you from bruxing. It does however help to guide the jaw, to relieve or reduce strain on the muscles and jaw joints. It will also help to absorb the forces on the teeth caused by bruxing, as it acts as a barrier between your teeth.
We often find that when people bring their splint in, we can see signs of where they are grinding and clenching on their splint, as there are wear marks on it!