Occlusal Bite Splint

Photo of a night guardYou may not be aware of it, but the way that your upper and lower teeth meet each other changes over time; especially once bone loss around your teeth sets in. Most patients clench or grind their teeth sub-consciously either during the day while they are concentrating on a task, or at night while their mind is sorting through the events of the day, or both day and night. The teeth wear down and may shift and the bite becomes traumatic to the ligaments that hold the teeth in to the jawbone. This can go un-noticed by you as you are distracted by life’s many challenges but that does not mean that it is not detrimental to you.

A bite that is not properly balanced can significantly speed up the rate of bone loss around your teeth, it may also precipitate cracking of the teeth or restorations, shifting of the teeth, orinfection, ultimatelyleading to premature tooth loss.

Treatment for an imbalanced bite varies depending on the severity of your bite relationship, the looseness of the teeth,the amount of bone left holding the teeth in place, and the condition of the teeth.

Occlusal splints (also called bite splints, bite planes, or night guards) are removable dental appliances carefully molded to fit the upper or lower arches of teeth. They are used to protect tooth and restoration surfaces, manage mandibular (jaw) dysfunction, and stabilize occlusion or create space prior to restoration procedures. People prone to nocturnal bruxism, or nighttime clenching, should routinely wear occlusal splints at night.

Occlusal splints are typically made of a heat-cured acrylic resin. Soft acrylic or light cured composite, or vinyl splints may be made more quickly and cheaply, but are not as durable, and are more commonly made for short-term use. Soft splints are also used for children, because normal growth changes the fit of hard splints.

They generally cover all the teeth of the upper or lower arch, but partial coverage is sometimes used. Occlusal splints are usually used on either the upper or the lower teeth, termed maxillary splints or mandibular splints respectively, but sometimes both types are used at the same time. Maxillary splints are more common, although various situations favor mandibular splints.

Stabilizing or Michigan-type occlusal splints are generally flat against the opposing teeth, and help jaw muscle relaxation, while repositioning occlusal splints are used to reposition the jaw to improve occlusion.

At Orchard Maple Family Dental, we prepare custom occlusal bite splints for patients in need. The fabrication of your bite splint will consist of two short appointments. The first appointment will consist of us taking impressions of your teeth so we can create models to send to the dental lab to have your bite splint fabricated. The second appointment will be the delivery of the bite splint. At this appointment, we check the fit of the bite splint to your teeth and make any necessary adjustments.

Treatmentusually includes a biteguard (a clear plastic removable device, much smaller than a mouthguard, which covers the biting surface of the teeth – and is usually worn at night) anda bite adjustment (a heavy polishing to better balance your bite – much like how the bite is adjusted after your dentist does a filling to make sure that the bite is not “high”). If the teeth are too loose they may also need to be connected together by splinting them (temporary or semi-permanent bonding or “caps” that are connected) as well.

These treatments can improve chewing comfort, tighten teeth, and sometimes even relieve headaches, earaches, ringing in the ears, neck pains, and teeth pain and sensitivity.