An occlusal splint is a slim but hard appliance or guard that is fitted to the biting surface of the teeth. The splint is custom designed to guide the jaws into a neutral position to minimise the pressure on the teeth and joint due to grinding and clenching.
Teeth grinding is an involuntary habit commonly occurs during sleep. This results in wearing of biting surface of back teeth and edges of front teeth. The affected teeth look shorter in length with fracture lines and look anaesthetic. In some instances the tooth also cracks and this can be painful.
Clenching of jaw muscles and teeth grinding can happen simultaneously. The jaw muscles affected by clenching are painful, stiff and the mouth opening is restricted. The jaw joint, also known as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is adversely affected in advance cases and one may experience a click or pain from the joint. Some patients experience muscular headache due to clenching and teeth grinding.
An occlusal splint is fabricated from the impression of patient’s teeth. As such, wearing the splint does not stop the grinding or clenching process, however it reduces the negative impact like teeth wear, chips and cracks. A correctly designed splint holds the jaws in relaxed rest position, thereby minimises pressure on the Temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Sometimes, a patient is referred to a TMJ specialist to have it treated.
An occlusal splint is normally worn at night but can be used during daytime as well if required. Routine maintenance includes brushing of splint in the morning with a normal toothbrush and rinsing under tap water.