Occlusal Splint or Night Guard
Do You Need an Occlusal Splint or Night Guard?
There is a good chance that someone you know is wearing a plastic appliance called an occlusal splint. Occlusal splints come in many different designs and are prescribed by your dentist for different but very specific reasons.
The most common type of occlusal splint is called a permissive splint. This is an appliance that may be fitted to either the upper or the lower teeth. The biting surface of a permissive splint is smooth and fairly flat. The teeth that contact against it when the jaw closes can slide freely against the flat surface so the muscles that move the jaw are able to direct jaw closure free of any deflective tooth inclines that can interfere with peaceful muscle activity.
On patients with a poor bite relationship, the jaw joints (TMJs) may have to be displaced from their sockets to make the teeth fit together when the jaw closes. Jaw muscles that have to hold the joints out of position every time the teeth come together, get tired and may become painful. A permissive splint is just a way of correcting the bad bite in a reversible manner, by covering up the deflective inclines on the teeth with a plastic material. The purpose is to create a new temporary bite surface that is in harmony with the jaw joints.
Sometimes the jaw muscles become so fatigued from trying to avoid a sore tooth, the muscles may go into spasm. An occlusal splint that separates the back teeth, but allows only the front teeth to contact a smooth flat surface, provides quick relief as the muscles are free to seat the jaw joints in their sockets without interference from the bite disharmony. If there are no structured disorders in the joints, the sore muscles become comfortable, usually within hours or, at most, two to three days, at which time the comfortable jaw to jaw relationship can be ascertained and the bite can be corrected.
When a high crown or filling interferes with closure, the interfering tooth can become sore. This activates protective muscle responses that, when prolonged, can spread to other muscles causing pain. Headaches are common along with sensitivity to cold in the tooth.
An occlusal splint that fits over the front teeth prevents the sore tooth from all contact and allows the TMJs to seat completely. If there are no structural problems in the jaw joints, pain is eliminated in the tooth as well as the muscles. The principle works the same for any bite interference.