Occlusal Splint Therapy Basics

Occlusal splints for facial pain

What is an occlusal splint or night guard?

Splints are removable, protective plastic devices that fit on your upper or lower teeth (and sometimes both) and are adjusted to create a new bite in a desired bite jaw position. For example, if you have an upper occlusal splint, it will be adjusted so that the lower teeth contact it properly when you bite. They are often worn while sleeping, and in some cases during the day as well.

Occlusal splint therapy or night guard.

Why would your dentist make you an occlusal splint?

The most common reason that occlusal splints are made is to protect the teeth against night clenching or grinding. Since there is a piece of plastic between the upper and lower teeth, the splint prevents tooth-to-tooth contact that can result is wearing or cracking of the teeth. Tremendous force can be directed to the teeth when we clench or grind while sleeping, and significant damage can be done. Other important reasons for employing an occlusal splint include:

  • Establishing a neutral position that can allow the jaw muscles to relax.
  • Reduce or remove forces on injured or inflamed jaw joints.
  • To establish a comfortable jaw position prior to restorative dental or orthodontic treatment.
  • Attempting to “recapture” a TMJ disc that has recently moved out of its proper functional position.
  • Some forms of physical therapy depend upon using a lower occlusal splint to help relax the muscles in the neck and back known as polyarticular chains.

Can a piece of plastic really help?

The keys to proper occlusal splint therapy are a proper diagnosis of the problem, proper selection of splint type, and equally important, proper adjustment and maintenance of fit and bite pattern. As muscles relax and/or joint inflammation declines, the bite pattern on the splint will change and it will need to be precisely adjusted. It’s important to understand that occlusal splint therapy is a process, not merely the use of a device.

What to do if you think you may benefit from an occlusal splint

If you are experiencing facial pain, cracked or worn teeth, jaw joint or TMJ popping or locking, or you have been told by a partner that you grind your teeth at night, you should have the potential issue diagnosed to determine the proper course of treatment. Feel free to contact us via the links below and we will be glad to help you determine your needs.

Schur Orthodontics offers a range of orthodontic treatments, including the most popular clear aligner, Invisalign!

Our office is located in Bellevue, WA and sees patients from all over the area, including Redmond, Kirkland, Seattle, Renton, Eastside, and Woodinville.