Occlusal Splints for Temporomandibular Disorders

(TMD), Bruxism, or Clenching

  1. Purpose:
    The purpose of splint therapy is to allow your lower and upper jaw to come together without tooth contact, and to reduce muscle pain. Many situations cause the malfunction of your lower jaw. Examples are accidents, surgery, developmental defects, peculiar oral habits, many fillings placed over numerous years, naturally occurring malocclusion (poor bite), orthodontics, psychological stress, clenching or bruxing (grinding teeth), and other conditions.
  2. Rationale for Splint Use:
    You will receive a plastic bite splint (occlusal splint). This treatment has been used for many years to keep the teeth from contacting during chewing and to allow the lower jaw to return to a comfortable hinge position without interference and guidance from the teeth. When the splint has been worn for a few days the jaw functions freely.
  3. Types of Splints:
    • Full Arch: You may receive a splint that fits on your upper or lower jaw and covers all of the teeth on that arch.
    • NTI-TSS: This small splint fits only in the front of your mouth and is used on a part-time, usually nighttime, basis.
  4. Wearing the Splint:
    • Temporomandibular Disorders: If your condition is temporomandibular disorder, you will probably recieve a full-arch splint. You should wear the splint at all times including while eating, unless directed otherwise. If you remove the splint to eat, your treatment will not be as effective. Many fillings placed in your mouth over the years or other conditions have caused your teeth to meet in a position your jaws cannot tolerate. The splint eliminates tooth-to-tooth contact. Your symptoms will gradually disappear while you are wearing the splint; and your natural teeth, bridges, and/or fillings will be adjusted to the new bite by us. This procedure is called occlusal equilibration. After equilibration, you will wear your splint only at night. After a period of time, you will not wear the splint at all. The described treatment usually requires a few weeks to several months.
    • Bruxism and Clenching: If your condition is bruxism (grinding of teeth) or clenching, you should wear your splint at night when you cannot control your jaw movements or during time of psychological stress. During the daytime, make sure your splint is placed in water to avoid warping.
  5. Cleaning the Splint and Teeth:
    Food will accumulate around and under the splint. At least one time each day, brush and floss your teeth very thoroughly. Brush and rinse the inside and outside of the splint, and then return it to your mouth. Dental decay will initiate if you are not careful about cleanliness of your mouth and splint. If you have a high dental decay potential, fluoride-containing rinses or gels are useful when placed into your splint once per day.
  6. When the Splint Is Out of the Mouth:
    If the splint is out of your mouth for any reason, your teeth may not meet in harmony. This situation is to be expected because of muscle and jaw relaxation while you were wearing the splint. Occlusal equilibration will eliminate this improper meeting of the teeth (malocclusion). If the splint is out of your mouth, place it in a container of water to prevent it from warping. You may desire to soak it occasionally in a commercially available denture cleanser. As an alternative, you may soak it in a solution made by adding a few drops of Clorox to a cup of water.