Occlusal Splint (Night Guard for Grinding)
A common source of dental and facial pain is excessive grinding and/or cleaning which is known as bruxism. The condition presents in many different ways ranging from:
- Acute pain in the jaw joints and/or ears
- Tenderness and pain in the facial muscles
- Headaches and neck pain
- Painful and/or sensitive teeth
These symptoms may come and or be constant and the intensity ranges from mild to severe.
Often there is no pain but either you or your dentist may notice shortening and/or chipping of the teeth which is a tell-tale sign of bruxism. As well as wear, the teeth can also present with cracks in the enamel and cusps of the teeth.
We are not entirely sure why some people clench or grind their teeth but it is thought to be an oral gratification habit which intensifies when we are stressed. Another viewpoint is that it is an unconscious attempt to position our mandibles (lower jaw bone) into a more forward position so as to open our airways better when we sleep.
Because bruxism is an unconscious habit that occurs when we sleep, the solution to protect our teeth and relieve symptoms is to wear something called an Occlusal Splint. There are two types of occlusal splints that we recommend at Dental Loving Care which are the NTI or the Michigan Style splint.
An occlusal splint looks similar to a mouth guard but it made of a high impact acrylic as opposed to a rubber. This ridged material protects the surfaces of the teeth from further wear and absorb a large part of the stresses generated during clenching. It may also relieve any pressure on the jaw joint and relieve symptoms such as pain in the muscles and joint.
An occlusal splint is custom made for each patient by taking moulds of the upper and lower teeth and by recording the way you bite together. It is then specially made in a laboratory. Once it is ready, it then must be fitting and adjusted by the dentist as a poorly made or ill-fitting splint can create more problems with the teeth a jaw joints. The occlusal splint is usually designed to fit the upper teeth but it can also be made to fit the lower teeth if necessary. It is worn when sleeping but can also be worn when awake if you become aware of clenching and grinding in your daily activities. It is a long term solution to bruxism.