Splints are created to support and stabilize the joints and muscles to avert the incorrect positioning of the teeth or malocclusion when the jaws are closed. Splints are recommended for various reasons especially if the patient suffers from teeth clenching, grinding or early TMJ pain. TMJ mouth splints are generally designed to move the lower jaw, leading it to a more comfortable natural position. There are various styles of splints to treat TMD, each designed especially to help relieve jaw pain including permissive and non-permissive.
Permissive: A permissive splint, the most common type of occlusal splint, lets the teeth move freely over the biting surface. The permissive splint allows the muscles to place the jaw joints in their sockets, preventing bite disharmony. Permissive splints, which consist of stabilization and bite planes splints, can be befitting to the upper or lower teeth making the biting surface smooth and flat. This will let the teeth glide unhampered and the jaw to close and slide freely achieving a more balanced resting point.
Non-permissive: A non-permissive or directive type splint uses ramps or indentations that limit the movement of the jaw over the biting surface. Although permissive splints clear the malocclusion or misalignment of teeth and jaws, non-permissive splints obviate full seating of the joints by positioning the jawbone into a forward stance upon closure.
Reasons for getting occlusal splints
Patients are recommended to get a splint if they suffer from:
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
Bruxism (teeth clenching and grinding)
Headaches or jaw joint inflammation
A night guard, also called an occlusal guard or mouth guard, is recommended for patients suffering from bruxism (a condition that involves chronic grinding or clenching of the teeth). This condition can overtime result in tooth wear and fractures, myofascial pain, headaches and other painful issues. While using the night guards may not eliminate bruxism wholly, it can help protect the wearer’s teeth, joints and muscles from further damage when you sleep. Just as TMJ Splints, night guards are fabricated to provide movement of the lower jaw, but they do not provide the best forward and vertical support for patients with jaw problems.
Three of the most common types are:
Soft night guard: This type of night guard is made with squishy, soft plastic that won’t damage the teeth even if the patient grinds their teeth hard. A soft night guard is more flexible than the others and helps eliminate the symptoms of bruxism by putting soft barriers between the teeth. They are molded to fit the patient’s mouth.
Hard night guard: Hard night guards are made of hard acrylic both in and out and can be a go-to option for extreme grinders or clenchers. The acrylic material is extra durable and even if they are made of harder plastic, they shouldn’t feel too bulky in the mouth.
Dual Laminated night guard: These night guards are soft on the inside but the outer shell is harder, more durable and takes the best of both worlds. This way, it will feel soft on the patient’s teeth along with durable protection on the outside. Dual laminated night guards have a longer life span ranging from nine months to five years.
What is the difference between Splints and Night guards?
Splits and night guards both are removable orthotics which help to reduce bruxism and TMJ pain. TMJ splints are usually worn on both upper and lower jaws unlike night guards. Similarly to night guards they can relieve symptoms of bruxism nevertheless they are only proposed to be used by patients who actually have TMD.