Dental splints can be used to protect the teeth from grinding, address the symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), or to treat loose and misaligned teeth. Splints, also known by terms like mouth and night guards, come in a variety of styles. A dentist can custom-fit a splint for a very specific purpose, and it is also possible to purchase generic models. Some advice from a dentist can be helpful for choosing the best option to manage a given dental issue.
In patients with TMJ, dental splints can relieve pain and pressure during the night. Such patients may be prone to grinding in their sleep, and the splint can pull the jaw into alignment and reduce the stress on it. This can limit neck pain and headaches associated with the TMJ, and may make patients feel more comfortable during the day.
Bruxism, or tooth grinding, can also be treated with a dental splint. This most commonly occurs at night and can be destructive to the teeth as well as irritating to partners. Another use for splints is in the management of loose and misaligned teeth, which may be correctable with temporary splinting to stabilize them. The splint can hold the teeth in place to encourage them to grow into the right position.
Patients with snoring and apnea problems sometimes benefit from dental splints. The dentist may need to consult other specialists to determine if the splints will help by holding the jaw in a neutral position. The patient should be able to breathe more easily at night with the splint in place, and may also notice an improvement in snoring. If this measure does not work, more aggressive treatment may be necessary to resolve the issue.
People of all ages can benefit from dental splinting. With growing children, regular checkups are necessary to check on the fit of the splint and the progress of the treatment. Teeth come in rapidly for young children, and it is critical to make sure that a splint does not interfere with normal oral development.
It is important to fit dental splints correctly. If they do not fit properly, they can create dental problems and may be painful. Poorly fitted dental splints are difficult to wear, which can discourage a patient who is trying to adhere to a treatment regimen, and they may cause long-term complications by pushing teeth out of place. If a splint feels uncomfortable, the patient may want to ask for a new fitting.