Occlusal Splints

Night Splint

Occlusal (Dental) Splints

Your dentist is most likely to prescribe a night occlusal splint if you grind your teeth, a condition known as bruxism. In addition to wearing an occlusal splint, it’s important to identify the root cause of the grinding. This typically falls into four categories:

  1. Sleep disorders including excessive snoring or sleep apnoea.
  2. Lifestyle factors including smoking, drinking alcohol or having high caffeine intake (which can act as a stimulant).
  3. Stress, anxiety and other psychological components. 70% of bruxism is caused by one of these emotional conditions. This is particularly prevalent in those people who work shifts.
  4. Psychotropic medicines used in the treatment of depression.
Dental Occlusal Splint dentist Mooroolbark

How does a night guard/splint work?

The night guard/splint works because it fits closely over the lower teeth and has a smooth upper surface against which the top teeth bite. As the surface is smooth, the upper teeth can’t interlock. This means the jaw muscles aren’t overworked.

The technical details of night splints

Did you know that you actually have two different ways of our teeth meeting together, centric occlusion and centric relation? Centric occlusion (CO) describes the relationship of your teeth when they are fully interdigitated and all of the cusps are interlocked. Centric relation (CR) describes the relationship of your jaw when the condyles are in their most relaxed and natural position.

The ideal situation is for centric occlusion (CO) and centric relation (CR) to be the same, in this situation the muscles in your jaw which determine centric relation will be completely relaxed at the point at which all of your teeth fully interdigitate – this is called neuromuscular release.

However, this relationship of having centric relation and centric occlusion occurring at the same time does not always happen naturally. A highly trained and experienced dentist and dental technician can make and fit these mouth guards/splints that can deprogram the muscles around your head, face and neck. By encouraging your jaw to sit back into the condyles, your muscles will relax. This means that, when you wake up in the morning, your jaw will be in a fully relaxed and natural position. The gnathological splint is the ‘Rolls Royce’ of splints – the upper splint is called a Michigan and the lower splint, a Tanner.

When fitted and adjusted well, these splints will have a dramatic effect on your life, as they offer long-term protection for all your teeth. This includes teeth with fillings or crowns, as well as muscles and joints of your oral cavity, such as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

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