Splint therapy – treating a wide range of complaints with a bite splint
A bite splint prevents the teeth from being pressed together and ‘grinding’ (commonly referred to as grinding your teeth). The technical term for this harmful habit is bruxism. Splint therapy is also used in some rheumatoid or chronic degenerative conditions to relieve pressure on the joints in the jaw. However, these cases are rare in dental practice. Another area of application for splint therapy is the treatment of chronic snoring, in which the lower jaw is held forward with so-called ‘snoring splints’ to give the upper airways more space.
The reasons for bruxism are numerous and not yet fully understood. Stress plays an important role, as the body tends to relieve continuous tension by grinding or clenching the teeth. Frequent anxiety can also have this effect. In addition, a so-called malocclusion can lead to bruxism symptoms, i.e. when the upper and lower jaw do not fit together precisely, instead making premature contact. In this situation, suboptimal treatments often have a decisive impact, leading to poorly-fitting dentures or protruding crowns, bridges or fillings. Other suspected risk factors include certain medications, smoking, and drinking excessive coffee or alcohol. And sleep disorders such as sleep apnea syndrome can also lead to bruxism, along with the accompanying daytime fatigue. The question of whether genetic imprinting plays a part in the risk of bruxism has not been answered with scientific validity.
The fact that nocturnal teeth grinding is often not noticed poses a problem for early diagnosis. Even teeth grinding while awake is usually unconscious. In these cases, bruxism only becomes apparent when the initial damage has already occurred.
Possible consequences of bruxism: from tooth loss to CMD
If necessary splint therapy is not carried out, serious consequences are afoot. Continuous grinding and pressure on the jaw muscles and joints lead to damage that reaches beyond the oral cavity. The severity depends to a greater extent on the dental/jaw status of the individual. For example, the tooth enamel may suffer from abrasion, fissures, cusps and edges being levelled. Gums may recede due to gingivitis and periodontitis. Following the appearance of these symptoms at the very latest, splint therapy should be considered. Sooner or later, teeth may begin to loosen and threaten to fall out.
Long-term discomfort may also develop in the jaw. The jawbone may shrink and the bite may shift. This can even alter the proportions of the face. In addition to the above is the risk of permanent pain in the jaw joint; neck tension; tinnitus; headaches; and restricted jaw movement. These latter symptoms are already attributed to craniomandibular dysfunction (CMD), a pain syndrome that can have a wide variety of effects and is promoted by bruxism.
Splint therapy can prevent the damaging consequences of teeth grinding. Although it takes a little time to get used to, it is very simple. Depending on the need indicated, a bite splint is worn between the teeth only at night or during the day. If necessary, splint therapy is accompanied by other treatment measures, for example to restore the occlusal relief, or to remove sliding obstacles. Since bruxism is also a symptom in its own right, the cause should also be investigated and addressed. Stress reduction and stress management strategies often help here. Finally, accompanying physiotherapy may be advisable too.
We will be happy to answer all of your questions about splint therapy – including, of course, its professional implementation.