If you have been researching TMJ treatment, you may have come across references to bite splints or occlusal splints. What are these?
Simply put, a bite splint is something you wear in your mouth to help treat TMJ and its symptoms.
What a Bite Splint Can Accomplish
Bite splints are used for a variety of purposes. They can:
- Protect teeth and restorations like porcelain veneers
- Reduce tendency to clench teeth
- Provide diagnostic information about joint problems
- Allow jaw muscles to rest
- Adjust position of jaw joint
- Improve airway space
As you can see, there’s a lot that a bite splint can do. Typically, we’re asking it to do several of these (if not all) at once. By protecting your teeth and restorations, a bite splint can reduce damage while we’re trying to diagnose your bite problems. It can also help stop your tendency to clench your teeth because teeth clenching might be related to your jaw trying to find its position of best rest. Ideally, we find a way to get this resting position while we’re seating the cushioning disk in its proper position, where it can protect the bones from abrading one another.
Types of Bite Splints
To accomplish the many goals of bite splints, there are a variety of bite splint forms.
- Nonpermissive splints are splints that are designed to limit the movement of your jaws relative to one another. They are supposed to lock the upper and lower jaw’s positions so that you can’t put your jaw into a position that is damaging.
- Permissive splints allow your jaws to move freely relative to one another. They are primarily designed to protect the teeth and restorations, though they may also provide some diagnostic information.
- Full arch splints are designed to fit over the entire arch of upper or lower teeth. In contrast partial arch splints may only fit over part of the arch–they may actually be very small appliances that fit between just a few of your front teeth.
- Splints can also be made as hard splints or soft splints depending on the function. Sometimes, splints are bonded to your teeth. Other times, they are designed to be removable.
The type of bite splint we recommend depends on the goals of your treatment, and it may not be for everyone. In that case we may end up suggesting a full mouth reconstruction.