Occlusal Splints and Bruxism (Grinding)

Occlusal splints are generally recommended for people who grind or clench their teeth: a condition called “bruxism”, and for people that have had extensive dental treatment due to bruxism.

What is bruxism?

Some people grind their teeth and clench their jaw muscles during their sleep. This is called bruxism and is an involuntary habit.You may brux more often or more severely than others. It has been suggested that this may be linked to stress. Bruxism is a very common occurrence, and often individuals are not even aware of their habit as it commonly occurs during sleep. However, over the years the gradual wear of the teeth can amount to a serious situation.

How does it affect your teeth?

As bruxism causes the upper and lower teeth to wear against each other it leads to gradual shortening and chipping of the biting surfaces of your back teeth and the edges of your front teeth. This is a process called attrition. The pressure of the upper and lower teeth can also lead to a process called “abfraction”. Abfraction is where the enamel adjacent to your gums “flakes away” due to the pressure and flexing forces placed on your teeth when grinding, and causes notches that may be shallow and or sometimes very deep forming along your gumline. For a long time these notches were thought to be caused by over zealous tooth brushing, however, we now know that most of these are caused by bruxism. These notches can become very sensitive to cold, acids and sweet or if inadequately cleaned, decay can occur.Bruxism can also lead to strain and injury to the jaw joint (TMJ joint) and associated muscles. This can lead to pain, clicking or locking of the joint or muscular headaches.

What is an occlusal splint?

An occlusal splint is a slim hard acrylic guard fitted to the upper jaw and covering the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. It is designed to be worn at night. An occlusal splint will not stop you from grinding or clenching. It does however, guide the jaw into a neutral position which relieves some of the pressure on the jaw joint and very effectively protects your teeth against the destructive forces of bruxism.

What to expect during your occlusal splint appointments?

As our occlusal splints are custom made specifically for you in our on-site laboratory, two short appointments are required:

Appointment 1: During this appointment your dentist will take impressions of your upper and lower teeth as well as some measurements

Appointment 2: During this appointment your dentist will ensure that your new splint fits comfortably around your upper teeth and in your bite.