The primary purpose of splint therapy is to alter how the teeth come together through the use of a retainer like devise to achieve a more comfortable and stable relationship of how the upper and lower teeth come together.
Your dentist may recommend a splint as part of your overall treatment for a variety of reasons and it may be designed to fit either the upper or lower teeth.
The teeth are positioned in the upper and lower jaws. They move and contact each other as directed by the muscles and the hinge that they are connected to. Sometimes there is a difference between where the teeth want to be and where the jaw joint, the TMJ, wants them to be. This can cause problems with the muscles or teeth, such as muscle pain or deterioration of the surfaces of the teeth. Through the use of splint therapy, an artificial biting surface of plastic is created when the appliance is worn, that can be altered or modified until a comfortable and stable bite is accomplished. Once this is achieved, further decisions about changes to the teeth can be made either through repositioning the teeth, reshaping the teeth or restoring the teeth.
In most situations, splint therapy is designed for a limited period of time in the early points of treatment. In limited situations where it is identified that bruxism or tooth grinding is a significant ongoing condition causing a continued breakdown of the tooth surfaces, a routine nighttime appliance may be recommended. Additionally, splint therapy may be extended in situations where there is active changes occurring to the joint itself.
Based on the clinical findings and the symptoms, dentists can create many different types of appliances to improve bite, giving the lower jaw the ability to fall correctly into the socket of the temporomandibular joint. A TMJ splint or mouth guard can be worn, which helps reduce any stress placed on the jaw and allows the muscles to move easily. Splints and mouth guards also help to relieve pain as they help to reposition the lower jaw so it rests into the socket correctly.