Bruxism Appliances, Splints, Nightguards – Why Would I Want One?
See below for a good definition of bruxism and splints if you happen to be reading this and you have not yet heard these terms!
What is an NTI Appliance? This small appliance shown below snaps firmly over the upper or lower anterior teeth preventing the teeth from touching and wearing down as might happen during clenching and grinding – also known as bruxism. It also functions to allow the muscles used in clenching and grinding to relax. It can even help prevent headaches from overuse of the muscles of chewing, clenching, and grinding.
Bruxism is the grinding of teeth. Teeth are pretty strong, but they are meant for the chewing of food which may account for 10 to 20 minutes of actual contact time over a day. Clenching and grinding (Bruxism) can cause the teeth to wear against each other for hours each day. Over time this bruxism may cause irreversible damage. Patients may clench or grind their teeth during the daytime or at night. This grinding can damage the teeth, jaw joints, the muscles of mastication (chewing) or even the bone around the teeth. It is usually the weakest of these four things that has the most damage.
A bruxism appliance, commonly referred to as a splint, bite-guard or nightguard is custom fabricated to fit your teeth. Depending on the type of appliance recommended, we may make a bruxism appliance or splint directly on your teeth or on a model of your teeth in the lab. Sometimes we have to send impressions or models of your teeth to a special dental laboratory for fabrication of your bruxism appliance, splint or nightguard.
The nightguard/splint/bruxism appliance acts to remind you consciously and subconsciously not to grind or clench your teeth. It does this by separating the teeth with a layer of plastic so that the teeth no longer fit together well. Usually when teeth touch, they do so with considerable biting force. In our office we tell patients that their teeth should contact ONLY when eating or swallowing. And we find that many patients contact their teeth often throughout the day as part of a habit or chewing on pens, pencils, straws, fingernails, cuticles, straws – ant the list goes on and on!
The benefits of a bruxism appliance or splint/night-guard:
- Teeth and dental work are protected from the grinding process – much cheaper to buy a splint than repair teeth
- Ideally the clenching and grinding habit is eliminated over time
- Jaw muscles can relax which can help reduce tension and pain
- The jaw joint or TMJ receives less damaging forces
- The bone associated with the teeth and the jaw joints have less force directed to them, which can reduce future damage
In our office we make several types of bruxism appliances or splints. The most durable is a hard acrylic splint that covers all the teeth of one arch and is adjusted to obtain an ideal occlusal pattern with the opposing dental arch. This type of splaint is best for patients who continue to clench and grind their teeth even with an appliance in place.
We also make an NTI appliance which can reduce the muscle forces from grinding by over 80%. Our soft PROFORM appliance is much less expensive and is often enough protection to allow the jaw muscles to relax and protect the teeth. Our office can help you decide if you would benefit from the use of a bruxism appliance, splint or nightguard, and which one of these – if any – would provide the most benefit.
If you are concerned about whether you have the signs or symptoms of tooth bruxism, or if you need a splint or night guard, our office can help! Call our Grand Junction, Colorado office at (970) 242-3635 and we will do our best to answer your questions about this or any dental health concern!