Night Splints

There are 2 main types of night splint made by your dentist, each designed to treat a different condition. The first is an occlusal splint, designed to prevent the harmful effects of bruxism (teeth grinding).

The other type of splint is a mandibular advancement splint, or somnodent, which is designed to prevent snoring and/or sleep apnoea.

Somnodent (Mandibular Advancement Splint)

somnomedimage

 

The somnodent is used for mild to moderate sleep apnoea or snoring. It works by positioning your lower jaw forward slightly while you sleep. In doing this, it prevents your tongue and soft palate from obstructing your airway while you sleep. Many patients find the somnodent an agreeable alternative to CPAP machines.

Sleep medicine is a growing field of research, the implications of which are still unknown. Currently, there is ample evidence for us to safely conclude that untreated sleep apnoea leads to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and daytime tiredness. Not to mention the fact that prolonged snoring has significant social disadvantages (how many times has your bed partner complained that you snore?). 

If you think you may have sleep apnoea, or are interested in finding out more, phone 3632 8100 or book online now.

Michigan Splint (occlusal splint)

occlusal splint web

An occlusal splint is an appliance designed to be worn during sleep. The aim of the splint is to prevent your teeth from grinding together during the night, and also to help relieve symptoms for temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD).

What are the symptoms of TMD?

The symptoms for TMD vary greatly between patients, depending on the severity of the condition. Typical symptoms include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw
  • Headache (particularly in the temporal region)
  • Facial pain
  • Ear ache
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Jaw clicking
  • Tooth ache
  • Limited range of jaw movement
 

 

What causes TMD?

In general, TMDs can be divided into two main groups depending on their causative factors. There may be problems relating to the muscles working the joint, or problems within the joint itself.

In dental practice, we usually deal with TMD caused by problems with the muscles around the jaw joint. These problems are usually caused by bruxism, which is a habitual grinding of the teeth. Bruxism typically occurs during sleep and is capable of exerting an incredible force on the jaw. It is usually quite noisy and will often disturb a partner trying to sleep nearby.

Other less common causes of TMD related to muscle and/or ligament pain are previous trauma or uneven grown pattern. TMDs relating to problems within the joint itself usually fall within the category of arthritis (osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis).

How is TMD treated?

If your case of TMD is caused by bruxism, then the gold standard treatment is an occlusal splint (also known as a Michigan splint, or night splint). The splint provides a cushion between your teeth that will protect them from the grinding action of bruxism. The benefit of the splint is twofold:

  • 1. It is a physical barrier for the teeth and provides a soft landing when your jaw clenches at night. The resin material of the splint is sturdy, but not as hard as tooth enamel. When a tooth hits against another tooth, there is a significant risk of fracture. However, a tooth hitting against a splint is exposed to no such risk.
  • 2. It does not allow your jaw to achieve the closed position. After wearing the splint for several consecutive nights, your natural tendency to clamp your jaw shut will slowly fade, leaving the muscles more relaxed and less likely to cause pain and/or headaches.

If your case of TMD is caused by grown problems or arthritis, the occlusal splint may offer some benefit, but not the complete cessation of symptoms. In such cases, appropriate treatment may be sought from a doctor of physiotherapist.