There are many things beyond eating lollies and neglecting flossing that can take a toll on your oral health. One is stress. Stress often causes people to clench their jaw or grind their teeth. These behaviours, which often occur while sleeping, can result in many oral health problems, from sore and stiff jaw joints to broken teeth. Luckily, a visit to your dentist can help.
While your dentist may not be able to reduce the stress in your life and get you to stop jaw clenching, they can take steps to minimize or prevent oral damage. One of the most useful is to create bite splints to wear on your upper or lower teeth. Bite splints are very small appliances that reduce the pain and damage of TMJ, teeth clenching, jaw clenching, and beyond. Here’s what you need to know about bite splints and night guards—and whether you might need one from your dentist.
What is a Bite Splint?
Bite splints or occlusal splints are custom-made removable prostheses that fit snugly onto your teeth. Usually made of thick plastic, splints create a barrier between your upper teeth and your lower teeth. This helps to minimize the impact of teeth grinding or jaw clenching when it happens at night. Bite splints and night guards are terms that sometimes describe the same object; removable orthodontics devices worn when sleeping to prevent a wearer’s jaw muscle and tooth damage. However, occlusal splints and night guards are not always the same thing.
What is it For?
A removable dental appliance like a bite splint is a common intervention by dentists and orthodontists. They use them to mitigate the physical damage done to your jaw muscles, temporomandibular joint (i.e. jaw joint), and the rest of your face, head, and neck by stress.
When you are asleep, you are not usually aware you are grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. An occlusal splint on your upper or lower teeth (or both) can serve as a night guard and help protect your oral health when you are not aware of or cannot consciously control your behaviour. With extreme stress in your life and without a bite splint or other dental wear to help mitigate the damage, you can experience excessive jaw tightness and risk misshaping your teeth or bite from clenching and grinding. You can also risk giving yourself chronic headaches and facial pains.
In addition to people who experience regular stress in their daily lives and at work (or people who are simply prone to tooth clenching and grinding), athletes regularly use bite splints or mouth guards. Athletes wearing a bite splint while playing or practicing their sport can protect their teeth from breakage when they come in contact with someone or something on the field or court. They can also take advantage of the protection of a bite splint if they have a habit of grinding their teeth or clenching their jaw while waiting for their turn to play or when they anticipate what will happen in their game.
If you are an athlete, you may be a great candidate for a removable bite splint that protects your teeth and helps ensure you don’t need more serious dental work down the line.
Who is a Candidate for a Bite Splint?
Anyone is a candidate for a bite splint. If you play a sport and your teeth are at risk while you play, you can definitely benefit from a bite splint. If you are a professional or parent under extreme stress, you may benefit greatly from getting a splint that helps ease the results of the tension you hold in your jaw while you sleep. Additionally, if you are prone to grinding your teeth, you are also an excellent candidate to seek out this protective orthodontic work from your dentist.
Another good candidate for an occlusal appliance is someone who has invested money in dental work like veneers. If you have spent money on cosmetic dental work and you want to protect your investment, it may be wise to get a bite splint, so you don’t damage the dental work you’ve had done while you are asleep—requiring more expensive, major dental treatment down the line.
A bite splint is most helpful when you are sleeping. They are also beneficial for athletes while they are playing or practicing. Ask your dentist about when you could most benefit from a bite splint.
Protect Your Teeth
Bite splints and night guards are useful orthodontics devices custom-made by your dentists to help protect your teeth from future damage and mitigate the damage already done by jaw clenching and tooth grinding. Whether you need a removable device to benefit your oral and jaw health while you sleep or protection for your face while you play sports, your dentist can help you determine the most helpful course of action for you. Once you have a custom removable orthodontics device made, you can rest easy knowing that you’re alleviating symptoms that are already bothersome or protecting your dental health and avoiding high dental care costs for years to come.
Do you want to know why your jaw aches in the morning and you have dull headaches you can’t alleviate? Speak to your dentist today about whether or not a bite splint might be the right intervention for you.