Occlusal Splints for Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism is a common occurrence and can happen for a variety of reasons, including stress.

Why do I grind my teeth?

Teeth grinding, otherwise known as bruxism is a relatively common occurrence. There are many reasons for teeth grinding, but the most common is stress and anxiety. People will grind their teeth at various times throughout their life, on and off depending on the stress levels in their life.

Grinding has also been identified in individuals who have crooked, missing or misaligned teeth. It is believed that the teeth create interferences in the bite, and grinding is designed to remove these interference’s.

A third reason for teeth grinding is sleep apnoea. It has been found that those that suffer sleep apnoea will have far greater wear on their teeth and are far more likely to report grinding their teeth.

As teeth grinding often occurs during the night, some people will be unaware that they are grinding. It will be a partner that will report that they hear the grinding of teeth during the night.

What are the effects of teeth grinding?

There are many different signs and symptoms of teeth grinding.

People often report the following symptoms:

  • dull, constant headache
  • sore jaw upon waking
  • teeth cracking and chipping easily
  • fillings failing and breaking easily, even when they are new fillings
  • front teeth starting to look short
  • teeth are feeling sensitive
  • the jaw joint is tender and painful to touch and may click on opening and closing

Effects of teeth grinding on the teeth

The appearance of the teeth is the first sign of teeth grinding our dentist will notice. As the teeth grind against each other they will start to wear away in a process known as attrition. The front teeth will chip and start to appear shorter and the back teeth will fracture easily. Cusp fracture on back teeth is a common result of grinding your teeth. Sometimes the forces between the upper and lower teeth can lead to extreme flexing of the teeth. This results in Abfraction. Abraction is where a chip of enamel breaks away from the bottom of the tooth where it joins the gum. People that grind their teeth a lot tend to have a lot of recession with a ledge or a notch forming where the tooth joins the gum. Once this is exposed the tooth can become sensitive. The tooth here is also softer, so the toothbrush can scrub it away more easily and acidic foods will dissolve this area a lot more easily.

Occlusal Splint

An occlusal splint is used to protect the teeth from teeth grinding forces and to help relieve the pressures of grinding on the jaw muscles and jaw joint.

It is made from a hard acrylic with a softer fitting surfaces. It is worn at night while sleeping, attached to the top teeth. It provides a flat surface for the lower teeth to bite against. This helps place the jaw into a “neutral” or relaxed position. You may grind onto the occlusal splint as well. This can be seen as wear facets in the splint. This will help protect your teeth from breakage, unlike your teeth, the splint can be easily replaced over time.

An occlusal splint is custom designed to fit only your teeth very accurately. This is critical to ensure it is comfortable. An impression is taken of the upper teeth and measurements taken. Once the splint is made it is inserted to fit your teeth and adjusted over a couple of visits to ensure the bite is relaxed and comfortable.

Over time your splint may wear away or break as it absorbs the destructive grinding forces. A new splint maybe required.

Other Therapies for Teeth Grinding

Sometimes we combine splint therapy with physiotherapy treatment. At Leichhardt St Dental Practice we have aligned ourselves with a fantastic team of Physiotherapists that are focused on jaw treatment. For many years this was not available in Brisbane. We have found fabulous success for jaw joint pain combined with splint therapy with this group of Physiotherapists.

Recently, techniques such as hypnotherapy and other meditative relaxation therapies have been shown to be extremely successful in stopping teeth grinding. Particularly if performed just prior to bed time. Even playing relaxing music just prior to bedtime has shown to reduce night time teeth grinding and its associated pain.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions. We look forward to helping you and supporting you with your dental treatment.

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