Some people grind their teeth and clench their jaw muscles during their sleep. This is called Bruxism and is an involuntary habit. Whilst we do not completely understand at present why some people brux and others don’t (although there are many published theories), it is thought that if you are one of these people it could be a lifelong habit. Often individuals are not even aware of this habit as it commonly occurs during sleep. However, over the years the gradual wear of the teeth can lead to serious complications.
Whilst the cause is not known for certain, there are a number of factors that may cause people to grind and clench their teeth:
- Stress (emotional, physical pain or illness)
- Breathing problems related to sleep apnoea and reduced airways
- Malocclusions and changes to your bite
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Personality types (anxious, hyperactive)
Bruxism can cause the following symptoms:
- Tension headaches, neck and shoulder pain
- Grinding wears the teeth down and causes crack teeth and fillings
- Aching and tender teeth
- The jaw joint may be sore and/or difficult to open or close, known as trismus or lock jaw
- Clicking jaw joints
What is the treatment?
An Occlusal Splint (also known as a night guard), is a slim acrylic removable guard fitted to your upper or lower teeth, and is commonly prescribed as a treatment for bruxism, reducing tooth wear by mechanically protecting the teeth.
Occlusal splints are divided into partial or full-coverage splints, according to whether they fit over some, or all of the teeth.
An Occlusal Splint is designed to be worn at night and whilst it will not stop you from grinding or clenching, it guides the jaw into a neutral position which relieves some of the pressure and pain in the jaw joint, and effectively protects your teeth from damage.
Partial Splint – NTI-TSS Device
A partial splint device known as nociceptive trigeminal inhibition tension suppression system (NTI-TSS) is a dental guard that fits onto the upper front teeth only. This splint works by preventing your back teeth from clenching intensely and coming into contact with each other, therefore eliminating teething-grinding altogether. The temporalis muscles are kept from contracting with their usual intensity, and the clenching reflex is suppressed and almost eliminated.
Is Occlusal Splint treatment for me?
Yes, if you are suffering from the effects of clenching and grinding your teeth (refer to symptoms listed above), the purpose of an Occlusal Splint is to absorb the destructive forces of Bruxism and to provide something to wear down other than your teeth.
What results can I expect?
Whilst splints do not stop the involuntary habit of grinding or clenching, they allow your teeth to come together evenly without tooth contact. The positive results of an occlusal splint are:
- Reduces muscle pain and tooth wear
- Restores your jaw function
- Relieves jaw and tooth pain