When It All Hangs in the Balance

Occlusal appliances are non-invasive, acrylic devices used to aid and prevent occlusal
problems (i.e. the relationship between the opposing teeth). If this occlusal relationship is
not balanced properly it may result in pain, tenderness and even mobility of the affected
teeth. This includes nightguards to stop people grinding their teeth at night, bite raising
appliances, Michigan and Tanner splints and many more, all for the benefit of better balance
and alignment of the opposing teeth.

What does the treatment with occlusal appliances involve?

Once we have determined the best treatment path an impression or impressions will have to be taken. Next our lab technician will make the appliance requested; this normally takes about a week. Once the appliance is ready, your orthodontist will arrange an appointment where they will fit the appliance, ensuring that it is as comfortable as possible. Comfort is crucial to ensure you are confident to wear it as prescribed, promoting its effectiveness and the quickest possible relief from your symptoms – all helping the best possible treatment outcome. You will be instructed on how to put the appliance in and take it out correctly, and your orthodontist will check you can manage this easily.

Splints – the most common types of occlusal appliances

Splints may be considered as part when treating a variety of conditions from bruxism (grinding of teeth) and temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD) which refers to pain and discomfort relating to the masticating jaw muscles) to minimizing unfavourable forces on new dental prostheses.  Splints can provide an orthopedically stable joint position, introduce an optimal occlusal relationship, encourage normal facial muscle function, and protect the teeth and supporting structures from abnormal forces.

About occlusal splints:

  • If the appliance does improve your bite, it is probably not in correct harmony with your jaw muscles and joints.
  • Occlusal splints usually have to be adjusted after placement. As the jaw joints are freed to in their sockets, the biting surface of the appliance may need to be corrected.
  • Occlusal splints are not a panacea. Their effectiveness is dependent on a very carefully made diagnosis and appliance design that is directed at solving a specific type of disorder.

Bite raising appliances

Worn over the lower teeth it prevents your teeth meeting and stops you grinding your teeth when asleep. This reduces jaw clenching and thus helps relieve the pain you have been experiencing in your jaw joints and in your facial muscles. The device can also prevent cracking or fracturing of teeth as a result of tooth clenching and grinding.

About bite raising appliances:

  • The lightweight plastic appliance has been made from a special mould of your teeth and should fit snugly over the bottom teeth once clipped into position. So there is no risk of choking on it in your sleep.
  • Keep the appliance in a safe place, ideally in a protective box. Do not leave it where it can be reached by the family pet; dogs will easily chew and damage it and even swallow it! Do not wrap and leave in a paper tissue or it may get thrown away.
  • Clean your appliance by using a soft toothbrush to gently clean the plastic, taking care not to scratch the surface. And continue to clean your teeth as usual twice daily, morning and night.
  • Sometimes, especially if you are a heavy teeth grinder, your appliance may become worn or may develop a split. You will need to make another appointment at the practice and, if necessary, a new appliance can be made.

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