Splints (Tanner, orthotic, mouth guard, night guard) have a multitude of purposes for dental treatment. For cosmetic makeovers, full mouth reconstruction, implants, TMJ/TMD and preventive treatment, splints are both a diagnostic and therapeutic aid. Successful splint therapy can reduce symptoms of tooth sensitivity, headaches, jaw and muscle pain.
A meticulously adjusted splint will act as an orthosis to orthopaedically compensate for a bad bite. The splint becomes the blue print for the design of the new aesthetic and functionally correct bite. This type of orthotic, a Tanner splint, differs significantly from what most dentists call a night guard or mouth guard.
Night guards (mouth guards) that dentists learn to make in dental school are only designed to be a physical barrier between the teeth. They are not designed to correct the orthopaedic deficiencies and actually can increase symptoms of tooth sensitivity, headaches, jaw and muscle pain. These types of splints are often uncomfortable, bulky and patients choose to discard them. These guards are made quickly with minimal or no adjustments by the dentist and if worn typically will develop significant wear.
Our Tanner splints are designed to create neuromuscular balance. The muscles relax because the splint allows for easier movement of the jaw. The jaw operates similarly to a hinged door. When something is in the way of closure, the muscles have to work harder. If the teeth are interfering with the jaw muscle activity, something in the system is likely to give way. TMJ disks can get overstressed, start clicking and lead to arthritic changes, muscles can get sore, and teeth can wear excessively, crack and develop sensitivity. The weakest components of the system will be affected if neuromuscular balance is not restored.
Most patients will be instructed to wear their splints at nighttime only. This is because the greatest uncontrolled biting forces occur when we sleep. Almost every person bruxes and/or clenches their teeth during sleep. During bruxism, the jaw moves into positions that a patient does not go to during the day. The forces during sleep are on average at least twice as great as the maximum forces generated during waking periods. If the edges of your teeth are chipped, worn or rough, you probably need a splint and equilibration.