Dental splints, the unsung heroes of oral health, shield your teeth and their support structures from the havoc wreaked by grinding or clenching. Whether you’re a nighttime tooth grinder, wrestling with TMJ disorder, or a sports enthusiast, a dental splint might just be the key to preserving your pearly whites. So, what are splints for teeth, and how do they work their magic?
What Are Splints For Teeth?
A dental splint is a tailor-made orthodontic device to stabilize, support, or safeguard your teeth and surroundings. Your dentist crafts them to meet your unique needs, ensuring a snug fit for maximum effectiveness. These splints come in various materials, including acrylic, metal, and composite resin, each serving a specific purpose.
Types of Dental Splints
- Orthodontic Retainers: These dental splints help maintain the alignment of your teeth post-orthodontic treatment. Available in fixed or removable options, they’re often crafted from clear plastic or acrylic, allowing discreet retention
- Space Maintainers: When a primary tooth, like a front incisor, departs prematurely, space maintainers step in to preserve the correct tooth alignment. These splints can be fixed or removable and are typically composed of metal or acrylic
- Occlusal Splints: If you’re a habitual teeth grinder or clencher, these splints, worn at night, come to the rescue. They shield your teeth from damage caused by bruxism, saving you from toothache, jaw discomfort, and headaches
- Sports Guards: Designed for athletes and active individuals, sports mouthguards serve as dental splints that protect your teeth from potential injuries during physical activities. They’re fashioned from a flexible plastic material and can be custom-fitted to your teeth
- TMJ Splints: Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders can make life painful with jaw discomfort, stiffness, and chewing or speaking difficulties. Dental splints, like anterior bite plane splints or stabilization splints, help alleviate TMJ symptoms by reducing pressure on the joints and promoting proper tooth and jaw alignment
Longevity of Dental Splints
The lifespan of a dental splint hinges on several factors, including its type, the materials used, and your oral hygiene habits. Generally, dental splints can endure anywhere from several months to several years. For example, sports guards may need replacement each season, while orthodontic retainers could serve you for several years. Follow your dentist’s care instructions and schedule regular check-ups to ensure your splint remains effective.
The Dental Splint Procedure
While the dental splint procedure may seem intricate, it’s a straightforward process consisting of several steps to ensure a custom fit:
- Consultation: Initiate the process with a dentist consultation to evaluate your dental health and find if a dental splint is necessary
- Impressions: If a splint is recommended, impressions of your teeth are taken using a putty-like material. These impressions create a model of your teeth, serving as the blueprint for your splint
- Custom Fabrication: Your dental splint is custom-fabricated using materials like acrylic, metal, or composite resin, following the model of your teeth. The dentist ensures it fits comfortably and effectively
- Fitting: During a fitting appointment, you’ll try on the dental splint to ensure a proper, comfortable fit, ensuring it snugly fits your teeth
- Instructions for Use: Your dentist will provide detailed instructions on when and how to wear and care for the dental splint, depending on its type
- Follow-up Appointments: Regular follow-up checks up with your doctor are crucial to ensure your dental splint continues to fit properly and remain effective. Adjustments or replacements may be recommended as needed
Caring for Your Dental Splint
Properly maintaining your dental splint is essential for good oral hygiene and extending its lifespan. Here’s how to keep it clean and effective:
- Rinse with Water: After each use, rinse your dental splint with water to remove food particles and debris. Avoid hot water, as it can distort its shape
- Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Steer clear of bleach and harsh chemicals, as they can damage the splint material and cause discoloration
- Use a Soft-bristled Toothbrush: Gently brush your dental splint with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a mild soap or denture cleaner. Ensure all surfaces, including crevices and hard-to-reach areas, are cleaned
- Proper Storage: Store your dental splint in a clean, dry container when not in use. Avoid direct sunlight or heat sources
- Replace as Needed: Depending on the type and materials, your dental splint may require periodic replacement. Follow your dentist’s recommendations for timely replacements
Final Words: What Are Splints For Teeth?
By adhering to these cleaning and care tips, you can maintain a clean, hygienic dental splint to safeguard your teeth and oral well-being. So, the next time you need tooth protection, remember the dental splint and its crucial role in preserving your precious smile.