What Occlusal Splints and Michigan Splints Are and When they may be Recommended?


What Occlusal Splints and Michigan Splints Are and When they may be Recommended?

Both occlusal splints and Michigan splints are removable dental appliances individually customised to each patient to meet their unique occlusal functional needs. Most splints are mainly made of hard acrylic and transparent making them virtually invisible. Occlusal splints are generally designed to prevent damage to the teeth, facial muscles, jaws and jaw joints from overuse and wear. 

When is a dental splint recommended?

Usually, your dentist or the dental hygienist is the first to notice that you might need a dental splint. After a thorough oral examination, the dentist might notice the worn facets on your teeth or white indentations on your cheeks that might suggest unintentional teeth grinding or clenching, scientifically known as bruxism. 

The complications of bruxism include, 

  • Tooth wear may lead to tooth sensitivity, and ultimately you may need root canal treatments.
  • Over-clenching of muscles leads to muscle pain.
  • Continuous high stresses on jaw joints (temporomandibular joints) may cause temporomandibular disorders in which you get unbearable joint pain. 
  • Limited or difficulty in opening mouth.
  • Tension headaches.

So, you may start to experience these symptoms, which indicate you clench your teeth before you meet with your dentist or periodontal specialist.

When should you wear the occlusal or Michigan splint?

While most people tend to grind their teeth during sleep as an involuntary habit, so most patients need to wear splints while asleep because they cannot stop clenching alone. Some may clench their teeth during the day, mostly due to psychological stress. These patients choose to wear the splints while working or studying. 

What do occlusal and Michigan splints do?

Wearing a splint prevents opposite teeth from contacting each other. It will increase the vertical height of the mouth, giving more space to the jaws and putting them in a more neutral and resting position. Splints will guide the jaws as they move, correcting their functional pathway.  Thus, splints will reduce the unnecessary forces on teeth, muscles and jaws. 

So, your dentist may recommend wearing occlusal or Michigan splints,

  • To prevent bruxism
  • To treat temporomandibular disorders

How long do occlusal or Michigan splints last?

The lifespan of a splint depends on several factors,

  • The frequency of wearing the splint.
  • How much you grind your teeth.
  • The quality of maintenance of the splint.

Most splints last anywhere between two to three years when backed with proper oral hygiene and appliance care. However, you should always replace your splint with a new one,

  • When the splint no longer fits tightly
  • When the splint breaks
  • If you underwent significant dental treatments since you had the splint

Are occlusal and Michigan splints uncomfortable to wear?

You may feel tight and unusual when you wear a splint for the first time. However, most patients get used to wearing their splints so soon that they can’t even sleep without them. Also, it might increase the salivation initially but don’t worry. It will stop after a few nights of wearing it.