How do splints and mouth guards treat teeth grinding (bruxism)?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Splints and mouth guards treat teeth grinding by covering the teeth, separating the upper and lower teeth, and reducing the pressure and friction produced by clenching and grinding. Splints may be referred to as dental appliances and are usually produced by dental professionals. Mouth guards can come from a dentist or can be purchased over the counter. Mouth guards tend to be less expensive than splints, but they don't fit as well and may slip during teeth grinding.

If you have bruxism (grinding or clenching the teeth), your dentist may suggest a nightguard that can be worn while sleeping. Custom-made by the dentist from soft material to fit your teeth, the nightguard slips over the teeth in one jaw and prevents contact with the opposing teeth. The nightguard relieves some of the pressure of grinding and clenching.
The best splints (or mouth guards) are custom made by your dentist, because then they fit just right and you are far more likely to be comfortable. Increased comfort means increased use and less damage due to bad habits like tooth grinding.

Having a loose nightguard or splint is like having a wobbly table at a restaurant. Drives you nuts and certainly doesn't help you sleep better!
Splints are considered one of the best ways to treat severe bruxism. Splints are shaped to fit over the teeth in a person's upper or lower jaw; this prevents teeth from grinding and clenching against each other. Splints can be more effective than mouth guards, as they are less likely to fall out during sleep. They can also be used when someone with bruxism feels stressed. Sometimes, splints are used after dental surgery used to treat the results of bruxism -- for example, if someone needs crowns on teeth that have been ground, a splint may be worn for a while after the crown has been put in. Splints should be fabricated by a dental professional.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.