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The term “dental splint” is used to refer to several types of orthodontic devices that are designed to address dental problems such as loose teeth and bruxism, in addition to problems with snoring and apnea. Splints are fitted by a dentist who ensures that the split conforms to the patient's teeth, and they vary in cost, depending on the type of splint and the planned application.
Dental splinting, used to treat loose teeth, involves joining teeth together. The splint stabilizes teeth so that they are less likely to move, which can weaken the teeth and cause them to fall out. It may be used for temporary stabilization of loose teeth, or to address ongoing issues; it is important to address the underlying cause of the looseness, as a splint cannot resolve the problem.
For people with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) and bruxism, a splint is used to protect the teeth from damage at night. The hard one is worn like a mouthguard fitted over the top or bottom teeth, depending on the needs of the patient. It is important to fit the splint to the patient's mouth, as an ill-fitting device can put strain on the teeth or cause discomfort. In these patients, people grind down the splint, rather than the teeth, and strain on the teeth and jaw can be reduced.
Snoring and sleep apnea can also sometimes be addressed with the use of a dental splint. A properly fitted splint can keep the airway clear, reducing breathing problems at night. In this case, the patient may need to consult several medical providers to discuss various treatment approaches, as a splint may not be the best option, and in some cases, splints may be contraindicated.
Like other types of devices worn in the mouth, a splint must receive proper care. Dirty ones can spread infection, which can be a serious problem for the patient, and those that are not stored and handled properly may deform, which can put stress on the teeth and jaw. Care directions and a case for storing the splint when it is not in use are usually provided by the dentist who fits the device, and the dentist may recommend follow up visits to confirm that the splint fits properly and is in good condition. Patients who experience pain or other issues while wearing a splint should report these problems to their dentists.