An occlusal splint is also sometimes referred to as a bite splint, night guard or night mouthguard. An occlusal splint is made from hard plastic that fits over the upper or lower teeth, however it only covers part of the teeth, it does not cover the gums. It is different to a sports mouthguard.
Each splint is custom-made by a dentist to suit each persons individual needs.
An example of a type of occlusal splint that is worn at night whilst sleeping. Getty Images.
An occlusal splint helps to protect teeth from wear and damage caused by involuntary teeth grinding or clenching. It also acts to relieve stress and strain on surrounding face and mouth muscles as well as the jaw joints. The splint will not stop the wearer from grinding but helps to take away the some of the signs and symptoms.
If you have an occlusal splint, be sure to take it to routine dental examinations for the dentist to ensure it is still working properly. If a splint no longer fits, becomes bent out of shape. worn or broken, it will need to be replaced. If certain dental treatments, such as multiple crowns to change the shape of teeth are completed after the occlusal splint was initially made, the splint may need to be replaced if it cannot be adjusted to fit back in the mouth.
At home, store an occlusal splint dry in a protective care. After wearing it, clean the splint with cool water and lightly brush the inside and outside surfaces with soft liquid soap and a spare toothbrush.
Just because a person grinds or clenches their teeth does not automatically mean an occlusal splint is required. It is best to talk with your dentist about your concerns, any symptoms you may be experiencing and whether a splint is the right treatment option for you.