Splints and Appliances
Over the years dentists have devised many different types of appliances from small jig types such as the Lucia Jig or NTI-TSS appliances through partial coverage (of the teeth)and sectional appliances to full coverage appliances including centric stabilization and anterior repositioning appliances. The terms ‘splint’ and ‘appliance’ are interchangeable.
These appliances are quite small and worn over the upper front teeth. They are described as an enhanced deprogrammer, designed to stop the canine (cuspid) teeth from occluding and thus reduce the intensity of clenching. They are worn by the patient at night. Some clinicians worry they may cause excessive loading of the TMJs.
Your doctor or dentist may recommend an oral appliance, also called a stabilization splint or bite guard, which is a plastic guard that fits over the upper or lower teeth. Stabilization splints are the most widely used treatments for TMJ disorders.
They are sometimes called full-coverage appliances, Tanner appliances, Michigan splints or centric relation splints. If a stabilization splint is recommended, it should be regularly checked by your clinician and should not cause permanent changes in the bite. If a splint causes or increases pain, stop using it and see your health care provider.
Anterior Repositioning Appliances.
These type of appliances are designed to bring the jaw, including the condyle forward (and down) and in doing so, allow the disc to come back into it’s correct relationship between the head of the condyle and the articulating surface of the skull. This is known as ‘recapturing the disc’.
Treatment with these type of appliances may take several months and the concept is to keep the disc in place for long enough so that the disc arrangement ‘heals’ and the disc becomes properly functional again. Increasingly the evidence is that any change is temporary and the disc dislocates again with time.
The conservative, reversible treatments described are useful for temporary relief of pain – they are not cures for TMJ disorders. If symptoms continue over time, come back often, or worsen, tell your doctor.