How long should one wear a bite splint?

Duration of wearing a bite splint

The question of how long such a bite splint has to be worn to achieve first improvements of the symptoms is a matter of concern for most patients. In addition, for many the question arises whether the appliance must be worn for a lifetime or whether temporary application is sufficient. With regard to these questions it must be considered that a bite splint only serves the symptomatic treatment.

The patient usually notices the first noticeable treatment successes after the first night. Headaches are reduced and also the cramps of the chewing muscles decrease noticeably. If worn regularly (i.e. the bite splint should be worn every night as prescribed), the patient feels a significant alleviation of the symptoms after only one to two weeks.

The reason for this is that although the chewing muscles are relieved very early on, they tense up again in the course of the day. The result is a recurrence of headaches, tension and/or cracking of the jaw joints. Only after a while does the tension subside to such an extent that the problem subsides over the course of the day. During the day, light relaxation exercises help. Placing the tongue against the hard palate, i.e. directly behind the incisors of the upper jaw, relaxes the chewing muscles.

Can a bite splint be worn permanently?

If an occlusal splint covers all teeth of a jaw and is supposed to help against nightly grinding, it should indeed be worn permanently at night, but can be neglected during the day. Therapeutic bite splints, e.g. DIR splints, should be worn 24 hours a day, but not “forever”. These splints only rest on the lower posterior teeth, including the canine, and unfortunately lead to an extension of the front teeth after too long a period of wear. Therefore, after a certain wearing time, the loss of height has to be compensated by grinding away new contacts between upper and lower jaw and making crowns in a new vertical height.

Who should also wear a bite splint during the day?

Patients who crunch a lot find more relief by wearing the splint at night AND during the day, e.g. patients in stressful situations (typical: students in the exam phases). It is also recommended for patients with damage to the temporomandibular joint due to the lowered vertical height loss of the dental prosthesis, since omitting the splint inevitably causes compression of the temporomandibular joint disc and thus pain. It must always be taken into account that constant wearing of the splint at night and removal on the day can cause additional stress for a biological system and must be decided individually.