The provision of occlusal splints in primary dental care.

Primary dental care : journal of the Faculty of General Dental Practitioners (UK)

PubMedID: 11404899

Patel K, Hemmings KW, Vaughan S. The provision of occlusal splints in primary dental care. Prim Dent Care. 2000;7(3):109-13.
Occlusal splints (Michigan splints, night/bite guards or bite-raising appliances) can be an effective, inexpensive and reversible treatment for a wide range of dental problems.

The aim of this study was to analyse retrospectively the provision of occlusal splint ('Michigan' type) in general dental practice, following a prescription by a restorative dental consultant.

One hundred patients were recruited from consultant clinics in a department of conservative dentistry during 1995 and 1996. All patients were prescribed a maxillary, full-coverage, heat-cured, acrylic-resin splint (Michigan splint) as part of a treatment plan. An explanatory letter and questionnaire were sent to all patients and to their referring general dental practitioner in 1997 and 1998.

A response rate of 79% was achieved in obtaining completed questionnaires from both patients and general dental practitioners. Of respondents 43% (34/79) received an occlusal splint of some form. A small proportion of the respondents (16.5% [13/79]) received a Michigan splint as prescribed. Irrespective of the type of appliance provided, most patients (82% [28/34]) found them helpful. Of those who did not receive an occlusal splint, 38% (17/45) of patients felt financial implications deterred them from obtaining an appliance. Other common reasons for non-provision included: patients felt that symptoms had improved (18% [8/45]) and patients did not agree with treatment (18% [8/45]). The general dental practitioners had similar opinions to their patients.

These findings raise some serious doubts on the efficacy of consultant clinic advice in the prescription of occlusal splints in general dental practice. The financial and educational issues raised by this study will need to be addressed to improve service provision.

The results of this study indicate that 16.5% of patient respondents prescribed a Michigan splint at a consultant clinic received such an appliance in general dental practice.