Splint Therapy: Time Is on Our Side Part 1

August 3, 2018 Will Kelly DMD

My experience with splint therapy was like most dentist’s prior to developing the skills taught at Pankey. In fact, my appliance was not really therapy at all. Perhaps just a shot in the dark “helmet” that protected teeth against collisions with very little intention.

Throughout the years there have been many facets of my experience I value greatly in guiding patients to health using plastic:

Splint Therapy and Appliance Design

Appliance design is a provisional analog (that is, a practice replacement) for any changes we make to the teeth and ultimately the stomatognathic system. The splint is a great diagnostic tool that is capable of healing, but it’s also an iconic part of the behavioral interaction between the provider and the patient.

Aside from physically being an orthotic analog, the splint is a training tool, maybe even the greatest reversible “do-no-harm” in our profession. Case by case, each patient experiences changes and familiarizes themselves with my touch and caring.

Month by month and year by year dentists educate themselves and develop an understanding of bite relationships by using therapy. This happens case by case too, much like waxing cars and painting fences for Mr. Miyagi. As the experiences compile, sometimes our questions do as well. Sometimes we turn to our mentors for answers, much like the Karate Kid.

For the learning dentist, different parts come together when bringing splint therapy from the classroom to the operatory. There is the initial understanding of the “why” that can be conceptualized in theory, but not realized in practice until the “how” of the technical piece arrives through experiential understanding.

Each provider comes into their own by developing skills to have patients relate needs and eventually invite them confidently to enter appliance therapy.

There’s more to come in Part 2! What challenges have you faced in splint therapy techniques to ease patient discomfort? 

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Will Kelly DMD

Dr. Will Kelly attended the North Carolina State University School of Design and received a BA in Communications. He went on to spend two additional years in post baccalaureate studies in Medical Sciences at both UNC Chapel Hill and Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Kelly graduated from the top ranked UNC School of Dentistry in 2004. His good hands and clinical abilities led to his being chosen as a teaching assistant to underclassmen in operative dentistry. In addition to clinical time in the dental school, Dr. Kelly had valuable experiences working in both the Durham VA Hospital and for the Indian Health Service in Wyoming. As a child, Dr. Kelly had the opportunity to assist his father on several dental mission trips in Haiti. After completing dental school, Dr. Kelly joined his father in private practice and served on the dental staff at Gaston Family Health Services, where he maintained a position on the board of directors. At this time Dr. Kelly also began his studies in advanced dentistry at the prestigious Pankey Institute in Miami, a continuing journey of learning that has shaped his philosophy and knowledge of the complexities of high-level dentistry. Today Dr. Kelly devotes over 100 hours a year studying with colleagues and mentors who are regarded as "Masters of Dentistry".

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