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?