This dental procedure code is used when your dentist prescribes a mouth guard to help counteract the effects of bruxism: the excessive grinding and clenching of teeth. Such occlusal (or, biting surface) mouthguards are typically made in a dental laboratory, although modern technology can even sometimes allow doctors to create them in-house.
The reasons for a bruxism habit are manifold, and can be seen in individuals of a competitive nature, those who are anxiety prone and even in children. While teeth grinding may appear to be a harmless habit, it results in the physical wearing down of the tooth’s surface as well as the weakening of its entire structure. Bruxism can create cracks and chips in teeth, and, without intervention, over time can contribute to a shortening of the lower face height, and a change in facial appearance. This change in “face height” is due to bone loss in the lower jaw and can be seen in individuals who have lost all their teeth and do not wear dentures. An occlusal (biting surface) mouth guard can protect from these effects.
While many people with a bruxing habit grind their teeth because of stress or anxiety, a considerable number of people do so because of an ill-fitting bite. As a result, to ensure you receive an effective and comfortable guard, your dentist needs to first determine the correct position of your jaw in its most relaxed state. To do this, you may be asked to rest your upper teeth on a tongue depressor for several minutes. This causes the jaw to relax and allows your dentist to move your lower jaw into a stable “centric” position. From this relaxed position, a silicon or wax mold called an “interocclusal record” is made of your bite, and sent to a dental laboratory to be made into a full cast mold of dental stone.
Once complete, the stone casts of your teeth are placed on a machine that mimics the action of the jaw, and the interocclusal record is used to line up the stone casts in the correct centric position. In the past, additional molds would then be made with plaster and then filled with acrylic, but today, most occlusal guards are made using an acrylic film that is warmed and molded to the cast in an instant using vacuum pressure. This creates a thin, comfortable guard that is later trimmed and polished in preparation for you to wear.