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3D Printed Splints vs. Thermoformed

January 9, 2018


So why print? I’ve recently received multiple inquiries about the advantages and disadvantages of 3D Printed night-guards vs. thermoformed. So why do we opt to print rather than fabricate a thermoformed splint. In this article we’ll try and address this and other questions you may have as well.

I think the most important element to examine are the symptoms and indications for prescribing an occlusal guard. Let’s begin by taking a look into a few:

1. Myofacial pain associated with the muscles of mastication and group muscular functions of occlusion.
2. Internal condylar derangement due to dislocation of the TMJ, condylar disc or injury to the condyle.
3. Degenerative and/or inflammatory diseases.
4. Loss of vertical dimension due to excessive grinding while bruxing and clinching.

These are a few of the most common scenarios though there are a multitude of symptoms and in some cases even combinations of indications present. It is also important to consider that sometimes in situations of trauma, condylar disfunction may not be present bi-laterally. So knowing these and understanding the nature of temporomandibular joint disorders let’s consider the pros and cons of some material choices. 

1. Thermoformed Splint
Good Retention

Premature posterior contact. Fulcrum that can lead to open bite and super-eruption
No functional occlusion
No anterior guidance
Wears quickly
Stains easily

2. 3D Printed Splint 

Retention- Superior fit
Balanced occlusion with even contacts
Balanced functional occlusion in excursions
May incorporate anterior guidance with cuspid rise
Independent condylar settings in trauma situations to mimic natural hinge and rotary
Enforced minimal thickness allows proper vertical opening even in the deepest portions of the bite
Very durable
Less impervious to stain
Can be fabricated from intraoral scans or digitized from physical models

Printing can cost a little more

I hope that this information will help to clarify some of the questions you may have. The number one thing is that we alleviate pain and discomfort while protecting the TMJ and teeth from further damage. We have all of the resources and technology present to do it so give it a try! 


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2720 Riverside Drive Bassett, VA 24055

Tel: 276-629-2866

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