Splint Therapy: Time Is on Our Side Part 2

August 6, 2018 Will Kelly DMD

Early in my career, I became frustrated with splint therapy. In the clinical area it was working. In theory, it made sense to me that I should be able to take the appliance back through well-articulated CR casts and ultimately to my patient’s mouth.

Turned out, patients treated with splints were not beating down my door for definitive dentistry. Like Mick Jagger, I Couldn’t Get No Satisfaction. A decade later, I have experienced something magical happening and am singing a new Rolling Stones song in my head, Time is On My Side. (Yes it is!)

Time and Splint Therapy

Perhaps I was not waiting on my patients or more than likely they were waiting on me. I have hundreds of splints on unrestored patients that visit me a couple of times a year. They bring along the plastic to have it ultrasonically cleaned, sometimes tweaked, sometimes repaired.

There was a time when I believed the transition to treatment was a given once the appliance was well-adjusted on a patient willing to trust me with their investment in therapy. (I mean geez, that happens every time for the folks who taught me how to make one, right?) The presentation of the next phase was a conversation that probably sounded a whole lot like a sales pitch and generally fell flat on its face.

Time is on our side. I’ve grown to realize the virtue of patience and listening. Specifically, I listen for compliments, appreciation of the appliance, and sometimes simply a statement of dependency on the plastic. Sometimes this takes years. This is the time to ask, “Would you like to discuss dentistry that can make your teeth feel this way?” Sometimes they outright ask me.

Time is on our side. Appliance therapy is a seed. Our caring attention is a well-nurtured garden. Patients will bloom when they are ready.

Related Course

E2: Occlusal Appliances & Equilibration

DATE: July 21 2024 @ 8:00 am - July 25 2024 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 44

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night with private bath: $ 290

What if you had one tool that increased comprehensive case acceptance, managed patients with moderate to high functional risk, verified centric relation and treated signs and symptoms of TMD? Appliance…

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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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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? 

Related Course

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DATE: June 22 2025 @ 8:00 am - June 26 2025 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 44

Dentist Tuition: $ 7400

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

What if you had one tool that increased comprehensive case acceptance, managed patients with moderate to high functional risk, verified centric relation and treated signs and symptoms of TMD? Appliance…

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About Author

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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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Digital Splints Today: Part 2

March 2, 2018 Stephen Malone DMD

Current digital splint technology requires workarounds to make it a feasible option for clinically exceptional dentistry. In Part 1 of this series, I described the challenges and opportunities of digital dental technology and explained some details of my preferred protocol. Here, I continue this explanation:

An Effective Digital Splints Protocol

In my practice, I mount digitally printed models using a centric relation record and a protrusive record for condylar inclination adjustments. This is just like we have done in the past with stone models. 

The lab technician can transfer this into the computer exactly as we have it in our hands. They do this with the use of a tabletop scanner. It’s important to note that the technician can now register original files for the impressions into position for the best accuracy. The greatest benefit today is the accuracy of these original scans (20-30 microns). 

The design portion comes next in this process. Communication with the technician can be done in real time online. My technician and I have been working with different settings in the software that give me the best chance of skipping the reline procedure patients don’t enjoy. 

I can also evaluate and do final adjustments on the mounted digital models and analog articulator. We have been successful about 80% of the time getting a splint that is rock solid and has an intimate fit on the occlusal surfaces. This is critical for fine-tuning adjustments and fracture resistance. 

If it ends up as an ill-fitting or loose-fitting splint, we can still reline just like we always have because it is a milled PMMA material (as dense as a denture tooth). 

Areas of Improvement for Digital Splints

My opinion at this time on digital splints is mixed:

Pro: We can produce a very high quality PMMA splint that lasts longer and generally gives the patient a better experience.

Con: We still need digital counterparts to essential analog skills that provide for all situations. 

Pro: I believe we will have printed materials that outperform current milled materials in the near future (this will lower the cost to produce splints). 

Con: It is frustrating that we are not getting better support from companies selling us  expensive equipment.

I am proud to be part of the Pankey family because our community encourages the use of technology to enhance good dentistry. 

Related Course

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DATE: January 12 2025 @ 8:00 am - January 16 2025 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 41

Dentist Tuition: $ 7400

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

THIS COURSE IS SOLD OUT Understanding that “form follows function” is critical for knowing how to blend what looks good with what predictably functions well. E3 is the phase of…

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Stephen Malone DMD

Dr. Stephen Malone received his Doctorate of Dental Medicine Degree from the University of Louisville in 1994 and has practiced dentistry in Knoxville for nearly 20 years. He participates in multiple dental study clubs and professional organizations, where he has taken a leadership role. Among the continuing education programs he has attended, The Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education is noteworthy. He was the youngest dentist to earn the status of Pankey Scholar at this world-renowned post-doctoral educational institution, and he is now a member of its Visiting Faculty.

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Digital Splints Today: Part 1

February 28, 2018 Stephen Malone DMD

The new challenge facing us in dentistry is how to incorporate technology into our daily practice. Digital splints specifically are a subject I have been working on for about a year. 

We have had the technology available to mill a splint out of acrylic for a few years now. However, we have not had a good protocol that meets all our needs. 

Digital Splints: Challenges

Some of the problems we face are as follows:

1) Lack of digital articulators that make all of the movements we are able to with semi adjustable articulators, such as crossover transitions. 

2) Absence of centric relation record mountings in software on a computer.

3) No rotational path insertion we can achieve from relines in the mouth. 

4) Few materials that are as good or better than we have now.

I believe we are well on our way to solving these issues. The biggest problem I see is something Dr. Pankey was dealing with many years ago. He talked about how the majority of dentists are indifferent to good comprehensive care dentistry. Therefore, most of the manufacturers of our dental equipment and software are catering to a majority that does not share our own clinical demands. 

These companies give me answers like, “That sounds great doc but who will I be able to sell that to?” I think we have to find workarounds for now that will encourage development in these technologies. Keep in mind, all of the workarounds I will explain are in line with what we teach at the Pankey Institute. 

Digital Splints: Opportunities

We also need systems we can duplicate and teach without compromising the quality of care or experience for patients. I believe there is great potential for higher quality materials and great fitting splints without relines. These two potentials alone can create more value and better experiences for patients.

Today I have a protocol that is some digital and some analog. I intraoral scan our impressions with the TRIOS scanner. I believe most of the scanners on the market today work very well and produce very accurate files that can be printed into models. I also use the TRIOS because it communicates very well with the 3SHAPE units most labs use. 

Now that I have files and models I have to mount them. This is our first problem to solve. I still use an analog facebow or facial analyzer. I mount these models on an articulator like the Denar Mark 330 because this is an articulator model programmed into the 3SHAPE software. 

To be continued…

Related Course

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DATE: October 13 2024 @ 8:00 am - October 17 2024 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 41

Cost: $ 7200

night with private bath: $ 290

This Course Is Sold Out! Understanding that “form follows function” is critical for knowing how to blend what looks good with what predictably functions well. E3 is the phase of…

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Stephen Malone DMD

Dr. Stephen Malone received his Doctorate of Dental Medicine Degree from the University of Louisville in 1994 and has practiced dentistry in Knoxville for nearly 20 years. He participates in multiple dental study clubs and professional organizations, where he has taken a leadership role. Among the continuing education programs he has attended, The Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education is noteworthy. He was the youngest dentist to earn the status of Pankey Scholar at this world-renowned post-doctoral educational institution, and he is now a member of its Visiting Faculty.

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How To Set Splint Therapy Fees

September 1, 2017 James Otten DDS

Splint therapy can be one of the best services we offer our patients, but plan poorly and your headaches will greatly increase as you decrease your patient’s.

We all want to provide our best stuff for our patients, yet sometimes we can find ourselves in a quagmire of complexity and not getting reimbursed for our efforts.

Through the years I’ve seen this scenario play out in my own practice and many others because we lack structure around our fees for splint therapy. If ever there was an example of the failure of unit fees to provide appropriate care and reimbursement, the one size (fee) fits all approach in splint therapy will leave you clenching and grinding.

How to Individualize Splint Therapy Fees

To be equitable for patient and practice, fees for splint therapy must be individualized. To do this, you’ll need to have a good idea of what your production per hour goals are and utilize that as a basis for your fee.

For example, if I have an anterior deprogrammer that requires very little follow up to simply protect the dentition and calm muscle, the fee would consist of a lab fee (I charge this fee even if I make it in house), the time for insert, and the amount of time for follow up, usually one or two short appointments.

For more complex TMD therapy I like to look at it this way: take the same basic fee structure illustrated above and add time for insertion (allow yourself enough time, knowing mandibular/condylar position is likely to change as you adjust), then add for follow up appointments based on your diagnosis and complexity.

Estimating Therapeutic Time

Here are some of the factors I consider when estimating the “therapeutic time.” I’ll routinely add time and/or appointments based on whether it involves:

1) an occluso-muscle disorder

2) an intracapsular disorder

3) the amount of degenerative change in the condyle disc assembly

4) the chronic or acute nature of the problem (acute problems I feel are generally harder to manage)

5) the presence of pain, both quantitative and qualitative

6) the duration of pain and complexity of pain pattern (pain emanating from multiple sources)

7) the behavioral and psychological dynamics involved with the patient

In closing, I’d remember to under-promise and over-deliver in direct proportion to the complexity of the problem. Evaluate, diagnose, and treat wisely and you’ll achieve pain reduction and stability for both you and your patient!

How do you structure fees for splint therapy in your practice? We’d love to hear from you in the comments! 

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James Otten DDS

Dr. James Otten, is a 1981 graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry. He completed a one-year residency in hospital dentistry with emphasis on advanced restoration of teeth and oral surgery at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Leavenworth, Kansas. He taught crown and bridge dentistry as an Associate Professor at UMKC before entering private practice in 1982.He has completed the rigorous curriculum at two prestigious institutions – The Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education and the Dawson Center for Advanced Dental Education. Dr. Otten lectures nationally and internationally. Dentistry’s most prestigious organizations.

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