Teeth grinding, teeth clenching, teeth gritting or bruxism is one of the most common sleep disorders and most of us grind our teeth at some point. Bruxism is often triggered by stress, and it usually disappears when the stressful situation is over. But, with some people, clenching or grinding teeth becomes a well-established habit and it persists even after the original trigger has been eliminated. The habit is unconscious and as such it is very tough to break.
Extended teeth grinding can seriously damage teeth and can cause pain in the jaw, ears and migraine type headaches. In very severe cases, it causes Temporomandibular joint inflammation or TMJ.
There are many devices like night mouth guards that are designed to alleviate the discomfort and protect your teeth from more damage. Unfortunately, they are not highly effective in treating the habit of teeth clenching and grinding. The research shows that the most effective tools for permanently stopping bruxism are the devices based on biofeedback.
What is biofeedback?
Biofeedback is the procedure which makes a person aware of an unconscious activity and forces him or her to change it. It uses various instruments that monitor the activity, and affect it in some manner.
Biofeedback has been very successfully used to treat migraine for quite some time. Researchers now believe that most migraine-type headaches are caused by teeth grinding. That gave scientists idea to try to use the biofeedback system to address the habit of teeth grinding.
How does it work?
In treating bruxism, an electronic device is attached to the jaw temporalis muscles while a person is sleeping. The device is designed to sense the weak electronic EMG(electromyographic) signal created by jaw muscles as they contract to clench teeth, and sends a signal to the sleeper, usually audio or electrical, to stop. The signal should be strong enough to stop clenching without waking the person up.
The devices can be used during the day as well, while person is awake, in order to make the person aware when clenching teeth when under stress. If aware, person can learn what situations cause him or her to clench teeth and do something about it.
The effectiveness of nighttime biofeedback devices depends very much on how correctly they are used. They require training for the right placement and adjustment ofthe instrument. Poor placement of a biofeedback device can damage muscles to which it is attached.
There are several different types of biofeedback devices available on the market. It is very important that they are used properly. Ask your dentist if biofeedback might be a suitable tool for treating your bruxism. If you decide to get one, spend some time learning how to use the device and don’t forget to check the changes to your teeth regularly to see if the device is doing you any good.