I am a grinder and a clencher. Are you?
I wish I weren’t, but once I fall asleep, all the dentist’s good advice fades away, and the bruxism commences. This can lead to temporomandibular dysphoria (i.e. jaw pain). Pardon the language, but this dental jargon is too much fun. It gets much better up ahead. Anyway, I can live with the occasional headache, but it got to the point where I was wearing down my molars. Ick. You can get a bite guard to save your teeth (I have), but the guard actually encourages your perverse jaw muscles to clench more, since you’ve got this nice plastic thing to chew into. This leads to more headaches and eventually receding gums. It’s absolutely maddening when you do something undesirable while sleeping. You want to tell your sleeping self to knock it off, but that person and you are never awake at the same time.
I’m sharing all these lovely details because this story actually has a happy ending, and if you grind your teeth I want you to know about it. I was beginning to despair of finding a good solution, when my technically hip dentist suggested the latest thing in temporomandibular tension suppression. It’s a little plastic clip that goes over your front teeth. It’s brilliant! Your back teeth never meet. Furthermore, since your incisors were never built for grinding, they’re not really capable of letting you clench enough to give you a headache.
It’s called the NTI Tension Suppression System, and boy have they got an entertaining web site. There’s a charming Flash movie about the perils bruxism, and the dental geek jargon is magnificent:
When temporalis relaxation and ipsilateral translation of the condyle occurs unilaterally, the remaining scheme of occluding teeth becomes an influential factor in the presenting symptoms, of which, contacting canines during mandibular depression is highly desirable, as it minimizes condylar translation and muscle intensity, while directing the vector pull on the condyle more anteriorly than a posterior contact.
Amen to that, and may God bless the geeks who make the world a better place. And the condyles too, whatever they are.