My jaws are sore, I get migraine / tension type headaches, my teeth are getting shorter, and I have a broken tooth! What's going on?
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you are probably one of the millions of Americans who suffer from bruxism. Bruxism is the term used to describe clenching and grinding of teeth which can occur during the day and is even more common at night during deep sleep. There are only three times your upper and lower teeth should touch and that is when you chew, talk, and swallow. If you suffer from bruxism, your teeth are in contact with each other more frequently and with more force than nature intended, and furthermore the force generated is about three times the amount generated during normal chewing! This repeated and excessive force can result in headaches especially on the sides of the head near the temple and extend behind the forehead and the eyes. In addition, bruxism can lead to a gradual wearing and shortening of the front and back teeth, and even result in cracked and/or fractured teeth.
The forces that cause destruction of teeth and headaches are caused by powerful muscles which close the mouth. These muscles activate only when your back teeth touch. Headaches in particular are caused by an isometric contraction, which occurs when the powerful muscles which close your mouth activate and there is also a simultaneous protective reflexive activation of the less powerful muscles which open your mouth. This isometric metric contraction can result in TMJ musculuar spasm and lead to tension/migraine type headaches.
Clearly, if we prevent the back teeth from touching it would be possible to stop the activation of the powerful muscles which close the mouth and lead to reduction of symptoms! We can achieve this with a small appliance known as an NTI. The NTI is small appliance which sits on the lower four front teeth and it effectively prevents the back teeth from ever touching. The NTI is able to reduce muscle tension by as much as seventy-percent and effectively reduce the symptoms associated with TMJ pain and migraine/tension type headaches.
A photo of the NTI, a small acrylic appliance that reduces headches, clenching and grinding, and protects teeth from chips and fractures