Are you among those who grind their teeth at night? Don't worry, scientists have now devised a novel way to treat the condition - bruxism - using an iPod-sized device that delivers an electric shock to the temples.
Clinical studies have also shown that the device, developed by Danish scientists, reduces teeth-grinding by more than 50 per cent within just three weeks and 80 per cent after six to eight weeks.
The new therapy called ‘Grindcare’ consists of a small electrode that is attached to the skin of the temple with sticky gel pads. The other end of the electrode is connected to a matchbox-sized unit on a bedside table.
While on sleep, the device monitors the movement of facial muscles, reading the electrical signals that cause the muscles to contract.
When it detects this is about to happen, it delivers a small electrical impulse to relax the muscle instead, in turn relaxing the jaw muscles. This impulse is not usually felt by the wearer.
The device also records how many times this occurs in a night, the Daily Mail reported.
“Grindcare works by retraining the muscles to relax. In effect, it teaches someone to stop grinding their teeth, so it can reduce or even cure the problem,” says Dr Oulton, one of the first dentists in Britain to use the device.
According to scientists, bruxism is a common problem and affects one in four adults. It's the most frequent sleep disorder after insomnia and snoring.
Bruxism often occurs as a result of changes in the normal structure of the mouth such as missing teeth, a new filling or an abnormal bite known as malocclusion (where the upper and lower teeth do not sit together properly).
But more commonly, it is related to anxiety and smokers are five times more likely to have episodes of bruxism. The disorder is also associated with pregnancy and menopause.
Whether the cause is physiological or psychological, the effect is the same: tension in the temple muscles, leading to teeth grinding and clenching.
“It’s vastly stress related,” says Dr. Barry Oulton, of Haslemere Dental Centre in Surrey.
“If someone comes to me about teeth grinding, the first thing I do is check around their temples for the temporalis muscles to assess their tension levels.”
Traditional treatments for bruxism include sedatives, hypnosis, herbal remedies and, more recently, Botox; these all aim to relax the jaw by releasing tension.
Another option is to wear a mouth guard to act as a buffer between the teeth.