Many people clench or grind their teeth, either at night, during the day, or both. Some are aware that they’re doing it while others are not. Maybe your dentist was the first person to tell you that you have signs of tooth clenching or grinding. While stress increases the force and frequency of clenching and grinding, it’s not the primary cause. Over active chewing muscles are the culprits and their destructive activity can cause tooth and jaw pain, headaches, migraines, popping and clicking of the TMJ (Tempero Mandibular Joint), jaws that lock open or closed, tooth wear or breakage, changes in your bite, gum recession, sinus pain, painful swallowing and ear and eye pain. Some people are just hard wired to clench or grind their teeth; it’s like folks who have high blood pressure even though they exercise, don’t smoke or drink and watch their diet.
There are two major chewing muscles. One, the temporalis, covers your head like a skull cap and the other, the masseter, attaches the upper and lower jaws from your cheekbones to your lower jaw bone. These muscles are stimulated whenever your back teeth come together. With tooth clenchers, the problem is that their muscles don’t shut off like they’re supposed to, causing the jaw opening muscles to try to overpower them. The jaw opening muscles are weaker and tire out before they can make the closing/chewing muscles shut down. The result is that both muscle groups spasm, just like a charley horse in your leg. When the chewing muscles are given a chance to relax, all the muscle groups calm down and you get relief.
The NTI-tss™ splint (Nociceptive Trigeminal Inhibition) is a small, comfortable splint that the patient wears during the night or day or both, depending on the severity of the symptoms. The NTI™ works differently from other full-coverage splints, using a small ramp in the front to separate your back teeth ever so slightly. When the back teeth are apart, the chewing muscles shut down. Go ahead-try it at home. Put your fingers up on your temples and bite down hard. Feel that muscle bulge out? Now bring your lower jaw forward so just your front teeth are touching. Try to clench your jaws. Notice a big difference? That’s how the NTI™ works, without you having to keep your jaw in that position on its own.
The NTI™ is FDA approved in the treatment of migraine pain. Dr. Alfe has undergone extensive training with the inventor himself, Dr. Jim Boyd. Dr. Alfe has treated hundreds of patients successfully with the NTI™ for years. That, in combination with Botox® (also FDA approved to treat migraines), Aqualizer splints, TENS therapy and bite reconstruction, has helped her patients decrease and eliminate their pain.
You do not have to live with chronic and debilitating pain! Call or email Chicago Smile Spa today for your TMJ examination. Dr. Alfe can review her diagnostic and treatment choices with you and find a solution that will allow you to resume a normal, healthy and pain-free life! Dr. Alfe is proud to serve patients throughout the greater Chicagoland area including Lakeview, Lincoln Park, and surrounding Chicago communities.