So alright, I realize “shocking” is what it is in the eye of the beholder (probably both eyes.)
When Hostess Bakeries goes under and suddenly Charles Barkley drops 25 lbs we’re probably talkin’ irony or coincidence. But even on his best day chasing the little white ball, Barkley’s golf swing remains shocking to say the least.
And just so you know; I don’t shock that easily. Last time I was electrically flabbergasted or totally taken aback (if we don’t count O.J.) I was a dental student and found out the Bruins actually had a fight song. Even worse, I later discovered we were gonna learn to administer local anesthetic by giving each other shots until we figured it all out (didn’t sign up for that one.) And oh yeah, I’d never had a dental injection before. Talk about shocking?
But here’s the shocking truth about dental night guard appliances: a lot of ‘em don’t work and some of them do more harm than good (please never ever, ever, ever, buy one over the counter.)
And if you’ve worn an appliance before or considered doing so, you’re not alone.
One of my select Bruin buddies is a patient and the spin class/Pilates instructor to the stars. But Pearl doesn’t take UCLA football too seriously and she remains a totally credible source for reliable info.
A while ago, Pearl shared that in the course of helping her Pilates students gain strength, balance, and flexibility, she’s heard all kinds of complaints about stuff like headaches, Temporomandibular (jaw) joint-type soreness, and even some riffs on teeth grinding and clenching.
Not surprising. Over 43 million Americans suffer the consequences of teeth clenching; some 23 million more live with migraine headaches (and still millions more with tension headaches.)
It might surprise you that only about 6% of the 43 million truly grind their teeth. Chronic teeth grinding actually flattens teeth down like table tops. The cause is neurological; there’s no stopping the habit pattern, only managing it. A traditional plastic bite splint allows the jaw to move smoothly while protecting tooth structure.
But if you wear a traditional appliance nightly it might actually be doing more harm than good about half the time. In fact, 20% of the folks suffering from chronic headache, muscle soreness, clenching (all migraine sufferers also clench), and limited jaw movement do so while being treated.
Another approach uses a “deprogrammer.” And I’m not talking about some kind of debriefing session you’d go through after being rescued from a cult (that would be shocking.) I’m just talkin’ dental appliances.
Deprogrammers are appliances that fit like upper removable orthodontic retainers; they’re modified so that only upper and lower front teeth contact. Back teeth don’t touch and can’t trigger the muscle contractions associated with tension and migraine headaches. When the muscles of mastication get a chance to relax or recover; they are deprogrammed.
The FDA found such appliances provide at least 75% relief 85% of the time for migraine headache sufferers.
The appliance actually helps clinicians make the right choices in resolving functional/TMJ-type challenges. When the muscles are relaxed and the jaw joint is comfortably seated, the only remaining variable is teeth alignment and occlusion (the way upper and lower teeth meet.)
If the trigger for all the symptoms comes from a collision in back, the bite can be balanced so all contacting teeth can meet evenly. If the front teeth are disrupting the harmony of the chewing machine, the solution is more likely orthodontic.
The great news is most functional symptoms are teeth and muscle related and can be fixed. Challenges involving the temperomandibular joint itself are, by comparison, relatively rare.
Clicking joints that are pain free and do not limit range of motion are most often not treated (and that’s a good thing or I woulda had wrist-knee-ankle-finger surgery during Disco.)
The deprogrammer appliance is a valuable component in any dental toolbox. If you suffer headaches or have difficulty chewing everything you want or just don’t feel comfortable with your bite, ask your dentist about the deprogrammer. Relief could be only a night or two away.