Defeat Bruxism

My Experience With The Taste-Based Approach

I have suffered from Bruxism (Teeth clenching and grinding, in my case more clenching I think) for about the past 15 years.  During this time, I have helplessly watched as my otherwise excellent dental health has slowly degraded.  My symptoms, in order of appearance:

  • Flattened/worn molars (When first shown these signs by my dentist, I was certain the dentist was nuts – No way was I grinding my teeth. I was in total denial for some reason. It took several different dentists saying the same thing to convince me I was bruxing.)

  • Chipped teeth

  • Cracked fillings leading to more decay and larger fillings.

  • Receding gums

  • Ceramic onlays (in two molars cracked by excessive clenching/grinding) are about 4 years old and are nearly destroyed, gold crowns are in my near future.

  • A very slight “click” in my TMJ when my mouth is fully open and is just beginning to close

  • Every once in a great while, my jaw aches and hurts to open.

  • Although I was unaware of it until recently, the tremendous load passed through your jaw combined with tooth wear from bruxing can apparently cause a “shortening” of the face, negatively effecting facial aesthetics (making you look uglier and older than you otherwise would have been.)  I have developed stubborn dark circles under my eyes and my cheek looks kind of bunched up.  May be unrelated, but is suspicious.

While there is no way to be certain, I feel reasonably sure that given time and no change in my bruxing habit, I had a good chance of developed other classic TMJ symptoms.  (Severe headache, migraine, earaches, hearing loss, severe jaw pain, etc.)

In August of 2007, I set a goal for myself to control my bruxism.  I wrote down two words:

Defeat Bruxism

With that simple declaration, I began the process by sifting through the information available on the internet. I soon found a very interesting website maintained by Dr. Nissani of Wayne State University.  If you haven’t seen this site, please stop now and read it. (http://www.is.wayne.edu/mnissani/bruxnet/advice.htm)

 Dr. Nissani does an excellent job of summarizing the causes and most known treatments for bruxism.   One of the approaches that he discusses is termed “Taste based Approach to the Prevention of Teeth Clenching and Grinding.”  Generally, the method involves using an orthodontic-type device to suspend a sealed packet of some aversive substance (hot sauce, vinegar, horseradish, etc.) over the rear molars.   The packet is designed to burst when clenching occurs, thus simultaneously alerting the user to the habit (awake or asleep) and training the user to stop this unconscious, destructive behavior.  I felt it was a very clever idea, and, being relatively handy and very desperate, constructed my own holder and packets.  I have had remarkable success thus far; At first, I was breaking packets on a fairly regular basis, approximately nightly or every other night.  Around 2-3 weeks after I started, I stopped breaking packets and have had periods of 2 to 3 weeks with no broken packets.  Since I don’t have day-to-day TMJ symptoms (headache, sore jaw, etc.,) I can’t claim immediate relief from anything in particular.  However, I feel very confident that with continued use I can stop serious additional damage to my teeth and avoid any possibility of a steady decline into more serious TMJ problems. 

What’s it like to wake up with a horrible taste in your mouth?

The waking up part has not bothered me as much as I might have first imagined.  I began by using a vinegar solution in the packets, but I found that I was becoming a little desensitized to it so I graduated to a solution of diluted capsaicin (hot sauce).  I can’t see how my current concentration wouldn’t wake me; it’s probably a bit strong if anything.   

As a general rule I have not had a back-up appliance available, and in no case have I taken the time to re-load an appliance with fresh packets.  When I do break a packet, I generally remove the appliance from my mouth, take a few sips of water to clear my mouth, and replace with a standard night guard.  I’ve always fallen back to sleep easily within several minutes.

What is happening when packets break?

Most of the time I have no memory of what was happening immediately prior to the breakage.  In a few notable exceptions, I remember having weird, hard to explain dreams.  In one case I was having one of my classic stress dreams; I was back in college without any idea of what class I was supposed to be at. I had a vague idea that I needed to get to a final, but I also knew that I had no idea what was happening in the class. I hate that dream. Frankly, I was just as happy to be woken from it!

My state of sleep when I am wakened is not usually what I would describe as a deep sleep.  It almost seems to be a type of sleep where my conscious mind is somewhat engaged and trying to figure out a dream, usually unsuccessfully, leading to a stress reaction (clenching.)  I have also noticed at least a weak correlation between breaking packets at night and a stressful day or having something on my mind when I fall asleep.

What is the most difficult part of the process?

Probably the most difficult part was waking up during the break-in period.  It is a bit of a shock, but like I mentioned above, it hasn't really bothered me that much and now I am not woken nearly as often.

What is the best part of the process?

Peace of mind. I wanted to Defeat Bruxism, not manage it or reduce it or cope with it.  I wanted to hit it with a hammer, and I think that is what the taste-based approach does.  For my particular brand of bruxism, I had very few acute symptoms, and therefore I never really knew that I was doing it.  It was just silently, slowly, and steadily ruining my teeth and threatening worse.  After all my research, no other method I came across could provide the level of assurance I wanted that the bruxism is really gone.  Additionally, I find the appliance much more comfortable than a standard mouthgard.  I can speak clearly and drink fluids, which is a definitel plus.

Summary:

Before the taste-based approach:

  • 15+ years of nightly clenching

  • Two custom made splints, which I have worn at least 95% of nights for the past 10 years or so. (~$600)

  • Multiple fillings (~$500)

  • (2) ceramic onlays (~$1000+)

  • Possible premature aging in the face (I hate to quote Mastercard, but this is priceless, in a bad way)

  • (2) Gold crowns are imminent (~$???)

  • More severe symptoms were threatening

After two to three weeks of practicing the Taste-Based Approach:

  • Very reduced rate of (night) clenching, I’m positive of it.

  • Subjectively, the click in my TMJ on wide opening is becoming less noticeable. (This has taken longer.)

  • No negative side effects

  • With continued use, my teeth will be protected and my possible decline towards more severe TMJ symptoms should be arrested.

To me, this is amazing progress – I was literally able to control a 15 year-old habit in a matter of weeks.  I now feel pretty comfortable with crossing the “Defeat Bruxism” goal off of my personal to-do list, something I really didn’t anticipate being able to accomplish. (Note: It seems likely that I will need to continue wearing the appliance for the foreseeable future. I’m not ready to risk my teeth by stopping a simple and successful process.)

Now my focus and effort is on commercializing the Taste-Based-Approach in the hope of bringing relief from this frustrating habit to anyone motivated enough to stick with the process. 

Please fill out the survey if any of this sounds interesting to you.  Feedback is essential!