Page last updated at 00:01 GMT, Saturday, 14 November 2009

Teeth grinders are in for a shock

Testing the anti-grinding device
Mild electric shocks are used to deter teeth grinding

Patients complaining of grinding their teeth in their sleep are being given mild electric shock treatment.

A chain of private dental practices in Hull is trialling a device which delivers a tiny electrical impulse when it detects grinding is about to begin.

Teeth grinding - or bruxism - is a common and usually harmless habit induced by stress.

It can, however, cause headaches and stiff necks, as well as irritating a sleeping partner.

We are hoping that this biofeedback device will help to break the loop of fitful sleeping, and the psychological and physical problems which grinding can create
Dr David Vivian

Traditional treatments involve wearing a plastic device at night which prevents the top and bottom teeth from meeting.

With this new device, Grindcare , developed in Denmark, a small electrode is placed on the temple which then monitors the movement of facial muscles. When it detects tension mounting, it delivers a tiny electrical impulse - or biofeedback.

This is not consciously detected by the sleeping patient but still serves to relax the muscles.

Painkillers

The device is said to reduce grinding by as much as 80% within two months.

Other ways of tackling bruxism include counselling and relaxation therapies to resolve the initial source of stress and tension.

But Dr David Vivian, the dentist trialling the device, said that grinding could worsen existing anxieties.

"The broken sleep pattern caused by grinding can exacerbate any stresses or worries already being felt by the patient, and add an extra layer of anxiety to their lives.

"They may also be resorting to over-the-counter painkillers to treat side effects, such as headaches, and finding that they are having to increase the dosage all the time.

Results 'promising'

"We are hoping that this biofeedback device will help to break the loop of fitful sleeping, and the psychological and physical problems which grinding can create."

Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, said: "Teeth grinding is a problem that affects a significant minority of individuals. It is often caused by stress.

"Patients who are affected by the problem should consult their dentist.

"This study, which was carried out on a small sample of patients, shows promising results.

"Further research will be necessary to establish the technology's true potential."



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