Got migraines? If so, teeth clenching and bruxism might be at least partly to blame. The NTI appliance -- a type of mouthguard -- might be able to help. The NTI appliance is a tension suppression system, which simply means it prevents the clenching action. No clenching means less wear and tear to your teeth, less jaw pain and even fewer migraines.
Teeth clenching and bruxism (also known as teeth grinding) can do serious damage to your teeth over time. That's because when you clench your teeth, you apply a huge amount of force to hold your upper and lower teeth together. This pressure is exerted when you grind, slowly wearing down the involved teeth. This can eventually lead to broken teeth, a chipped tooth filling or even tooth loss.
The Daily Grind
If you have frequent migraines, you undoubtedly know it. But you might not realize you have bruxism, since teeth grinding is most commonly something you do while you sleep. Some signs to watch for include:
- Chronic tension-type headaches
- Grinding that's loud enough to wake your sleeping partner
- Repetitive clenching of the jaw
- A sore, painful jaw or TMJ
A Different Kind of Guard
The most common treatment for bruxism is a dental appliance called a night guard. The NTI appliance is a bite guard. What's the difference? Most night guards protect your teeth from grinding while you sleep but do not actually stop the clenching behavior. This is good for your teeth, but it might not reduce the pain associated with bruxism, especially jaw pain and migraines.
The concept behind how the NTI appliance works is pretty simple. If you've ever accidentally bitten down on something hard with your front teeth, you probably opened your mouth right away. That's because of the "nociceptive trigeminal inhibitory" (NTI) reflex, which keeps us from breaking our front teeth when we accidentally bite down on something too hard. The NTI appliance takes advantage of this reflex via an acrylic guard worn on either the upper or lower front teeth while you sleep. If you begin to clench your teeth, you bite down on the guard, activating the reflex and stopping the clenching before it starts.
Although the NTI appliance is specially fitted by your dentist, no impressions or molds of your teeth are required. The dental appliance can be fitted right in the dentist's office in less than 30 minutes. Once properly fitted, the NTI appliance snaps into place and should not be able to be removed without using your hands.
No Risk-Free Ride
Even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the NTI appliance for use in the prevention of migraines, many dentists feel more research is needed before they make it their go-to choice for teeth grinders. Why? The NTI appliance has one major side effect: changes in your bite, specifically creating an overly open bite and putting a new strain on your jaw joint.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the NTI appliance can reduce the amount of pain felt from migraines quickly -- within a few weeks of starting treatment. That's led some dentists to consider the NTI appliance a viable short-term solution for treating serious headache pain quickly. Most caution against use for longer than three months because of the risk of serious changes to your bite and the creation of new jaw problems.
If you're interested in the NTI appliance, talk to your dentist. Discuss the benefits and risks before deciding if it's right for you. To find a dentist near you, call us at