In the upcoming issue of our quarterly newsletter Biosis, Dr. Verigin writes of the problems with ongoing teeth clenching, grinding and bruxing and nine steps you can take to help kick the habit and save your teeth…not to mention alleviate the jaw, face, head and neck pain that accompanies grinding. He notes that anywhere from 80 to 90% of clients show at least some signs of grinding, while some dentists have seen rates even higher amongst their own patients. (To receive this and future issues of Biosis, just subscribe through our main website. The subscription is free.)
The pain associated with grinding and related actions is usually of a myofascial nature: it involves the chewing muscles (the masseter and buccinator) and the fibrous connective tissue surrounding and separating them.
Such pain is caused by abnormal stress on the muscles – in this case, stress from grinding. When the trigger points (foci of pain) occur in the jaw, the pain tends to limit jaw movement and can affect nearby muscles in the neck, shoulders and back. Typical treatment includes the use of splints (also called “night guards” since they are often worn at night, when most grinding occurs), which keep the teeth of the upper and lower arches separate while also absorbing some of the pressure. Depending on the specific situation, other measures may be taken, and these are discussed in the forthcoming article, as well.
But even when treatment is pursued, there is still the matter of the pain, which itself may be treated in any number of ways, including the use of allopathic or homeopathic medications, neural therapy and acupuncture.
The last of these – acupuncture – is the focus of a small but intriguing study just published in the Journal of Orofacial Pain. For it, researchers separated 28 adults with myofascial pain of the jaw muscles into two groups. One received real acupuncture at the Hegu large intestine 4 (LI4) acupoint, while the other received sham acupuncture in which the skin at LI4 was pricked but not penetrated. Both groups were evaluated before and after the treatment with respect to the pain. Results showed that those receiving the real acupuncture showed “significant” improvement.
Subjects receiving real acupuncture experienced a significant reduction in jaw pain (P = .04), jaw/face tightness (P = .04), and neck pain (P = .04), and a significant increase in pain tolerance of the masseter muscle (P = .001). Subjects were not able to determine whether they received real or sham acupuncture (P = .69). No significant pain reductions were observed in the sham acupuncture group.
We hope to see more studies of this nature in the future, providing further documentation of what has long been observed clinically from this safe and nontoxic therapy.