A set of plastic earplugs may be the new way to treat chronic teeth grinding
Wiggling the tubes of my new ear inserts until they fitted snugly, I felt bemused.
They were so comfortable I could hardly tell I was wearing them, yet they were supposed to stop me clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth.
Given that all the awkward tooth guards and bite splints I had tried had failed to accomplish this feat, I was sceptical.
Along with six million other people in Britain, I have bruxism, otherwise known as teeth grinding or clenching writes Alice Hart-Davies in the Daily Mail
So I’m always on the lookout for something that might help. And when I heard that Dr Joanna Christou, a London-based dentist and cosmetic doctor, was conducting a clinical review of a new device called Cerezen, I applied like a shot.
She wanted people with a history of tooth-grinding and associated problems with their temporomanibular joint (TMJ) — the big hinge joint at the corner of the jaw.
At my appointment, I filled in a questionnaire, and immediately felt a bit of a fraud. It was clear from the options that some sufferers found their jaws frequently locked shut, had constant ringing in their ears and tension headaches, or could hardly eat because of the pain caused by their jaw.
But while my problems were not this severe, Dr Christou said I was a good candidate as I couldn’t open my jaw fully (on reflection I realised that I’m always being asked to open my mouth wider at the dentist) and she could feel the tension in my neck muscles.
Next she showed me the Cerezen devices — two hollow, hard plastic tubes, 6mm long, which are slightly twisted to follow the contours of the ear canal.
Each has a tiny blob protruding from it, to make it easier to hoick it out of your ear.
The idea behind the inserts is to do with the ear canal lying right behind the TMJ.
When you grind or clench your back teeth, it exerts pressure on this joint, causing the ear canal to contract slightly (which might explain why some people have earache as a result).
This in turn is meant to put pressure on the ear inserts — not enough to cause discomfort, but to encourage the jaw to relax, by a process that the Cerezen website describes, rather bafflingly, as ‘para-cognitive awareness’.
‘It’s the physical stimulus of having the device in the ear canal so close to the jaw joint, which breaks the tension cycle of clenching,’ says Dr Christou.