Help me stop grinding my teeth
December 21, 2016 5:36 AM   Subscribe

I grind my teeth and want to stop. My current idea for how to stop is to find the right pressure sensor, hook up a set of them to a computer and make the computer klaxon every time it feels pressure. I know the basics of soldering, and I've taken an electronics class, though it was a while ago. I know how to write code. How do I learn what I need to know to be able to find and pick pressure sensors, wire them up, connect them to something that connects to a computer, and receive the signal in a computer program? Also welcome - other ideas for how to _stop_ teeth grinding. I've tried the SleepGuard and various supplements and drugs, but am always open to ideas.
posted by anonymous to Technology (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered seeing a dentist? This seems like an awkward solution.
posted by fixedgear at 5:41 AM on December 21, 2016 [17 favorites]

I went to a dentist and was fitted for a much stronger SleepGuard and one fit for the contours of my jaw and roof of my mouth. I really recommend this. Some insurance plans will cover it while others will not. I paid $300 out of pocket and it was really worthwhile.
posted by Draccy at 5:46 AM on December 21, 2016 [12 favorites]

Besides the SleepGuard, one suggestion my dentist had was putting a little post-it note or some item in my workspace. When I see that item, I do a self-check to confirm I'm not grinding my teeth.

It is not perfect, but it has helped me notice what type of activities start me grinding and has helped a ton. It is also extremely low-tech and low-visibility, which is helpful in academic/office settings.
posted by TofuGolem at 6:25 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Please do not put potential choking hazards in your mouth while asleep. Also not ones that you could bite and shock yourself with. There are already FDA-approved (for being unlikely to kill you) devices that make claims about helping reduce bruxism.

In my opinion, you're better off looking into physical therapy options for bruxism or TMJ.
posted by zennie at 6:39 AM on December 21, 2016 [11 favorites]

Nthing a dental nightguard. Also, set an alarm or something on your phone/desktop to remind you to check (like what TofuGolem said) during the day.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:47 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have not tried this, but holistic dentists offer a device called an ALF (alternative lightwire functional) that they claim will reposition the bones of the skull so that tension is reduced.
posted by xo at 7:27 AM on December 21, 2016

Are you grinding at night or during the day?

For daytime grinding, you can, as I was told by my dental hygienist, try cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback or aversion therapy.

Nighttime grinding is different and since that's what I've got, she recommended: meditation, yoga & other relaxation techniques, cutting down on caffeine, and, ultimately, since many people suck at reducing the amount of stress they have: a fitted nighttime mouth guard.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:34 AM on December 21, 2016

This is a terrible and dangerous idea. You could completely wreck your jaw and bite by trying this, causing even worse problems like neck and shoulder pain, back and hip alignment issues, migraine headaches, constant jaw and face agonizing pain and a slew of even more incredibly horrific things.

For the love of all that is good and holy, get this done by a professional.

I cannot overstate how completely wrongheaded this idea is. I mean, do you have a medical degree? A dental degree? Any medical or dental training at all???!
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:43 AM on December 21, 2016 [14 favorites]

Daily low dose of Buspar works for me.
posted by lovableiago at 8:41 AM on December 21, 2016

the right pressure sensor

This is the catch right here, I think you'll find it difficult to impossible to find an appropriate "pressure sensor" that you can just solder some wires to and write software for. In particular, I think you are underestimating the difficulty of the engineering problem of building such a pressure sensor (one that is both effective and safe), and I think other people are on the right track in trying to persuade to consider pre-existing products.

Nevertheless, here is a reference to a tooth pressure sensor design from 2012 that shows this is still an active area of research for engineering and dental professionals:

Design of a Pressure Sensor to Monitor Teeth Grinding

FYI this was the first link that came back from the Google search "tooth pressure monitor -blood" so that might lead to further resources for your edification.
posted by grog at 8:46 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE my custom bite guard from my dentist. I can't sleep without it now.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 9:16 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, step one is a custom mouth guard, which are infinitely better than drugstore options. If you don't want to pay dentist prices, online options are apparently very serviceable.

When I got mine, the dentist gave it to me with the specific instruction that this was only going to treat the symptoms not the cause - and that I needed to prioritize figuring out what that was. He was right. The actual solution is going to lie in building your awareness of your body and how and why you carry tension (namely, mindfulness).

I can relate so hard to why you're envisioning this technical solution, but it's just not the way to do that. While it sounds silly, what will eventually work over time is lifestyle changes like yoga and meditation, and even taking time for self-exploratory things like therapy, journaling, making art. A great starting point would be learning to do body scans and maybe self-hypnosis (note -- link picked at random, but there are lots of good self-hypnosis resources out there, and they are a great way for teaching your body to learn to relax).
posted by veery at 9:31 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

With regard to what you can do to stop, you may not be able to. Newer research is indicating that at least some forms of bruxism during sleep may be an involuntary action of the central nervous system, and may have little to do with how much stress you have.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 9:38 AM on December 21, 2016

There are ways. An ESP8266 WiFi module is cheap and easy to set up. A membrane from a cheap keyboard switch matrix could be cut up to isolate a single thin-enough pressure switch. 3.3 or even 5 volts DC isn't gonna do you any harm shock-wise even in your mouth, but you're gonna end up with wires trailing out, which means a lot of drooling on yourself. Also, solder contains lead, and lead does not go in the mouth. A better idea (in quiet places) would be to tape a microphone to your cheek, amplify its output, and crank up the volume.

If you can afford a dentist, it'd be much better to go that route.
posted by FeatherWatt at 10:17 AM on December 21, 2016

Everyone above has very very good points about choking hazards, therapy, guards, etc, but I'm going to address your idea head-on:

Some precedents:
Novel System for Bite-Force Sensing and Monitoring Based on Magnetic Near Field Communication
Sensor-Laden Smart Guard
Smart Mouth Guard for Identifying and Managing Bruxism, Grinding of Teeth
Prevent biometrics

The most interesting paper is here:

Novel Low-Cost Sensor for Human Bite Force Measurement

If I were you, I would tackle this in three parts:
1) In your mouth: Dental-grade bite guard (purchased or ordered via a dentist)
2) In your mouth: Pressure sensor & cable encased in mouth-safe material
3) On your bedside table: Arduino & siren, etc.

The pressure sensor seems straight forward - a strain guage placed inside of a small laser-cut form designed to deform predictably. Alternately you could use this off-the-shelf pressure sensor.

I'd use one of the boil-and-mold mouth guards as material to create a mouth-safe enclosure for the pressure sensor, then attach it to an existing mouth guard.

Here's more info about using a pressure sensor with an arduino.
posted by suedehead at 12:44 PM on December 21, 2016

I used the SleepGuard for nearly a year and was able to reduce my nightly clenching at least for that year. Can you elaborate on what about the SleepGuard wasn't working for you?

If you create something that improves on SleepGuard, I am totally interested! I suspect that even if you did manage to create the contraption you are envisioning, it might still be annoying just doing what it's programmed to do. I found that all the beeping from the sensor (both clenching events, and possibly false alarms) was disrupting my sleep so much, I spent most of the night tossing and turning in annoyance. In the end, I decided to give up on trying to retrain my lizard brain. If I had a "good" night of minimal clenching events, it meant that my sleep just wasn't as restful. I found that clenching my jaw was quite possibly an action my body cannot separate from the act of deep sleep itself. Something about the clenching makes my sleep satisfying. I have been wearing a dentist-made bite guard for the past 20 years and I sure wish I didn't have to wear it, but it's the only thing that is preventing my teeth from being ground to nubs.
posted by oxisos at 1:01 PM on December 21, 2016

Others have covered the pressure sensor thing, so I'll just weigh in on two things that help me with my TMJ/jaw clenching. My night guard is one my dentist made specifically for me, and it's awesome. I highly recommend getting a custom one!

But something that helps me retrain my jaw to behave after a night when my grinding/clenching is more problematic:

Open your jaw about halfway. Gently put your hand flat under your chin. Press the jaw down against your hand gently for ten seconds. Release. Repeat.

Apparently the muscles that keep your jaw open are different ones than the muscles you clench/keep your jaw closed. By forcing your jaw to engage the other muscles, it releases all of them.

This works for me about 85% of the time my grinding or TMJ acts up.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:10 PM on December 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you do want to continue down this line of thinking, I'd suggest a flex sensor taped to the outside of your cheek, or on your jaw somewhere. You may be able to monitor the output from it for a time during the day while you deliberately clench and grind and figure out what sort of values it puts out then, and how different they are from the values when you are relaxed. Then you have the start of some sort of biofeedback gadget. That way you don't have anything inside the mouth. I'd still use lead free solder though.
posted by lollusc at 5:48 PM on December 21, 2016

A dentist once told me to put a pencil between my teeth. I usually forget but it does make you keep your jaw a little open and relaxed and it doesn't look tooooo weird.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:24 PM on December 21, 2016

I have not tried this, but holistic dentists offer a device called an ALF (alternative lightwire functional) that they claim will reposition the bones of the skull so that tension is reduced.

This is of course utter insane nonsense like so much of "alternative" medicine. It's downright nuts in fact, but not nearly as nuts as putting solder in your mouth for hours.
posted by spitbull at 8:50 PM on December 21, 2016

Apparently the muscles that keep your jaw open are different ones than the muscles you clench/keep your jaw closed. By forcing your jaw to engage the other muscles, it releases all of them.

This works for me about 85% of the time my grinding or TMJ acts up.

Yes, this. Another way to do it is to use your tongue like you're licking peanut butter off the roof of your mouth. Uses the same muscles to open your jaw and helped with my TMJ.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:39 AM on December 22, 2016

I'm on a medication that can cause grinding. I find I can control my grinding during the day, but not in my sleep. My doctor gave me a very small prescription for valium to be taken just before bed, which has helped.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:09 AM on December 22, 2016

"One weird trick"-- take a cork from a wine bottle and put it vertically between your teeth for a bit, keeping your mouth stretched open, before going to bed (take it out before you sleep). Supposedly helps relax your muscles...
posted by alexei at 3:16 PM on December 22, 2016

Are you aware that there are some sleep disorders that may be co-occurring with bruxism -- have you been evaluated for these or other underlying causes?
posted by dancing leaves at 4:23 PM on December 23, 2016

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