Update on my NTI device for TMJ discomfort

A few months ago, I wrote about how I had been fitted for an NTI device, a retainer-like contraption that fits over your teeth and helps prevent you from clenching your teeth while sleeping.  The device also helps with grinding, though I am more of a clencher—sometimes I don’t realize how terribly tight my jaw is until I go to yawn and hear a series of snap, crackle, pops.

My neurologist and my dentist both think that my TMJ pain mainly stems from my clenching, and the TMJ tightness and pain combine to form a rather persistent and recurring migraine trigger for me.  Sometimes I hear stories about how bad other people’s TMJ is and I dismiss my own case, thinking I maybe overreacted by dropping $150 on an NTI device.  That belief was rapidly dismissed at my last neurology appointment, when my doctor put her fingertips on my jaw and asked me to open and close my mouth widely.  You should’ve seen her face—“empathy” just begins to describe her response as she winced and said, “Ouch!” as she felt and heard my jaw popping dramatically.  “So that’s kind of bad, right?” I asked, half-joking.  “That’s pretty significant,” she said. “I’ll check in with you next time and we’ll see how the NTI device is working—I hope that improves.”

Well, it’s been nearly six months since I’ve worn the device almost nightly—I’m proud to say that I’ve skipped only seven nights or so over that time frame, which is a pretty good track record for me.  The days I woke up after not having worn it, I can definitely feel a difference in the setting of my jaw and the pain I feel when I open my mouth for the first few times in the morning.

But it’s not all together helpful, I don’t think.  Though the device prevents my upper and lower rows of teeth from touching, I’m still waking up with my jaw clenched. It’s just that, instead of clenching down hard so my molars are grinding together, my jaw is forcefully clenching the plastic device.  When I was eleven, I had braces put on and didn’t have them removed until nearly three years later—my overbite, mainly a result of being a thumb-sucker until a rather late age, took awhile to fix.  I still have a slight overbite, and I have wondered in the last couple of months or so if it’s actually gotten worse since I got the NTI device.  Since the manufacturer had to use a mold of my lower teeth instead of the upper teeth (which is the usual technique), my incisors crash down hard on the lip of the retainer in the middle of the night, making it feel as if they are getting pushed outward.  In a couple of weeks, I have a checkup at the dentist and will bring the NTI device and my reports from the field and see if she thinks I should keep wearing it.  Lord knows I am not going to jack up my overbite and risk having to get braces ever again!

My migraine frequency has been pretty bad in the last many months, but I’ve mostly connected this bad spell with other factors in my life and don’t think it’s a fair time to really decide if the device is helping or hindering my migraine treatment. I’m going to check in with my dentist and neurologist (I have appointments with each this month) and stay the course.

Several of you commented on my initial article about trying the NTI device, but I wonder if others of you have any feedback on the device’s ability (or lack thereof) to help you cease clenching/grinding behaviors or its effect (or lack thereof) on your migraine patterns. Thanks in advance for the comments! 

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