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Dr. Wesley Shankland is considered an international expert on all forms of temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and clenching is one of these disorders. There are actually two types of clenching of the teeth: clenching and grinding. Both are termed parafunctional activities and both of these abnormal activities cause muscle tension, tension-type headache pain, severe tooth wear and even loss. Further, many neurologists feel that a common migraine headache trigger is activation of the trigemino-cervial reflex and other complex reflexes, all of which center around the trigeminal nerve, which is activated by clenching!

Clenching is simply the inappropriate, abnormal biting down hard on the teeth, which usually occurs when one is sleeping or when one is really stressed. Grinding, on the other hand, is the abnormal lateral or forward/backwards moving of the lower jaw which causes wear on the upper and lower teeth.

These parafunctional activities may be triggered by stress, certain medication, malocclusion (a bad bite), an ill-fitting denture, partial denture or dental restoration or an ill-filling crown or bridge. These abnormal activities are performed by all of us to some extent. However, if these grinding and clenching maneuvers occur too long or too forceful, the muscles moving the lower jaw become fatigued and sore and ultimately, headache pain, both migraine and tension-type headaches, may develop.

Dentistry has been extremely successful in alleviating the suffering from these parafunctional activities simply by using certain types of removal, oral appliances in the mouth. One of the most successful appliances, especially for clenching during sleep, has been the NTI. In the FDA study, which was led by Dr. Shankland, after 8 weeks of wearing the NTI appliance while sleeping, 87% of the experimental participants had a significant or total reduction of headache pain. In medial terms, these results are phenomenal!

Clenching and grinding may also be signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, which is a very detrimental and dangerous disorder. Only a doctor such as Dr. Shankland, with his vast training and experience, can determine through an extensive evaluation if a patient may also need a consultation with a sleep physician.

If you or a loved-one complains of frequent headaches, jaw soreness, sensitive or broken teeth, shoulder or neck pain, make an appointment to see Dr. Shankland for an examination and consultation. Our patients, as you can see from these videos, have been very pleased that they say Dr. Shankland and chances, you will be as well.