Zap Away Jaw Clenching Stress with Mobile Shock Therapy

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If you grind your teeth, you’re probably no stranger to stress and anxiety. According to a bruxism specialist studying the connection between jaw clenching and stress, stress sets the stage for more tooth contact, and more tooth contact causes more pain. Wearing a mouth guard is one way to reduce contact; yoga and meditation can help with stress. Muscle relaxants and even Botox are also recommended to help the condition. But perhaps troubled tooth grinders can bypass all of that with the aid of a little shock therapy.

Not The Cuckoo’s Nest Kind of Electrotherapy

Cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) uses a simple handheld device that’s been cleared by the FDA to treat depression, anxiety and insomnia. But don’t confuse cranial electrotherapy with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). ECT, like the type that was depicted in the film the Cuckoo’s Nest, has 1000 times the output of cranial electrotherapy devices. While ECT has to be applied in a doctor’s office, CES can be done at home while you go about your daily routine.

CES originated in the U.S.S.R. in the 1950s. It quickly caught on in the rest the Eastern Bloc, then Europe and most of the West, finally arriving in the United States in the late 1960’s with the futuristic moniker, “electrosleep.”

Even though this type of therapy has been around for several decades, it’s only recently that there’s been a growing shift in the attitude of patients and practitioners toward cranial electro stimulation, with PTSD-treatment leading the way.

Moderately Widespread Use in the Military

According to an article in Stars and Stripes magazine, the use of CES devices has been growing steadily in the United States military since 2007. CES has been used extensively both at home and during overseas deployments to help alleviate typical PTSD-related symptoms, such as insomnia, lack of focus, uncontrolled anger, and feelings of being on edge.

It’s also used in the British Army as well as among civilians. Britain’s National Health Service is currently running a clinical trial of a CES device called the Alpha-Stim. They’ve given the device to 120 patients, not to find out whether or not it works because they already know it does, but to determine how cost effective CES is for treating anxiety and depression compared to medication and counseling.

What’s It Like to Use

To use a CES device, you clip two electrodes to your earlobes; wires run from the electrodes to the wearable pulse-generating machine that’s about the size of a cell phone. It basically looks like you’re wearing a pair of earbuds that didn’t quite make it into your ears.

Most patients wear the device for about 20 minutes a day. During use, a tiny electrical current is delivered to the brain to increase the naturally occurring alpha brain waves that generate a more relaxed state of mind. Several studies have also found that cranial electrotherapy stimulates changes in neurotransmitters and endorphin release.

Most people start to feel relaxed almost immediately after turning on their CES unit. After treatment, patients report feeling pleasant sensations of relaxation and even inebriation for a few minutes. Can’t you just feel your jaw muscles loosening up? Feelings of alertness usually accompany the relaxed state, and the effects remain for a range of 12 to 72 hours following the first few treatments. It’s possible that those feelings of well-being could be maintained steadily after continued use of a CES device.

Studied for Safety

CES therapy is safe: In more than 30 years of clinical studies, only minor side effects such as headaches and dizziness have been reported by a very small fraction of users. If you can replace medications with this therapy, you can also avoid the many documented adverse side effects of certain drugs.

The Alpha-Stim and other CES devices are currently only available with a doctor’s order in the United States, but everywhere else in the world, you can get them over the counter. They cost anywhere from $600 to $800, depending on the brand and features.

While CES hasn’t been studied specifically for its effect on bruxism, it seems likely that any therapy that lowers levels of stress and induces relaxation will also help alleviate stress-induced teeth grinding, and that’s a reason to smile.

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