Heache Relief

How a cap on my tooth ended my headaches

For years, Mirjan Usiskin suffered from crippling tension headaches that sometimes left her bedridden and unable to work.

Ninety percent of headaches fall into the tension category and can last minutes or days.

For some people, including Mirjan, the symptoms which include tightness in the head and neck, sensitivity to light, depression and anxiety and even sleeping problems, can be severely debilitating.

‘The headaches were awful. I would wake up in the morning and have to go back to bed again’ she says.

‘I would ring work to tell them I was going to be late. I would have problems at least twice a week.

‘I tried all the painkillers, including ibuprofen, regularly taking more than ten tablets most weeks, but it didn't’t cure the problem and I didn't’t like popping so many pills.
‘I tried physiotherapy to loosen up my body, which did help a bit, but only temporarily. Most of the time the only thing I could do was go to bed ands wait for it to pass.’

Then last year her dentist offered an unlikely solution.

‘He suggested I tried a mouth device that would slip onto my teeth and stop tension building up in my jaw. I was sceptical, but was so desperate I was willing to try anything.’

The device, called a nociceptive trigeminal inhibitor, fits on top of the teeth and alters the angle at which the jaw opens.

It is based on the theory that links tension headaches to muscular contractions in the head, neck and shoulders. The physical stress squeezes the blood vessels slowing blood and oxygen flow causing muscular spasms and head pain.

In most tension headaches the tension culminates in the jaw.
Harley Street dentist Dr Anthony Zybutz, who is using this device, says

‘It is easy to see how it works. If you put your fingers on your temples and then clench your teeth, you will feel the muscles bunching up.’

‘Now, if you put a pencil between your teeth and bite, the muscle doesn't’t bunch up or go into spasms. It is so simple, but makes a huge difference.’

The device, which costs about £450, is made of clear plastic and just under an inch wide. In most cases it is custom made to fit snugly over the middle two teeth.
It can be removed easily at a particular angle, but should be too secure to be removed by the tongue or lips. It needs to be worn at night, to counter the build up of tension.

Dentists should be able to refer to someone who provides it.

Doctors at the Bari Neurological Clinic in Italy compared the mouth device with an anti-depressant in patients who had suffered chronic tension headache.
The device was just as effective in reducing the headache frequency and strength as medication.

‘The results we have been getting are fantastic’ says Dr Zybutz. ‘We have not had one failure, even with people whose headaches have been so severe they have had to hide away and miss work.’

‘A big advantage is that it is not a medication so if it doesn't’t work, you can just take it out.’

Mirjan says ‘I never thought a mouth device I wear at night could effect my head so profoundly. The effects were incredible. Within a few weeks, my headaches stopped.’

The American Food and Drug Administration has recently approved another oral device for headaches.

Called the intraoral vasoconstrictor, this is based on the idea that many headaches are associated with inflammation in the areas above the upper molar teeth.

This inflammation causes swelling and puts pressure on the maxillary nerves behind the cheekbones. The device consists of hollow tubes which contain circulating ice water. They are held against the areas in the mouth that are thought to be inflamed.

An early study reported that the intraoral vasoconstrictor was as effective as some drugs in relieving headache pain.

This device will also be made available through dentists.

Daily Mail Newspaper article, Tuesday June 14th 2005.

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