“Another type of biofeedback therapy relies on stimulating the taste buds. The therapy involves suspending sealed packets containing a harmless but bad-tasting substance (e.g. hot sauce, vinegar, denatonium benzoate, etc.) between the rear molars using an orthodontic-style appliance. Attempts to bring the teeth together ruptures the packets, alerting the user. One major difference between this biofeedback method and all the others is that the undesirable sensation (taste) does not go away immediately when clenching stops. Thus this method is more likely to wake the user.“ Wikipedia
An exciting, not-yet commercialized treatment is the taste-based method. It involves a retainer-like device that sits comfortably around the bottom teeth, and holds two sachets (one on each side) above the back molars. The sachets are filled with a safe yet foul-tasting substance, such as sea water or extremely spicy sauce (before use, the user will need to test various substances and strengths, for example, spiciness, on themselves, to discover what tastes strong enough to wake them yet will not cause undue discomfort). When sleep bruxing occurs, at least one of the sachets will rupture from the pressure of the teeth and release the disagreeable liquid into the sleeper’s mouth, and wake them up.
Upon waking the sleeper must rinse their mouth, replace the ruptured sachets with new ones, and go back to sleep again. This method has worked so well for some patients that their long-term bruxing habits vanished within months. Please see the webpage in reference 1 (below) for a diagram of this device, how the sachets are inserted, and to read a case study of successful treatment.
Bear in mind that as this is not a fully commercialized device the user would require some technical knowledge in order to attach the sachets firmly; they would need to test foul-tasting liquids on themselves first to distinguish what taste and strength of that taste is capable of waking them yet not strong enough to induce gagging or pain; and users need to remember that a dentist can ensure the device and sachets are made from safe materials.
If you would like to try this device but are concerned that you will swallow the sachets, please ask your dentist to show you how to secure them; use tooth floss strung between the teeth to tie the sachets more firmly if necessary.
- Nissani, M. (2000). Can Taste Aversion Prevent Bruxism? Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 25(1), 43-54. Online version available at: http://www.is.wayne.edu/mnissani/bruxnet/tastenet.htm
- Moti Nissani, Ph.D. “The Taste-Based Approach to the Prevention of Teeth Clenching and Grinding”