Blue Dot Therapy
Clenching and grinding are unconscious habits. Patients generally don't understand why damage to their teeth is occurring, or that they can begin to address the damage themselves.
Several factors contribute to these habits, including improper occlusion. But many patients grind and clench their teeth as a result of stress. At different times during the day, patients will unconsciously clench their teeth together, keeping the joint out of position and creating tension in the muscles. By bringing the habit into the conscious mind, patients begin to monitor themselves. As they become more aware of the problem, they can begin to change the behaviors that lead to wear.
Blue dot therapy is a good way to do this. It costs nothing, and allows patients to become more involved in the process of developing system harmony.
Place a blue dot on the center of your patient's watch. Give your patient a second dot to place on the clock in her car. As you do this, go over the proper resting position of the entire masticatory system with your patient. Some patients may be unfamiliar with how their joint feels when it is not under stress - show them what it feels like to place their jaw in the most natural position, without any contact between the upper and lower arches.
As your patient goes through the day, she will occasionally check her watch or the clock in her car as she drives. Each time she sees the blue dot, she should immediately check the position of her teeth, jaw and lips. Are the upper teeth pressing on the lower? Is there any tension or pain in the jaw? Where are the teeth contacting - the front or the back? After checking the position of the teeth, she should repeat the following verse:
Lips together, teeth apart.
From this position, never depart.
At this point, your patient should make a conscious effort to place her teeth, lips and jaw in the proper position. She should also take a moment to think about the factors that may have been contributing to any clenching or grinding.
It's important that you discuss this part of the treatment with your patient when she returns to the office. Her experiences can help you determine whether the clenching and grinding occur during the day, or primarily at night.