I've mentioned the bruxhackers group previously on this blog. It's a mailing list dedicated to sharing information of bruxism and possible solutions to it. Recently, a few members of the group mentioned that they were able to stop grinding and clenching by plugging up they nose at night. The idea is that you can't grind and clench for long periods of time if you're forced to breath through your mouth. I decided to give it a try myself.
Every night for a week, I plugged up my nose with some cotton balls. To help prevent dry mouth, I ran a cool mist humidifier in my bedroom. This brought the humidity up to about 40%. I kept a glass of water near the bed and made sure to drink lots of water during the day. I also applied a generous amount of chapstick to prevent my lips from drying out. This is what I learned:
Cotton balls really suck the moisture out of your nose. After a week, the inside of my nose was pretty raw. All that cotton stretched out my nostrils too, adding to the discomfort. Since cotton is breathable, it didn't completely block the airway. If I breathed deep enough, I could still pull air through my nose.
Problems aside, I did notice an incremental improvement in how I felt the next day. I decided to record myself sleeping with my nose plugged, to get a better idea of what was going on. This confirmed that I was still getting air through my nose. At times, I would shut my mouth and clench for 10-15 minutes. At one point, after a period of clenching, I could see myself gasp and open my mouth, as if I finally ran out of air.
Since the cotton balls weren't working out, I decided to try taping my nose closed with a waterproof band-aid. I needed to pinch my nose closed and then tape it with the band-aid to get a good seal. This was very uncomfortable, much like wearing a swimmer's nose plug is. The adhesive on waterproof band-aids is pretty aggressive too, which made it difficult to get off my nose in the morning.
Next, I moved on to some 3M Micropore tape. It's a light-weight, medical paper tape available at most drug stores in the U.S. It's pretty thin, which makes it easy to form around the nostrils. The adhesive is a lot less aggressive than other medical tape, especially waterproof tapes. It was pretty easy to get the glue off of my nose in the morning. Since the tape is thin and somewhat breathable, I needed to put several layers on to get a good seal. I eventually started putting some waterproof medical tape over the paper tape to further restrict the air flow. I've been recording video to monitor how things go at night. I strongly recommend this. It's really the only way to confirm if you're mouth-breathing all night.
I've been using the Micropore tape for two weeks now. So how do I feel? There has been a noticeable reduction in jaw pain and other bruxism-related symptoms. It's still too early to say how sustainable or effective this method will ultimately be, but I'm feeling optimistic about it right now. I'm planning to continue the process and evaluate things in a few more weeks.