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The Daily Grind – Crunching the numbers
Irish startup makes breakthrough on the last big unsolved condition in dentistry – Tooth grinding
Tooth grinding Would you let a 100kg man stand on your teeth for 10 minutes a night? Probably not. If you are one of the 750 million people in the world that grind their teeth during sleep you might well be putting that amount of force on your molars. How would you know, if you’re asleep when it happens? Well unless your partner elbows you to stop making that horrendous crunching noise, you’ll probably only know when your teeth break or wear down or you get a headache or pain in your jaw. Your dentist will probably notice it before you do but by then you may have done serious damage.
Fixing this damage can be very complex and expensive, running into tens of thousands of euros and months or years of dental appointments in some cases. But that might not be where it stops. How long this restorative work lasts is also much less predictable if you’re a grinder – unsurprising considering the bite force involved. Bite down as hard as you can. Now imagine biting twice that hard. That’s the kind of force that could be involved. Studies have shown that several common types of restorations like crowns or veneers fail 2-7 times more often in grinders.
You would think for a condition as common and damaging as this that it would be really well managed and understood. Unfortunately you would be wrong and tooth grinding remains one of the most challenging conditions for dentists to manage. While the dentist might be able to see decay or gum disease in your mouth using xrays or gum probing, tooth grinding is really difficult to visualize, assess or monitor over time. Why? Because there are no good clinical tools that allow it to be accurately and comfortably monitored nightly at home at a reasonable price. That’s where SmartSplint comes in.
Grinding can’t be cured so managing it is all about damage limitation. Dentists routinely give patients a protective mouthguard called a splint to wear at night to stop these damaging tooth collisions. 3.6 million of these are made every year in the US alone, with twice as many as that again in the EU. SmartSplint converts
any one of these splints into a sophisticated tooth grinding detection and monitoring system. Patented force sensors embedded in the splint gather detailed data on the grinding pattern and force and send it up to the cloud for analysis.
What comes back to your phone or web profile is a personalised easy to understand visual of your grinding activity. Not only that, but you can track your
lifestyle to see if there are times or triggers that make your grinding worse. Is it the stress of that monthly deadline? Is it the few pints or cigarettes on a Friday? Is it that after dinner weight training session on a Tuesday?
Your dentist will obviously get a far more detailed picture of what’s going on. Armed with this information, that expensive restoration work they do for you will be better designed and less risky. Should I make crowns or veneers? From what materials? How many implants should I place? How should be bite be set up? Real decisions with real relevance based on real data. Before SmartSplint, this
“There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. 2000 years ago in biblical times people knew about this problem but were maybe not as concerned with their smiles as we are today. It will probably still be going on in another 2000 years. Now though, it will finally be possible to effectively manage it using a sensor containing mouthguard that talks to your smartphone. Who would have thought?