Interview: bth4 aims to eliminate bruxism at its root
An engineer with more than 15 years’ experience in the private sector, René Garcia founded bth4 in 2013. Based in the American town of Tucson, Arizona, the company produces an innovative new type of night guard that offers an alternative method to treating bruxism. Unlike conventional night guards that merely aim to prevent future tooth wear, bth4 model relies on a direct biofeedback mechanism to break the habit of bruxism itself.
Mr Garcia, where do traditional night guards go wrong?
A mouth guard one would get at the dentist’s is more focussed on protecting the teeth against the damage of bruxism. Conventionally, these have no mechanism that could prevent the habit itself, it merely provides a protective layer on the teeth, so there is no force of clenching or grinding directly on the teeth. Such a mouth guard ignores the rest of the symptoms of bruxism, such as headaches and jaw and neck pain, which are results of an excessive force of the jaw. This is one of the main differences of bth4. The bth4 guard focusses on tackling the problem of bruxism itself by providing direct feedback to the palate and training the brain that bruxing is an unwanted action, instead of focussing solely on damage control. Applying pressure to the jaw using bth4 causes immediate discomfort and the discomfort is proportional to the force applied by the jaw.
Could you explain the mechanical system of the device?
The principle is in some way similar to a “thumb-sucking habit breaking device”. In this case, the undesirable behaviour is the excessive application of pressure. When using bth4 during a bruxism event, the motion of the lower jaw transfers through the feedback mechanism, which makes spikes contact the palate and causes immediate discomfort—this forces the user to cease the undesirable behaviour. Our goal is to reduce or eliminate the habit that is bruxism, at its root, based on the premise that rather than clenching and grinding, the root of the problem is excessive pressure applied by the jaw.
How did the idea for bth4 come about?
After thinking of a solution for several days, the idea came to me in the middle of the night. I’ve had plenty of motivation from suffering from severe bruxism all my life, from observing my daughter grinding and chipping her teeth at the very early age of five, and wife suffers from TMJ disorder, which we suspect is a consequence of her intense clenching.
How does your mouth guard differentiate itself from other biofeedback devices?
Many biofeedback devices use electronics and rely on batteries. Some even have the battery stored in the mouth, which could potentially be harmful. Another problem that often occurs with electronic biofeedback devices is something called a “false trigger”. Many of these devices are focussed on detecting muscle activity and detect movement that is not bruxism, but still gives feedback, for instance, turning around in bed. This makes it hard to distinguish what exactly the unwanted behaviour is, as it pulses when it is not needed. Our device works without the need of complex electronics or batteries. This not only reduces the complexity, size and potential risk that comes with a device that uses batteries, it also significantly reduces the cost, making it available to the broader public.
What are some of the symptoms of bruxism that the bth4 mouth guard prevents?
The symptoms bth4 targets are all associated with excessive force applied by the jaw. These include headaches, neck, ear, jaw and facial pain, damage to the teeth, joint wear, as well as locking or popping of the joint and gum recession.
Other benefits have also been attributed, such as reductions in awake bruxism, thanks to the principle of operation. The device trains the user on the undesirable feedback while sleeping and remains with the user during awake bruxism, thereby reducing the frequency of bruxism events even when the device is not being used.
What would your arguments to dentists be to prescribe your device?
Conventional mouth guards are excellent at preventing teeth damage, but could neglect many of bruxism’s devastating effects. They also require multiple iterations of adjustment and regularly exacerbate the symptoms of bruxism. bth4 promotes a more desirable behaviour by eliminating the excessive forces, avoiding occlusion and encouraging a more natural resting position. Plus, fitting time is practically eliminated.
Being a new product, it has received some change resistance, which is natural. Bruxism is a very hard problem to tackle, so scepticism from dentists is justified whenever a new product enters the market. However, it is now improving thanks to the positive customer response we’ve received. We have continued to receive great feedback and we have a more positive presence on websites and forums. It is extremely satisfying to hear that people are regaining their quality of life thanks to bth4.
Tags: broken, broken tooth, bruxism, bth4, chipped, chipped teeth, chipped tooth, clenching, dental, grinding, muscular, night guard, prevention, rene garcia, teeth, tucson