If you've ever experienced the misery of a migraine, then you understand why some people will try just about anything that promises relief. For the next two months, we're testing one of the products that claims to help. It's called the NTI...and for $600 a dentist can fit you with one.
The question is: Will it work?
There are days when the sound of snapping spaghetti would be too much for Beth Jefferson. Life is a never ending headache.
Beth Jefferson: "It's rather depressing and confusing. Why do I get them? I can take 6 - 8 [pills] a day, depending on the day of course. You almost wish you had a gun not so much to kill yourself but to take away the pain, the pain is that bad you would almost do anything to get rid of it. I just go into my room...I make sure it's nice and dark and there's no noise. You're wrapped up and cold compresses and eventually you hope after taking some sort of medication that you will fall asleep."
A steady diet of painkillers helps her manage her daily headaches, but every couple of months Beth is knocked flat by a migraine, and nothing helps. What happens during Beth's sleep may be part of the problem. At least, that's the claim made by the makers of the NTI Tension Supression System. Their website, www.HeadacheHope.com, says typical migraine patients clench their teeth 14 times more intensely than the average person. This clenching usually happens during sleep. And it may trigger migraines.
Their solution is the NTI (see video). The NTI fit fits passively over your teeth. They're marketing it to dentists, like Ottawa's Dr. Mike Pilon: "So you can't touch your back teeth. I can't touch my back teeth and the clenching is reduced to about a third of a normal clench."
The theory is that you reduce the clenching, you reduce the migraines. Just by wearing the NTI in your sleep.
Susan Mayer is one of Dr. Pilon's success stories. She had her first migraine at age 7. Nine months ago she tried the NTI. "Before I had the NTI I don't remember going more than a week without a headache. All my life. Now it's all the time, I 'll go a couple of weeks, I 'll go a month. It's a brand new feeling to me. I didn't know what that felt like."
Dr. Pilon has fitted 70 patients with a $600, customized NTI mouth piece. It eased the migraines of all but one patient. "Of the migraine patients we've seen, it's a very, very high success rate. Better than most medications."
If this is working so well and might help 100% of people with migraines, why isn’t Dr. Pilon getting droves of people at his door? Dr. Pilon responds: "Well it's fairly new. It was just approved by the US Food and Drug Administration...and I think a lot of the doctors I 've talked to, friends and colleagues...the best way to be described is being dismissive. Their eyes kind of glaze over because there are a lot of strange cures out there strange treatments."
So is the NTI credible or is it quackery? There are no objective studies, but lots of anecdotal evidence that it works, enough interesting results to get the attention of neurologist Dr. Robert Nelson Canada's most experienced headache specialist.
When Nelson was asked if he had changed his opinion on the NTI device from the day you first heard about it he responded: "I think I have. I 've seen some patients who have been significantly helped."
We asked him to identify one patient who could test the NTI for us. He recommended Beth Jefferson. None of the drugs he's prescribed has eased her migraines. Now, they'll try the NTI.
Beth responded: "I'm willing to try it. I have nothing to lose… Actually, I 'm hoping maybe [Dr. Nelson] can help me get rid of at least 50% of the headaches. I haven't set my sights too high right now, so anything would be an improvement… a little bit [sceptical] maybe that's why I don't expect 100% but I 'm willing to try."
For 8 weeks Beth will wear her custom made NTI device while she sleeps. She'll also be fitted for a daytime appliance to wear as often as possible. For this test, we're paying the bill. But for the average patient, it costs $600, and comes with no guarantee of success and very little scientific proof that it works.
Nelson thinks its worth the gamble because there are no side effects.: "I think in these patients who nothing else seems to help that they really don't have very much to lose and while you say it's an expensive device many people spend that amount of money regularily for headache medication. "
Will the NTI Tension Supression System change Beth's life? We'll see in 8 weeks.
Follow-up on the NTI...
If you've ever experienced the misery of a migraine, then you understand why some people will try just about anything that promises relief. For the past two months, Health Matters has been testing one of the products that claims to help. It's called the NTI. And for $600 a dentist can fit you with one. The question was...would it work?
Beth Jefferson has spent 30 years fighting headaches and migraines. She says, "You almost wish you had a gun not so much to kill yourself but to take away the pain." What happens during Beth's sleep may be part of the problem. The makers of the NTI Tension Supression System say many migraine patients clench their teeth during sleep. The clenching may trigger migraines.Their solution is the NTI. They're marketing it to dentistslike Ottawa's Dr. Mike Pilon.
He demonstrated the device for us, saying: "I can't touch my back teeth and the clenching is reduced to about a third of a normal clench."
Reduce the clenching, reduce the migraines. By wearing the NTI while you sleep.Dr. Pilon has fitted 80 people with these customized mouthpieces. He says it eased the migraines of all but one patient: "Of the migraine patients we've seen, it's a very, very high success rate. Better than most medications."
We asked Neurologist Dr. Robert Nelson to identify one migraine
patient to test the NTI for us. He recommended Beth Jefferson.
The drugs he's prescribed haven't worked for her. He says, "I
think in these patients who nothing else seems to help that they
really don't have very much to lose and while you say it's an
expensive device many people spend that amount of money regularily
There is no guarantee of success and very little scientific proof that it works. Beth told us, "I have hopes for it...but we'll wait and see what happens."
Two months later, Beth is waking up headache free. She says, "Actually it was almost immediate."
She's gone from 100 painkillers a month to 25. During our test period she still had a few headaches and one migraine, but nothing like before: "It's not a cure, but as far as preventative goes its worked very well for me at night."
Her neurologist is impressed ..but he wants more research to help him identify which patients might be helped by the NTI. He says, "That is my main interest in trying to sort out which people are worthwhile sending for this and which aren't. It was worthwhile for Beth Jefferson. One more happy customer...having one more day without a headache."
Migraine product shows promising results
Beth Jefferson says she's willing to try anything. Jefferson has spent 30 years fighting her headaches.
"You almost wish you had a gun not so much to kill yourself, but to take away the pain."
The makers of NTI say what Jefferson does at night could be the root of the problem. The company says migraine patients tend to clench their teeth during sleep. The clenching may trigger migraines.
The NTI system is a plastic mouthpiece that fits over the front teeth. Dentist Mike Pilon in Ottawa has used it on 80 people.
"(They) can't touch the back teeth and the clenching is reduced to about a third of a normal clench."
Pilon says the device has eased the migraines of all but one patient.
"It's a very, very high success rate. Better than most medications."
Neurologist Dr. Robert Nelson says the device may be a good idea. Nelson treats migraine patients.
"They really don't have very much to lose and while…it's an expensive device, many people spend that amount of money regularly for headache medication."
Jefferson is one of Nelson's patients and agreed to try the system for three months.
Jefferson says she's now waking up headache free. She's gone from 100 painkillers a month to 25. She still has few headaches and counts one migraine, but nothing like before.
"It's not a cure," says Jefferson. "But as far as a preventative goes, it's worked very well for me."
Nelson says he's impressed. He's now launched a pilot study in conjunction with Pilon to find out which patients could benefit the most from it.
"I'm not quite comfortable to suggest it as a first line treatment," warns Nelson. But he says he'd use it when other more traditional treatments fail.