by Dan Mannikko, DDS |
Neuromuscular dentistry is a treatment philosophy that looks beyond teeth to the other structures and tissues that are indirectly altered in an individual’s attempt to bring their teeth and jaws together.
Neuromuscular dentists deal with the delicate interplay between the upper and lower teeth, right and left jaw joints, and muscles of the face, neck, and shoulders as they all relate to a stabile, strong spinal alignment. The actions of the lower jaw are very dynamic, and its ability to move in six dimensions is well documented. When these movements and positions are restricted, deflected, or otherwise altered so as to not allow a natural, whole-body alignment, a breakdown of overall structural system occurs.
Symptoms of an unbalanced bite show up as muscle pain or trigger points from the shoulder blades upward; a popping noise around or in the ear; or a limited range of motion of the jaw. Very often, we see a forward-leaning head posture, and middle ear symptoms including plugged ears, vertigo/dizziness, and ear ringing.
Neuromuscular dentistry began in the 1960s with the advent of instrumentation that allowed us to look and measure specific movements and functions of the jaw and muscles. It has been said if something can be measured it is a fact; otherwise, it is just opinion. With the use of this instrumentation a new world was opened for those who were willing to explore it. Additionally, this period brought about the discovery of a “zone of neutrality,” which is basically a resting jaw position where the chewing muscles are physiologically relaxed and the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is normalized for optimum function and comfort. In this balanced, neutral zone, the upper cervical vertebrae are stable and not torqued, which really allows the body to begin to “unwind” and heal in an attempt to return to homeostasis.
When patients visit a neuromuscular dentist and describe migraines, teeth-grinding, receding gums, sensitive teeth, tooth loss, breaking of teeth or popping in the ear/jaw, what is typically happening is the tug of war of powerful, opposing forces brought into play by an unbalanced bite. In these cases, the physical demand on the body is constant and significant, marshalling resources that could be better utilized for athletic performance, higher energy levels or feeling better on the job. All of this goes on whether the individual experiences pain or not. What’s more, an unbalanced bite and its effects can often disrupt many other systems, including the endocrine, neurological and balance, or Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Any of which can increase the overall “load” on the body, making the individual feel less than optimally healthy. A simple half-hour exam by a neuromuscular dentist can detect any bite imbalances and set the patient on the path to total wellness in a remarkably short period of time.
- Neuromuscular Dental Diagnosis and Treatment, Jankelson, R.
- Travell, J. Myofacial Pain and Dysfunction, Vol, 1
For more info, contact Dr. Mannikko at (775) 825-8366