The Basics of Neuromuscular Dentistry
The way your teeth fit together (occlusion) is crucial to a healthy smile. Your head and neck muscles hold your lower jaw in place, and even though positioning is not something you think about, it may not be optimal. Neuromuscular dentistry is based on finding this optimal position and assisting your body to its ideal bite, where it was intended to be.
Anyone can develop TMD; many people are simply born with a bad bite or develop bad bite habits early in life. Often people begin grinding or clenching their teeth later in adulthood. Some bites are misaligned as a result of orthodontic extractions.
This is where teeth are removed (usually bi-cuspids/pre-molars), because of overcrowding to make room for the alignment of teeth. These issues can eventually lead to problems that you may not immediately associate with your jaw; headaches and migraines, neck and shoulder pain, and numbness in your arms may all be signs of TMD. Congestion, ringing, stuffy ears, clicking in the jaw joints, limited jaw movement or locked jaw, and even pain that you cannot quite locate can all be associated with a malocclusion. Most people experience a headache now and then, but the pain is ultimately your body’s way of warning you that something is wrong. Recurring headaches and other problems, such as head and neck pain and tension around your face and head could be signs of a neuromuscular disorder.
Neuromuscular dentistry deals with the proper alignment of your jawbone, in relation to your teeth and facial muscles.
While traditional dentistry evaluates mainly your teeth, bones, and gums, neuromuscular dentistry works with the muscles, nerves, hard tissues and soft tissues. By analyzing how each of these works with the others, a neuromuscular dentist can place your jaw into its ideal position. A number of problems may arise if the jaw is not in alignment:
- Ringing in the ears
- Headache or dizziness
- Jaw Pain
- Neck/Shoulder Pain
- Clicking/Popping in Jaw Joint
- Snoring/Sleep Apnea
NMD / TMD / TMJ
Your healthy smile begins with a healthy bite. However, a malocclusion (a bite that is not aligned properly) can lead to temporomandibular disorder, or TMD – this can be as subtle as tense facial muscles to severe, chronic debilitating headaches. Symptoms may be as vague as ear congestion or tingling in the fingers, to as specific as a popping, hurting jaw joint. That is where Neuromuscular Dentistry (NMD) and the office of Dr. Udouj come in.
Signs & Symptoms
Signs and symptoms may include headaches, worn teeth, painful muscles in the face, neck, and shoulders, clicking and popping of the jaw joint, earaches, pain behind eyes, difficulty opening and closing the mouth, ringing in the ears, tingling hands, and other problems. Everyone is different, therefore the disorder can and does manifest itself in a variety of ways.
The good news is that most of these problems may be easily corrected, non-evasively, without surgery. When diagnosing problems with your bite, Dr. Udouj will use advanced computerized technology to measure the function of your jaw muscles and the movement of your jaw joint. Depending on your situation, this technology may include tomography, sonography, electromyography, computerized jaw tracking, and Ultra Low-Frequency Tens. Millions of people suffer from TMD, but with treatment, we can help relieve pain and restore harmony to the teeth, muscles, and jaw joint.
We are proud to offer the latest in dental technology to our patients, including digital x-rays, EMGs, sonograms, intraoral cameras, tomographs, and cephalometric radiographs. This technology can help our staff more easily detect and diagnose your individual dental needs, save time, and provide better treatment for you, the patient.
The Life Process
The way you breathe is crucial. Your body is made to breathe through the nose. When this route is fully or even partially obstructed, your body turns to other muscles for compensation. You end up breathing through your mouth, and the surrounding muscles of your jaw and neck are asked to perform a lifetime of work that they were not designed to perform. As a result, your tongue often repositions itself to push on the teeth when you swallow, rather than the roof of the mouth, and so your teeth and bite may eventually become misaligned.
Your muscles are programmed to respond a certain way for the rest of your life, so problems at this stage can create problems that show themselves decades down the road. Even if these problems caused discomfort, at this stage in life you are unable to communicate the problem effectively; so these problems often go unnoticed or misdiagnosed.
20s & 30s
By the time you reach your 20s and thirties, you’ve developed a number of other small problems that begin to accumulate. The enamel that protects your front teeth may begin to wear away, something you may not even notice at this point; your roots may become exposed, possibly causing some sensitivity.
These are the kinds of problems that are relatively easy to ignore. However, your bite has established itself in the wrong position-you continue to clench your jaw muscles and maybe grind your teeth, causing popping and clicking in your jaw joints. Some people are diagnosed with TMD at this stage and may wear a splint a night to prevent some of the damage caused by clenching and grinding. However, this doesn’t cure the popping, clicking, or overall discomfort.
40s & 50s
Now you are in your 40s or 50s and these problems have only grown. By now you have more fillings and perhaps some crown work; maybe your gums have receded even more because the bone surrounding your teeth has deteriorated due to the many years of excess pressure and developed tori (small bony bumps that compensate for the pressure). Restorations that have been done may also be breaking apart.