Headaches-The Dental Connection

What A Bad Bite Is Doing To You
TMD explained by Dr. Curtis Westersund
(Click on the above image to watch the video)

What is Neuromuscular Dentistry? (NMD )

The way that your upper and lower teeth come together (your bite or occlusion) is part of a system of teeth, muscles and joints. If your teeth do not fit together properly (misaligned bite), the muscles and joints accommodate work to get them together.

A misaligned bite often leads to muscles that are overworked when they should be relaxed, leading to various painful conditions. Neuromuscular dentistry considers the
entire system that controls the positioning and function of your jaw. The neuromuscular dentist seeks to establish a jaw position based on a harmonious relationship of the three main factors affecting occlusion – the teeth, muscles and jaw joints. The resulting jaw position is called the neuromuscular bite.

Headaches – The Dental Connection

Most people don’t think to mention headaches to their dentists. Yet, muscle-contraction (tension) headache is the most common form of headache. It typically results in pain on both sides of the forehead and sometimes in the neck as well. The temporalis muscle, located in the forehead and to some extent around behind the ear, is the muscle group that postures your jaw. A 2007 AGD (Academy of General Dentistry www.agd.org) publication stated that experts estimate that 75 percent of all headaches are caused by muscle tension, which may be related to the bite. Simply stated, if your forehead muscles have to work overtime to properly align your bite, they may go into spasm which in turn leads to poor oxygenation of the muscle, retention of by-products of metabolism, and – ultimately – pain.

There are many possible causes of headache. The Neuromuscular Dentist is trained and equipped to diagnose and treat headache of muscle tension origin. Non-invasive tests can establish whether or not muscle tension may be the cause of your headaches and whether dental treatment might resolve your headache problem. If you suffer more than an occasional headache or frequently take medication for headache pain, it is well worthwhile to talk to a Neuromuscular Dentist about it.

Symptom Self-Quiz

Following are a few of the more common symptoms that may possibly be associated with your bite. If you have one or more of them, a visit to a dentist with special training in this field can rule in or rule out malocclusion (bad bite) as a cause.

Headache TMJ Pain TMJ Noise Limited Opening Ear Congestion
Facial Pain Jaw Clenching Teeth Grinding Sensitive Teeth Dizziness
Difficulty Swallowing Ringing In the Ears Neck, shoulder or back pain

Achieving Truly Relaxed Muscles

To help your muscles reach a true relaxed state, a device called the Myomonitor is used to deliver gentle electrical stimulation to your muscles. The Myomonitor is a battery operated electrical muscle stimulator. Mild electrical stimulation is delivered through adhesive patch electrodes attached over nerves that control specific muscle groups. The virtually painless stimulus delivered by the Myomonitor will cause your facial and jaw muscles to twitch or” pulse” once every one half seconds. After about 40 to 60 minutes, this electrically induced “exercise” will allow your muscles to overcome their programming and go to a relaxed state.

Why is Evaluation of Physiologic Function Important?

The state of the teeth and the joints very often cause the muscles to accommodate. Evaluation of the hard tissue alone does not provide insight to the true status of the occlusal system. This is why the Neuromuscular Dentist uses objective, scientific documentation methods in the comprehensive evaluation of occlusion. Through the use of jaw tracking, electromyography and joint sound recording, a complete analysis of the function (or dysfunction) of the masticatory system is accomplished.

The Right Bite Can Relieve Painful Symptoms

It is estimated that 40-50 million Americans suffer symptoms related to a bad bite and jaw misalignment.

  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Pain or pressure in and about the eyes
  • Sinus problems
  • Ringing in the ear
  • Stuffiness in the ear
  • Subjective hearing loss
  • Pain in or around the jaw
  • Stiffness in the shoulders and back
  • Radiating pain down your arm to your fingers
  • Snoring
  • Dizziness
  • Habits or grinding teeth
  • Clenching teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Abnormal tooth wear
When the teeth and jaw are out of alignment, muscles in the neck and shoulders try to compensate, causing pain and headaches that can’t be relieved until the jaws are realigned.
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