Neuromuscular Dentistry is not a new concept in the dental field, but is gaining much popularity throughout the United States in recent times. I feel that this is due to the increasing number of people that are experiencing orofacial pain to a severe degree. As our world becomes more hectic, the amount of stress that we experience can have undue effects on the jaws and teeth. Am I saying that just by eliminating the stress out of your life will eliminate the pain that you have? No, of course not. Obviously, that are other factors that come into play, such as wear patterns on teeth, trigger points within the muscular complex of the jaws, previous dental work that can be causing problems, etc. The goal to alleviating orofacial pain lies within diagnosing the cause and then delivering the appropriate treatment needed.
Many people present to our office stating that they have TMJ problems – i.e., problems with the temporomandibular joints. These are the joints that are between your lower jaw and your skull. They are located on both sides of the face, right in front and near the ear.
Sometimes, these joints can become painful because the physical anatomy of the jaw has become disturbed. Therefore, painful symptoms can be seen upon jaw movements such as when you open and close your mouth, chew your food, yawn, talk, etc. Other people have clicks in their jaw joint when they open, close, or both. Sometimes this can be painful as well. When these types of symptoms are present, we look to see if there might be some derangements within the joints themselves.
Other people seem not to have specific joint issues but have a broader range of symptoms. These include frequent headaches, jaw muscle pain, tension in the head and neck areas, numbness in the fingers, sensitivity to light, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), generalized pain in the teeth, etc. These folks require a completely different treatment modality because this has a much greater muscular component than the previous issue described above. In this instance, the supporting musculature is not in a relaxed state. Getting these muscles to “settle down” usually allows these symptoms to lessen and almost disappear. This is where concepts of Neuromuscular Dentistry come into play.
Neuromuscular Dentistry is based on the concept of allowing the muscles that support the lower jaw to get into a state of relaxation. When your teeth come together and they all touch, they only fit a certain way. This position may not be in harmony with the supporting jaw muscles and thus they are not relaxed. This, in turn, can cause areas of the muscles to develop trigger points that will set off a whole host of unwanted symptoms. With neuromuscular treatment, we identify that relaxed position and then try to stabilize the jaw into that position. Therefore, headaches, pain, tightness, etc. are lessened.