Neuromuscular Dentistry Can Ease Jaw-Caused "Migraines"
Neuromuscular dentists, who specialize in dealing with disorders of the jaw and the nerves that enervate the neck and head, can help in such situations. In many cases, they can alleviate the pain completely. The specialty has been around since the mid-1960s, said Louisiana dentist Craig Landry, but in recent years it has been aided with computer technology that helps pinpoint the cause of head, neck and face pain.
Some severe headaches are caused by teeth misalignment, Landry said, while some others may result from problems with the trigeminal nerve.
“It’s the nerve that supplies the teeth and many muscles of the head and neck,” the dentist said. “A bad bite can overstimulate the trigeminal system.”
A bad bite can also cause the jaw muscles to unconsciously tense, eventually causing pain. And just because one’s teeth have been straightened with braces doesn’t mean the jaw is not misaligned.
“Conventional orthodontics lines teeth up aesthetically,” Landry said. “The main thing for people to know is that just because they’ve had orthodontics, it doesn’t mean the muscles are comfortable in the tooth position that has been created.”
To correct jaw problems, the dentist identifies the tensed-up muscles using electrodes connected to a computer, which is programmed to tell him how the teeth should be properly positioned. He then uses a machine that delivers electrical impulses to relax the muscles.
The next step is to fit the patient with a temporary orthotic device worn over the teeth that maintains proper teeth alignment during chewing. Pain usually disappears in about three months, at which time a permanent fix is engineered.
In mild cases, the dentist may shave teeth down ever so slightly in order to produce a perfect bite. Most of the time, however, he sends patients to orthodontists, with a prescription for braces that will align the teeth well. And, occasionally, porcelain crowns can be fitted over the natural teeth so they will strike each other correctly.
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