Having the perfect bite is so much more than having straight teeth and a sparkling, good-looking smile. Correcting dental problems can take pressure off of your neck, back, jaw and spine. Neuromuscular dentistry can help with all these problems and can reduce pain significantly. Researchers estimate that nearly 10 million Americans are affected by temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJ).1 And 10 percent of the population is dealing with pain from teeth grinding.2 From neck pain and jaw clenching to joint pain, nervousness and insomnia, neuromuscular dentistry can help free people from a life of pain.
What is neuromuscular dentistry?
Neuromuscular dentistry is an advanced way to solve dental and physical problems originating from the jaw and mouth. Skilled dentists use modern technology to determine what is working well with the jaw and what is maladjusted. They then work to create the optimum bite for your needs and create a beautiful smile. This overall approach to oral health can relieve people from a host of problems including:
- jaw and joint pain
- limited mouth opening
- ear congestion
- ear ringing
- problems with swallowing
- jaw and joint noise or clicking
- teeth clenching and grinding
- facial pain
- tooth sensitivity
- neck pain
- problems with posture
- other craniofacial discomfort
"Imagine that your sore back or frequent headaches could be fixed with an oral treatment," says Dr. Konstantin Ronkin, D.M.D. at Dream Smile Dental. "People are amazed that so many of their physical ailments are actually caused by dental issues and are even more impressed when neuromuscular dentistry can correct these issues."
The problem starts with your muscles and joints
There are dozens of muscles in your face and neck, and these muscles hold your jaw in place. When you chew and swallow, these muscles, and the joints they are attached to, move your jaw. If your bite is off, then all those muscles must work overtime and strain to do repetitive functions. Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) arise from this strain.
"Another cause of jaw pain is poor posture. Many people who work in an office environment sit and stare at a screen for the majority of their day. They don't realize that their poor posture can impact the neck muscles and ultimately impact their jaw and bite," says Dr. Evetta Shwartzman, D.M.D. at Dream Smile Dental. "Over time, without seeking proper treatment, these individuals can experience significant pain.”
How to get your bite back
Diagnosing your exact problem is the first course of action. A neuromuscular dentist will perform a detailed examination, including a targeted computer assessment in which all muscles along your jaw and neck are measured both at rest and while active. Next, the dentist will determine the ideal position for your jaw while at rest. This perfect balance is achieved when your muscles are completely relaxed using electrical stimulation of the muscles.
"This process is gentle and often relaxing,” says Shwartzman. "Many patients use a special stress reduction technology called NuCalm while an electrical pulse causes the neck and chewing muscles to relax, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to flow to those muscles."
Once the patient’s ideal bite is revealed, the neuromuscular dentist molds an orthotic, a plastic mouthpiece, to hold that perfect bite in place. Final dental pieces like crowns, veneers and bridges are created and precisely measured based on that mold. Also, the teeth can be moved to the final position by using braces or clear aligners. The goal of treatment is to ensure the patient’s ideal bite is always preserved so that he or she remains pain-free. For patients, the result is relief of pain from bite-related issues and the comfort of knowing that their smile, and bite, is helping their body stay healthy.