Muscles, joints & teeth

Muscles, joints & teeth

Where traditional dentistry focuses on the teeth, neuromuscular dentistry is concerned with the muscles and joints of the jaw, and how they work together to influence your bite. And your bite is central to every major dental procedure, your overall oral health and your general wellbeing.

An imperfect bite can be the cause of—or severely aggravate—head and neck pain, and many associated complaints. These include:

  • headache/earache
  • jaw/neck/facial pain
  • jaw clenching/teeth grinding
  • jaw joint clicking/popping
  • limited jaw movement/mouth opening
  • difficulty chewing/swallowing
  • dizziness
  • ringing in the ears

So… Muscles + joints + teeth = neuromuscular dentistry
And… A better bite = a healthier, happier you

Neuromuscular dentistry aims to establish your natural or ideal jaw “posture”, and adjust your bite to maintain that position.

You may consider neuromuscular dental treatment in various cases:

  • as part of a cosmetic, orthodontic, restorative or reconstructive dental procedure
  • to establish the ideal bite for the preparation of a denture
  • to treat conditions that may be caused or aggravated by an imperfect bite (these conditions are known as temporomandibular disorders or TMD)

There are several stages to neuromuscular dental diagnosis and treatment
Your neuromuscular dentist will conduct a thorough physical examination of your teeth, head and neck. Certain non-invasive instruments may be used to further diagnose your bite and jaw function. The findings of these tests enable your dentist to determine if your habitual bite is causing you problems.

If so, your natural jaw posture needs to be determined by relaxing your jaw posturing muscles. These muscles can become overworked in maintaining their “programmed” position. And, as mentioned, this can result in a less than ideal bite, pain and jaw joint problems.To relax these tense muscles and find their true resting state, a process known as TENS is used – transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Using a battery-operated device, a gentle electrical stimulus is applied to the relevant muscles and nerves through adhesive patches. This causes the muscles to twitch or pulse. After 40 to 60 minutes, this electrically-induced exercise “de-programs” your jaw muscles, restoring their true resting state.

While the process may initially feel a little strange, it is painless and harmless. TENS has been used for many years, in applications ranging from childbirth to the treatment of back pain. 

When your jaw muscles are relaxed, an impression will be taken of your bite. Your dentist can then compare this with your usual bite, to determine if and how your bite should be adjusted.

To start the process of adjusting your bite, a dental orthotic is prepared. This is a plastic appliance that is worn over your teeth to maintain your ideal jaw posture. You will wear the orthotic for a period of time to confirm that your new jaw posture resolves or alleviates your initial complaint.

If so, you may then choose to have your teeth treated to permanently maintain this ideal bite position.