Dr. Curtis Westersund illustrates the causal effect of a bad bite!
Dr. Curtis Westersund walks us through a step by step study of the impacts of having a misaligned bite. He distinguishes between the functional problems that is responsible for the ‘ripple like effect’ from much assumed medical issues. His explanation denotes a clear domino effect on the body from the bad jaw position casuing alterations to the positions of the head and neck and perhaps shoulders even. Overtime uncorrected jaws can lead to blocking of airways, and permanent alteration in the structure of the jaw leading to general imbalance in the facial structure leading to sever discomfort for the whole body as a result. He also discusses available technology that is used to help remedy or rectify the muscles in the jaw leading to a decrease in pain and eventual elimination of symptoms.
Pain is something we can all relate to – headaches, backaches or neck, we’ve all been there.
When people start to suffer chronic pain it has a significant impact on their lives, and it take a lot of energy to function when you are in chronic pain.Many people go to their medical doctor for treatment whereas sometimes, they find a solution that masks the symptoms such as pain killers and muscle relaxers and that does not address the problem – the problem is not a medical problem, but a functional problem and it needs a functional solution.
The balance and function of the body needs to be restored, but what you may not know is that a large portion of that balance comes from how your teeth mash together.
There has been a lot of research done on this particular issue. Dr. Roger spairy who won the noble prize for brain research said better than 90 percent of the energy output of the brain is used in relating to the physical body in its gravitational field. The more mechanically distorted a person is the less energy there is available for thinking, metabolism and healing, so what is it called when a person’s head and neck become mechanically distorted?
Well different groups give it different names – medical doctors CFP or chronic facial pain. Patients often call it TMJ which stands for the Temporomandibular joint but as a dentist I like to be more pure and call it Temporomandibular disorder or TMD. Conservative estimates revels that 23 to 35% of the population suffers from TMD but in my opinion if you include those who have signs of TMD and no pain it probably gets closer to 70% of the population. To understand TMD you need to know a little bit about the anatomy.
First we have the human body – on top of the shoulders is the neck, on top of that is the head or the skull, attached to the skull is the lower jaw. The lower jaw is slung in muscles.
As a matter of fact if you were to cut those muscles the lower jaw would fall to the ground and the lower jaw has a gracing point called the Temporomandibular joint and it is a unique joint that is not only able to rotate but is also able to slide forward and from side to side.
But we can’t stop there – we also have to look at how the head sits on the neck more specifically how the head and the first 2 of the 7 neck vertebrae relate to each other because that is intimately involved with how the lower jaw functions. All joints in the body can flex and even over flex except for one – the TMJ. That is because when the upper and lower teeth mash together the jaw stops moving. We call that a terminal bite position.
We have to bring the teeth together many thousands of times, each day. Whether it is to swallow, to chew or just to bring our teeth together to brace or clench. This brings us back to a balance issue. When your bite is not balanced there is a ripple effect through your body – we call this TMD or Temporomandibular disorder.
Now the effects of this can include headaches migraines, neck aches and postural changes, ringing in the ears, dizziness, clicking or grating of the jaw joints – grinding and chipping of the teeth, recession of the gum tissue, jaw aches, facial pain, pain behind the eyes and even sleep disorders such as snoring or sleep apnea.
What causes TMD – the most common cause for a person to develop TMD are breathing issues as a very young child. As a child the upper jaw grows between two strong forces in the mouth – the tongue, they U shaped muscles pushing out from the back of the lower teeth and the lips and cheeks pushing in on the upper teeth. As the body grows, this balance of muscle force between the tongue, and the lips and cheeks, creates a perfectly shaped upper arch of bone, leaving the perfect amount of room for your teeth – again this is balance.
The ideal of what should happen – but sometimes more often what happens in modern society is pollution and modern diet can create allergies in children. These allergies will restrict the flow of air – through the nose of the child.
We all have to breathe – if we don’t breathe through our nose, we will breathe through our mouth, but to do that we must move our tongue from its normal resting position from the roof of our mouth at its resting position behind our front teeth and have it sit lower in the mouth behind you bottom teeth – that way air can pass over the tongue and allow the child their precious breathe – this very simple change in the position of the tongue has far reaching consequences in the development of the face, the jaws, the jaw joints and the teeth. Mouth breathers even part time ones will develop a more narrow and V shaped upper jaw and tooth position. The lower teeth and tooth position in the jaw must now shift in order to allow you to bring your teeth together. Do you remember playing with a peg board as a child? You knew that a U shaped peg goes into a U shaped hole but a u shaped peg does not fit within a V shaped hole. The lower jaw is still u shaped, but the upper jaw is now V shaped and the 2 of them do not mesh together properly.
Let’s get one more childhood memory. Do you remember the song we used to sing? "The jaw bones connected to the head bone and the head bones connected to neck bone and the neck bones connected to the"- well you remember the rest of the song.
Well the song is true – when you disturb the balance or the relationship between the upper or the lower jaw, the effects descend through a myriad of different ways – the first effect is through your jaw muscles, muscles are required to bring your teeth together. If bringing your teeth together requires certain muscles to over work then, they will soon become fatigued. Then what they will begin to do is, get help from other groups of muscles. As muscle groups soon fatigue we start to see a distortion in the way that the head and the neck relate and the change in the posture.
Instead of an upright posture the head drifts forward, and the shoulders and hips begin to tilt so how can a dentist help? With dental CSI – its like looking at a crime scene. If your bite is unbalanced there will be some restraint, it will be like walking with 2 different shoes. Imagine you had one high heel and one beach sandal and you walked around like that for the whole day. Your knees your hips and your back would be sore. Well your bite is way more sensitive to imbalance. Even a filling that is a few microns too large can create an imbalance in the jaw muscles. If a dentist can make your teeth mash and your jaw muscles relax then your jaw muscles are evenly positioned which can bring balance and support to the whole body. So how we treat the problem and the pain and discomfort is to restore balance.
First we need, to calm down the muscles that are fatigued – from having to constantly fight from having a bad bite. with modern equipment from a company called Myotronics started by Jenkelson in the 1960’s dentists can measure the action of the jaw and the balance of the jaw muscles, as well as relax the jaw muscles using a special machine called an ULF Tens or an ultra-low frequency transcutaneous neural stimulation that helps give the jaw muscles and electric massage. The Ulf tens pulses nerves that supply stimulation to the jaw and neck muscles with a low pulse every one point five seconds. The muscles are contracted and then relaxed and over a period of an hour are able to shift to their normal resting length. It is kind of like a massage relieving a muscle cramp.
Now with relaxed and healthy muscles, the dentist can capture the relationship between the upper and lower jaws, with some impression material once captured the relaxed and healthy bite position is made possible for the patient with the construction of a neuromuscular anatomical orthotic that sits on the lower teeth. Now when the patient bites together, the muscles are no longer unbalanced or over closed- the functioning of a perfectly healthy position.
This healthy position of a new bite supports the head and neck relationship – the shoulder and back muscles are less restrained. The neural feedback to the brain, and the head and neck muscles are calmed and the body responds quickly by calming other body systems, many of which have an effect on the person’s tension and health.
So why should you treat your TMD? Well you might help decrease the pain that comes from muscle tension and help eliminate headaches, neck aches and backaches – you might eliminate jaw joint pains or some of the clicking and clacking of your jaw joint or eliminate some of the ringing in your ears, or restore facial height and give yourself a more youthful look. You could improve your posture or even give yourself better sleep and more energy – basically you will bring more balance back to your life.