Health Alert: Neuromuscular dentistry

NATIONAL – Snapping your mouth shut may tell the dentist volumes about your oral health.

TMJ Disorder refers to a complex series of problems in the jaw joints that can cause headaches and more. Treatment often starts at the dentist, but there’s a new trend in care called neuromuscular dentistry.

Barbara Chase recently learned she has temporomandibular join disorder, or TMJD. Jaw discomfort aside, her doctor feels it may be triggering other problems. 

“She thought that perhaps the migraine headaches came from a bad jaw,” Chase explained.

Barbara’s doctor, Martha Cortes, practices neuromuscular dentistry, and treatment focuses not just on the teeth “so that whatever happens to the bite is actually happening to the back of the neck, the upper portion.”

This type of dentistry requires detective work to determine the underlying reasons for problems.

“Why did that tooth with the root canal and in the back on the lower left break? Was it really the tooth, or is that the jaw is kinking? Is the face spastic?” asks Dr. Cortes.

Patients, like Barbara, not only have X-rays to help figure that out, but also sonograms to measure sound waves.

“Is it bone hitting none at this point? How loud is the popping of this joint?” asks Adriana Barrientos, a dental hygienist.

Treatment usually begins with an orthotic device to restore the jaw to its natural position.

Dr. Cortes explains that it’s “so you’re always holding that reference space, ’cause what you’re doing is you’re really filling in the space between the two jaws.”

By restoring that space, nerves that can trigger migraines are released.

“There’s a tender neuronal bundle near the ear, you’re releasing that so those migraines that usuall become global are released.”

For Barbara, these steps to fix her jaw problem may, in turn, help short circuit her migraines.

Finding a neuromuscular dentist will take some detective work of your own. Start by checking the internet. One of the locations doctors receive this specialized training is the Las Vegas Institute.

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