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Neuromuscular Dentistry: A Definition

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Having a balanced bite is essential for a healthy mouth. It impacts how you chew, speak and it allows your teeth to function properly. Neuromuscular dentistry relaxes the muscles around the jaw to ease up tension on the joints. This is believed to improve jaw alignment and relieve temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and malocclusion, also known as a crossbite.

However, the American Dental Association does not recognize this branch of dentistry, making the practice controversial. It's important to note that correcting jaw position to treat or prevent TMD has not been proven with randomized controlled clinical trials—the gold standard in evidence-based dentistry.

Read on to learn more about this specialty and when (or if) this treatment is necessary.

What is Jaw Positioning?

The actual position of the jaw is very complex. The facial muscles determine the function of the oral cavity and how the teeth come together. And over time, a person's bite changes as they grow and develop. Relaxing the jaw muscles through neuromuscular therapy can stabilize the bite. This leads to less jaw pain and can help keep teeth aligned and intact.

What Are The Treatment Options?

Computerized analyses may be administered to diagnose the source of jaw pain. Here are a few tests a dental professional may perform to find the root of jaw pain:

  • Sonography. A sonography measures vibrations in the jaw when it opens and closes to identify where the joint is not functioning.
  • Electromyography. Electrical impulses track jaw muscle movements.
  • Jaw tracking. Magnets draw a 3-D model of the jaw to identify abnormalities.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Also known as TENS, electrical stimuli are administered to the muscles to relieve muscle spasms.

How To Treat

Jaw realignment may be irreversible, and orthodontic and prosthodontic measures should always be carefully considered. TMD can lead to severe conditions, such as headaches, poor posture, shoulder and neck pain, and a general detriment to the patient's well-being.

Jaw pain, in many situations, can be managed with noninvasive treatments. Tests and imaging may rule out any potential pathology, but tests do not determine if the jaw position is the problem. Inflammation is usually present if there is acute pain. The acute pain can be managed by a dentist and may involve taking anti-inflammatory medications.

Neuromuscular Dentistry is one of many treatment options depending on the severity of the symptoms. Other TMJ and TMD treatments a dental professional may recommend include:

What is the Cost?

The cost of a neuromuscular procedure varies greatly. Cost of treatment in the United States can have a wide range depending on several factors. Treatment may exceed a year if a dental specialist recommends a full mouth reconstruction and insurance may not cover the cost of neuromuscular dentistry because there is little scientific evidence backing the effectiveness of the practice.

When To Get A Dental Consultation?

A small number of dentists have formal university training in neuromuscular dentistry. Seek a dental specialist's advice if you experience signs of a chronic temporomandibular disorder.

Despite the debate over the neuromuscular dental field, there is one constant: if you are experiencing pain, schedule a visit to a dental professional. They will prescribe the best course of action to obtain relief.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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