Health Concern: Head, neck and shoulder pain due to malocclusion of teeth.
Treatment: Neuromuscular dentistry full-mouth reconstruction.
Many people consider teeth grinding a bad habit, but for Carol Rains, it was also the cause of pain, a loss of confidence and severe damage to her teeth.
“When I was younger, I had nice teeth,” Carol says. But as an adult, the surfaces of her teeth were severely flattened by years of night grinding, or bruxing. Her habit of grinding gradually worsened to the point that she was even grinding during the day.
“I had gotten used to it, but the more I ground my teeth, the more I was in danger of losing my teeth,” Carol says. Several doctors had told her that she had about five years before she would have to make some serious decisions about her teeth. “I was grinding so close to the nerves that it was only a matter of time before the teeth would be too short to even save, and no matter how hard I tried, I just could not stop doing it.”
Bruxing is often a symptom of a temporomandibular joint disorder caused by malocclusion, or misalignment, of the teeth, which can cause health problems. Carol suffered from headaches, neck and shoulder pain and even ear pain, all due to the tension on her facial muscles and jaw joints as they tried to find a comfortable position.
“Because I had done so much damage to my teeth, they didn’t fit together properly anymore,” she explains. She also became self-conscious about her appearance—as her teeth got shorter, so did the length of her face.
Finally, Carol decided to see what she could do to eliminate the pain and restore the youthful appearance of her teeth. After unsuccessful visits with several dentists, she researched enough to realize that she needed someone who understood neuromuscular dentistry. Her search ultimately ended with Dr. Jim Moreau of MoreSmiles in Mandeville.
“Carol had tried other therapies and been to other doctors and nothing else had helped her,” Dr. Moreau says. “This is very typical of TMJ patients. It can be debilitating, incapacitating and frustrating, because it’s easily misdiagnosed. Even with a correct TMJ diagnosis, many medical and dental professionals just don’t have the technology to pinpoint the cause and methodically resolve the symptoms.”
Neuromuscular dentistry, Dr. Moreau explains, evaluates the complex relationship between the teeth, facial muscles and jaw joints. “Dentistry typically is concerned only with the teeth—a one-dimensional approach. When you add the relationship of the jaw joint and the muscles of mastication, the approach to dentistry becomes more three-dimensional. It gives you a bigger tool box, so to speak, when evaluating a patient’s oral health.”
Dr. Moreau’s combination of EMG computer scans in his office and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENSing, flushed toxins and guided Carol’s muscles, joints and teeth into a functioning and comfortable bite. Although there are a few ways to get optimum results, in Carol’s case, full-mouth reconstruction not only restored a healthy occlusion but also gave her back her beautiful smile. This was achieved with a combination of porcelain veneers and onlays, restored one arch at a time to ensure stability and management of symptoms at each step.
“One of the things that really impressed me was the fact that Dr. Moreau listened to me to see what needed adjusting,” Carol says. Dr. Moreau agrees that patience, trust and communication between patient and
doctor are key to the success of the process because multiple adjustments are usually needed, some of which are almost imperceptible.
Since the neuromuscular reconstruction of her smile, Carol has stopped the habitual grinding, and she no longer wakes up in pain every day. “I feel so much better now and so much more relaxed,” she says about the positive difference it’s made in her life.
“Aesthetically, I feel more confident; it restored my teeth back to a youthful appearance. I had so much damage to my teeth I couldn’t remember what my teeth looked like, but my mom says they look like they used to,” Carol laughs. “[Dr. Moreau] is an artist!”
Filed under: Health, IN Better Health, March-April 2012