New Orleans Dental Center Newsletter
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DO YOU SUFFER FROM HEADACHES OR MIGRAINES?
WE MAY BE ABLE TO HELP!!!
Most people who have migraine or other headaches see their physicians for treatment, and many thousands of prescriptions are written annually, to relieve the symptoms. We have seen many patients who have been seen by family doctors, neurologists and ear/ nose/throat specialists, with still no cause determined for their headaches. Dr. Landry can remember a time when "migraine" headache was the term physicians used it when they didn't know the cause of a severe headache. In fact, some experts estimate that over 80% of migraine headaches are related to the way a person's upper and lower teeth meet in the "bite" (or, "occlusion," in dental jargon).
It's true that a "bad bite," (or "malocclusion") can actually put the jaw joints (temporomandibular joints or "TMJ's"), into a position that contributes to headaches. There are many muscles, in a complex system, which play an important part in posturing and closing the jaw. If the occlusion isn't right, it can lead to abnormal tension in these muscles. The muscles may remain tense for long periods of time. When the contracted muscles don't get a chance to rest, they soon suffer from poor blood circulation, with a lack of needed oxygen and an accumulation of waste products. The result can be severe and/or frequent headaches. Other symptoms, such as neck pain, ear pain and ringing in the ear, soreness in the muscles of the face, and even shoulder pain and back pain, can be traced back to a malocclusion.
The American Academy of Craniofacial Pain website has another, very good explanation of this process, at http://www.aacfp.org/headaches.html. New technology allows us to objectively evaluate the state of the joints, muscles and various other factors that affect the occlusion. A more ideal bite position can be determined, thus allowing facial muscles the ability to relax and the elimination of chronic headache pain.
The first step in treating these types of symptoms in our office is a thorough study of your occlusion and joint positions. We take several records, such as impressions of your teeth to make study models for our study of your "bite;" photographs of your teeth and face; a thorough clinical exam, which includes determining which muscles are sore; and most importantly, a CT scan, which gives a three-dimensional view of your skull, including the TMJ's. This technology allows us to see the positions of your joints better than we have ever been able to see them in the past. We even study your childhood growth pattern with cephalometric studies created by the CT scan. We take into consideration how you chew, talk, breathe, and swallow (in other words, how you function), how you grew as a child, as well as how your back teeth come together, as in chewing or swallowing. All of this information is important in making a proper diagnosis of your situation.
If it is determined that TMJ dysfunction is present, we create a plan to establish comfort, function and esthetics. Typically, we begin with a stabilization phase. Many of the TMJ's that we see are actually "dislocated" in their socket; so, the first phase involves the beginning of healing for the joints. If a problem is present with a joint in another part of the body, it might be stabilized with a cast or device to hold it in position to heal. Since we can't put your jaw joints in a cast, we use a mandibular repositioning appliance, more commonly known as a "splint," custom made for you. This splint fits between the upper and lower teeth and holds the jaws in a position that is conducive for muscle relaxation and joint healing. Typically, we see pain symptoms go away within a few days of wearing the splint. Many of the improvements we have seen have been dramatic.
The next step is to determine a treatment plan to put the teeth into a position where the muscles and joints are comfortable. There are several options, depending on the condition of the teeth. For instance, if the teeth are healthy, then orthodontic treatment (braces) can be an option. The braces would be used to reposition the bite in a position more favorable for the health of the TMJ's. However, if the teeth are badly broken down with decay, are severely worn and/or have several large fillings, then full mouth reconstruction would be indicated. We use crowns to rebuild the teeth and finish with a bite that better supports the TMJ's. There are also other alternatives that can be done to maintain comfort, that don't involve as much treatment and are less expensive than braces or full mouth reconstruction.
We would be happy to see you at our office for a complimentary consultation to determine if you would be a good candidate for a TMJ study. If so, just mention that you read this article, and we will do your study at 50% off of our standard fee. You'll be glad you called our office.
We invite you to visit our website, NewOrleansDentalCenter.com to view some before and after pictures of some of our patients. We also have more information available for you on the subject, upon request. If you've been suffering from "migraine" headaches, contact us today at 347-6000 and we can get you on the road toward a healthy, pain-free life with that beautiful smile you've always wanted.
Drs. Landry and Maes
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