Monthly Archives: August 2010

Neuro Muscular Dentistry and Posture – What is the connection?

Modern medicine has splintered into multiple specialties and subspecialties due to the need for expertise in a specific area. When I met a Pediatric Neuro Radiologist, I realized how far this phenomenon has gone.

Dentists also tend to think of themselves as tooth doctors due to our training. But the human body works as an integrated unit. So it is useful to think globally when treating our patients.

The human body delegates the automatic functions to the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This allows us to function in the voluntary realm of cortical functions.
Hence a stroke victim may “forget” how to walk.

The amount of input into this ANS is mind-boggling. There are up to 3 million bits of data processed by this system per second to keep our heart, lungs, temperature control, balance etc. etc. going. This affords us the luxury of conscious thoughts.

The single biggest contributor of data in to this system is the mouth area. When you look at it from a survival perspective, this makes sense. Alignment of the mandible impacts breathing, eating and swallowing. If these basic functions don’t work, the organism would not survive another day. So our Autonomic Nervous System will make whatever compensation necessary to facilitate these vital functions.

The muscles of mastication that control the movement and hence the posture of the mandible have to contract each time the teeth come in to occlusion. This occurs usually about 3000 times a day during swallowing. They also work in controlling the jaw movements during chewing.

Poor alignment of the lower jaw to upper jaw, position of the teeth or missing teeth necessitates these muscles to contract excessively. Then to maintain equilibrium, their antagonists need to contract as well.

What we call posture is nothing more than the dynamic equilibrium of opposing muscles that compensate for destabilizing forces such as gravity. If one muscle contacts, there has to be other muscles that help stabilize the body part to which the first muscle is attached. This, in turn, affects other muscles resulting in a domino effect. Neck, shoulder and back muscle spasms are often the result. This is called the Descending effect of posture. This often results in head aches, neck aches, back pain, ear pain, vertigo and other symptoms.

Here is the connection to Neuro Muscular Dentistry (NMD). A NM dentist diagnoses the mandibular (jaw) position where the masticatory muscles are unstrained. So the input in to the ANS is normalized. This, in turn, has normalizing influence over the entire ANS. This explains the profound homeostatic effect of Neuro Muscular Dental therapy. Fatigue and other non-specific symptoms are often resolved because of that.

Summary:

Autonomic Nervous System has a big role in posture. Fatigue, head aches, ear pain, neck aches, back pain may result from poor head and neck posture. Poorly aligned lower jaw (a bad bite) affects the head and neck posture.

Neuro Muscular Dentists correct the bite to a position where the jaw and neck muscles are unstrained. As such Neuro Muscular Dental therapy often corrects those symptoms from poor posture, not just manage the pain.

Key Words:

Neuro Muscular Dentistry, Fatigue, head aches, neck aches, back pain, ear pain, vertigo, bad bite, neck posture, head posture, muscles, equilibrium