Typically the tissues in the body that hurt chronically (over a long period of time) are muscles. If we run too much our leg muscles hurt. If we rake the leaves for the first time this year our shoulders will hurt. Head, back, and neck pain are 90 % of the time a muscle ache in that specific area. What is making these muscles hurt? Just like running too much and having sore legs, a headache or neck-ache is a group of muscles in the head or neck area that has been over-worked. Most all the muscles in the head and neck play a role in jaw movement and head positioning. This is where your dentist comes in and can be a valuable asset to helping people with chronic pain problems. Unfortunately, the teeth are the final determinates as to where the jaw must ultimately position itself to allow for mastication (eating and chewing) of food. If the teeth place our jaw in a position that makes the muscles moving it there work harder than normal, these muscles will ultimately hurt. Our jaw is hanging from our skull 24/7. If it’s not able to rest due to where it is positioned, we will develop chronic pain in these muscles. Try walking around with your hands over your head. After a few minutes, your muscles tire, ache a little, so you drop them down. Your arms weren’t hanging in the right place to allow the muscles in the arm and shoulders to rest periodically. Holding our arms in the normal position allows the supporting muscles of the arm to periodically relax and rest, therefore no pain develops. Jaw clenching, grinding of teeth, cracked teeth, and mal-aligned or crowded teeth, all can cause over working of your head and neck muscles due to improper positioning of the jaw. A dentist trained in Neuromuscular Dental techniques has the ability and the instrumentation to find the optimal relaxed jaw positions, then design a bite appliance specific for your situation, to give these muscles the chance to rest by directing the jaw to a more relaxed position. The results I’ve experienced with chronic pain patients has been phenomenal. Elimination of upper body aches and pain, improved sleep habits, improved productivity and awareness, decreases in snoring and best of all not living on an over-the-counter pain reliever.
It’s important that a dentist be able to recognize the issues with teeth and jaw positions that can cause a lot of these problems. A dentist trained in NeuroMuscular techniques can be a huge asset to a person suffering from chronic pain situations of the upper body.. Being trained in NeuroMuscular dentistry, I, as a regular part of my dental exams, do what I call a “pain exam”. It consists of questions designed to screen for chronic problems that may exist, but the patient may feel is a “normal” every day ache.
The questions cover these areas specifically:
• Clenching or grinding
• Pain or clicking and popping in Jaw joints
• Shoulder, neck, and back pain
• Numbness in arms and fingers
• Pain in and behind the eyes
• Facial pain
• Difficulty swallowing or frequent choking
• Ringing or congestion in the ears
• Sleeping disorders like insomnia, tossing and turning, and frequent waking
• Snoring and/or sleep apnea
• Chronic fatigue
If you are experiencing upper body pain as described above, consult with your dentist or give us a call here at Old Town Smiles and let us help you get out of pain.