Ending the Daily Grind
TMD causes an assortment of painful symptoms, including teeth grinding. Fear not—neuromuscular dentistry can help you get your ideal bite back.
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Doreen Palucci knew she had a jaw problem, but she didn’t think it was related to the migraine headaches she had begun to experience at the onset of menopause three years ago.
“I thought it was hormonal. So did my doctors,” says Palucci, 49, of Middletown.
While being treated for a toothache, Palucci mentioned the migraines to Dr. Richard J. Carroccia of Dental Associates in North Wilmington.
Rather than doing the standard root canal, Carroccia performed a neuromuscular evaluation. It determined the toothache and migraines were caused by temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD), an inflammation of the muscles, tissues and nerve endings of the skull.
Since Palucci was fitted with an orthotic, the problems have almost disappeared.
“I’ll get a headache every so often that’s triggered by a certain food or the weather,” she says, “but it’s not daily, nor is it as intense, which is unbelievable.”
More than 10 million Americans suffer from TMD, and 90 percent of those are women in their childbearing years, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health.
In addition to severe toothaches, TMD symptoms can include a clicking jaw, shoulder, neck and back pain, earaches, tinnitus, sinus problems and blurred vision.
Neuromuscular dentistry aligns a patient’s bite to relieve the symptoms. Whereas traditional dentistry has focused on the teeth, bones and gums, neuromuscular dentistry focuses on the nerves and muscles responsible for moving the lower jaw and joints. The goal is to achieve a balance between the jawbone and the skull.
When you bite down, your teeth fit together like puzzle pieces. The bite forces your muscles and jaw into a position that may not be ideal, which can lead to muscle spasms and inflammation of the temporomandibular joint, Carroccia says.
Teeth grinding is often a response to the muscle spasms. Grinding wears down the teeth, which shortens the muscles. This increases the tension in the muscles and force on the teeth, resulting in chipped and broken teeth.
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