Jaw pain can happen all of a sudden, or it can start off as mild pain and become more intense over time. It is more often described as a throbbing, uncomfortable pain. The exact symptoms vary depending on the root cause. Neuromuscular dentistry is dedicated to realigning the jaw to relieve temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and fix malocclusion, commonly known as a bad bite. 

If you are diagnosed with TMJ disorder, the condition may be very painful. If your bite is misaligned, you might be doing irreversible damage to your jaw and teeth. 

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In such a scenario, neuromuscular dentistry or NMD is your best option for a long-term solution with proven results. If you’ve tried all the common options but the pain persists, NMD is the only option left.  

So the next question that arises is what NMD is? We have put together this article to explain how it is different and how to tell if it is the right option for you.

What is Neuromuscular Dentistry?

NMD is a specialized area of dental treatment that focuses on the correction of jaw misalignment. Your neuromuscular dentist will determine the optimal position of your jaw in order to correct misalignments. They adjust your jaw such that the upper and lower teeth come together (occlusion). 

NMD is actually a non-invasive technique that focuses on correcting the TMJ problem at the grass root level. Instead of merely treating the symptoms to relieve pain temporarily.

In simple terms, NMD is the approach where all the three components of the human body, like teeth, muscles (associated nerves) and joints, are considered as an independent unit and treated accordingly. 

As you are aware, the goal of every dentist is to preserve the health of the patients’ masticatory system. So does neuromuscular dentists. After a restorative treatment is provided, neuromuscular dentists anticipate the long-term results.

Neuromuscular dentists aim to realign your jaw joint through cosmetic dental restoration procedures. Other treatment procedures are tooth recontouring (equilibration) or orthodontics, where they strive to alleviate stress from the jaw muscles. In addition, they try to reduce painful symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD).

NMD lays emphasis on the principles of gravity while determining the bite when the jaw muscles are in their relaxed positions. This makes it different from other occlusion treatment procedures. NMD looks at the entire system which controls the functioning and positioning of your jaw. 

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Why is Neuromuscular Dentistry Important?

NMD is the detailed study or the science involved in creating a harmonious relationship among the muscles of mastication, the temporomandibular joint and the teeth. The resultant jaw position is referred to as the neuromuscular bite. So that none of the components are compromised. It enables the dentist to practice more precisely, keeping the general well-being of the patient in mind. 

NMD basically accounts for the three dimensions that together make up the masticatory system of the chewing system. They are the teeth, the muscles and the temporomandibular joints (TMJs). 

Conventional dentistry only accounts for two – the teeth and TMJs. But, without the muscles, this system would be static and unable to function.

The state of your teeth and the joints often cause the muscles to accommodate for an improper bite. This can lead to intense, chronic pain for the sufferer. By evaluating the physiologic function of your jaw, your dentist can better align the bones and muscles to avoid pain and discomfort.

Neuromuscular dentists clearly understand that your bad bite and poor posture can cause persistent pain.  So they align their treatment to find the optimal bite for your teeth, muscles, bones, and tendons. This is done to overcome any kind of dysfunctioning of your jaw. The end result? You will get a corrected bite that reduces or eliminates TMJ pain and tooth damage.

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Neuromuscular Dental Diagnosis 

In the first step, your dentist will use X-rays or digital radiographs to study the position and the condition of your jaw joints. In the next step, several diagnostic technologies will be used to determine the ideal position of your jaw (jaw tracking). This will analyze the steps to fix the TMD symptoms. These technologies include:

  • Computerized equipment that would record a person’s jaw’s resting position, how the jaw closes, and any other movements of the jaw.
  • Electromyography (EMG) to measure the relaxed and stressed parts of your jaw muscles, as well as to identify any structural defects in your jaw joint.
  • Sonography and Joint Vibration Analysis to record jaw joint sounds and analyze the presence of any abnormalities.

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Neuromuscular Dentistry: Treatments Involved

Your neuromuscular dentist can help address the exact reason for jaw misalignments. The reason can be diverse, ranging whether it is jaw joint, muscle or tooth position issue. 

Dentists will design a customized plan for you to correct the bite’s abnormalities. By allowing the jaws to go to their optimal positions.

Dentists can suggest using Ultra Low-Frequency Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation (ULF-TENS). ULF-TENS will provide much-needed relief for your muscle spasm and pain. During the treatment electrodes are placed on your jaw, neck, and shoulder area. Then a mild electrical stimulation is given repeatedly. This mechanism contracts the jaw muscles to relax them.

Adjustments to your bite can be accomplished using a splint or mouth guard until the bite has been permanently stabilized. In some cases, you might require orthodontic work to ensure proper alignment. These could also be dental restorations such as dental crowns or tooth recontouring.

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Neuromuscular Dentistry: Treatment of Malocclusion

Malocclusion of the teeth occurs when your teeth are misaligned. This can lead to oral health complications if left untreated. Malocclusion refers to any irregular contact between the upper and lower teeth. Your neuromuscular dentist can only fix this issue. 

It can manifest as an open bite, overbite, underbite or crossbite. Your dentist will evaluate your occlusion during your dental visits. Then he will recommend the right kind of treatment you might require.  

Proper alignment of the jaws helps in effective chewing, meaning proper opening and closing of your jaw. It also helps in the distribution of biting forces equally over all your teeth. If this balance is not ideal, then malocclusion can lead to broken teeth and even tooth loss over some time. 

There are several causes of malocclusion, which includes the following:

  • The mismatch between jaw size and size of teeth.
  • Thumb sucking or tongue thrusting habit.
  • Premature or congenital loss of or missing teeth.

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Neuromuscular Dentistry: Occlusal Diseases

The alignment of your teeth is called occlusion. Normally, your teeth should fit easily inside your mouth without any crowding or spacing concerns. 

Your teeth should not be severely twisted or rotated. Your upper jaw teeth should slightly overlap with your lower jaw teeth. So that the pointed ridges of your upper molars fit into the grooves of your opposite molars. 

When there is change in alignment of your typical occlusion it is known as malocclusion. The types of changes vary, but any misalignment is essential to address. The three categories of malocclusion. 

  1. Class I – In this scenario, your teeth will have spaces between them, will be rotated or crowded, and the upper and lower jaw will not meet correctly. 
  2. Class II – It is the most common form of malocclusion. In this case, the lower jaw is far back, which causes an overbite and a poor molar relationship. 
  3. Class III – In this scenario, the lower jaw is protruding out, thereby causing an underbite. In such scenarios, the lower teeth close in front of the upper teeth. If the condition is not treated, it will lead to tooth damage and difficulties in speaking and chewing. Due to this improper bite one can have problems in the temporomandibular joint causing pain and chewing difficulty.

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When to Consult a Neuromuscular Dentist

Among all kinds of dentists, only a few of them receive formal university training to become a neuromuscular dentist. If you develop a chronic temporomandibular disorder, you should first consult your dentist. 

Your dentist would get you the appropriate referral. Before permanently repositioning your jaw from a neuromuscular dentist, you should discuss several treatment opinions with other dental specialists.

If you experience pain, schedule a visit to your regular dentist. He or she will prescribe the best course of action to obtain. But if you have a bad bite, then you need to seek help from a neuromuscular dentist.

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Is Neuromuscular Dentistry Right for You?

During the initial visits, your neuromuscular dentists will gather data about your bite pattern. Your dentist will closely observe your TMJ signs and symptoms. He will also take radiographs of your jaw and teeth to identify the problem. 

Your dentist will use all this information to come up with a specialized treatment plan to realign your bite. The treatment will also help shift your teeth to their optimal location. By evaluating how your jaw, teeth, and muscles fit together, your neuromuscular dentist will find the jaw position that is best for your mouth.

Remember that this non-invasive technique will offer a long-term solution. Which would eliminate jaw pain, headaches, and other issues associated with TMJ. If you are suffering from TMJ, this non-invasive technique might be the solution you need to fix your bite and start living again.