What is Neuromuscular Dentistry?

Elva K.

Introduced by Dr. Bernard Jenkelson in the 1960s, neuromuscular dentistry involves correcting bite anomalies by enabling the jaw to go to its optimal position. Neuromuscular dentistry is distinguished by its focus on gravity determining where jaw muscles feel more relaxed. Neuromuscular dentists focus on correcting problems with jaw alignment which result in lower and upper teeth coming together unevenly. For example, neuromuscular dentists often treat painful conditions involving the jaw and teeth, such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), which involves very painful symptoms such as migraine headaches, face pain, tinnitus, dizziness, and Bell’s palsy.

The parts of a tooth.
The parts of a tooth.

Diagnosis in neuromuscular dentistry involves the use of various kinds of medical tools. For instance, tools such as X-rays, digital radiographs, electromyography (EMG), and sonography are used. X-rays and digital radiographs take detailed pictures of the face, jaw, mouth, and teeth. Electromyography (EMG) measures both the stress position and relaxation position of jaw musculature and identifies any jaw structural problems present. Sonography is used to record the sounds the jaw joint makes,and it can be used to ascertain whether any jaw anomalies are present.

Mouth guards stabilize the bite position.
Mouth guards stabilize the bite position.

Treatment in neuromuscular dentistry involves use of techniques such as dental restoration, tooth recontouring, and other orthodontic work; however, other tools are also used. For instance, ultra low frequency transcutaneous electrical neural stimulation (ULF-TENS), splints, and mouth guards are used. ULF-TENS treatment requires placement of electrodes on the jaw, shoulder, and neck areas and it involves transmission of electrical stimulation. The result of this is that the electricity contracts and relaxes the muscles of the jaw.

Splints, mouth guards, or orthotics are used also. Mouth guards and splints serve the purpose of stabilizing the bite position. Orthotics may be worn for up to six months to enable realignment of the jaw.

Individuals wanting to pursue neuromuscular dentistry as a career typically attend college and then attend dental school. Neuromuscular dentistry as a specialty is competitive. Thus, individuals who pursue this profession tend to have an excellent grade point average (GPA) in college and in dental school.

This profession is very lucrative. Some cases are relatively uncomplicated; however, sometimes, the cost of getting treatment from neuromuscular dentists can go up to $45,000 US Dollars (USD) or more because some patient cases may necessitate total mouth reconstruction. In addition, specialized treatment such as crown lengthening or periodontal treatment may be needed.

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