Straight teeth talk: Bad bite can cause head, neck pain

Feb. 28, 2011 at midnight
Updated Feb. 28, 2011 at 9:01 p.m.

Broken down teeth due to strong bite.

Broken down teeth due to strong bite.

By Mac Lee

Editors note: This is the second part of in series about bad bites and what they do. The first of the series can be found on

Last month, I wrote about neuromuscular dentistry, a technology that allows dentists to track a jaw as it opens and closes, the same as an air traffic controller can monitor a plane approaching a landing strip. If a plane is making a wrong approach, the air traffic controller will guide it in correctly. In the mouth, the brain is the control tower, and the muscles are the pilot. If a person has a bad bite, meaning the teeth hit wrong, the brain keeps telling the muscle to constantly "pull up," "down to the left," "back up again." Over a long period of time, these overworked muscles become fatigued and cause severe pain in the head and neck.

Not all bad bites lead to pain. The pictures are of a 65-year-old male, who has had a bad bite all of his adult life, but never has headaches.

So what caused the broken teeth? Why no pain? For some reason, his brain did not tell the jaw to slow down and hit softly and evenly. Using the same airplane analogy, it could be said there was no communication between the control tower and this person's airplane, coming in hard and fast, nose first.

Over time, the result of endless hard landings finally destroyed the plane, in this case, teeth. Instead of the muscles pulling his jaw back to soften the blow, it was more like, "Damn the torpedoes," which led to the extreme breakage seen in the picture. And, yes, it may be hard to believe, but the teeth did all of the damage to themselves, there were no falls or accidents.

The concern dentists have in treating cases like this is predictability, meaning will the recommended solution last or break, eventually having the same result as the natural teeth. The first step is to recognize the cause and the effect it had on the teeth and mouth. Then, determine the best solution, which is also based on what the patient wants as the end result. In this case, the patient chose to have a beautiful, functional smile. What you see in the picture are the new, all porcelain crowns on his natural teeth.

You may be wondering, won't this just cover up the problem if the person still has a bad bite? The answer would be yes, but using neuromuscular technology the patient's muscles and jaw position were precisely measured and their new porcelain crowns were placed at their correct bite position.

The patient's concern is also predictability. They want their new teeth to:

Fit better

Look better

Be more comfortable

Last longer

They also want to feel good about their investment of time and money. Being able to measure muscles and jaw position with neuromuscular technology is just one more way to be more predictable, which in turn helps put concerns at bay.

Dr. Mac Lee practices dentistry in Edna. His website, is dedicated to sharing common sense dental education for the public. If you have dental questions, please visit the site or call him at 361-782-7191.



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