Straight Teeth Talk: Teeth that don't fit
By Mac Lee
Jan. 31, 2012 at midnight
Updated Jan. 30, 2012 at 7:31 p.m.
What happens if a person is born with one leg vastly shorter than the other?
Having special-made shoes and boots help balance the person and help fool the brain and body into thinking that everything is even.
While it is quite obvious when leg length doesn't match the other, the same doesn't hold true when it comes to how the teeth fit.
What's interesting is that each problem can be treated the same by the use of an orthotic.
According to an Internet search, an orthosis is intended to mechanically compensate for a pathological condition.
If you look closely at the picture of the mouth, you can see that the left side is more open than the right. It's the same scenario of one leg being shorter than the other.
You can imagine all the stress and strain that can occur when this person bites down, chews or clinches their teeth. The right side hits first and in order to get the left side to hit, the muscles must pull the jaw in all kinds of contorted ways.
In reality, this is a pathological condition that destroys teeth, jaw joints and can create headaches, ear problems and neck aches.
When you really look close, you can see there is a plastic orthotic between the teeth.
This piece of plastic is thicker on the left side than the right so when this person bites down into the plastic, it fools the teeth, muscles, jaw joint and brain into thinking everything is even, just like the foot orthotic does.
Now that the body has balance, things begin to relax, teeth are less likely to be destroyed, pressure is taken off the joint, which helps clear the ears, the joints become more stable and muscles begin to relax.
And in many cases, the horrible, persistent tension headaches disappear.
The challenge for the dentist is to find out exactly where the jaw wants to be when it is in a balanced state.
Among the profession, there are different thoughts as to where that position should be. I personally have had more predictable success using what is called Neuromuscular Dentistry. You can learn more about the philosophy by going to Wikipedia. You can also go to youtube and search this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAdKVu6vS20). Dr. Curtis Westersund produced a white board presentation, which explains the subject well. Westersund is a good friend from Calgary and comes to Jackson County every year to enjoy our South Texas outdoor activities.
You may be asking yourself, "How can an orthotic help with pain and tension in the head and ears?"
I will cover that next month.
Mac Lee is a dentist in practice in Edna. He is the co-founder of Dentists Who Care, a national movement to educate the public on modern dentistry. If you have dental questions you can call him at 361-782-7191or visit him at drmaclee.com.