Every year, billions of dollars are spent on medication to relieve headaches. Billions more are lost due to time away from work for headache sufferers. Why do we have so many headaches and what can be done about them?
Janet Travell, M.D. was the White House Physician under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson who wrote the landmark textbook Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction. Dr. Travell estimated that 90% of pain in the head, neck, and face was due to painful muscles.
As dentists, we know that if the bite is not balanced, pain and other symptoms can develop. This is commonly known as TMD (or TMJ). Our jaw is supported by a sling of muscles that guide our teeth together in our habitual bite. If our bite is in harmony with our muscles, everything feels good. But if our muscles have to strain on a regular basis just to bring our bite together, symptoms can develop. These symptoms take the form of headaches, neck and shoulder pain, feelings of ear congestion, dizziness, and other symptoms not commonly considered “dental.”
How do we know if our symptoms are bite related and what can be done? First of all, it is always a good idea to check with your physician to make sure that nothing serious is going on. Next, talk to your dentist to find out if your symptoms could be related to your bite. If your bite is the problem, there is incredible technology available which allows your dentist to find the most comfortable position for your bite. Once this position is found, your dentist can make you an orthotic (nightguard) for you to wear which allows your jaw to rest in this most comfortable position. Oftentimes, just wearing the orthotic relieves the symptoms.
If it is decided that this comfortable jaw position is the correct position for you in the long run, your dentist can use braces or advanced dentistry to change your bite.
In the dental field, we have seen amazing advances in pain relief. If you think you may be suffering needlessly, talk to your dentist.
Dr. Bernstein is a longtime Piedmont resident in private practice 2 blocks from Cal Piedmont. He is a clinical instructor at the world renowned Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies and his practice focuses on Cosmetic Dentistry and 5-star guest services. Dr. Bernstein can be reached at 848-SMILE (848-7645) and at www.allnewsmiles.com.