What happens if a person is born with one leg vastly shorter than the other? Having specially-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 leg, 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 way 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 closely at the photograph, 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, a dental colleague from Calgary, produced a white board presentation which explains the subject well.
You may be asking yourself, “How can an orthotic help with pain and tension in the head and ears?” Stay tuned…
Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!