Headaches, neck and back pain or just looking old? Been everywhere, done everything and resigned yourself to the fact that you will suffer for the rest of your life? Are you rattling with medication that helps one thing but makes another worse? Fed up with the ageing process and wondering whatever happened to youth and vitality, questioning why the get up and go has got up and gone and with it the promise of growing old gracefully? How are your teeth?
Over the last twenty five years I have been treating head, neck and back pain of dental origin. A little known fact is that the teeth help to stabilise the neck and back. We all know this from lifting a heavy object. The first thing that we do is grit our teeth together to lock and stabilise the body ready for lifting. Imagine you have no teeth or the height of the bite is wrong, then the lower jaw will keep on travelling until it hits something. Unfortunaltely this rather haphazard arrangement is not conducive to good biomechanics and you end up with a stiff neck, frozen shoulder, Bellís palsy or all of the above!
Loss of teeth can result in damage not only to the jaw joints but also the bones of the neck. It was researcher Casey Guzay, a physicist, who worked out the relationship between the jaw and the neck. He showed that as the bite deteriorates due to tooth loss or unfavourable dental restorations, the neck suffers. The bite no longer stabilises the neck and normal articular movements of the cervical spine are changed.This change brings with it pathology and a breakdown of the articular surfaces of the vertebrae leading to pain, suffering and perhaps arthritis. Normalisation of the bite helps reduce the wear and tear between each bone while also reducing pain in the neck and back.
The head and shoulder pain is mostly muscular in origin. With the poor bite the muscles can no longer work at their normal working and resting lengths. These muscles are asked to do a job that they werenít designed for. The result, headaches plus a sore stiff neck and shoulders. Often as we grow older the headaches reduce but the neck and shoulder pain persists.
So what can we do? Well according to Austrian Hungarian Endocrinologist, Dr Hans Selye MD, we need to reduce the stress on the system. We need to restore the bite to itís former glory, or at least as near as we can. This means that for those with full dentures, the dentures need to be constructed at the correct height. It is not sufficient to replace old denutres for new at the habitual height of the bite. The bite needs to be so constructed that the lower jaw is in a more correct position relative to the jaw joints and neck. This allows the neck and back to normalise and with some help from a physiotherapist, chiropractor, osteopath or body worker brings back function and mobility to the head and neck.
For those of you who still have some teeth, you need to get the missing ones replaced with dentures, bridges or even implants. For the worn down bite, crowns, inlays or building up the bite with white filling material will stabilise the bite, jaw and neck.
It may be important to rebuild the bite in two stages. While this is not always neccesary, in more difficult cases it helps to rule out guesswork. I have used dental splints for many years in this context. They are relatively easy to construct and can be thrown away at the end of treatment. These splints are modifed at each visit until the desired height and function is obtained. Once this has been achieved then permanent work can be carried out. Many patients stay with splints and take the treatment no further. For this reason our laboratory is working on hybrid appliances that are aesthetically more pleasing.
Talking of aesthetics, one of the problems with losing teeth is the change in facial appearance. Whether the teeth have gone or are just worn down the cosmetic result is the same. Lines, wrinkles and a grumpy countenance! Restoring the height of the bite often works as a non surgical face lift, increasing muscle activity and smoothing out those lines. While I am looking to restore good function, the cosmetic result is not such a bad bi-product.
So if you are suffereing, head, neck and back pain or simply just donít like the way you look then find a dentist who can help you make the changes that could change your life and bring joy back into your life. Be blessed.