Pain & Discomforts in Head & Neck
Are you one of the unfortunate millions who suffer from headache and migraine pain? Or are you close to someone who is? This pain can be debilitating and essentially wrecks one’s quality of life.
The good news is that we are starting to have a better understanding of the mechanisms and causes of head pain. And out of this has come treatments that have spared many sufferers from days of pain and loss of some of the enjoyments of life.
Our current understanding of the migraine phenomenon tells us that sufferers of this disability have, first of all, an elevated activity of the fight-or-flight (sympathetic) aspect of the nervous system. What’s more, their brain responds in unusual ways to any inputs coming in from surrounding blood vessels or other nerves. This may be a genetic trait, as migraines can run in a family.
The critical irritation that sets off the brain response can often come from the muscles that move the jaw.
If these muscles are over-used, they become hyper and internally bruised. This sends irritation messages back to the brain. Then the brain’s own wild reaction gets going.
Excess jaw activity leads to muscle damage.
Special Dental Appliances
We can custom fit you with a specialized appliance (called an orthotic) which relaxes these muscles and cut down on their trauma. That cuts down the irritating messages that the brain receives. And THAT cuts down on the cascade leading to migraine headache. See the Dental Key below.
There are a lot of technical terms in the next picture, don’t let them confuse you. What we see here is a feedback loop.
The brain sends out signals to the blood vessels surrounding the brain. Then signals come back to the brain from these vessels.
A ‘hyper’ type brain causes these signals to amplify. Pretty soon it’s like kids at a party. As one kid starts shouting, pretty soon they all start screaming. As the signals grow, all sorts of wild things start happening in the brain, and here comes the headache…
As a migraine attack begins, a wave of lowered activity sweeps over the brain and generates a chemical byproduct called nitric oxide (NO).
These chemicals are passed down the blood vessels of the head and can lead to swelling of the membranes of the sinus, for instance. Then people start complaining about sinus infection, when, in fact, the sinus is completly healthy.
The Dental Key
But the good news is that we can really boost our ability to control migraine pain by providing the patient with a custom fitted dental orthotic.
That interrupts damaging habits and extraneous forces that lead to muscle and joint damage. As a result, the brain does not receive the same irritating inputs. So migraine pain can be cut far more than what one is able to accomplish with medications alone.
The same is true for many headaches: they start with chronic damage to muscles. This usually comes from clenching and grinding the teeth, often in the sleep. The lighter you sleep, the more clenching and grinding you do.
The more stress you have, the more active is your sympathetic fight-or-flight nervous system. And that leads to lighter sleep. So, in a way, stress IS related to headaches.
The bottom line? If we can control the forces that you are able to generate during sleep, we can often lower the noxious input to the brain that acts as a trigger for head pain.
The following three cases are examples of how those who suffer from migraines can be helped:
Alan is 68 and has a history of migraine headaches 6-10 times per month for the past 25 years. “I had seen every imaginable type of doctor in the country, including the Mayo clinic. Nothing would stop the headaches; all they could do was try to control the pain with drugs. It got to the point where I had to carry narcotics with me everywhere I went.”
Alan was treated using neuromuscular dentistry and is now virtually headache free. “I am so happy with the results of my treatment. I am practically headache free and don’t have to take any headache medications anymore. What a relief after all these years.”
Barbara is a 43 yr old single mom with a history of headaches and stiff neck for the past 7 years. She had seen numerous physicians, specialists, chiropractors and acupuncturists over the years. “Nobody was able to stop the headaches and I haven’t been able to move my neck completely for 1 and ½ years. I had to miss my 10 year olds birthday party because of a migraine.”
When Barbara arrived at the dental office, she had a severe headache and a knot the size of a golf ball in the muscles of her neck. We used the TENS unit on her for 1 hr. “I couldn’t believe it. My headache had disappeared, the knot in my neck was gone, and I could move my neck from side to side for the first time in a year and a half.” Barbara has been virtually pain free for the last 3 months, and is extremely happy with the results of her orthotic use. “I can’t wait to have my mouth restored.”
Diann had occasional migraines until two years ago. ”I was at a comedy club with my husband and I felt a migraine coming on. We left the club, went home and I went to bed. Ever since then, the migraines have been pretty much all the time for the last two years.” Diann had been to numerous doctors with no resolution. “They kept telling me that all they could do was give me pain medication.
Then I heard about neuromuscular dentistry. My husband didn’t think anything would work, but I really wanted to try it. I am so glad that I did. My headaches have been reduced to about 1 every 6 weeks, and even my husband, the skeptic, is amazed at the improvement. I am religious about wearing my orthotic and feel great.”
Do you or someone you know suffer from chronic headaches or migraines?
Usually these people have seen many different kinds of doctors and health care providers, with little if any relief. The best most of the doctors can do is treat their symptoms, oftentimes with drugs, but the cause of the problem still persists.
Ever thought about seeing your dentist for a migraine? Well that is just one of the conditions that Neuromuscular (neuro means nerves, muscular means muscles) dentistry is being used to treat.
Neuromuscular dentistry is one of the new technologies available in dentistry today. It is different from regular dentistry in that it focuses on the muscles of the jaw and neck and how they are related to the teeth.