Q: Dr. Crapo: My family has always had a challenge with their teeth, their ability to chew comfortably and headaches etc. My brother had the most severe problems and ultimately had all his teeth out, implants placed and bridgework, which seemed to resolve all his problems. He said it was the best money he has spent. My sister had similar problems – crowded teeth, headaches and teeth that meshed a dozen different ways but none were comfortable. She had her teeth crowned and straightened in the process and now she is headache free and can chew her food without fatigue, achiness, sensitivity and discomfort. I had the fewest of these problems but now I’m starting to experience similar symptoms. My teeth didn’t mesh as they should, I get headaches, my facial muscles are easily fatigued and after I eat I get aching in my joints. I don’t know where to start. My brother lives out of country and my sister is back east so I only get from them what they can explain on the phone. I know I must do something but where do I start?
A: With many symptoms it’s often very difficult to get started but there are good practices that will allow you to know the best treatment for you.
The first step is to find a dentist who is experienced in oral rehabilitation. This is someone who is trained and experienced in dealing with problems you’ve described for yourself and family.
In that office, a thorough health history, both medical and dental will be taken. Be very candid with them so they can make the best assessment.
Tests should be done to discover the health of your jaw joints (temporomandibular joints or TMJ) in such a way that any dental work will be stable, long lasting and functional. Simple clinical tests can be done to test your TMJ’s as well as good imaging done for your joints. In some offices three dimensional x-rays can be taken and interpreted. In some cases, MRI’s must be taken of the joints so that stability can be ascertained.
After that, analysis of your bite is made to see why you’re experiencing multiple positions in your bite. This requires molds of your teeth and these molds analyzed with special equipment to discover where your teeth meet when the joints are in their correct and most stable position.
From there, the dentist can outline a treatment protocol that will be helpful to you. As treatment proceeds, it will be staged so that your troublesome symptoms will begin to disappear. These procedures must be well demonstrated at the outset and as you proceed, an abatement of your symptoms will begin to occur.