The Way Your Teeth Come Together Matters
Dec 01, 2014 08:31PM
● By Dr. Ray Behm
When visiting your dentist, there are two major concerns, two root causes of dental problems that should be part of any dental evaluation and known by you in making your health decisions. They are equally important.
The first concern is bacteria and other toxic interference, like metals, that in sufficient quantity can compromise the immune system and cause inflammation in the gums and other parts of the body, putting your teeth and health at risk.
The second important concern is the “bite force”. The teeth are part of a masticatory system involving many structural elements: the lower jaw, the fixed upper jaw, the jaw joint (TMJ), the cranioskeleton, and all of the connecting muscles and nerves that support the vital functions of eating and breathing. This chewing system, in turn, is intimately tied into all other systems in the body that depend on a healthy masticatory system for optimum functioning. If the teeth do not come together in a way that distributes the bite force evenly, structural misalignments can occur anywhere within that chewing system with reductions in strength and restriction of nerve, blood and oxygen flows.
Because they are complex, structural issues surrounding the “bite force” are not always given the importance they deserve, by dentists or patients. In our practice we see structure as THE foundation of dentistry! Establishing an ideal bite for each patient means finding the position of the jaw that most effectively handles the functional force of teeth that are coming together over 2000 times a day in eating, breathing, talking, and swallowing. A stable TMJ joint, a balanced and relaxed musculature, a correct jaw position, and teeth that mesh and equally distribute force, all enable a strong body with good blood and nerve flow.
Deterioration away from this ideal must be part of any diagnosis. We are looking for signs of a compromised structure. We see loose and missing teeth, flattened teeth from clenching or grinding, abfractions which are small notches or cracks at the gum line as the tooth “flexes” under excessive pressure, crowded teeth, a forward head position, or a bite that is too closed.
Patients with structural problems may talk about experiencing headaches or migraines, facial pain, clicking or popping in the jaw joint, shoulder, neck and back pain, or problems in swallowing and breathing at night.
Even without reported “symptoms”, the jaw structure requires examination. Any contemplated dental treatments—restorations, dentures, crowns or fillings that interfere with the bite, can either support good structure or unknowingly lock in a position that interferes with the masticatory system’s ability to correctly handle the bite force, opening the door to further complications, a weaker body and a compromised health potential.
But, how does the dentist know what is the proper bite position before beginning any treatment? Who is to say what is “right” for this patient? What reference position does the dentist use to rebuild an ideal occlusion when confronted with worn teeth, an unrecognized stressed position of the jaw joint, or an out-of-alignment body structure impinging on the masticatory system alignment?
In our Natural Dentistry office we have incorporated a technology that gives us objective information on the current status of the bite by measuring and recording jaw functions and the associated muscle status through various ranges of jaw motion. This Myotronics K7 evaluation system then allows us to relax patient facial muscles through a low frequency T.E.N.S. (Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation) which allows stressed jaw muscles to return to an ideal comfortable position which is used in creating a temporary mouthpiece worn by the patient to accustom the jaw to the new and comfortable position. It is also a correct alignment reference used in any other dental treatments and restorations.
Restoring structural balance to the bite and masticatory system is addressing the cause of many dental problems. Without this knowledge only the symptoms are seen and handled which may not lead to a lasting solution.
Now that you know, make sure to have your bite evaluated. The goal is to create an oral environment that eliminates dental wear and tear and promotes health!
Dr. Ray Behm, graduate of Emory University School of Dentistry 1968, was a U.S. Army Dentist during the Vietnam War. He became interested in Holistic Dentistry while practicing in Palm Beach. In 1986, he stopped using mercury amalgam fillings; in 1994, he stopped doing root canals. Today, Dr. Behm practices Holistic/Biological and Neuromuscular Dentistry at Behm Natural Dentistry, 127 N. Garden Ave., Clearwater, 727-446-6747, BehmNaturalDentistry.com. See ad page 27.