We discovered last month that where there is a little bit of disease, it always leads to a little more. Discovery and listening to a patient’s story is always the key to figuring out how to best help someone. It is not about applying a fix – rather, it is about helping people make the best decisions that are in their own best self-interests. If you listen long enough and drill down deep enough, they will discover the underlying causes and give you their best treatment plan.
As we learned, Ruth Ann discovered what she had been doing with her jaws on a daily basis for many years. It didn’t just start overnight. She found that the muscles of her face were constantly in tension, leading to wrinkles around the corners of her mouth, “crow’s feet” around her eyes, and dull headaches. Her diagnosis became an unstable relationship between her bite and her jaw joints. This is called TMD (temporomandibular dysfunction).
We know that there is a direct correlation between the health of the joint and the bite (way the teeth fit together). This is the key to stabilizing the joint and relaxing the inflamed muscles – keeping the teeth apart and allowing the jaw joints to center themselves in the socket, a stable position. If this is not done, the joint will continue to deteriorate and the system fail over time. Other signs and symptoms of an unstable bite/ joint relationship are one or more of the following:
- Headaches • Neck and / or shoulder pain
- Facial muscle pain
- Facial muscle tension
- Earaches / pain
- Tooth wear, gum recession
- Unexplained tooth or mouth pain
Ruth Ann experienced any number of these.
C2O (Condylar Centering Orthotic) therapy is a proven and predictable way to stabilize the jaw joint. The C2O is an acrylic horseshoe – shaped splint. It looks like a night guard, but it is NOT A NIGHT GUARD. The C2O must be worn 24/7 for stability to occur. It is best to wear even when eating and only removed to brush and floss.
C2O THERAPY allows us to stabilize the joint as we make calculated adjustments of the orthotic weekly, thereby allowing the TMJ to move back into a healthy position. Often our patients see relief in discomfort within the first weeks of wearing a C2O. In many cases, we achieve complete cessation of adverse and painful symptoms with C2O THERAPY.
While C2O THERAPY is therapeutic, it is not a cure. Orthotic therapy is recommended because either your teeth or your TMJ exhibit signs and symptoms indicating instability between the teeth and jaw joint. Other symptoms that may or may not occur due to this instability include fractured or broken teeth, split teeth, bone loss and even gum disease.
The primary purpose for C2O THERAPY is to stabilize the TMJ’s so that and accurate diagnosis and treatment plan can be made and developed. A secondary benefit to splint therapy is that more often than not, some of the above mentioned symptoms can be reduced or even eliminated. Once the diagnosis is made (usually 4-12 weeks, although some cases can take longer), we can make a FINAL DIAGNOSIS and begin to treat the teeth and joints so that you don’t have to wear the C2O full time, but can use it as a night guard.
Treatment may include any one or a combination of the following:
- Adjusting and reshaping teeth
- Composite adhesive dentistry
- Crowns / veneers
- Jaw surgery / not TMJ surgery
An accurate diagnosis will allow us to properly restore the bite to avoid tooth breakage and wear, eliminate the facial pain, and minimize the amount of dental treatment that would be needed in the future.
Long term health, minimal treatment, and saving money are the three biggest benefits to obtaining a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Ruth Ann is no exception. As she wore her orthotic full time over the past few months, she began to understand what was going on with her teeth, how the joints, teeth and muscles had to work in harmony, and how that affected her overall health. Now that she and I have discovered where the system was failing, we can move on to correcting the system properly for the best esthetics, function and durability.
Next time: The Correction – Achieving stability with a New Look.
Dr. Robin P. Steely, DDS, provides exceptional services for Battle Creek, Kalamazoo and surrounding Southwest Michigan communities. Dr. Steely’s passion is Oral Fitness Coaching – partnering with people who wish to transform the quality of their lives and pursue a lifetime of health and wellness. http://www.steelydds.com/