Before I became your dentist in SW Portland, OR and was in dental school, the idea was to blend in and not challenge established concepts. While this may seem counterintuitive for trying to push the boundaries of learning, there was a good reason many of us students weren’t willing to challenge what our instructors taught in class. As the old Japanese proverb explains, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”
The best path towards getting your Doctorate in Dental Surgery was to simply keep your head down low, worked hard and try not to draw attention to yourself. Now, many years later, that same advice comes back to me as far more instructive than it was before.
The Science Behind a Healthy Bite
When we bite, our teeth are designed to absorb the impact of chewing and distribute the massive force out across all of our teeth. When properly aligned, our back teeth work to gnash and pulverize the food while the front teeth cut and tear. The jaw muscles work at a comfortable level, and all is right in the world. You can appreciate the taste of the food, or the conversation, or the scenery, or whatever, but you should not be thinking about actually chewing, which is all done subconsciously.
But if a tooth (well, actually at least two teeth since they oppose each other) hits earlier than its cohorts, those two teeth get bruised from absorbing the full impact of chewing. The tiny ligament that holds the tooth to the bone gets stretched and stressed, and the tooth begins to wiggle and feel sore. If the impact of the tooth is only minor, you may not even notice it the difference. Over time, however, little hints will begin to materialize. You may have deeper gum pockets around the stressed tooth when compared to those that chew normally. The tooth may begin to feel hollow when you tap on it, or it may become sensitive to hot or cold. As your chewing problems progress, little notches called abfractures may appear near the gum line. It can certainly upset your chewing comfort, and bring every bite into the conscious realm.
While this may already seem uncomfortable, chewing problems can cause even more serious long-term issues that can seriously impact your quality of life. Depending upon what teeth are hitting, where and how hard, the muscles may become stressed trying to align the lower jaw into the ideal chewing position. Your jaw muscles will tug and pull so the greatest number of teeth hit together at the same time. If they do this long enough, like during meals or when you are sleeping, the muscles become overworked and fatigued. Now, your chewing problems will become very apparent.
You can experience a range of symptoms that include:
- Tightness in the jaw, on one or both sides.
- Tension headaches that radiate up the side of you head or down along the neck.
- Eye spasms, facial tics or burning feelings.
- Pressure behind the eyeballs.
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
- Major postural issues, like spinal curvatures.
The list is truly surprising for its diversity of symptoms, but it can all relate very directly to the way your teeth fit together and the muscular response from chewing.
Your Dentist in SW Portland, OR Has a Life-Changing Answer
In the past, we have had fairly good results at Advanced Dental Arts NW in balancing the bite, left to right, and front to back, using computerized bite analysis called T-Scan. Using this technique, we could successfully treat a large majority of our patients by resetting their bite to a more comfortable position. T-Scan allowed us to see not only which teeth hit, but also in what order, for how long and how hard. It was revolutionary when we began to use it, and we have had great success with the technology over the last two decades.
Now T-Scan has an exciting new application. Extensive research of both the muscles and the teeth show the importance that an individual’s bite be aligned to clear all but the guiding tooth when you chew. However, this movement is impossible to measure without the computerized tracking provided by T-Scan. This new application is called “Disclusion Time Reduction”, or DTR, and is the most advanced dental technology available anywhere.
Your SW Portland dentist and our staff at Advanced Dental Arts NW have all undergone training with two of the developers of the system, and have successfully used DTR in the treatment of several patients in our 97201 dentist office. Within just a few hours the patients feel better and more relaxed. Headaches are either completely gone or largely reduced. They report sleeping better and feeling more comfortable throughout the day. Overall, patients experience significant differences to their quality of life almost immediately after completing treatment.
The most surprising thing to us is that many of the patients had no idea they were even uncomfortable – how can you describe comfort to someone who has been uncomfortable their entire life? Even if you could, why would they associate their lifetime of discomfort from problems caused by their teeth? When pain is all you know, how can you ever hope things could get better? The problem is like limping you entire life, only to discover that it is because you have a pebble in your shoe.
The most heart-warming things of all is for us to hear a patient tell us how wonderful they feel now, as though a great burden has been lifted from their shoulders (well, actually from their head).
The treatment itself is very easy on the patient. We provide a series of measurements, and polish the teeth to provide the necessary clearance. No numbing and only selectively recontouring of the necessary teeth is required. Most people are shocked at how very little of the tooth actually is removed, given the major life-changing improvements that they realize.
Please talk with Dr. T, especially if you feel like things are no quite correct. You may be very pleasantly surprised at what a huge difference removing the “nail that sticks out” can make in you life.