A couple of months ago, a dentist friend and I were chatting, and I could not help but notice his bite. His teeth were all tipped inward, with the front ones overlapping each other, and his lower jaw looked in profile as though it was being forced back. These are all common indications of what we call a “trapped mandible”, where the teeth prevent the lower jaw from functioning as the muscles want it to, and can cause a wide range of maladies, from grinding and clenching to TMJ pain and dental abfractures. Surprisingly, though, this dentist was experiencing none of these.
What he did admit to, however, was the wearing of a nighttime bite plate, which served to keep his teeth apart and to open his airway. He did this because it gave him a more relaxed and deeper sleep, and he would awake feeling better. These were enough reasons for him to wear the appliance every night, and to believe that it was working well.
At our insistence, we made him a very basic appliance, of our own design. This appliance, soft, pliable, and comfortable, functions to allow the lower jaw to “float” to where the muscles want it to be; it merely takes the “bite” of the teeth out of the positioning of the muscles. He was skeptical from the start, agreeing to try it primarily because of our friendship, but not really sold on how it would work. He was less hesitant because this is completely reversible, and has no potential to do any harm to anything.
The next morning, we had expected to hear from him, but there were no emails, no texts or phone messages, nothing. We were disappointed, of course, because he appeared to be an ideal candidate, and because we really believed we could help him, but we decided to wait to hear from him, next time we got together.
One week later, we got one of the most uplifting emails of recent years. His jaw felt like it never had before, his entire face was more relaxed, and he was sleeping like a baby. His teeth were less sensitive, and he was having no problems breathing at night. It was a huge and quantifiable sea-change in his life, and he was tremendously excited about it.
It turns out, he wanted to make certain it was the appliance, so he switched nights wearing it, but always with the beneficial results outlined above. His old night guard now seemed bulky and cumbersome, but also did not give the same degree of rest and comfort our appliance did. He wanted us to get his teeth aligned so that he would not have to wear any appliance, and we began straightening his teeth shortly thereafter.
Less than five weeks into treatment, he came in, with his eyes aglow. “It was incredible,” he said, “one day last week, my sinuses suddenly opened, so fast that I could feel them clearing! Air flowed through like I never had experienced before. It was amazing!” His step had a bounce in it, his smile extended effortlessly, he exuded positive energy. Anyone could have seen the change, it was that dramatic.
This from a dentist with over twenty years experience, doing high end restorative work. He has seen, as all dentists have, countless people who did not talk about their problems because, to those people, they did not have a problem. It has traditionally not been taught in dental schools, or anywhere really, but how the teeth fit together affects everything from, literally, your head to your toes. And so, from this experience, arises a very obvious question.
“How Do You Know What Comfort Is, if you have never experienced it?”
It is, of course, a question that cannot be answered, like trying to imagine what some food would taste or smell like, merely from a photograph, or trying to envision what snow is like if you have been raised in the tropics. Most people not only cannot imagine significantly greater comfort, but they do not even realize they are in discomfort at all. People tend to judge their health based on their past experiences, and if their entire life has been restricted to one level, they accept that level as “normal”, and base any deviation from that as “better” or “worse”. The absolute possibility of something vastly better is out of their experience, and hence not imaginable.
It is much like Dorothy, in the “Wizard of Oz”, finding herself in MunchkinLand, with all the black and white life before that suddenly being altered into full Technicolor! Her eyes were suddenly opened to the fact that she had been blind to so much color and wonder and vitality, to fun and excitement, and it took her a long time to even comprehend the difference.
And so it goes, with all of us. We have a natural tendency to accept things as they are, simply because they have always, to us, been that way. Each of us, every day, mutters to ourselves that “this is as good as it gets”. But it ain’t necessarily so, and there’s at least one more dentist out there who realizes that.
Because change for the better is always possible, and you don’t even know what you don’t even know. Even with regard to your teeth. Even with regard to your own comfort. And even especially with what can be done, non-invasively and simply, to improve your comfort, your appearance, and your life.
Please let us know if you would like to explore a world of greater comfort and esthetics. Because, once you know what is possible, you will not look at anything in the same way. Like Dorothy observed, when the magnitude of the differences soaked in, “I have the feeling we are not in Kansas anymore, Toto!”