What is Neuromuscular Dentistry? – Let’s Find Out

Temporomandibular disorders and malocclusions are an increasing cause of worry among the population.

In the past, several approaches have been tried to resolve these dental problems, but nothing helped to correct the malocclusions effectively.

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However, with the evolution in dentistry, new techniques are being put to the test to see the change in results. One of them is Neuromuscular Dentistry.

Neuromuscular dentistry is a therapy that focuses on realigning the jaw and correcting temporomandibular disorders in the patient.

In this cutting edge procedure, the dentist can determine how much repositioning is required. Such techniques automatically relieve the stress of malocclusion on the temporomandibular joint.

Electronic instruments like sonography, electromyography and jaw tracker are used to measure the degree of malocclusion and muscle activity.

Although neuromuscular dentistry is a little expensive as compared to conventional dental therapies, the results obtained by this procedure are phenomenal.

If you are suffering from severe malocclusion and temporomandibular joint disorder, neuromuscular dentistry is an excellent choice for you.

Let’s find out more about neuromuscular dentistry in this article and see how this dental therapy can be useful for you.

What do you mean by neuromuscular dentistry?

Neuromuscular dentistry is an innovative approach to correct jaw malocclusions and TMJ related disorders. Its paradigm is based on the fact that the biomechanics of jaw movement follows a neurophysiologic principle. (1)

Following are the essential elements of a neuromuscular dentistry –

  • This therapy uses advanced clinical technology to measure the functions of the jaw and extent of malocclusion.
  • This approach optimizes the joint and muscle function before altering the dental occlusion.
  • Neuromuscular dentistry mainly focuses on bringing teeth into an intercuspal position which automatically relieves the jaw muscles from stress of malocclusion.

When is neuromuscular dentistry used?

The bite of a patient is usually determined by the functions of the jaw muscles, teeth and the type of occlusion — prolonged malocclusion results in severe temporomandibular disorder.

It is, therefore, necessary to provide an ideal occlusion that suits the patient. Neuromuscular dentistry is primarily used to correct jaw positions.

Usually, this dental therapy is most effective among older adults of age 35 – 44 years. However, patients above 60 years of age with TMJ disorder can also be treated by a neuromuscular approach.

Some of the common dental issues treated by neuromuscular dental therapy are –

  • Temporomandibular joint pain
  • Neck and shoulder stiffness
  • Jaw misalignment associated with muscle pain
  • Inflamed cartilage
  • Trauma to the jaw bone and muscle
  • Degenerating bone defects or arthritis of the TMJ

What are the diagnostic tools used?

In addition to conventional x-rays and scans, neuromuscular dentistry utilizes the advanced technology to diagnose the condition accurately. These technologies include –

  • Sonography – a sonographic machine measures the vibrations in the jaw while closing and opening the mouth. As a result, it determines the functioning of the temporomandibular joint.
  • Electromyography – electromyography uses electrical impulses to measure the activity of jaw muscles. (2)
  • Jaw tracking – this method uses magnets to produce a 3-D model of the jaw which helps to identify the associated abnormalities.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation – TENS is a method used to relieve muscle spasms by using electrical stimuli.

What are the objectives of neuromuscular therapy?

Neuromuscular dentistry primarily has five goals to fulfill –

  • The main aim is to restore the occlusal relationship of the mandible to the maxilla and minimize unnecessary muscle accommodation and posture.
  • It also allows decompression of nerve, muscle and vascular structures of the face and masticatory system.
  • Neuromuscular dentistry restores the muscle to its optimal resting length and reduces nerve entrapment.
  • Furthermore, it decompresses the temporomandibular joint and eliminates the deflective movement of the jaw.
  • Finally, neuromuscular therapy helps to restore the correct position of the head and neck. (3)

What does the treatment entail?

Currently, very few dentists are trained in neuromuscular dentistry. This therapy allows the dentist to precisely diagnose the cause of jaw malalignment. Treatment to correct such cases includes TENS which stands for transcutaneous electrical neural stimulation.

TENS uses ultra-low frequency electrical stimulations to contract the jaw muscles and relax them repeatedly. Electrodes are placed on the jaw, neck, and shoulders.

Once the muscle spasms are controlled, occlusal corrections are made using a splint or mouth guard. Severe malalignments may require orthodontic treatment. Additionally, tooth crowns and contouring can also be used to relieve minor occlusal problems.  (4)

What is the cost of this procedure?

Cost of neuromuscular dental therapy depends on the clinical situation, the type of procedures required and the clinical experience of the dentist.

Usually, neuromuscular treatments require full mouth reconstruction, that may cost around $800 – $1500 per tooth correction. This cost is exclusive of oral surgical procedures, periodontal treatments or crown replacements.

On average, the total cost of neuromuscular therapy including full mouth reconstruction may cost up to $ 30,000 – $40,000. There are a few dental insurances that may allow 15% reimbursement or 50% absorption of the total cost.

You can check with your dental insurance to make sure your treatment is covered. Talk to your dentist as well, to determine the total cost of the procedure.

Take away message

Jaw malalignment and pain is becoming a widespread dental problem in today’s world. The main reason behind such issues is improper occlusion.

Although conventional non-invasive dental procedures can treat jaw pain and TMJ disorders, the prognosis is not satisfactory in the long run.

With the advancement in the field of dentistry, a new approach has been tested to treat patients with jaw malalignments. Such treatments are termed as neuromuscular dental therapies.

Neuromuscular dentistry involves the use of dental technologies to diagnose and treat muscle spasms, Temporomandibular disorders, and jaw malalignments.

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Additionally, these procedures allow proper positioning of the head and neck. However, all these benefits come with a price.

If you are suffering from jaw pain or TMJ disorder, consult your dentist and look at all the available options that are suitable to your case.

Talk to your dental insurance agent to check if they cover neuromuscular dental procedures and take advantage of the benefits provided by this therapy.

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