Why Neuromuscular Dentistry and the TENS unit

Boulder Dentist Serving Denver, Ft. Collins & Nearby Areas in Colorado

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We see many neuromuscular TMJ pain and bite destruction patients at Adler Cosmetic and Family Dentistry… and a frequent question is :

Why do I need to use the TENS unit and how is it training my bite to a new position?

First let’s start with the definition of TENS. TENS is transcutaneous  electrical neural stimulation. That means when we place the TENS electrodes  on a specific  spot on the face we pass an electrical current through the skin to a nerve that controls the muscles of the jaw . These muscles begin pulsing the jaw.  When someone closes their teeth together  this sends a signal to the brain and the brain begins to understand how to bring the teeth together maximally. This may in fact be a bad bite relationship causing pain in some patients and  or tooth destruction in others.

The TENS unit begins pulsing the muscles along their normal resting length  this also begins to take the stress out of the joint. The Jaw begins to work along a consistent trajectory.  After approximately 45 minutes to an hour the jaw is consistently pulsing along what is called the neuromuscular trajectory. This is only achieved after a certain period of time. We can tell when this occurs by tracking the trajectory of the jaw. There is a little blip called the m wave which happens to be the brain or central nervous system trying to affect the trajectory. When the m wave disappears we know the patient has tensed for the sufficient period of time. When we take a bite at this position or make an orthotic a device to simulate the ideal bite this position is usually very comfortable.

Often we have also decompressed the TMJ (Joint)and eliminated clicking and popping. There is no training to this spot because it is based on the ideal muscular and joint  position. The brain will quickly begin to recognize this trajectory and close there all the time. We call this the engram or program that the brain recognizes. Sometimes the engram is good , but a misaligned bite has a bad engram. By removing the pathological engram we are able to treat complex pain and migraine headache patients. We are also able to eliminate clenching and grinding. This is truly a life changing treatment and has often eliminated a life time of suffering.

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