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Dentistry and Osteopathy

The Link between Dentistry and Osteopathy - Health is not simply the absence of disease or pain. It is a state or balance and harmony between the body and mind. In health a person should be able to respond to events such as accidents, infections or emotional stress, deal with the event and restore itself to optimum health afterwards.

The majority of people are not in full health, but are carrying an accumulation of the effects of different traumatic events that have happened to them during their life. This makes it more difficult for them to cope with additional injuries, illness or stress.

The maintenance of good mechanical function is essential to health. Problems in the framework of the body can disturb the circulatory system or nerves to any part of the body. Thus mechanical problems can not only lead to aches and pains in joints and muscles but also to disturbances in the internal organs and the way they work. Osteopaths work to restore the musculoskeletal system of the body to a state of balance and harmony. They use a variety of treatment methods and techniques ranging from the well-known 'high velocity thrust' with its dramatic clicks, to the very gently applied methods used by so called 'cranial osteopaths'. The approach used will depend on the individual patients’ needs but all types of osteopathy take a whole body approach.

Conditions affecting the mouth and teeth also have a very direct effect on the rest of the body. Dental treatment can be seriously impeded or can have far more significant undesirable effects if this relationship is ignored.

The face is a complex structure composed of a number of different bones. Some of these bones are very delicate and they are inextricably linked together in a complex structure of bones, muscles and connective tissue. All the bones in the face and skull are free to move very minutely, which they do in a gentle rhythmical fashion. This movement is important in maintaining free drainage of the sinuses and permitting the free passage of air through the nose.

Dental treatment, long term dental problems or external trauma to the teeth or face may restrict the normal movement between the bones and can have wide reaching effects on the body which may otherwise not be considered to be related to dentistry.

Extraction of teeth is often associated with application of force to the bone structure, post-operative pain and subsequent imbalance in the bite can place a significant strain on the bones of the face causing symptoms of sinus and ear problems, headache, migraine, neck or lower back pain which persists long after a tooth socket has healed.

Dentures in the upper jaw have the effect of holding the bones rigidly together preventing or severely limiting the natural movement. The resulting symptoms can include headaches, congested sinuses, ear problems and eye strain. Loss of teeth leads to a loss of bone from the face and the resultant reduction in vertical distance between the upper and lower jaw causes imbalance and strain in the jaw muscles. This in turn can disrupt the jaw (temporomandibular) joint and the action of the muscles places further strains in the bones of the face.

Loss of back teeth leaving just the visible front teeth may have no appreciable impact on the ability to chew but if no dentures are worn and all the biting and chewing is done on the front teeth an enormous strain is placed on the structures of the head and neck. It almost always leads to a great deal of neck tension, causing headaches and neck pain.

Orthodontic treatment places a strain on the normal functioning of the face. Orthopaedic approaches to this treatment seek to move the teeth and jaws to a position to allow for optimum function. If teeth are moved forcibly against function or therapeutic changes are being made to correct other imbalances, stresses are imposed through the facial bones. Common symptoms experienced during orthodontic treatment include headaches, painful joints (particularly the knees), irritability, reduced concentration, neck pain, lowered immunity and increased vulnerability to musculoskeletal strains. Unfortunately these stresses do not always dissipate after the orthodontic appliance is removed and may contribute to relapse of the tooth alignment.

Bridges and implants used to replace individual missing teeth generally cause no problem within the mechanics of the face. The exception is where these devices are connected across the midline to replace the upper front teeth. In this situation the bones of the upper jaw become permanently fixed together preventing the normal movement between the bones. The stress caused will highlight any area of weakness in the body. Symptoms can be almost anything – headaches, sinus or ear problems, neck and back pain, even knee and foot pain.

Bruxism is a condition of habitual and forceful tooth grinding that occurs generally at night. This is known to be exacerbated by stress and is always associated with imbalances between the tooth occlusion and jaw joint and associated musculature. The original discrepancy may have come from the tooth positions or from a cranial strain but the forceful stress from grinding only serves to make the problem worse. In adults, severe wear of the teeth may alleviate the problem, in children the strain is certainly more related to the alignment of the bones in the cranium and face and may be the result of birth compression. If left uncorrected it will affect the growth and development of the face and dentition.

Teething is a period of massive growth and development that some children cope with better than others. Tensions and illnesses relating to teething can often be aided and soothed by osteopathic treatment.

The treatment philosophy at Granta Dental in Cambridge takes full account of the wider effects of dental problems and treatment. We work in close association with a team of osteopaths who understand the dental treatments and can apply their expertise to improve the response to therapy and ameliorate the traumatic consequences of treatments such as tooth extractions if they are necessary.

Osteopathy is a complementary therapy and does not substitute the assessment by your doctor in the case of general health problems. Osteopathy cannot be a substitute for dental treatments and does not replace conventional medical investigations and treatment. A practitioner of cranial osteopathy techniques does not use force to manipulate the body, hence the risk of serious adverse events is extremely low, however a few patients experience an initial worsening of the symptoms at the initial stages of treatment – a ‘healing crisis’ – followed by improvement. Some people find it disconcerting when their body is relaxing with treatment and may experience a temporary loss of control causing some anxiety. Treatment time is individual and varies from a single treatment to a more extensive course of appointments. Treatment can be useful for patients of all ages. Please see our FAQ page on cranial osteopathy appointments.

If you think you need treatment from an osteopath and it has not been specifically mentioned as part of your treatment plan, please do not hesitate to ask. We will be happy to provide a referral, a recommendation or to communicate with your existing osteopath or chiropractor to help you get the best out of your treatment.

Posted on 17 March 2013
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