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Dentistry and Osteopathy

There is an important overlap between dentistry and osteopathy - especially cranial osteopathy. The relationship between the teeth and the body is complex, but from the osteopathic point of view, any dental issue has implications for the whole body, as the teeth are an important part of the body structure and the muscles of chewing are immensely powerful.

The upper teeth sit in the two maxillary bones which form the middle part of the face, the cheeks, while the lower teeth are in the mandible. The upper jaw is 'fixed', while the lower jaw can move around, because of the action of the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ), which you can feel if you place your fingers just in front of your ear and open/close your mouth. The way that the teeth bite together (the bite, or occlusion) - the balance between the upper and lower jaw - plays an important part in the balance of the body as a whole.

The TMJ can become clicky and/or painful if either the bite or the body is out of balance. The effects can go either way: dental problems can put the TMJ out of balance, with knock-on effects on the body structure, or imbalances in the body structure can disturb the TMJ, in turn disturbing the bite.

TMJ dysfunction (TMD) can give rise to various symptoms including:

  • painful and/or clicky jaw
  • clenching and bruxism (grinding the teeth)
  • headaches, neck, shoulder or low back pain
  • ear problems, such as glue ear
  • tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

In fact, temporomandibular dysfunction and occlusal problems are quite common, and it is not always easy to distinguish whether the primary cause is in the bite or the body! A cranial osteopath can help to discover and treat the cause of dysfunction, and it is advisable to seek an osteopathic assessment before embarking on orthodontic or surgical intervention.

A Uniquely Useful Synthesis

This is the name given to a new field of work in which the skills of the Cranial Osteopath and dental specialist are brought together in an atmosphere of cooperation, mutual respect and understanding. It is proving to be a uniquely useful synthesis, very powerful in terms of patient benefit.

Of the 26 bones in the skull the relationships allowing motion between the bones of the face are particularly complex. Some of the structures involved are particularly delicate, and are not resilient to forces for which they were not designed, such as those involved in some dental interventions.

Trauma is the most common way to upset the way the body works. Facial trauma is particularly poorly tolerated, and the most common form of facial trauma is dental work. Much dental work is skilfully performed with the minimum of stress. However, some of the procedures are poorly tolerated by the body, as any cranial osteopath will tell you. Osteodontic treatment minimises these problems and maximises the probability of avoiding dental intervention, especially orthodontics, in the first place.

 For more info go to the website of The Sutherland Society - the UK organisation for cranial osteopathy.

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