Jaw and Tongue Tension
Note: Also read "TMJ Problems" article in this website.
There are many factors that contribute to tightness or tension in the many complex muscles around your jaws as well as that big muscle in between - your tongue. For many of us it is just a minor annoyance that might cause a unique - possibly even interesting - voice. Or it might cause annoying discomfort ranging from minor to severe. But for voice students and voice professionals - or someone that uses their voice professionally even if only for speaking - tension in the jaw or tongue can be a disaster!
While I couldn't carry a tune if you put it in a basket with handles on it, I have been told by voice professionals that relaxation of these muscles is ESSENTIAL to maintaining the needed voice control. Unfortunately getting these muscles to relax is often not so easy. There are many reasons why these muscles might not be relaxed, but I will name just a few here.
Changes made to the teeth or "bite" by dental and especially orthodontic treatment, muscle spasms from physical and/or emotional stresses, clenching or grinding (bruxism) habits, TMJ disorders, can result in muscle spasms from intense over-use of these muscles as during periods of intensive voice training or performing.
It seems to me that these problems fall into a "no man's land" when it comes to treatment. They are sort of in-between regular dentistry, orthodontics, physical therapy, chiropractic, and I'm sure many others... and none of them seem to be too focused on these problems. Most often only when it can be labeled a "TMJ disorder " will anybody take it seriously - and even then, finding a dentist that is skilled or even interested in treating it is a real challenge.
In a general way, such problems do fall under the general, vague heading of TMJ problems but may be more subtle or milder than what is usually thought of as TMJ.
To give you a little more idea of just one way that these problems can develop, consider what happens when front teeth are protruding as a child. Enter the orthodontist. The front teeth are pulled back. Sometimes a couple of teeth are even extracted to make room to move the front ones back. These actions make the arch smaller. Like a circle with a reduced radius. Well, guess what has to fit inside that now smaller arch! Your tongue. The tongue is a very strong organ almost entirely made of muscle. It will usually learn to stay back where it was pushed but it may not be real happy about it!
One way a dentist might try to help is by making a "bite guard". Unfortunately, there are many different styles and designs of bite guards. Most of them do a good job of "guarding" teeth from the ravages of clenching and grinding teeth (bruxism) during sleep, but most of them do little or nothing to relax the muscles of the jaws and tongue.
Good news! there is a type of bite appliance that can be made that has a dramatic affect on the muscles to help them relax. I also helps TMJ problems and bruxism most of the time. But the big difference is that it changes the dynamics of how the teeth, nerves and muscles work together during the time you are wearing it. It's smaller than most bite guards and mostly just fits in the roof of your mouth and often is totally hidden behind your front teeth so it is "invisible". Normally you would wear it during sleep and possibly sometimes during periods of daytime heightened stress if you felt the need for it.
It's a simple approach to treating a complicated problem. If it works for you - and it has almost always helped my patients when I made them one - then you will feel better and you will notice improved relaxation all around your mouth. Amazingly, the relaxation affect can potentially be from the top of your head all the way down your neck, shoulders, and back, down to your pelvis. That's a lot from a silly little piece of plastic !!!
If this sounds interesting and possibly helpful, come on in and we can talk about it ! Bye.
More info about the following is available if you select "topics".
Cosmetic dentistry is about doing quality , esthetic dentistry in a way that looks natural to begin with, and furthermore, can even improve one's attractiveness through techniques such as bonding, bleaching, veneers, caps, implants and more. It can be like "instant orthodontics" in correcting crooked, twisted or misplaced teeth in many instances. Dark or misshapen teeth can be restored. Smiles that lack youthful vigor or beauty can be revitalized! See Topics / Info..
Bleaching, veneers, bonding, caps, bridges, and implants are cosmetic dentistry treatments that are also discussed in Cosmetic Dentistry, and more...
Holism in dentistry is an approach to dental treatment, primarily caring for patients' health and safety from both a conventional as well as "alternative healthcare" point of view. It is sometimes called "biological" dentistry or "biocompatible" dentistry. In it's fullest sense, I believe it acknowledges and deals with the mind, body and spirit of the patient, not just his or her "teeth". See Topics / Info.....