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Keywords:

  • Dentistry;
  • occlusal plane;
  • temporomandibular joint;
  • masticatory muscles;
  • rehabilitation

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Anatomical Preconditions
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusion and Summary
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. Competing Interest
  9. References

Background

The contemporary approach of dentistry towards interdisciplinary cooperation is based on the neuromuscular concept. In recent years many authors have pointed out a correlation between orthopaedic and dental findings. Furthermore, there is an intimate biomechanical interrelationship of occlusion with cerebral fluid circulation, left and right equilibrium, gaze stabilisation and headache. The influence of a dental occlusion and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) status on general health has been widely analysed in the current scientific literature.

Aim

The aim of this analytic study was to display the deep relationship between dentistry and other fields of medicine, and to show the necessity of wide cooperation between dentists and physicians.

Conclusions

This study was based on a review of 41 sources, including specialised articles and books. The significance of different anatomical and physiological preconditions (occlusion, muscles and TMJ status) was considered and evaluated separately. However, as a result of modern concepts of general body health, extending cooperation between different fields of medicine is essential. The practical application of the principles of neuromuscular dentistry enables one to increase greatly the treatment efficiency of aches in muscles, headaches, postural dysfunctions as well as of many other diseases. However, the dentist's contribution to the development of an interdisciplinary approach is underestimated. Many theoretical aspects of the interdisciplinary relationship have not been sufficiently examined, hence the practical consequences remain unclear. Further research in the field is urgently needed.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Anatomical Preconditions
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusion and Summary
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. Competing Interest
  9. References

The current development of computer technologies, as well as new examination methods, enables the linking of relatively distant fields of medicine. For this reason, the term ‘integrative medicine’ is now becoming more widely used in specialised literature[1]. Recently, the functional connections between the structures of the maxillofacial region and other systems of the human body have been thoroughly studied and some articles published in scientific literature describe the influence of different pathological states of the maxillofacial region on orthopaedic problems. Modern research conducted in the field has proved the positive influence of a correctly performed reconstruction of occlusion on such important indices such as carriage, stable balance, aches in muscles, headaches, physical state, eyesight and some others. A dentist should not now be perceived as someone whose job is merely to treat people's teeth, but as a physician of the maxillofacial region[2]. In the framework of this concept a new direction of dentistry has appeared: maxillofacial dentistry or integrative dentistry. The field of maxillofacial dentistry has been widely recognised by the professional community, and this is reflected in its inclusion in the syllabuses of the world's leading universities.

In neuromuscular dentistry the following principles are applied:

  • Direct connection with classical physiological concepts and application of its terms[2]. According to physiology, the central nervous system, muscles, joints, teeth and jaws are one functional unit. Pathological changes appearing in any part of this complex have an influence on other parts. Therefore, successful treatment has to be applied to the whole system, not only its most diseased part. This is the core assumption of modern neuromuscular dentistry, which is focused on the detection of physiological mechanisms determining the reciprocal influence of the maxillofacial region on other parts and systems of the human body
  • During treatment a neuromuscular dentist seeks the proper balance between the work load and relaxation of the masticatory muscles. The aim of neuromuscular therapy is to create the proper conditions for muscle relaxation of the maxillofacial region as well as for the reverse movement of condyles mandibulares to the rest state, which would be optimal for a patient[3]
  • To establish a diagnosis and to provide further treatment sophisticated equipment is used. Technical equipment and computer programs enable the analysis of the state of muscles, temporomandibular joints (TMJs) and occlusion. The received biometric data are essential for establishing an accurate diagnosis. The saying of Dr Bernard, the founding father of neuromuscular dentistry, can be applied in this instance ‘If it has been measured, it is a fact; if it has not been measured, it is an opinion’.

A modern dentist is required to have not only knowledge of the maxillofacial region, but also general morphological and physiological awareness of the human body.

According to the orthogonal concept applicable to both organic and inorganic units, the resistance to any loading is the strongest when the resistance axis of the structure is parallel to the axis of loading.

From the point of view of neuromuscular dentistry, the orthogonal concept of regulating anatomical structures is a necessary condition for the natural functioning of the maxillofacial region. In the physiological head position, Camper's plane, the HIP-plane (Hamulus–Papilla incisiva), the occlusal plane, and the ANS-Porion line should be parallel to the horizontal plane as well as perpendicular to a vertical axis[1, 4] (Figure 1a). Should these planes not be parallel, imbalance of the maxillofacial system could occur, which would result in a number of interconnected neuromuscular reactions (Figure 1b).

image

Figure 1. Parallelism (a) and disruption (b) of main anatomical planes in human body. Ivo Klepáček, based on an original drawing by James E. Carlsson, DDS.

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The masticatory muscles play a significant role as various pathological processes in the maxillofacial region influence them. As masticatory muscles are loaded unevenly, muscle strain in its different parts is unequal, which leads to the alteration of the mechanical trajectory in the jaw joint. As a result of the uneven loading of their fascicles, the bone will adjust its attachment points to the muscles, and even its own structure. For example, the chronic spasm of m. pterygoideus lateralis could cause a deformation of the condyle. The alteration of the mandibular mechanical trajectory could be also connected with repeated premature contact between opposing maxillary and mandibular teeth. As a result of iatrogenic injury it could occur accidently. A premature contact stimulates a response of the nervous system (efferent impulses). With the help of head and cervical muscles, this response is intended to repeatedly return the mandibular joint to its physiological position. Furthermore, chronic and asymmetric overstrain of individual muscles and their groups could deform the bone structure and influence their growth. Muscle hypertonus could cause pathologies such as headaches, orofacial pain, different orthodontic anomalies, teeth abrasion and fractures, cervical teeth defects and TMJ disorders[5].

From the position of modern dentistry the determination of any mouth cavity condition is essential for diagnosing diseases, which at first sight appear not to be connected with dental pathologies. Both the loss of a tooth and the aforementioned premature contact could initiate a chain of reactions causing various disorders. In serious cases, for example loss of a molar and significant height reduction of the bite, there is a high risk of the emergence of different symptomatic complexes as a result of heightened pressure on chorda tympani and n. auriculotemporalis (tinnitus, ear congestion, non-specific facial and neck pain, glossalgia, xerostomia, herpes meatus acusticus externus)[6, 7].

There is now clear evidence that the atypical relations between anatomical structures of the maxillofacial region could be connected with structural deformations of the cervical spine[8]. Accompanying mouth opening and closing, the minor displacements in cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine also contribute to this interconnection[9].

Occlusion dysfunctions could cause sleeping apnoea, myofascial pain syndrome, column diseases, leg-length inequality, abnormal pelvis obliquity and incorrect head posture. They affect equilibrium, craniospinal fluid circulation and physical condition, among other parameters[6, 10].

Anatomical Preconditions

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Anatomical Preconditions
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusion and Summary
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. Competing Interest
  9. References

Occlusion

Occlusion is one of the most basic and the most important terms in dentistry. It expresses the mutual relationship between four interdependent components: teeth, jaws, masticatory muscles and TMJ. The present common definition, which defines occlusion as the position when teeth of opposite jaws are in reciprocal contact, seems somewhat insufficient. Teeth are the main component of occlusion, but the way in which they make contact is only one of its parts. Teeth contact in occlusion determines the condition of the lower jaw, cranial bones, muscles, TMJs and the cervical spine. We can recognise occlusion both statically and dynamically. The term of occlusion must be evaluated from the point of view of common medicine, physiotherapy, osteopathy, dietetics and immunology.

James E. Carlsson formulated in his book Physiologic Occlusion four basic principles of occlusion which are needed for harmony in the maxillofacial region:

  • All occlusal forces must occur simultaneously in each point of contact
  • All occlusal forces must be approximately the same
  • All occlusal forces must be symmetrically distributed on both sides of the jaw
  • Occlusal vector of each tooth must be parallel to its axis.

The upper jaw is the base of occlusion and the maxillofacial region[11]. While the body is growing, the maxilla defines intermaxillary relations, lower jaw form and the inclination of the occlusal plane. During the viscerocranium growth, the upper jaw creates the intermaxillar relation. It does this with two simultaneous actions: connecting to the neurocranium and changing the form of the lower jaw. Later, this relation is also corrected by teeth cutting. The aforementioned correlation may be defined by measuring the angle between the occlusal plane and other reference planes of the head. Nevertheless, for optimal transfer of masticatory loading to cranial structures, occlusal forces must be directed following the orthogonal conception. The vector of each tooth loading must be perpendicular to the occlusal plane in this area. Converging axies of teeth are projecting to the imaging ‘conus dentalis’, in which axis of each tooth is directed to the ‘central point’ (Figure 2). This point is usually located in glabella (it is approximately 10 cm higher than occlusal plane, in place of the transversal and sagittal planes crossing)[4].

image

Figure 2. ’Conus dentalis’ with normal occlusal plane. Ivo Klepáček, based on an original drawing by James E. Carlsson, DDS.

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With regard to the specific layout of cranium bone structures, occlusal forces affect to the basis cranii and project to the area of the synchrondrosis sphenobasilaris. Changing of the occlusal plane inclination is connected to conus dentalis deformation and will cause change in the main occlusal forces[1] (Figures 3 and 4).

image

Figure 3. Deformation of occlusal plane (decrease on the right side) with consequent changes in masticatory muscles. Ivo Klepáček, based on an original drawing by James E. Carlsson, DDS.

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image

Figure 4. Changing of occlusal forces direction in cranial structures (as result of occlusal plane deformation). Ivo Klepáček, based on an original drawing by James E. Carlsson, DDS.

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It is known that strong connection between cranial bones and vertebras with dura mater cerebri is one of the important requirements for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) circulation.

The firm attachment of the cranial bones and vertebrae with dura mater cerebri has been shown to be a necessary precondition for physiological CSF circulation[1, 12, 13]. The circulation of CSF can be also influenced at sites where the dura mater is not directly attached to the underlying bone and the cranial bones are flexibly interconnected (synchrondroses)[1, 13]. The so-called mobility of the skull has been targeted by many research efforts for more than 100 years[14]. The founder of the craniosacral theory, William Sutherland, discovered that individual bones of the skull were not interconnected as firmly as was claimed at the time, and he found that their shifting could be observed in connection with the force of the pulsating CSF[1, 12, 15, 16]. Sutherland, however, interpreted this mobility as being related to respiratory phenomena (inspiration and expiration). We now know that individual skull bones also shift against each other as a result of the repeated action of cyclic forces associated with chewing, swallowing and speech[1, 11, 17]. These rather small movements in the cranial bone sutures belong to the craniosacral mechanism (a system that includes meningeal membranes, bony and connective tissue structures attached to them, the CSF and structures participating in its production and absorption)[17]. In modern perception, CSF is regarded as one of the components of the system of pressure and tension redistribution[18].

Karppinen et al.[8] obtained encouraging results with their comprehensive approach to the therapy of patients suffering from chronic headaches or pain in the cervicobrachial region. In addition to traditional methods (mainly physiotherapy), they used special bite splints that shifted the mandible into a correct position with the lowest possible resting muscular activity. This resulted in improved results from treatment.

Muscles

Muscles are extremely important components of the pathological chain that results from occlusal imbalance. Collapse of occlusal vertical dimension, deviations of the slope (angle) of the occlusal plane and the resulting compensatory changes in the tension of individual participating muscles or muscle groups are further complicated by other pathological processes: TMJ dysfunctions, pain and curvature of the cervical spine, headaches and cervical muscle pain, reduced ability to maintain balance and perform tasks requiring increased concentration and precision[8, 19-24]. For example, clinical and experimental data show that a sudden, long-lasting change of the occlusal plane from the original position causes changes, among others, in the cervical spine, damaging the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles that participate in maintaining and changing the position of the head[22, 25-27]. Changes in the position of the head and cervical spine deformities are found in pathological occlusion defined as occlusion with a one-sided lateral dental defect[22]. Postural changes also accompany chronic one-sided overstraining of the sternocleidomastoid muscle contralateral to the site of a defect. Electromyographic investigations confirm a direct relationship between hypoactivity and increased sternocleidomastoid muscle tension on the side where the dentition is affected and cervical spine deviation to the side with healthy dentition[22]. It has also been shown that muscles influence the ability to maintain a correct lower jaw resting position[28].

Shimazaki et al.[27] investigated the mutual relationships between muscle, occlusal plane slope and vertebral column changes. Using special software, they modelled and subsequently analysed the tension in the bony structures of the skull and spine in the setting of various arrangements of the masticatory apparatus, both for laterally sloped occlusal plane with no muscle participation and for unilateral predominance of masticatory muscles. In deviations of individual occlusal planes from a reference plane (Camper's plane), it is possible to observe, from the frontal view, an initial hypertonus of the masticatory muscles on the side where these two planes diverge. The distribution of masticatory pressure is not homogeneous, and is predominant on the divergent side – we refer to this as compensatory redistribution of the muscle tone in the temporal muscle. It has also become apparent that chronically increased, right-sided muscle tone is capable, within a short period of time, of producing cervical spine curvature to the left and vice versa[27, 29]. In the oral cavity, it is possible to find asymmetric wedge-shaped defects, periodontal (gingival) pockets, pathological abrasions and breaking off of enamel on the side where the planes converge[1]. We thus see here the consequences of imbalance and the destructive character of the developing occlusal forces.

Sagittal deviations in the slope of the occlusive plane are directly related to body posture and the antero-posterior position of the head as the flexor and extensor muscles of the head participate in the compensatory reaction[30, 31]. One example of this is a patient with mouth breathing. Chronic mouth breathing during the growth period can be regarded as the starting point of a pathogenic chain[32]. Insufficient pressure on the palate normally exerted by the tongue results in the formation of the so-called ‘Gothic palate’, the dental arch of the upper jaw remains narrow and the mandible is shifted backwards. Affected individuals demonstrate increased muscle tone in anterior muscles of the neck, resulting in the head bending forward. Another consequence is the increased muscle tone in the antagonists (extensors). We usually find class 2 occlusion and a specific anterior head position with extension in the atlanto-occipital joint (Figure 5). A well-informed physician may be greatly helped in his diagnostic efforts by similar findings during the entry examination as this is the most common postural dysfunction associated with occlusion[33].

image

Figure 5. Interconnection between spine, leg and head posture. Normal (a) and disordered (b) skeleton. Ivo Klepáček, based on an original drawing by James E. Carlsson, DDS.

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The type of force distribution in the cervical spine is undoubtedly an important factor contributing to postural dysfunctions. Computer-aided modelling of various degrees of sagittal deviations in the occlusal plane shows the influence of similar anatomical variants on the distribution of tension in the cervical spine that result from specific muscular adaptation. A comparison of three variants (normal, steep and flat occlusal plane) showed that the configuration of the tension zones in the C1–C7 vertebrae is markedly different. In the case of a physiological slope of the occlusal plane, the C1–C7 vertebrae are loaded evenly. A steeper slope results in increased stress in the upper part of the cervical spine, while a flat occlusal plane results in the forces concentrating in the C5–C7 vertebrae[29].

Modern investigational methods make it possible to explore the functional connection between the orofacial area and processes observed in relatively remote parts of the body. We know at present that opening one's mouth is invariably accompanied by movements in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine[9]. Conversely, the masticatory muscles activity and the resting position of the mandible appear to be influenced by the position of the body in space[34]. A similar relationship is supported by research conducted by Ueno, pointing to the direct relationship between the force with which the mouth is opened and the performance of the biceps muscle[35].

In neuromuscular dentistry, the pressure exerted by the tongue during swallowing plays a significant role. Although it does not produce a force comparable to that produced during occlusion, the impact of the tongue on the cranial structures is significant: it influences the development of the maxilla and the upper dental arch during the phase of growth, but it also exerts frequent and regular pressure on the palate during the swallowing act. Both these mechanisms are very important for the development and maintenance of cranial, orofacial and postural balance. The force arising during swallowing is transferred to the base of the skull, mainly via the vomer bone that is attached to the palatine and sphenoid bones. The rhythmic pressure maintains a degree of flexibility and elasticity of the spheno-basilar synchondrosis, thus helping stimulate CSF circulation. A common cause of insufficient tongue pressure is mouth breathing and positioning of the tongue between the teeth as part of the ‘infantile’ type of swallowing. Correct diagnosis in this case is helped by finding palatal deformation and ‘overjet’ in the region of lower premolars.

Temporomandibular joint

It is known that the condition of the dental arches and the type of occlusion are directly related to the development of pathological changes in the TMJ. However, even perfect dentition may sustain substantial damage over a short period of time as a result of primary damage to the TMJ. This joint has a rather unique construction, position and function compared with the other joints in the human body. The fact that it is a paired joint attaching just one bone to the base of the skull has resulted in the development of two views of its anatomy. Part of the scientific community regards this joint as a single joint (art. temporocranialis) as isolated unilateral movement is ruled out in its case. However, numerous others view it as two different symmetrical joints (the traditional articulationes temporomandibulares). This dispute is rather theoretical, but it still confirms the uniqueness of the TMJ, the second most complex joint in the human body in terms of its locomotor culture. As it is located in close proximity to the orbital cavities, brain, ear and cranial nerves, it can lead to various pathological processes that affect these structures, as well as to various syndromes[7].

Clinicians divide the most important factors that may lead to pathology in this joint into several groups: teeth, bones, muscles, bad habits, psycho-emotional stress, trauma, genetic disorders and tumours. Diagnosis is complicated by the concurrent presence of many symptoms and the difficulty of determining the primary pathology[36, 37].

Loi and others have obtained data suggesting a relationship between osteoarthritis of TMJ, the angle of the occlusal plane and the position of the head[38, 39]. In the case of the aforementioned disorders affecting TMJ, they succeeded in diagnosing a higher sagittal occlusal plane angle and forward shift of the head with greater extension in the atlanto-occipital joint and less marked cervical lordosis. The cephalometric study conducted by Byun et al.[40] reports that diseases of TMJ are frequent in patients with dorsal rotational shift of the mandible.

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Anatomical Preconditions
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusion and Summary
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. Competing Interest
  9. References

Occlusal forces are the greatest of all forces acting on the bone structures of the head, reaching a value of up to hundreds of Newtons per one square centimetre. This is why the angle (slope) and position of the occlusal plane play a significant role in determining the vector of action of the occlusal forces transmitted onto the skull. In the case of the previously mentioned deformation of the dental cone, the occlusal forces are transmitted through the bony structures differently, resulting in imbalance and shifting of the power centre of the cranial base. Permanent asymmetry of pressure distribution can result in gradual deformation of the skull and tension and ‘contortion’ of the dura mater[11].

The activity of the muscles participating in restoring the cranial balance is spreading far beyond the maxillofacial region. There is little doubt about the redistribution of muscle activity caused by occlusal dysfunction. What may be disputed is the question of the character, extent and consequences of these compensatory dysfunctions. Recently, the problems of the interdependence of the orofacial pathology and functional and structural dysfunctions in other parts of the body have been discussed in the scientific literature. In addition to the considerable research proving this interconnection there is also some scepticism, with opponents pointing to a lack of scientific evidence and the imperfect methods of examination.

The research conducted in this field is of great value as it enables the working out of new progressive principles of both prevention and methods of treatment. In particular, the dental component of complex rehabilitation can make a significant contribution to the treatment of pathologies of carriage, stable balance, eyesight, tinnitus, ear congestion and herpes meatus acusticus externus. Moreover, normalisation of occlusion and of the condition of the muscles should thus be regarded as an important component of therapy in all patients with pain of the cervical or maxillofacial regions. Unfortunately, this stomatological component of therapy in these patients is usually neglected as a result of the one-sided view of neurological and postural problems. This is compounded by the insufficient knowledge of dentists themselves. However, a number of important studies provide conclusive evidence about the beneficial effects of normalisation of the stomatognathic system[7, 41]. As an example, bite-plan splints correcting the mandibular position according to neuromuscular criteria are used in various sports disciplines.

Conclusion and Summary

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Anatomical Preconditions
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusion and Summary
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. Competing Interest
  9. References

The findings of neuromuscular dentistry can help the practising dentist solve the arguably most fundamental problem most dental professionals face, namely the unpredictability of treatment results. Reliable, aesthetic, and long-term functional fillings and prosthetic constructions should be based on balanced occlusion, joints and muscles. Moreover, interdisciplinary cooperation can help prevent a number of ‘non-stomatological’ disorders and is often helpful in achieving therapeutic success. Unfortunately, many theoretical aspects of the interdisciplinary relationship have not been sufficiently examined, and hence the practical consequences remain unclear. Further research in this field is greatly needed.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Anatomical Preconditions
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusion and Summary
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. Competing Interest
  9. References

We express our gratitude to the PRVOUK grant from the Charles University in Prague. We thank academic painter Ivan Helekal for his support and expertise.

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  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Anatomical Preconditions
  5. Discussion
  6. Conclusion and Summary
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. Competing Interest
  9. References
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