Ever wondered how the orthodontist figures out where the teeth are meant to end up? I do. They take x-rays and a mould of your mouth, have really good observation skills and are educated to figure it out, right? And don't they do a great job of giving our dear ones the most beautiful smiles - the ones they were born with, before they grew those big teeth that seem to go all over the place. (That, by the way, is another story for another day!)
During my training of how to treat four legged animals I was taught that the integrity of the TMJ (temporomandibular joint, or the joint just in front of the ear that allows the jaw to move) is an important contributing factor to any imbalance the animal may have, and may effect all parts of the body. It was this fact that got me thinking and observing more about the TMJ in people.
In my Bowen Clinic I am observing that the work that I do on the TMJ affects the whole body. I integrate TMJ work to help correct problems with the jaw and the face, neck pain, back pain, arm pain, hip pain, leg pain, foot and hand pain, balance problems (such as vertigo, Menieres Disease and motion sickness), respiratory and digestive and hormonal issues, postural problems and nerve problems.
The muscles involved in how well your jaw work are connected to, amongst other things, your hyoid bone (important in balance amongst other things), and your scaphoid bone (the bone upon which your brain sits). When you move functionally your whole body works together in an ordered fashion. The muscles are all playing parts in the whole body moving flexibly so that the organs and systems of the body all get a good massage. Getting that good massage is vital to the effectiveness of our organs and systems. They need it to work properly so that we can be healthy - we were designed to work like this.
Important to this functional movement, which helps create the best internal environment for our optimal health, is that our scaphoid bone (the one that the pituitary and the brain sits on) and our coccyx (the last parts of our spinal column) are meant to move synchronistically. They both rock gently backwards and forwards in time with each other. Thinking about the scaphoid then, it is meant to be gently rocking our brain. This slight movement in both ends of the spinal cord is meant to occur even when we breath!
So just imagine what happens if we are tight in our lower back. Less movement in the lower back refers up into the thoracic back and all of the organs in the thoracic cavity aren't getting the massage they require to work optimally. It also refers down to the sacrum and coccyx. Less movement of the coccyx directly relates up to the scaphoid and there is less rocking of the brain, which it also requires to work optimally. This is why it is so important for our health to seek out therapies and exercises which restore and maintain functional movement. Resorting to medicines just doesn't work in the long run. Focusing on diet and sleep and immunity and hormonal balance and exercise doesn't work in the long run either unless the movement with which you exercise is functional.
I digress. Sorry, it's a topic about which I'm just a tad passionate. Back to our kids' teeth that we spend thousands of dollars on for those beautiful smiles.
Lets say that, during the course of their childhood they have had a trauma to part of their body. It could have been a fall when they were learning to walking, a tumble off a chair, bumping their head on the corner of a table as they were running past, running into a glass door, colliding with a friend in the playground, falling off the monkey bars at school or, like most kids, all of the above. Nothing big, just normal every day occurrences. Just one of these is enough to upset the delicate balance of the coccyx or scaphoid bone, or any of the joints in between. To make everything work OK, some of the jaw muscles tighten up so that the scaphoid bone stays level so that our brain is OK. Lots of other things occur so that we stay balanced and our body remains as functional as possible. So now the TMJ, that joint in front of the ear from where the jaw moves, is not quite functioning correctly, and the teeth don't quite meet properly. Only a minor correction, no harm done, no noticeable negative impact, all good. This occurs again and again. Quite natural and normal for our body to absorb these changes to stay as functional as it can.
Let's say years later our child requires braces and off we go to the orthodontist who takes moulds and x-rays and looks and ponders and uses their years of training and experience and decides the best result of where those teeth are meant to sit. And we pay lots of money and are very happy that our child has a perfect bite and a beautiful smile.
But if we really consider what the orthodontist has done, he has taken our child's teeth and moved them into a position so that the "perfect" bite is part of a dysfunctional TMJ, one that is ever changing to the knocks and bumps and traumas of life. Now the dysfunctional muscles in the child's TMJ have to stay that way because the new "perfect" bite is reinforcing that. From what I've observed in my clinic, it is reasonable to consider that perhaps we have just set this child up for continuing dysfunction resulting in pain, illness and disease later in life.
I'm even noticing a correlation between a couple of years out of braces and kids are quitting the sport about which they were previously so passionate. I wonder if it's because their balance has been effected and they're not quite as good at moving as before, therefore have lost that ease which used to make sport effortless and fun. But they have a perfect bite and a beautiful smile.
Just a couple of stories about my own children, who have both had braces before I began thinking about all this. The first was a refluxer, and by the age of 8 or 9 a couple of his adult teeth had disintegrated because of the acid that was continually in his mouth. So his other teeth were moving around and coming down all wrong because they had the space to do so. We were sent to the orthodontist for monitoring and later 18 months of braces. Number two was a thumb sucker and we were sent to the same orthodontist about the same time for monitoring for a spacer and later 24 months of braces. During the monitoring period of about two years for the thumb sucker and four years for refluxer, I did regular Bowen treatments incorporating work on their TMJ. The orthodontist was quite flummoxed when we kept attending his appointments and the boys' bites seemed to be getting better. It was entertaining watching him looking back and forward from the mouth to his notes from previous appointments with a very puzzled look on his face. I didn't ever mention what I was doing and he didn't ever mention the improvement. One day he finally declared that the thumb sucker would not require the intervention of a spacer (huge relief!) and that the refluxer had gone from requiring braces for health to just aesthetic purposes. In the end we decided to do the braces for both boys for their amazing good looks, and I continued to treat their TMJ's on a semi-regular basis. Both had braces for only 12 months which was much quicker than the orthodontist expected.
Both are now in their early twenties and are extremely fit, active and passionate sportspeople, still taking the knocks of everyday life and playing hard at their contact sport. I tend to think that, without the Bowen Therapy work on their TMJ's during those formative years leading up to and during their orthodontic treatments, their outcomes would have been quite different.
There is a Bowen Therapist from Victoria who has worked closely with some open-minded dentists and orthodontists for many years. They have been using Bowen Therapy to ensure correct TMJ function before the orthodontist assesses the mouth prior to braces, and continuing regular Bowen treatments coinciding with checkups and when required. By achieving the perfect bite on the body's innate jawline and correct TMJ function, they have succeeded in both reducing the discomfort of the patient and shortening the treatment time. The Bowen work also allows the body to be flexible in its healing so that this new perfect bite will continue to adapt to the knocks, bumps and traumas of everyday life.
Just another funny story about our braces experience before I close off. The refluxer had his braces off one Wednesday. He was doing Year 11 in Sydney at the time, and playing in the seconds cricket team. We drove down to watch the game and soak up that new, very expensive, gorgeous smile for the weekend. We got to the game and took a seat which happened to be just behind the coach. Our team was fielding. Once we got settled and said hi to everyone, I realised that our son was fielding at silly point. I quietly tapped the coach on the shoulder and said quietly "Whose decision was it to put that $6,000 smile so close to the bat?" Poor man.
Dental and orthodontic advice and treatment are incredibly important to our health, and I think they can be more effective by addressing the important aspect of a functional TMJ. If you would like to talk about the potential of Bowen treatments supporting your child before, during and after orthodontic intervention please give me a call on 0427 143 743. I look forward to talking with you.
Cheers for now,
Hi, I'm Prue Duffy, a Bowen Therapist and Equine Muscle Release Therapist in regional NSW, Australia. I've been doing Bowen since 2007, and opened a practice in Dubbo in 2012. The results some of my clients get through Bowen is truly amazing.