Episode 16 | Osteopathy – How it can assist in dentistry


Hello and a very warm welcome to episode 016 of Elmar’s Tooth Talk: The missing link to total health. I am Dr Elmar Jung.

As always, before we start let me tell you What’s in it for you in this episode:

We talk about:

  • What is Osteopathy
  • What is Cranial Osteopathy
  • What is Cranio-Sacral Osteopathy
  • How Osteopathy works
  • Why it is beneficial with dental treatment
  • Why babies benefit tremendously

Today we are talking about a therapy which can in a very gentle and subtle way support any kind of dental treatment.

Our topic today: Osteopathy. Osteopathy and its different forms

What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a is a drug-free and non-invasive manual therapy based on the anatomy and physiology of the human body. It is the understanding of how trauma and stress restrict the motion of the tissues of the body.

If untreated, trauma and stress can lead to chronic tension, which can then lead to multiple health issues. So, Osteopathy is a system of manual therapy designed to release these abnormal tensions in the body. 

The aim of Osteopathy is to improve health across all body systems. It does this by very gently manipulating and strengthening the musculoskeletal system.

Who created Osteopathy?

Osteopathy was created by the American doctor Andrew Taylor Still in the late 19th century. His wife and children died from spinal meningitis, and because of his inability to help them, he began to question the basis of medicine at that time.

He was probably in a similar mindset a GP would be nowadays who loses a friend or family member to cancer after the advocated therapies of burn, cut and poison didn’t succeed.

Anyhow, Doctor Still spent his life observing nature in the wilderness, studied with the Shawnee tribe, was a gifted engineer and inventor, and served as a surgeon in the American Civil War.

He saw a link between the body’s structure and function, which led him to look at anatomy, the bodies structure, in a new light.

Dr Still saw the human being as a unity of mind, matter, and motion. He saw the body as an integrated whole and believed if the structures were balanced, so would be the internal function, including the mind and emotions. This led him to the principles of diagnosis and treatment which became Osteopathy.

Osteopathy is also based on the body’s inherent ability to heal itself. Most of the time our body does this automatically, but sometimes the body’s ability to compensate and resolve trauma becomes overloaded. This is when it needs help.

Osteopathy is best known for the treatment of back, joint, and muscle pain, however its applications are far wider. This is because the principle of the structure – function relationship means the internal environment of the body can be influenced by its structure.

An Osteopath is therefore capable of influencing functional disorders and his aim is to restore mechanical balance of all body tissues whether they are musculoskeletal, nervous, visceral, or circulatory.

That is Osteopathy.

Now What is Cranial Osteopathy?

Cranial osteopathy is an extension of osteopathy. A refined and subtle type of osteopathic treatment.

What does the words mean?

The word Cranial originates from Latin and means the skull.

Osteopathy contains two words. Osteon which translates as bones and pathos translates as suffering.

So, we can translate cranial Osteopathy as the healing arts of the skull bones.

This means a normal osteopath is dealing with all bones of the human body whereas the cranial osteopath specialises in treating the skull bones.

By the way, did you know the human skull consists of 22 bones?

These bones all interconnect with each other which gives them a certain mobility. It is this mobility the cranial osteopath uses in his healing.

How did Cranial Osteopathy evolve?

It was again Andrew Taylor Still who created cranial osteopathy back in 1892 as a progression from normal osteopathy. He included the diagnosis and treatment of the bones and soft tissues of the head.

Cranial Osteopathy was then fully conceptualised by his student, William Sutherland.

And even Cranial Osteopathy was further extended.

What is Cranio-Sacral Osteopathy?

In the 1970’s John Upledger, an American surgeon while assisting a spinal surgery, discovered a rhythmic movement of the Dura Mater. The Dura mater is one of the three brain-encompassing cerebral membranes.

John Upledger combined his findings with the ones of Still and Sutherland and thereby developing what was then called Cranio-Sacral Osteopathy.

The Rhythm of the skull

I guess you know we have many rhythms in our body. For example, the breathing rhythm, or the continuous heart rhythm or your pulse.

The skull also has a rhythm, but you might not sense it. You might not even be aware of this rhythm or today might be the first time you have heard about it.

In case you practice meditation, it is possible you have experienced this rhythm.

This skull rhythm is very important for us because if this rhythm gets out of balance our entire body becomes out of balance.

And this is where the osteopath comes in.

How Osteopaths, Cranial Osteopaths and Cranio-Sacral Osteopaths work

The osteopath is deeply connected to the inner world of their client’s anatomy and physiology. They listen carefully to the story the body tells of what has happened to it.

They feel for a rhythmic pulsation or shape change in tissues that are under abnormal tension. By using very gentle pressure, these tensions can be released.

Our body has an amazing ability to heal itself and maintain its own physiology in a state of health and it uses the re-balancing during osteopathic treatment to re-establish healthy physiology.

While it can seem like little is happening, the body responds to very small focused forces in a deep way. Because of that it is a very gentle approach that can have powerful results.

The goal of the osteopath is to restore the balance that was lost. He can even determine the different stress causes leading to the imbalance.

And it doesn´t matter whether the stress originates from physical, mental or emotional trauma.

As we know we can deal with any kind of stress quite well for some time. If the stress continues for a longer period of time compensation might become difficult and if we do not find a way to balance this stress, our body will become so symptomatic that we will have no alternative but to deal with the cause accordingly.

The beauty of osteopathy is that is a very gentle therapy which includes the whole body and does not just deal with symptoms.

The patient can feel a sense of deep relaxation with this treatment, and it is not unusual for patients to fall asleep.

Osteopathy is often the treatment of choice for acute pain such as joint pain, back pain, joint strains, neck pain or car accidents. It can also treat migraine, sinus problems, headaches, infections, digestive issues, menstrual pains and many more.

Why babies benefit

New-borns and babies benefit massively from an osteopathic treatment. If they get a treatment straight after birth this will take the stress of a traumatic birth out of their system. It also can work wonders if they suffer from colic.

For young children it can help with glued ears or sleep problems. It is great for pregnant women, elderly clients, and those who do not like the idea of their joints being ‘clicked’ or ‘cracked’.

What happens if the trauma goes untreated?

Babies who suffered a traumatic birth, may also experience behavioural problems and learning difficulties if the trauma goes untreated. This could lead to the subsequent feeling of pressure in the head. The baby will constantly move to distract it from the discomfort. They may not like lying on their back or wearing a hat due to an asymmetrical head.

Recurrent colds and coughs and other chesty conditions, behavioural issues in toddlers and children such as not sitting still, lack of concentration, excessive tantrums or bed wetting can be consequences of a traumatic and unresolved birth.

Parents should look into osteopathic treatment if they find their babies are persistently crying, feeling generally irritable, have colic or suffer from wind.

One of the most appreciated benefits of cranial osteopathy is helping the baby get to sleep and increasing the chance of sleeping through the night.

Now you can ask: “If the treatment is so subtle, how do you know that anything is happening?”

Osteopathic and especially cranial and cranio-sacral treatment is a bit like watching someone reading a book. From the outside nothing much seems to be happening. But, if you are the one reading the book, you are transported into a world of structure, colour, depth and emotion. And as you continue to read, the story unfolds.

How Cranial and cranio-sacral osteopathy can support dental treatment

The relationship between osteopathy and dentistry is pretty obvious: conditions affecting the mouth and teeth can have a very direct effect on the rest of the body. Dentistry and osteopathy are very closely interrelated.

Some of our facial bones are very delicate, and they are all interconnected in a very complex way.

All bones are also free to move. They do this in a gentle rhythmical way. This movement is important to maintaining drainage of the sinuses and promoting the free passage of air through the nose.

Trauma to the face may restrict the normal movement between the bones and can have far reaching effects to the entire body. And one of the these causes of trauma is dental treatment.

Common Dental Causes of stress in the face

Cranio-sacral osteopathy is an excellent supportive therapy for dentists. Especially after long sessions in the dental chair, TMJ problems or any problems of the mouth, teeth, jaw, face and even structure.

One of the most common dental causes of stress to the facial bones is a tooth extraction.

The pain and discomfort after a tooth extraction can mean that one side of the mouth cannot be used for chewing, thus creating an unequal bite which can result in strain on the rest of the face, head and neck. Symptoms can be sinus and ear problems, headache, migraine, neck or lower back pain.

Another cause are upper dentures which hold the bones of the upper jaw rigidly together, preventing or severely limiting their natural movement causing Headache, congested sinuses, ear problems, eye strain. To alleviate this, it is best to remove your denture at night to allow the face to free itself off for some hours during each 24-hour cycle.

Loosing teeth can lead to loss of facial bone. Therefore, it is important to maintain the correct height between the upper and lower jaw. If the height is wrong this can cause imbalances and even have a negative influence on your cognitive abilities. This is the reason why dentures should be checked regularly and if necessary be replaced.

Bridges pose a problem if they cross the midline across the upper front teeth because the jawbones of upper jaw are then permanently fixed together, which prevents the intrinsic movement from happening.

Common symptoms can be headache, clicking jaw, painful joints, irritability, reduced concentration, neck pain, lowered immunity, and an increased vulnerability to musculoskeletal strains.

Also, grinding or clenching your teeth puts stress on your facial bones.

However, the dental treatment that should ALWAYS be accompanied by cranio-sacral osteopathy is any kind of orthodontic treatment.

Especially with orthodox, mainstream orthodontics, osteopathy is of tremendous support.  

We know with mainstream orthodontics teeth are moved about by external forces to positions which often do not coincide with their natural position, therefore the entire body is massively stressed.  

This restricts and disrupts the normal movement of the facial bones and can cause tension in head, neck, shoulders, hips. It can even be the reason for differences in leg length.

Headaches, toothache, jaw aches are only a few of the symptom children experience when having their train tacks fitted.

The start of a conventional orthodontic treatment for children happens at a time where the teenager already encounters a lot of emotional stress as a result of their development into adulthood.

These kids are metaphorically speaking put into jail with their fixed braces. It is not for nothing these braces are called train tracks. These braces make the facial bones as flexible as train tracks.

This all happens at a time in their life when they are about to  making their experiences in breaking out of the familiar structures, which is the exact opposite to being forced behind bars, putting them under even more stress.

A brief word on how conventional Orthodontics works?

All teeth in the upper and lower jaw are fixated with a metal wire. This way teeth lose their intrinsic mobility. And on top of losing their intrinsic mobility the mobility of their skull bones is limited too.

An osteopath can easily confirm this.

In case the wire contains nickel, this could be another stress factor as nickel is known to be one of the most potentially allergy-causing metals.

More on this topic in episode 011 Braces for kids – What you need to know.

The osteopath helps to deal with this situation and releases stress from the system.

Ideally, osteopathic treatment starts before the braces are fitted. This helps reducing the underlying stress. The treatment should continue during treatment to help the body accommodate the additional stress and remain after the braces are removed, to assist with any lasting effects.

Case Study

I once had a young patient, about twelve years old who went for an osteopathic treatment shortly after seeing me for an initial orthodontic consultation.

Already after only a few treatments the changes in his jaw and teeth were phenomenal. We did not have to do any kind of orthodontic treatment, the osteopathic treatment did it all for him.

This is most definitely an exception, but it shows how powerful osteopathy can be.

That’s it for today. Thanks for tuning in. I’m looking forward to having you here next time at Elmar’s Tooth Talk – The Missing Link To Total Health

By for now.

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