Changing Lives One Smile at a Time

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By Constance See

Can debilitating insomnia, migraines, back, neck and shoulder pain disappear thanks to a new form of dentistry? The story may sound strange, but it’s very true.

Kjersti Cote of Whitefish suffered from severe migraine headaches that left her with symptoms of light sensitivity, nausea and severe shooting pains. The migraines would threaten to hit three or four times each week. She saw a massage therapist and chiropractor regularly and tried to manage with pain medication.

“When you feel that bad, it’s difficult to go through your daily tasks of parenting, cooking, and cleaning,” Cote said.  “I had tension up the wazoo. The massages and chiropractic adjustments relieved the pain temporarily, but it was never long lasting. I was still always cracking open that bottle of Tylenol or Motrin. I never left home without it.”

Cote only has one kidney. She donated her second kidney to her father four years ago and saved his life. Her dependence on any pain reliever was a concern.

After chipping a tooth in the fall of 2007, Cote went in for a regular dental appointment with Dr. Rod Spencer in Kalispell. One of his assistants, Kim, sat with Cote or the viewing of a short film explaining the benefits of neuromuscular dentistry. The film opened her eyes.

Using state-of-the-art equipment, trained dentists can measure muscle tension along the face and neck, and then use this information to determine if a correction in the bite will help.  A mold is made of the patient’s teeth and existing bite.  Another mold is captured in the position where the bite should be based on ‘happy’ muscles. Orthodontic devises (orthotics) are built to reposition each tooth until the jaw is aligned into a rest position.

Symptoms of a jaw imbalance are varied. Persistent headaches, neck and shoulder pain, ringing in the ears, dizziness, clicking of the jaw, insomnia, numbness in arms and fingertips, gum recession, teeth breaking, teeth wearing abnormally, posture problems and pain behind the eyes can all be symptoms.

“I said, ‘I have almost all these symptoms,’” Cote said.

Dr. Spencer examined Cote and noted her two front teeth were more inward, forcing her lower jaw out of alignment. She committed to the program and within a few weeks her migraines began to dissipate.

“I expected my smile to be better, but I wasn’t expecting that kind of pain relief,” Cote said. “There’s been a 90 percent decrease in my migraines. When they took my braces off last month, I had to be reminded that a year ago I was in constant pain. I’d forgotten how bad it was before. I haven’t changed anything else in my life. I have the same exercise regime and the same diet. Nothing else has changed but my teeth. Aligning my jaw into a relaxed position released all that tension. I think a lot of people suffer silently in pain when they don’t have to. “

David Biggs also discovered the connection between his chronic pain and his jaw thanks to Dr. Spencer. Biggs is an appliance mechanic with a business based in Kalispell. He’s repaired and moved sub-zero freezer units that weighed 700 pounds. For nearly two decades his neck, shoulders and back hurt every day. Biggs also suffered from restless sleep and a loud snoring problem.

One time while sleeping in a small cabin with his brother and some friends, Biggs was surprised when they told him he snored. It was so loud everyone else thought there was a bear on the porch.

“I used to grind my teeth at night, and wake up every morning with a dry mouth,” Biggs said. “The first thing Dr. Spencer wanted to do was to put in an orthodontic device to stop the grinding. It realigned my jaw. I was surprised when shoulder and neck pain I’d had for 18 years was gone. My snoring stopped, and I’m sleeping better too. I can go to bed at 10pm zonk out, and not wake up until 7 a.m. the next morning.”

Bigg’s realignment dropped his jaw by about ¼ of an inch. In his case, teeth were capped or replaced. No braces were used.

Dr. Rod Spencer is changing lives one smile at a time. Want to find out if you’re a good candidate for neuromuscular dentistry? Give Dr. Spencer and his staff a call to set up a free consultation at their office in Kalispell. You’ve got nothing to lose but your pain. Call 406-602-4100 or check out his web site at


Article: 406 Woman, June/July 2009 pg. 79