Video: How Your Smile Affects Your Entire Body

What do your teeth have to do with pilates? How about tennis? Even bowling? You may be surprised to learn that the position of your bite can make a major impact on athletic performance, not to mention your overall strength, flexibility and comfort on a daily basis.

Featured NewBeauty cosmetic dentist Dr. Joe Willardsen recently visited NewBeauty's Boca Raton offices and showed us some of the secrets behind neuromuscular dentistry, which is part of his practice, True Dentistry, in Las Vegas. In the video to the left, Dr. Willardsen performs what seem like magic tricks on Special Projects Editor Erica Pearlman, but in fact, these "tricks" are simple yet impressive examples of the impact a proper bite can have on your entire body.

This is why Dr. Willardsen and other cosmetic dentists with neuromuscular training don't address only aesthetics when a patient wants to improve his or her smile's appearance.

"Crooked, broken and worn-out teeth may be a symptom of a misaligned jaw," Dr. Willardsen explains. "Our job is to create the optimal bite before proceeding with cosmetic work." (You can read more about the process in Dr. Willardsen's NewBeauty profile.)

Not in the market for cosmetic dentistry? Like many professional athletes, you can still discover the advantages of a this burgeoning methodology. Mouth guards, like those by Under Armour, are now being made to go beyond basic protection to help lessen clenching stress, improve airflow, and decrease cortisol production, which results in improved performance and less fatigue. An appropriately trained dentist can customize one for your own use.

Do you think your athleticism or even your daily life could be enhanced by improving your bite? Does cosmetic dentistry with a neuromusclar approach appeal to you? Leave your opinion or questions in a comment below.

13 Comments
  • Posted on

    As a beauty editor, it is always such a treat for me to work with esteemed NewBeauty doctors, learning from the very experts who make our publication the ultimate beauty resource. My experience with Dr. Willardsen was a prime example. Dr. Willardsen, thank you for enlightening us as to the significant role a smile plays in our overall performance, health and well-being. You are inspiring, motivating and a leading authority I'm proud to have had the pleasure of working with. Your comprehensive tactics go above-and-beyond standard treatment protocols, ensuring patients receive not only beautiful smiles, but ones that are just as functional as they are aesthetic. Your all-encompassing approach to dentistry, particularly your focus on the link between oral and systemic health, is an aspect of dentistry that is gaining tremendous buzz, and one of which I'm glad we could explore together. Without even examining me, you were able to tell that I had TMJ. That's pretty unbelievable. Upon my next visit to Las Vegas, you can be sure I'll be making a trip out to your office for a mouth guard. Until then, thank you so, so much--for everything. You're a star!

  • Dr. Larry
    Posted on

    Over the counter mouthguards are a one piece plastic device. They are bulky, position the jaw wrong, make it hard to talk and breathe. Custom made mouthguards are in multi-laminated layers. They are less bulky, easier to talk and breathe and the layers distribute forces so that they not only protect teeth, but they help prevent concussions. Now there is a third level...the sports performance mouthguard. This has all the benefits of the second one with the teeth protection and concussion prevention, with optimization of the jaw position to improve sports performance including muscle recruitment, flexibility, balance, range of motion and endurance. Hope this helps.

  • Angel
    Posted on

    Hi, Dr. Willardsen. Are over the counter mouthguards as effective as ones made by your dentist? What's the difference?

  • Barbara
    Posted on

    THRILLED to see this great info being disseminated to the lay public. I look forward to learning more on your website. I hope that MDs and chiropractors are gaining awareness of this critical link and understanding that the teeth/jaw are actually part of the whole body system. Bruxism is still being treated w/antianxiety agents with no assessment of a musculoskeletal link or medication-related etiology. Some antidepressants [SSRIs and SNRIs] are believed to help w/anxiety but may actually worsen bruxism/TMD by effecting dopamine [implicated in movement disorders]. With horses, the TMJ is becoming known as the 'master link' to whole body wellness. With teeth not properly cared for/aligned, the jaw will be misaligned. The tremendous innervation in the jaw/upper cervicals can effect the entire body both physically and mentally. My 'problem horse' transformed from a cranky, clumsy boy to a quiet, cooperative, surefooted mount when his teeth, jaw, and body were aligned by veterianians who specialize in dentistry and chiropractic. A tooth ['point'] that interferes with proper jaw placement can manifest as a hindend lameness. FYI, http://balancedequinewellness.com/Articles.htm I am acutely aware of the importance of the TMJ since suffering a neck injury in 1993 when carrying a 13lb. laptop computer [slung over shoulder] all day for work as a pharma rep. One day a 'zing' like an electric shock went up my neck, around my ear, into my jaw and temple and later down into my low back. I eventually lost my career due to the debilitating pain [and depression that came w/it]. Through my search for treatment, I was amazed by the number of MDs that had no knowledge of the jaw being connected to the neck and [in the case of an ENT] to the ears [clogged w/TMD]. I eventually found a dentist who specializes in head and neck pain [Bradley Eli, DMD, Scripps, La Jolla, CA] who pulled it all together and got me to a much more functional level.

  • anonymous
    Posted on

    This is interesting. And I thought mouth guards only helped with TMJ, hockey and snoring!

  • Joe Willardsen
    Posted on

    Hi Lorri, Those are great questions! Standard mouthguards are designed mostly for protection of the teeth. i.e. boxing. Some mouthguards are designed for concusion protection to the jaw joints and surrounding cranial structures as in football and soccer. How I design the mouthguard will depend on the patients sport. For contact sports I would make an upper guard. Typically for non-contact sports the guard would be placed on the lower teeth and be much less bulky. Not all mouth guards will improve physical performance! It depends on how they are designed and most importantly how they record the bite position of the upper and lower jaws. A neuromuscular mouthguard that captures the correct upper to lower jaw relationship has been proven to be scientifically helpful as to muscle and postural balance. The neuromuscular mouthguard (if made by a properly trained dentist) is helpful in all sports requiring balance, flexibility, strength, sustained peak power, endurance, oxygenation recovery and range of motion activities. I personally use my guard when I am cycling, snow skiing and off-road racing. It is designed in such a way that when I am clenching I can still breath through my mouth and get excellent air flow. With the guard placing my jaw in the right position it corrects any airway obstruction. A properly designed guard would work in your aerobics classes just as well. Your students will love it!

  • Lorri
    Posted on

    Dr. Willardsen, I have a question for you. What sports do you think mouth guards are most helpful for? Does a mouth guard help with performance in some sports more than others? I am an aerobics instructor, and I'm wondering if you think this would be helpful for some of my students. Please let me know.

  • Posted on

    A girl that i golf with was just telling me about this. She got it to improve her game and the side effect was that it improved her stiff neck and shoulders as well. Glad i know who to go see to get this done.

  • Posted on

    Great information Dr. Willardsen! My son is doing his 4th ironman and he's on his way to Hawaii. I passed this information on to him and we will certainly be speaking about it at our next yoga session at Veronica's in Malibu!

  • Victoria
    Posted on

    As a recreational tennis player, I'm always looking for that extra something to enhance my game. Next trip to Vegas will definately include a visit to Dr. Willardsen! And Erica, you're fantastic!

  • Posted on

    Yes, Tests have shown that when the lower jaw is optimally positioned it makes a significant difference in head rotation, side bending and flexion movements. In fact, these Agility tests are being used by more and more doctors to confirm these facts with their patients. Improved body flexibility, bending, improved balance, and improved breathing are the results. Professionals are discovering that "Bite Optimization" is key to finding a "True" physiologic position for TMJ pain resolution as well as improving athletic performance by top performers. As Dr. Willardsen demonstrated nicely in the video, a generalized Agility screening test can be done to demonstrate the difference between an individuals existing bite position and a more physiologic jaw position (using the pen agility test properly) to prove these neuromuscular and body responses. The AgilityGuard is getting the attention by many who understand objective measurability and science. There are differences...details do matter when it comes to finding the bite and optimizing it. The body responses when it is right! Clayton A. Chan, DDS

  • Marissa C.
    Posted on

    Wow, this is really interesting! I had no idea an improper bite could affect your strength or balance. I'll definitely be thinking about this at my next yoga class! Thanks!

  • Joe Willardsen
    Posted on

    The use of a neuromuscular mouth guard in sports was found almost be default. As we treated our patients with TMJ symptoms we found that their range of motion, strength, and balance were all improved. This technology and information seamlessly transferred into the realm of sports. As more and more research is developed on the neuromuscular mouth guards guards we are finding that there is a big difference in how they perform. Optimizing the bite is essential when then dentist fits the patient for the neuromuscular mouth guard. The newest brand of neuromuscular mouth guards is the "Agility Guard". The "Agility Guard" is the only brand that the dentist is using with the optimized bite. Their soon to be released webiste is www.agilityguard.com. It was exciting and fun to work with Erica and the whole New Beauty staff on this blog!!! Great job New Beauty!