Tek Scan

Just like breathing or your heartbeat, you probably don't give much thought to how your teeth meet. And that's a good thing. If you had to track and think about your day to day viceral functions, you would not have the time or energy to live a normal life. Teeth should meet and work comfortably. But sometimes they don't. Certain disorders of the temporomandibular joint, therapeutic and natural movement of teeth, new restorations, or prosthetic replacement teeth like dentures or partial dentures, may result in a less than comfortable "bite" that brings unwelcome attention or discomfort to how the teeth meet.

Historically, dentists attempt to analyze how the teeth meet by using a carbon marking paper,"articulating paper," to demonstrate where the teeth meet. Over the years, the dental profession has taught itself that the markings transferred from tooth to tooth, and the intensity of the marks, had enough clinical significance to base treatment decisions. Typically, these are treatments that irreversibly alter the patient's tooth structure. Consider that dental enamel, once formed, never replaces itself. The alteration of the tooth's size and shape may be of therapeutic value, but without some reliable system of guidance, can actually lead to more serious problems. Also consider that once the teeth have been altered, because of the complexities of how the mouth works, the cascade of problems that can ensue typically have no roadmap back to replicate the pre-treatment state. Add to this the fact that, until recently, there has never been any scientific study showing that dental articulating paper even does what the dental profession has presumed it to do for all of these many years. In fact, although articulation paper is somewhat helpful in attempting to adjust the bite; these recent studies have shown that the use of articulating paper simply gives the dentist a higher level of guessing than not using any guidance.

The issue is simple: at best, articulating paper might reveal tooth-to-tooth contact, but any interpretation past that is a clinical guess.

Fortunately, dentists have teamed with engineers interested in issues of bite timing and pressure to develop a technology called "TekScan." TekScan is a computerized sensor system, shaped to accommodate the dental arch. The sensor is filled with pressure sensitive ink that will be displaced upon being bitten. The computer program is able to interpret this displacement to graphically and numerically show the timing and force of the bite with an unparalleled degree of sensitivity, specificity, and reliability.

The therapeutic significance is – and there is no other way of saying it – huge! On the computer screen the dentist can reliably see where the points of contact are. The graphic display also shows a gradient in the degree of biting pressure. Unlike using articulation paper, adjustments can be made based on fact- not an educated guess. Secondly, this computerized analysis also shows the timing of the bite. This is particularly significant in helping to create an "even bite," and also to determine healthy muscle recruitment during function. For patients with the atypical facial pain syndrome "Myofacial Pain," this can be crucial. Teeth are connected to the bone via fine ligaments that possess nervous innervation. These nerves not only tell the brain when contact is made, but also play a significant role in regulating muscular activity. Too much muscle loading can lead to abnormal levels of metabolic waste products and muscular fatigue. When repeated on a daily basis- prolonged, inefficient muscular activity breaks the system down and leads to pain and dysfunction in susceptible individuals.

TekScan is the only method of objectively analyzing how the teeth meet.