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Ask Dr. Ticcy: Can dental appliances cure Tourette Syndrome?

Ask_Dr_Ticcy_Logo-238x250Dr. Ticcy is a pseudonym for the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada National Office, which draws on information from experts across Canada and beyond to answer questions from the TS community. Please send your questions to tsfc@tourette.ca with the salutation “Dear Dr. Ticcy.”

Dear Dr. Ticcy,

I saw an article on the internet that says that dentists can cure TS, but I also know that there is no cure for TS. Can you explain this?

Sincerely,
Really Confused

Dear Really Confused,

You are correct; there is no cure for TS. That said, there are several online articles (as well as some discussion on our own TSFC Online Forum) that talk about a new treatment for TS involving a dental appliance.

This dental appliance, developed by dentists Anthony Sims and Brendan Stacks, is called a “Neurocranial Vertical Distractor.” It aims to relieve the physical pressure on the nerves at the base of the brain. Drs. Sims and Stacks believe that when the cranial nerves that control the front of the face, the sides of the face, and lower digestive system get compressed together (squished), they “cross talk” — they transfer nerve impulses from one to another and in doing so, they bypass the higher control centre of the brain. These dentists say the Neurocranial Vertical Distractor, when inserted over the lower jaw, “distracts” the fibres entering the base of the brain preventing cross talk with neighbouring nerves.

To date there has only been one pilot study about this new treatment. It is called “Tourette Syndrome: A Pilot Study for the Discontinuance of a Movement Disorder” and is written by Drs. Sims and Stacks, creators of the Neurocranial Vertical Distracter.

Published in the Journal of Craniomandibular Practice, the article contends that TS is not psychological, genetic or environmental in origin. Instead, Sims & Stack argue that it is a “structural reflex disorder”—a structural deformity that manifests itself as a neurological problem. How did they reach this conclusion? They reach it based on several cases in their pilot study where TS symptoms stopped after they inserted the device into their patients’ mouths.

In summary, while there is some anecdotal evidence that this treatment works for some individuals in some circumstances, there is no consensus among medical experts as to whether it works or does not work (at least none that the TSFC is aware of). There is only one scientific study on this treatment at present–so there is not a lot of information available.

If you are considering this treatment for yourself or a loved one, please be sure to consult with your treating physician.

If you want to learn more about treatments for TS, get the Canadian Guidelines for the Evidence-based Treatment of Tourette Syndrome, available as a book or a free downloadable PDF on the TSFC website.

Sincerely,
Dr. Ticcy

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14 Comments

  1. I live in the UK..my 20 year old son has Tourettes.is this treatment available in the UK..if so,what is the cost…thank you…

  2. This is fascinating. I am a Chiropractor, and a patient presented with a adult onset of t tic. He mentioned he had a tooth issue where his tooth felt like it moved a bit ; and his tic was gone for three days. He had that same tooth removed, and the tic returned. It does appear the tooth issue had a cause /effect with his tic.

    • Well, I got the appliance from Dr. Stack a week ago, and the results so far are underwhelming. I had high hopes when a bunch of sticks in my mouth reduced my urge to tic. However, my urge is no less with the appliance, and speech is still difficult. Also, even with just part time use, my back teeth no longer touch. On the plus side, my (mild) TMJ discomfort has been reduced.

      Have others ever been able to get to the point of speaking the same with as without the appliance?

  3. My son has used an appliance–actually two appliances, one of which goes over upper teeth at night and the other over lower teeth during day. It brought much improvement especially with his vocal tics, including repetitive phrases and spitting or blowing while trying to talk. He lost the lower appliance after a couple of months, and has had a reversal. We’re having a replacement made now. The lower appliance is in the mouth for at least 12 hours a day, and definitely brings improvement.

    • HI My Daughter is 14 years old, she has very bad vocal tics.. Can this help her out??

  4. I use the appliance. I would tic multiple times a minute. Now, as long as I wear it, I’m tic free. Try it!

  5. Linda Beck-Kuban Doug Kramer no we did not have dental insurance. It is not a retainer. the patient first gets a CAT scan of his mouth, then impressions are made. The appliance is built up (it can be just the lower jaw or it can be upper and lower. We only had lower. Initially, my son felt that it worked (perhaps a placebo effect?) He didn’t like how it changed his speech and how it felt and along with his OCD… If it had worked I believe he would have endured! We did contact Dr. Stacks office for a referral out here in the west coast. One of the things that intrigued us was from Dr. Stacks video was that he built up some tongue depressors (taped together) and had the patient bit down on them and the tics slowed way down, so we tried something similar and it seemed to help but you can’t run around with a wooden bite in your mouth. If you decide to proceed, I wish you much success! It really seemed to work for some people!

  6. Never heard of this. Is there anyone out there who has tried it and it’s worked? Is this something that could be done overseas?

  7. We tried this with our son and it did NOT work. I do not recommend it. I wouldn’t say it’s a scam, because it’s obviously worked for some, but if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

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