Dr. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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?
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.