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Dr. Josef Wollmann, DDS, Converts Pain to Peace

An Inside Look at the Technology Curing Leesburg's Headaches

Imagine that your migraines are so frequent and so severe that you can’t risk leaving the house, in fear that one will strike while you’re driving. When they come, they're debilitating, exhausting, excruciating. Now, imagine that your DENTIST can make them go away.

For one patient of Dr. Josef Wollmann, DDS’s, The Dental Company of Leesburg practice, this isn’t fantasy but fact. A homemaker in Leesburg came in experiencing debilitating headaches, underwent the same treatment Josef devised for himself and was migraine-free in just three weeks! “We can’t solve every single patient’s migraine issue – it has to be jaw-related,” Josef says. But because this particular patient’s problem was strictly jaw related, the solution was obvious.

The solution wouldn’t have been clear to a young Dr. Josef, fresh out of dental school. For his own migraines, he blamed staying at or near the top of his class, moving from California to Texas, and having his first child – more than the usual number of life-stressers – as culprits. In fact, as he discovered after several failed attempts to craft orthotics for himself to ease his pain – his problem was actually rooted in his decision to get braces!

“During dental school, I decided that in order to become a dentist I needed to have perfect teeth so I had braces done. I had never had braces in my life; my teeth were slightly crowded so it wasn’t too bad.” But after a year and a half, his jaw never felt right. Possibly, it wasn’t entirely the braces’ fault – there could have been an underlying problem that they exacerbated – but what he experienced was difficulty chewing meat, jaw tiredness, neck pain, shoulder pain, and yes, skull splitting headaches where he’d never experienced any previously.

He began to craft night-guards for himself and they brought temporary relief, but none more than a few weeks. That his symptoms decreased markedly even for a while was the tip-off that his headaches could be jaw related. “So, I started treating myself for TMJ issues or TMD (Temporo Mandibular Disfunction) in technical terms. Unfortunately, even after scouring his dental school notes, talking to dentists and countless adjustments to his mouth pieces, the longest relief he achieved was three and a half months.

He then literally stumbled upon neuromuscular dentistry when a dentist friend called him up to boast about a new machine he was using to treat his patients’ jaw pain. “I ended up almost forcing him to try it on me and found that, here is something where you can actually collect data. And, you can use that data to diagnose exactly what your jaw needs!”

So impressed was he by the certainty availed him by the 3-D muscular sensing and imaging technology that he signed up for the same courses as his colleague. “At that moment, it just made sense to me. Everything else was almost a leap of faith....This was the first time I actually saw data on why my jaw wasn’t working.”

The seemingly magic machine, which measures and records mandibular function and chewing muscle status, comes from a Kent, Washington-based company called Myotronics. While it sounds complicated, essentially the tool provides electrodes that attach to key jaw muscles and then measures in 3-D when these muscles are either stressed or at rest. And, it ports results that are readable to a trained neuromuscular dentist directly into a USB port in a computer.  

In Dr. Josef’s office, patients can view their results on a wall-mounted video screen as he explains what the colorful lines and squiggles may mean for his ability to treat your specific ailments, ranging from tinnitus (ringing in your ears) to neck and jaw pain and, of course, migraines. While the electrodes are attached, Dr. Josef creates a bite impression of your mouth at the point when your muscles are “happiest.” The orthotic he can then make, when worn, puts your jaw muscles at rest and your pain in the rear-view mirror. Some patients' jaw muscles require “reprogramming” with the help of a specially designed TENS unit (a device that sends small electrical currents to targeted body parts), made just for the jaw. Because the data collected shows clearly in what position your muscles are happy – not straining to bite, chew, swallow or talk – finding a way to keep them happy is then relatively easy.

So, why isn’t neuromuscular dentistry taught in dental school? Dr. Josef explains that most dental schools focus on how your teeth come together, and how to make adjustments for them to meet properly. “But it isn’t your jaw, your teeth, your bones or whatever that is typically causing your pain – it’s your muscles. Traditional dentistry doesn’t take your muscles into account,” Dr. Josef says. “We not only focus on your muscles, we can remedy many of the ways that they may be causing you pain.”

Put simply, Dr. Josef’s quest for a solution to his own pain is now effectively healing his patients. Since he applied his own training to making the right orthotic to treat his symptoms, he hasn’t had a single migraine, for more than five years. 

We should add that, first, Dr. Josef doesn’t consider himself an expert in every aspect of neuromuscular dentistry, but he has followed his own symptoms and those of family members with sleep issues, to discover cures for both TMD and sleep apnea. Dr. Josef believes that everyone’s mouth is different, so the quest for solutions to every patient’s problems can only be found in continual study and research.

He and his partner Dr. Marcus Hoang, DDS, spend 200-300 hours annually – each – in continuing educational studies to improve their knowledge of how to treat their patients’ dental issues with the most advanced techniques in their profession. Virginia requires just 15 hours of continuing education. For Dr. Josef, the extra study “keeps dentistry really exciting. There is so much to learn.”

He explains, “Basically, you go down one road, TMJ/TMD for instance, and it will open up 10 more doors. We can’t specialize in just one thing because we’re a general dentistry practice, but we try to master the things we’re most interested in and that can help our patients.” In short, “Nothing follows a roadmap,” but with Dr. Josef on the case, the destination is predictably a happy one.

The Dental Company of Leesburg is located at 17 Fort Evans Rd. NE, Suite C, but the practice also serves Ashburn, Lansdowne, Broadlands, Sterling, Woodburn and Hamilton. Call 703-936-4444, email scheduling@leesburgdentist.com or see http://leesburgdentist.com. 

It's February, so if the headache that was 2020 hasn't left yet, it's time to book a visit with Dr. Josef Wollmann at The Dental Company of Leesburg.

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