New therapy treats chronic headaches

FARGO - For years Kara Hendrickson of Mapleton, N.D., suffered through daily headaches. She tried everything from wearing a splint to cutting her hair to try to relieve the pain, she said. She sees a massage therapist and a chiropractor regularly...

As part of the diagnostic process of TruDenta Therapy, range of motion sensors are used before and after the therapy as demonstrated on Kara Hendrickson at Designer Smiles in Fargo. Photo by Carrie Snyder, The Forum

FARGO - For years Kara Hendrickson of Mapleton, N.D., suffered through daily headaches.

She tried everything from wearing a splint to cutting her hair to try to relieve the pain, she said.

She sees a massage therapist and a chiropractor regularly.

She even had sinus surgery last December, which helped, but did not eliminate her headaches.

Then, Hendrickson started a new treatment program called TruDenta offered at Designer Smiles dental office where she works as the patient coordinator, she said.


By her fourth week of treatments, Hendrickson was down to maybe one headache a week, she said.

"I love it," she said. "It's been amazing."

TruDenta is a treatment program for people suffering with chronic pain from an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, and nerves that control the head and mouth.

When these forces are not properly balanced, serious conditions like chronic head, neck and face pain, migraines, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), vertigo, blurred vision, or light sensitivity can occur.

"Some people have had migraines for so long, they're convinced there's nothing they can do," said Dr. Dennis Hetland, who owns Designer Smiles. "Here's another option we can offer them."

TruDenta uses a combination of sports therapy techniques, neuroscience, and advanced dental concepts to treat the underlying cause of those conditions.

Patients are first evaluated to find problems in the teeth, muscles, and joints likely caused by force imbalances. They then receive individualized therapy, in the form of both in-office treatments and at-home exercises and treatments.

The in-office treatments involve things like massage, ultrasound therapy, a specialized lotion, cold laser therapy, and micro-current treatments.


At-home treatments might involve self-massage, heat and ice therapy, and the use of specialized equipment, lotions, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.

"More important than the therapy itself is what they're doing at home," Hetland said. "About 20 percent of what we do is in the office and 80 percent of the healing is at home."

Hendrickson's problems started when her jaw locked in junior high school, she said, adding that she also frequently clenches her teeth.

As part of her TruDenta treatments, Hendrickson wears an appliance on her teeth that prevents them from touching.

"I can't wake up clenching my splint because I can't get my teeth together," she said.

The device is a lot more comfortable than her splint and it's so natural, she doesn't even notice it's in her mouth, she said.

The first thing Hendrickson noticed after her first treatment was her range of motion in her neck improved and the knots in her neck and shoulder muscles diminished, she said.

Her chiropractor said she cannot believe the difference in Hendrickson's neck and shoulders since she started the treatments, Hendrickson said.


Her in-home treatments consist of using a specialized lotion in the morning and evening, massage, and using specialized equipment, like the device she puts in her mouth at night.

Once a week, she also receives treatments like laser therapy and massage at Designer Smiles. The in-office treatments take about an hour and Hendrickson said they're very relaxing.

The number of treatments a person needs depends on the severity and cause of their symptoms, Hetland said. A migraine sufferer might need 12 weeks of weekly treatments, he said.

The cost depends on the treatment and ranges from $1,300 to $4,500. Medical insurance may cover it or part of the cost, depending on the company, Hetland said.

Designer Smiles is the only dental office in North Dakota to offer the TruDenta treatment program, according to TruDenta. The only dentist offering it in Minnesota is in Apple Valley.

"It just seemed to be a fit for me in what I was looking to accomplish in building a more comprehensive approach to how we look at health in general," Hetland said, adding that dental and medical problems are often linked.

Stephanie Holscher of Moorhead is a dental assistant at Designer Smiles who is both receiving TruDenta treatments and administering them.

She said she was excited to have it done and learn how to do it because it helps people feel better and changes their lives.


Before TruDenta, Holscher had headaches at least once a week and had so much tightness in her neck, it was hard to move, she said.

Now, she hardly has headaches anymore and her range of motion has improved a lot, she said.

"It's a lot easier to drive. It's a lot easier to do my job," Holscher said. "There are so many things I didn't think about that are easier now."

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