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None of the Tourette's syndrome treatments has been reliably effective. Fortunately, two dentists named Anthony Sims and Brendan Stack seem to have uncovered both the origins and an effective non-pharmaceutical, non-surgical treatment for the disease.

Dr. Brendan Stack Reports Remission from Tourette's Symptoms without Drugs or Surgery

Tourette's syndrome is a surprisingly common condition of uncontrollable and repetitive muscular movements and vocal utterances that often begin in childhood. These nonrhythmic, involuntary events known as "tics" include blinking, shrugging, coughing, sniffing, and stretching the neck, as well as cursing, repeating socially unacceptable terms such the "N word," and repeating nonsense syllables. Uncontrollable cursing, also known as coprolalia, only occurs in about 10 per cent of people who have Tourette's. Motor (muscle) and verbal tics are not concurrent, they occur multiple times per day, and there is seldom a period of remission from the condition for more than a few hours to a few days.

The symptoms of Tourette's begin in childhood and usually diminish in frequency through adolescence and into adulthood. There is no "typical case" of Tourette's syndrome, but many people who have Tourette's also have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Growing up with the condition exposes the child to intense social pressures from both peers and adults, but many people with Tourette's mature into successful adults with responsible careers.

Many people who have Tourette's syndrome find it difficult to complete a conversation or finish a thought because of the constant interruption of verbal or muscular tics. Some are able to suppress their symptoms until the pressure builds up and the "energy" simply has to be let out. Suppressing symptoms too long can result in an explosion of symptoms, and it may be necessary to find a place to be alone to release their symptoms. Tourette's syndrome symptoms can even occur during sleep, and they are worse during stress.

When Dr. Giles de la Tourette first published "Study of a Nervous Affliction" in 1885, Tourette's syndrome was considered a bizarre psychological condition. In the first half of the twentieth century, Tourette's was treated by psychoanalysis, usually by psychiatrists with a Freudian orientation, assuming that the disease was the result of psychosexual fixations in early childhood.

Freudian psychiatry fell out of favor, and the mainstream treatment for Tourette's became pharmaceutical. Tranquilizers, antihallucinogenic drugs, sedatives, and even Botox were tried for controlling symptoms. Doses of medication strong enough to stop the tics typically debilitated the patient.

In the early 2000's, researchers began investigating a PANDAS theory of the origins of Tourette's, the acronym standing for pediatric autoimmune neurological disorder associated with Streptococcus. Strep throat and strep infections of the ear were thought to trigger an autoimmune reaction in the brain that would cause dysfunctions of the frontal cortex, thalamus, and/or the basal ganglia in the brain. Surgeons then tried implanting devices to provide electrical stimulation to these parts of the brain as a surgical therapy for Tourette's.

But none of these treatments has been reliably effective, or even generally helpful, and none of the theories of the origins of Tourette's has stood up to repeated testing. Fortunately, two dentists named Anthony Sims and Brendan Stack seem to have uncovered both the origins and an effective non-pharmaceutical, non-surgical treatment for the disease.

Sims and Stack Explain How Drug-Free and Surgery-Free Treatment of Tourette's Is Possible

The easiest way to understand how Sims and Stack explain Tourette's syndrome is to consider the experience of accidentally and unexpectedly hitting a thumb with a hammer, touching a stove, or stumping a toe. Many people will utter a loud "Ouch!" or "Darn" or some other expletive we cannot use on a family-oriented website in response to pain.

Suppose the nerve fibers that conduct pain to the brain somehow got crossed with the nerve fibers involved in seeing a woman with large breasts, or being pulled over to the side of the road by a traffic policeman, or seeing a large yellow object. The brain might generate an impulse to say "Piggie! Piggie! Big tits!" or "F----ing Pig! F---ing Pig!" or "Tweetie Bird! Tweetie Bird!" the same way it generates an impulse to say "S---!" when someone touches a hot stove.

People who have Tourette's syndrome tend to not to have "crossed wires" while they are focusing on difficult or interesting tasks. They often consciously try to suppress inappropriate speech and movements, until they just can't. Sims and Stack tell us how this can happen.

The nerves leading from the muscles to the brain sometimes amplify pain signals to make sure the brain gets the message. "Fast" pain fibers in a large nerve enter the base of the brain from the face. Nerves that transmit information about temperature enter the brain at the same place, and the outgoing cranial nerves VII, IX, and X leave the brain in this region.

These cranial nerves control the front of the face, the sides of the face, and the lower digestive tract. Sims and Stack believe that if these nerves are compressed together, they may engage in cross talk, similar to a short circuit, transferring nerve impulses from one to another, partially bypassing the higher control centers of the brain. The stronger the nerve impulse, the harder it is for the higher levels of the brain—which are the usual targets of drug treatments—to intervene and stop the tic.

Dr. Sims and Dr. Stack treat Tourette's syndrome by relieving the physical pressure on the nerves entering the base of the brain so there is less cross talk. They have developed a plastic dental appliance they call a neurocranial vertical distractor, which "distracts" the fibers entering the base of the brain from the cross talk of neighboring nerves. Fitting over the lower teeth, it holds the lower jaw in place so there is less pressure on the base of the brain. Wearing this appliance 24 hours a day reduces symptoms of Tourette's disease in adults, as you can see on You Tube. When the proper spacing of the jaws is determined, these dentists report, all tics cease immediately:

Even more promising, however, is the possibility of using this dental appliance in treating younger children who are just beginning to have symptoms of Tourette's. The first symptom of Tourette's usually appears at the age of five, about the same time the skull grows tight over the area where the nerves involved in tics enter and exit the brain. The first tics usually involve the eyes.

In tests of the device on a seven year-old child, as was the case in tests with adults aged 25, 36, 40, and 52, finding the right spacing of the jaws stopped all symptoms immediately. What a wonderful gift for a child experiencing only the first tics of Tourette's this would be.

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  • Sims A, Stack B. Tourette's Syndrome: A Pilot Study for Discontinuance of a Movement Disorder. Journal of Craniomandibular Practice, 2009.
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