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Radio personality Craig Carton has a successful career with the CBS Sports Network – and he also has Tourette syndrome.
“For a long time I didn’t tell anyone I had Tourette’s, because I just didn’t know,” Craig explains. He wasn’t diagnosed until he was in his 30s, and his symptoms are mild. Two of his four children also have Tourette.
Craig began the Tic Toc Stop Foundation, he says, to use his celebrity to help raise research funds for a new Tourette treatment. Instead of pharmaceutical solutions, this breakthrough is an unlikely device – a dental mouthguard.
Craig acknowledges that the treatment seems to come out of left field. “Why am I going to a dentist, and the dental community, to fix a neurological disorder?” he says. “On the surface, it doesn’t make any sense – but it makes all the sense in the world because it works.”
“With Tourette’s, for 100 years, there’s been not a single advancement in research,” Craig explains. However, he discovered that several dentists were treating Tourette patients with mouthpieces designed for TMJ. This led him to Dentist Dr. Bill Balanoff, who explains the theory behind the mouthguard treatment to ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork.
“We think what’s happening is we’re repositioning the jaw,” says Dr. Balanoff. “And that sends a signal back to the brain stem. And by doing that it turns off the motor signal that tells the muscles to twitch.”
Patients only need to wear the mouthpiece when they’re experiencing tics, and Dr. Balanoff says it usually works instantly. “It works through the fifth cranial nerve, and it goes back to the brain stem. That turns off the motor signal going out to other parts of the body.”
The mouthpiece doesn’t cure Tourette, Craig says. But it can turn off the symptoms and let children go out into the world without fear. “We’re telling parents that there’s an alternative to drugs, and we can help.”