Mark J. Gordon, DDS

TMJ Treatment: A Cooperative Approach

As with many dental health procedures, the treatment of TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders requires a cooperative approach between you (the patient) and me (the doctor).  Once we have diagnosed the condition and narrowed in on the problem, we have many different treatment options to explore together.   And luckily, most cases of TMJ do not require invasive treatment.

Symptoms of TMJ disorder range from aching jaw muscles and painful ear to difficulty chewing. Oftentimes there is a clicking noise when chewing.  And occasionally, locking of the joint can even occur.

The causes are just as wide-ranging as the symptoms.  Sometimes TMJ disorder is caused by a lack of cartilage, sometimes by a blow or impact injury, and occasionally it can be caused by excessive teeth clenching or grinding.

Once we have diagnosed (or ruled out) TMJ disorder, we can get to work on developing a treatment plan for you.  Here are some common treatment options that we will discuss in the office, divided up by: things we will do in the office and things you can do at home.

In the Office, we may:

  • Administer medications to reduce the immediate pain and relax the muscle.
  • Provide you with a splint (night guard).  The purpose of this is to keep your teeth apart during the night, allowing the muscles to relax.
  • Isometric jaw exercises for TMJ discomfort
  • In EXTREME cases, where the jaw can’t open or is dislocated, surgery may be recommended.

At home, we may ask you to:

  • Be mindful of keeping your teeth apart and resting your jaw when not eating.
  • Use ice and heat packs to comfort the area.
  • Eat soft foods.
  • Be aware of your posture.
  • Try a stress management routine that might include biofeedback.

Whatever type of jaw pain you are having, please give us a call so that we can help you figure out how serious it is and what to do about it!

Wisdom Teeth: What’s the Big Deal?

Especially with the younger crowd, this is a question we get time and time again in our office!  And understandably so!  To some, removing the wisdom teeth seems like it should be an elective procedure, not a necessary one.

You have probably heard the statistic that 85% of people have to have their wisdom teeth (also called “third molars”) extracted at some point during their life.  But you may be wondering “Why?”  (As in “Why fix it if it isn’t broken?”)

Well, as it turns out, naming these teeth “wise” demonstrates a very questionable use of vocabulary.  “Wisdom” teeth actually turn out to be more like “trouble makers” for most people, and the common removal of them during the young adult years is done as a necessary preventative measure to possibly avoid much bigger problems down the road.

What kind of problems are we preventing? 

One of the problems wisdom teeth present is that often there is no place for them to grow.  The average mouth is designed to accommodate 28 permanent teeth, not 32.  What ends up happening is that the third molars start to grow horizontally, inward or outward or even into the jaw bone, eventually crowding the nerves and causing pain.

In the case of impacted teeth, they may be “stuck” in the jawbone, only able to partially erupt through the gums.  This can create an inlet for bacteria with the potential to cause serious infection inside the mouth and jaw area.  Furthermore, brushing and flossing becomes a problem, which leads to more problems with decay and infection.

Still not convinced as to why we would perform the procedure now instead of just waiting to see if you develop problems later in life?   Great question!  As it turns out, we have a very good reason for that as well:  In a teen or young adult, the removal of wisdom teeth is much easier to perform with less pain and complications simply because the roots have not fully formed yet.  Once those roots set in the surgery becomes more complicated.

We understand your hesitations about wisdom teeth removal, and we’d be happy to answer any other questions you have about your wisdom teeth, give us a call today!

What Good Oral Health Means When You Are Pregnant

If you are pregnant, you probably already know how important it is to take care of your body during this exciting time.  A good, nutritious diet, regular moderate exercise and adequate sleep help protect both your health and the health of your baby.  But what you may not already know is how important your oral health is during pregnancy also.

Recent research has suggested that women with periodontal disease may have a higher risk of unwanted childbirth complications, such as pre-term labor and low birth weight of the baby.   However, luckily, the opposite is also true!  A thorough exam by your dentist may decrease the chance that you will have these pregnancy and labor problems.

Now we may have you wondering, “What exactly is periodontal disease?”  Simply put, it is “gum disease”, a chronic inflammatory condition in the gums that is caused by the presence of bacteria.

So what can you do about it?  To ensure the best health outcome for you and your baby, in addition to receiving regular medical care from your obstetrician, be sure to see your dentist on schedule during your pregnancy as well.  And, as always, practice good dental hygiene at home with routine brushing and flossing.

These simple steps that we all should be doing anyway might just save you and your baby from potentially serious complications when the birthday comes!

 

 

Calming Your Nerves Before Dental Procedures

Almost everyone has some feelings of nervousness when thinking about visiting the dentist.  We hear it all the time from our patients.  But don’t worry (I know, easier said than done).  It is totally normal to have a bit of anxiety (or even a lot of anxiety) before your visit.

In our office, we have many years of experience in dealing with nervous patients.  So to help you out, we’ve compiled this quick yet effective set of tips for dealing with those inevitable nerves before your dental procedure.

  1. Let us know!  Sometimes just saying the words, “I’m a little bit nervous” can help by normalizing the nervousness itself a little bit, which instantly releases some of that stress that has the tendency to build up in your system. It also alerts us, which is great!  In fact, we might just be able to help by doing procedures a little bit differently than we normally would or even just by offering some words of encouragement and reassurance.
  2. Music – Ask us to turn up (or down) the music in your exam room if that helps.  Or, depending on the procedure, you may even be able to listen to your own MP3 player while we work away.  Ask us ahead of time to be sure the procedure will allow for this.
  3. Breathe – Did you know that consciously taking a breath instantly calls to action your parasympathetic nervous system which is the part of the brain responsible for calming you down?  The good news is that you always have your breath with you, so don’t forget to use it!  Just by paying attention to your breath, for example, how it feels coming in and going out and the other sensations it creates, you can access the calming center of your brain.  An easy breathing exercise that can be used anytime, anywhere, including in the dental chair is to breathe in for 4 counts, then out for 4 counts.   You will instantly feel better.
  4. TVs with cable selection in treatment rooms
  5. Nitrous oxide gas administered during appointment may help alleviate anxiety while remaining completely awake.
  6. Prescribe anti-anxiety medication

We hope you find these tips helpful in dealing with your dental fears.  Just remember, you are not alone.

Chomp! Fun Facts about Teeth

As children, we are obsessed with our teeth.  Counting them, watching them fall out and grow back in.  Waiting for the tooth fairy’s surprise.  And as adults, we are still obsessed with them, but maybe in a different way (as in “why do they always hurt and why aren’t they white anymore?”)  So just for fun, and to further indulge in this fascination with teeth (See?  It’s not just dentists that are obsessed with them), here are some fun facts about teeth.

This is a great article to share with your children!  How many of these facts did you already know?

Sharks don’t get cavities.  Why?  Because their teeth are coated in fluoride.  That combined with the fact that they have rows and rows of replacement teeth, ready to go at a moment’s notice, give them an unfair advantage over humans when it comes to oral health.

You are lucky!  You have three types of teeth:  (1) Incisors to bite pieces off, (2) Canines to hold and tear, and (3) molars to grind food.  This allows you to eat a wide variety of foods.  Some animals, like crocodiles, aren’t so lucky, they only have sharp teeth to grab and kill, which greatly reduces their restaurant choices.

Enamel is the hardest material in the human body.  It is considered the last line of defense for your tooth.  Normal wearing down of enamel does occur over time and is simply a part of aging.  But bacteria can cause this breakdown to accelerate, which is why we brush and floss regularly!

Taste buds only live for about 10 days, or 2 weeks if they are lucky.  They go through a life cycle just like every other cell renewal processes in the body.

Sharkskin is covered in teeth.  Don’t believe me?  Both sharks and their cousins, rays, are covered in what are called dermal denticles.  Although they look like scales they are actually just modified teeth, with an enamel coating and all!  These protect them and also help them swim faster, but enough about sharks.

The jaw muscle, called the “masseter”, is the strongest muscle in the body if we are talking about strength based by weight.  When all of these muscles work together, the jaw exerts 55 pounds of weight on the incisors and 200 pounds on the molars.  This is why we take jaw disorders like teeth grinding, TMJ and bruxism very seriously – that’s a lot of force!  Call us today if you suspect you might be a teeth grinder.

Did you know any of these fun facts about teeth already or did we surprise you?

Considering An Upgrade to Dental Implants

Have you been thinking of upgrading your current tooth replacement strategy but aren’t sure where to start?  This is a great time of growth in modern dentistry, especially when it comes to replacing missing teeth!  With the evolution of dental implants, patients don’t have to suffer some of the pains of the past when older, traditional tooth replacement methods were used.

Traditionally, missing teeth were always “fixed” with bridges or dentures.  And while both of those procedures are still in use by dentists and do still serve an important purpose, they often cause unintended problems in the mouth that modern dental implants may be able to alleviate, or avoid completely.

What is a dental implant, you may be asking?  At the most basic level, a dental implant is simply a prosthetic tooth that is mounted to a metal post which is screwed into the jaw bone.  The procedure is typically done in two visits.  During the first procedure, a titanium screw is inserted into the jawbone, where it is allowed to bond to supporting bone, a process that generally takes about four to eight months.  After that, the dentist creates a prosthetic tooth and attaches it to the titanium post for a fully functional (yet fake) tooth!

The benefit of dental implants is that, unlike dentures, they are almost unnoticeable by the patient.  Anyone who has had dentures knows that they tend to slip and wear down and sometimes even cause mild pain or discomfort.  With dental implants, you will not even know they are there.  They function just like a natural tooth in your mouth, no slipping, movement or separate cleaning required.  Similarly, patients who are used to receiving bridges may benefit by an upgrade to an implant as bridges have a tendency to invite bacteria and infection, requiring additional replacements.

Whatever your concerns about dental implants are, we are here to help.  Give us a call today to see if dental implants might be right for you!