Posts for: November, 2012
The term TMD means “Temporomandibular Disorder.” But if you suffer from this disorder, it means pain. The pain can be mild or severe, acute or chronic, and it can appear to be centered in different locations, making it difficult to diagnose.
People who clench or grind their teeth because of stress often experience the pain of TMD. They might not even know they are engaging in these habits, because they do them subconsciously, for example when driving in traffic or engaging in vigorous exercise. Another cause of TMD might be an injury such as a blow to the jaw.
You can feel your temporomandibular joints working if you place your fingers in front of your ears and move your lower jaw up and down. On each side the joint is composed of an almond shaped structure at the end of the lower jaw, called the condyle, which fits neatly into a depression in the temporal bone (the bone on the side of your skull near your ear). A small disc between the two bones allows the lower jaw to move forward and sideways. The joints are stabilized by ligaments and moved by muscles.
TMD pain is the result of a process that begins when a stimulus such as psychological stress or an injury to the joint causes spasms (involuntary muscle contractions) in the muscles that move the joint. Blood vessels in the muscle begin to accumulate waste products, causing chemical changes and lactic acid buildup in the muscle. Nerves in the muscle then signal the brain to stop the movement of the jaw by registering pain.
TMD pain can appear to originate from various locations in your jaw, head, or neck. This is why it's important to make an appointment with our office for a professional assessment and diagnosis.
Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms of pain and discomfort and to prevent them from recurring in the future. Treatment can include heat, mild painkillers, muscle relaxants, soft diet, and simple jaw exercises, as well as education regarding the causes of TMD. To prevent further pain you may be provided with a “bite guard,” or referred to relaxation training with a licensed therapist. A bite guard is designed to prevent the lower teeth from biting hard into the upper teeth. It is commonly worn at night, but can also be worn during the day if clenching and grinding are apparent.
If these simpler treatments do not solve the problem, we may recommend more complex procedures such as bite adjustment or, as a last resort, surgical treatment may be needed.
If you asked a room full of parents about their opinions on thumb sucking and pacifiers, the odds are good that you would get a wide variety of opinions. The truth is that this habit is a perfectly normal behavior in babies and young children; however, it is something that parents and caregivers should monitor. This is why we want to share a few basic myths and facts to set the record straight.
So how early does thumb sucking start?
It is interesting to note that thumb sucking for some babies actually starts before birth. This fact is proven quite often when expectant mothers “see” their unborn child sucking fingers or a thumb during a routine mid to later term sonogram. Sucking for babies is absolutely normal; it provides them with a sense of security. It is also a way they test, make contact and learn about their world.
At what age should a parent be concerned if their child still sucks a pacifier, finger or a thumb?
Recent studies have shown that if a sucking habit continues after the age of two, there may be some long-term changes in the mouth that have can have a negative impact on jaw development and/or with the upper front teeth. (It can cause these upper front teeth to become “bucked” or protrude forward towards the lips.) The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents and caregivers encourage children to cease this habit by about age three.
Do children ever stop this habit on their own?
Absolutely! If left alone, many children will naturally stop sucking their fingers or thumb between the ages of two and four. The main points to remember are that sucking habits are totally natural and should stop on their own. You should not make it a problem unnecessarily. If, however, your child is getting older and still seems dependant upon this habit, feel free to contact us today to schedule an appointment for your child or to discuss your specific questions about pacifiers and finger or thumb sucking. You can also learn more about this topic by continuing to read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.”
Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that erupt in the late teens or early twenties — so-called because they come in around the age of maturity or “wisdom.” While teeth are designed to last a lifetime, wisdom teeth are often problematic requiring early removal because they frequently become impacted, meaning they are not able to erupt fully through the gums to become healthy functioning teeth. However, not all wisdom teeth need to be removed if they are fully erupted and functional.
Prevention: Having a tooth submerged below the gum, pressing on the roots of neighboring teeth can cause damage and decay even though you may not be feeling any discomfort. By the time the tooth becomes painful, significant damage may already have occurred. In addition, the ability of the body to heal following oral surgery tends to decrease with age. A recent study sponsored by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation strongly recommends that wisdom teeth be removed in young adulthood in order to prevent future problems and to ensure optimal healing.
Reasons for Removal: If your wisdom teeth are impacted against (pressing on) the roots of other teeth, damage can occur. To prevent infections, gum disease, decay, or damage to other permanent teeth, our office may recommend removal of your wisdom teeth.
What to Expect: If wisdom teeth removal is recommended, it can generally be done in the dental office as a surgical procedure with local anesthesia and conscious sedation (twilight sleep). After the surgery, you may experience some moderate discomfort and swelling depending on the degree of impaction and difficulty. Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen, or prescription medication for several days after surgery will provide pain relief and control swelling.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss any questions you may have regarding removal of your wisdom teeth. Read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Wisdom Teeth: To Be Or Not to Be?”