Posts for: June, 2013
If you have pain in your jaws or related headaches, you may have Temporo-mandibular Joint Disorder, TMD. You are probably wondering what this is — and how it can be treated. If this sounds like something you may have, read on for some answers.
What is TMD? TMD describes a group of disorders or diseases that have the same symptoms, but may have different causes, hence it is known as “The Great Imposter.” Pain in and around the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ), the jaw joint involved in opening and closing your mouth — is characterized by pain and soreness in the region of one or both joints, ears, jaw muscles and even the sinuses.
How does the temporo-mandibular joint work? You can feel your jaw 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, like all your joints.
What is the most common cause of TMD? Many people clench or grind their teeth as a reaction to stress. This is generally a subconscious habit, and can even occur during sleep. Continual tooth grinding habits can cause the muscles to go into spasm, which is the most common cause of TMD pain. Structures associated with the jaws — teeth, air sinuses, and even neck and back muscles — share nerves with the muscles in the joints, so the pain may be felt in those structures too, making the exact source of the pain difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of TMD may limit your ability to open your jaw and talk or eat normally.
What is the treatment for TMD? Treatment will depend on the cause, but generally the first step is to relieve pain and discomfort with heat, mild painkillers, muscle relaxants, a soft diet, and simple jaw exercises. A bite guard may be recommended, which should be custom made in our office; a rigid yet unobtrusive plastic appliance that fits over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. Properly fitted and adjusted, it aids and causes jaw muscle relaxation by preventing clenching and grinding. It is worn during times of stress when oral habits tend to recur, and can also be worn at night.
If you are suffering from TMD — whether the pain is moderate or severe — schedule an appointment with us to have it evaluated and treated. You can learn more about TMD by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “TMD: Understanding the Great Imposter.”
Do you frequently experience bleeding gums during your daily brushing routine? You might assume that you are brushing too hard and that this bleeding is normal. However, you should know that any bleeding of gum tissue is abnormal and should be considered a potential sign of gum disease.
Gum tissues usually bleed because of dental plaque buildup from poor oral hygiene practices. When the plaque is left around the gum line for a long period of time, 24 hours or more, the gum tissues respond by becoming inflamed — this can quickly become a chronic inflammation.
Here are some other warning signs of gum disease:
- Bad Breath. Bad breath is one of the most common signs of gum disease. This is especially true for those who do not floss, because plaque collects in the protected areas between the teeth making them especially prone to gum inflammation. This plaque often produces a pungent smell that causes bad breath.
- Red or Sensitive Gums. If you look closely in the mirror, you might see redness of the gums. It may also seem as if your gums are swollen, and in more advanced cases, this can lead to receding gums. Finally, you might notice gum sensitivity when you brush or a sensitivity to hot and cold.
- Tooth Loss. If this disease goes untreated, over time, bone loss will cause loose teeth, movement or migration of the teeth into a new and unstable position, and ultimately tooth loss. The rate of progression will depend upon the type of gum disease that you have.
- Painful Gums. Once you start to feel acute pain and extremely sore gums, this may mean you have developed a periodontal abscess. When this happens, the bacteria are walled off inside a gum “pocket,” and since your body's defenses are overwhelmed, there is a battle between the bacteria in that pocket and your body's defense mechanisms. The result is a collection of pus and extra bone loss. Your gums will be sore, swollen, red and may even discharge pus.
As you can see, the further the disease progresses, the greater the amount of pain and damage that will occur. Therefore, upon the first sign of gum disease, such as bleeding gums, you should schedule an appointment with us immediately.