Posts for: November, 2012
When treating Temporomandibular (jaw joint) Disorder (formerly known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, TMJ), we feel we have two equally important challenges facing us. First, we must start your treatment by relieving the symptoms of pain and discomfort. We typically accomplish this with heat, mild pain medications, a diet of soft foods, and some simple jaw exercises. Once we have begun to relieve your pain, our second critical objective is to identify and remedy what is causing the pain. It could be the result of an injury or trauma to the jaws and/or teeth or it could be due to a bite issue or a filling or crown that is too high and thus causing a misaligned bite. There are many other reasons, so it is first necessary to obtain a thorough medical history and conduct a comprehensive evaluation so that we can properly diagnose and treat the TMD condition and what is causing it.
Next to stress resulting in clenching and grinding habits, the four most common causes leading to TMD include:
- Underlying dental conditions that are triggering muscle pain
- Internal joint derangement (displaced or improperly positioned jaw joint)
- Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease)
- Synovitis — the painful inflammation of a synovial joint-lining membrane that is characterized by swelling, due to effusion (fluid collection)
If you or another family member suffer from chronic jaw pain, please let us know so that we can properly address your concerns and conduct a thorough examination. Or if you are in constant or severe pain, contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for TMD by reading “TMD — Understanding The Great Imposter.”
While lasers have been effective (and safe) tools for healthcare professionals in the medical field for years, did you know that they are fast becoming a vital tool in the field of dentistry for diagnosing dental disease? Lasers, named from “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation,” are beams of light that are of a single color and wavelength. They also have the unique ability to help dental professionals detect disease in much earlier stages than they have ever before.
Diagnostic lasers are very effective in diagnosing pit and fissure decay — the tiny grooves of the biting surfaces that cannot be seen by visual inspection or reached by a traditional dental tool. They are able to accomplish this by producing a glowing effect known as fluorescence, which is produced by the optical properties of early tooth decay. This enables us to treat tooth decay in its earliest stages as well as monitor teeth from visit to visit.
Another area where lasers have proven valuable is in the detection and localization of dental calculus (tartar) beneath the gums. Calculus is hardened or calcified bacterial plaque that attaches to the teeth. Using lasers, we can find and remove this calculus during periodontal (gum) therapy. Lasers are also helpful in detecting dysplastic (“dys” – altered; “plasia” – growth) or precancerous tissue as well as cancerous tissues. And should we find any of these conditions, lasers are extremely useful in removing tissue close to the margins or edges of where diseased tissue meets healthy tissue. But best of all, lasers are minimally invasive and can result in less tissue removal, less bleeding, and less discomfort for patients after surgery.
We have noticed that there are two types of patients when it comes to enhancing a person's smile. One type, which we'll call the “Perfect Minded” patient, expects teeth that are completely regular in their arrangement and of maximum whiteness and brightness, often beyond the range of traditional guides for tooth color. They are looking for a perfect “Hollywood” smile. The other, the “Natural Minded” patient, is looking for a more natural look. This person expects a general sense of regularity and alignment of teeth with definite brightness, but not so much that the teeth are noticeable before and above other facial features. Which type are you?
The “Perfect Minded” Patient
While you expect maximum regularity and alignment of teeth along with maximum whiteness and brightness, the “perfect minded” patient requires a smile completely symmetrical (balanced from one side to the other). If we drew a vertical line down the center of your face (midline), it would fall directly between your front teeth and your smile would look just the same on each side of the line. You also expect your smile to be horizontally symmetric, so that it matches the curvature of your lower lip and the gum lines match from side to side.
The “Natural Minded” Patient
You are looking for a more subtle, natural look produced by including some minor irregularities in your look. Like the “Perfect Minded” individual, you still expect your teeth to be generally regular and well aligned but you also want to have some minor asymmetries (not matching) as you move farther back along your jaw to make your teeth look real. Your preference in tooth color is not a super shade of white, but for a tooth color that looks very natural for your facial skin and hair color.
There is no right or wrong here. What is important is to be sure to communicate your expectations to us before embarking on a program of smile redesign.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about Smile Design. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Great Expectations — Perceptions in Smile Design.”