Posts for category: Oral Health
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) isn't just painful, it can severely interfere with one of life's essentials—eating. For a person with TMD, an enjoyable meal with family and friends can turn into an agonizing, painful experience.
Especially during flareups, the action of chewing can be extremely uncomfortable for someone with TMD. The condition also makes it difficult to open the mouth, which can interfere with the types of food you can eat.
Managing TMD in general often requires a combination of treatment techniques, including medication and physical therapy. For meals in particular, making some adjustments in the types of foods you eat, how you prepare them, and how you eat them can help you enjoy your mealtime experience more.
If you have TMD, here are 4 things that could ease your discomfort and bring the joy back into eating.
Peel fruits and vegetables. Although the hard skins of some foods like apples or cucumbers are edible, the extra jaw effort to eat them can trigger pain if you suffer from TMD. Take the time, then, to peel fruits and vegetables with tough outer skins.
Cut food into small bites. With limited ability to open your mouth, normal-sized portions can prove challenging. Make it easier by cutting foods into smaller than normal bites. Taking the extra time to do this can give your jaws relief and reduce the discomfort and pain associated with opening your mouth.
Chew slowly. Chewing normally may still be too vigorous for someone with TMD—the chewing action increases the pressure on your jaw joints and can result in painful spasms. By slowing down your chewing, and taking breaks along the way, can make it less likely your jaws will become overworked.
Moisten tougher foods. Although delicious, a number of meats and vegetables are by nature "chewy." You can make them easier to eat with a little liquid. Use cooking methods like braising or stewing to make these foods more tender; you can also add gravies or sauces where appropriate to help make chewing easier.
If you would like more information on coping with TMD, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “When TMJ Pain Flares Up.”
If it seems like your teeth have gotten longer, it's not likely they've magically grown. The changed appearance, often accompanied by tooth sensitivity, may mean you have gum recession—the gums have actually shrunk back or receded from the teeth.
Ordinarily, the gums cover the teeth to the edge of the crown enamel, but if their attachment to the teeth weakens, the gums can shrink back, exposing the tooth below the crown near the roots. Although recession can happen because of overzealous brushing or other forms of trauma, the most common cause is periodontal (gum) disease.
Gum disease usually begins as a bacterial infection in the tissues around the gum line, usually triggered by a thin film of bacteria and food particles on tooth surfaces called dental plaque. Unfortunately, the infection rarely stays there, but can quickly spread deeper into the gums and eventually impact the roots and supporting bone in the jaw. The infection also weakens the gums' attachment to teeth, resulting in recession.
While your smile can suffer from gum recession, that may be the least of your problems. Receded gums expose portions of a tooth that depend on gum coverage for protection against disease. Gum coverage also muffles sensations in these areas of the tooth, so that without it affected areas can experience a sharp, painful response to sudden hot or cold temperatures.
Fortunately, you may be able to avoid recession if you take steps to minimize your risk of gum disease. Your chances of an infection go down significantly if you gently brush and floss daily to remove dental plaque and you see your dentist regularly for dental cleanings.
If you do develop a gum infection, it's crucial to have it treated as early as possible. A mild occurrence of gum recession might even reverse on its own after comprehensive treatment (more advanced recession can require grafting surgery to encourage regeneration). Be on the lookout, then, for signs of gum disease—swollen, reddened or bleeding gums—and see your dentist as soon as possible if you do.
Protecting your teeth and gums can help you avoid gum recession. And should you experience recession, addressing it as soon as possible may help you regain normal gum coverage.
If you would like more information on gum protection and care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Gum Recession.”
What started as an occasional twinge in your cheeks has now escalated to moments of excruciating pain. Worst of all, you're in the dark about why you're having these severe episodes of facial pain.
The answer may be a nerve condition called trigeminal neuralgia (TN). This disorder involves the trigeminal nerves, which course down each side of the face and upper jaw. Approximately 150,000 people are diagnosed annually with TN, mostly women over 50.
The pain may sometimes be connected to other nerve-damaging conditions like multiple sclerosis, tumors or lesions. Normally, though, there's a more benign reason. An artery or vein is pressing on one or more of the three branches of the nerve. The ensuing pressure damages the myelin sheath, a fatty outer covering that insulates and protects the nerve from undue sensation.
The nerve at this point of damage can become hypersensitive and reactive to such innocuous things as chewing, a light touch or even air blowing on the face. The erratic response spurs pain episodes, often just a few seconds long, ranging from mild to extreme.
Treating the condition first requires making sure you actually have TN, and that the pain isn't being caused by something else. Jaw joint disorders (TMD), dental abscesses and similar conditions may mimic TN symptoms. Uncovering the true cause may require advanced diagnostic tools like an MRI scan, and the help of different specialties, ranging from dentistry to neurology.
Once confirmed, there are several treatment options for TN that, if not curative, may help minimize painful episodes. Most patients begin with conservative approaches like medications or injections to block pain signals to the brain, or that help reduce abnormal nerve firing.
There are also more invasive procedures to address extreme cases. With percutaneous treatment, for example, the physician inserts a thin needle into the nerve and selectively damages some of its fibers to stop the transmission of pain signals. A surgeon can also use a microsurgical technique to relocate an impinging blood vessel compressing the nerve.
Which treatment methods you and your doctor choose depends on factors like your age or history with TN. Whichever treatment path you take, there's real hope that you can find lasting relief from this bedeviling condition.
If you would like more information on trigeminal neuralgia, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Trigeminal Neuralgia: A Nerve Disorder That Causes Facial Pain.”
If your child suddenly begins complaining about a toothache, your average day can immediately turn into something else. It can become even more worrisome as you try to decide what to do.
It doesn't have to. There are definite things you can do to calmly and methodically deal with the situation at hand. Here, then, are action steps you can take when your child has tooth pain.
Find out where and when. To get the big picture, first ask the child where in the mouth it hurts and if they remember when it started. A rough estimate of the latter is usually sufficient to establishing how long it's been going on, which could help determine how soon you should call the dentist.
Take a look inside. You'll want to then look in their mouth for any observable signs of what might be the cause of the pain. Look for spots or small holes (cavities) in the affected tooth, an indication of decay. Also check the gums for swelling, a sign they may be abscessed.
Remove trapped food debris. While checking in the mouth, look for pieces of food like popcorn hulls or candy that might be wedged between the teeth. This could be the cause of the pain, so attempt to remove it by gently flossing between the teeth. If it was the source, their pain should subside soon after.
Ease their discomfort. You can help take the edge off their pain by giving them an appropriate dose for their age of either ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Don't, however, rub aspirin or other pain relievers around the affected tooth or gums—these medications can be acidic, which could severely irritate interior mouth tissues.
Call your dentist. It's always good for a dentist to check your child's mouth after a toothache. The question is when: If your child has responded well to pain medication and has no swelling or fever, you can wait to call the next day. If not, call as soon as possible for an appointment.
A toothache is rarely an emergency, but it can still be disconcerting for you and your child. Knowing what steps to take can help resolve the situation without a lot of discomfort for them and stress for you.
If you would like more information on dealing with a child's tooth pain, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “A Child's Toothache.”
Earlier this season, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick got together with his longtime QB, Tom Brady. This time, however, they were on opposite sides of the field. And although Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the game, Belichick—or specifically his teeth and a pencil—may have garnered most of the media attention.
After noticing something between his teeth during the game, Belichick used the point of his pencil to work it out. Many of us are also guilty of such a dubious teeth-cleaning method, but we're not likely to be coaching a professional football team on national television while doing it. As you can imagine, hilarity ensued on social media concerning the video clip of Belichick's dental faux pas.
Lesson #1: Before you start digging between your teeth, be sure you're not on camera. More importantly, Lesson #2: Be choosy with what you use to clean between your teeth.
While we don't want to heap any more razz on the good coach any more than he's already received, a pencil should definitely be on the "Do Not Use" list for teeth cleaning. But, it's not the worst item people have confessed to employing: According to a recent survey, 80% of approximately a thousand adults admitted to working the edge of a business card, a strand of hair, a twig or even a screwdriver between their teeth.
Where to begin….
For one, using most of the aforementioned items is simply unsanitary. As your mother might say, "Do you know where that toenail clipping has been?" For another, many of these objects can be downright dangerous, causing potential injury to your teeth and gums (how could a screwdriver not?). And, if the injurious object is laden with bacteria, you're opening the door to infection.
There are better ways to rid your teeth of a pesky food ort. If nothing else, a plastic or wooden toothpick will work in a pinch—so long as it's clean, so says the American Dental Association.
Dental floss is even better since its actual reason for existence is to clean between teeth. You can always keep a small amount rolled up and stashed in your wallet or purse. Even better, keep a floss pick handy—this small piece of plastic with an attached bit of floss is ultra-convenient to use while away from home.
To summarize, be sure to use an appropriate and safe tool to remove that pesky food bit from between your teeth. And, be prepared ahead of time—that way, you won't be caught (by millions) doing something embarrassing.