Complete Family Dentistry Blog - Waukesha , WI
Posts for: April, 2012
When it comes to chronic pain, one of the most common problems you can face is Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), which was formerly known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ). TMD is a condition that can be tricky to diagnose because it frequently mimics other conditions. This is why many healthcare professionals refer to it as “the great imposter.” However, regardless of what it is called, the pain it causes is real and can become quite severe — especially if left undiagnosed and untreated.
To grasp the condition fully, you must first understand the TMD pain cycle. It can start with any traumatic, psychological, metabolic, or mechanical stimulant that causes spasm in the muscles that move the jaw joints (opening, closing, chewing, and even smiling.) This is because of the constricted blood supply to the muscles resulting in less oxygen along with the accumulation of waste products. This is followed by chemical changes in the muscles and a buildup of lactic acid due to muscle fatigue. Abnormal or involuntary muscle contractions or spasms lead to pain signals to the brain that can stop muscle movement. Depending on the severity, this cycle can repeat itself resulting in acute pain that may be extremely severe at times. The pain may then seem to disappear only to resurface again later. The good news is that our office has highly trained professionals who cannot only diagnose but also treat your TMD.
If you suffer from chronic jaw pain and feel that you might have TMD, please let us know so that we can address your concerns and conduct a thorough history and examination. Or if you are in constant or severe pain, contact us immediately to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for TMD by reading the article “TMD — Understanding The Great Imposter.”
Time to tune up the brightness on your teeth? Here are six modern methods of whitening and brightening your smile.
- In-office “power” bleaching under the supervision of my staff and me is recommended if your teeth are badly stained, or if you are about to have veneers or crowns made. It's quick, safe, and effective. Gels containing high concentrations of bleach are applied to your teeth in our office, often with the enhancement by heat and light to make them act faster. Results show teeth becoming up to ten shades lighter in about an hour.
- “Take home” whitening solutions and trays are designed to fit your mouth and can also be provided by my office. The technique is easy to perform and is less expensive than in-office power whitening system, although it takes longer to see the same results. General recommendations are for 30 minute applications twice a day. You can usually see a change after two to four sessions. This requires patience, because it is important not to exceed recommended exposure in order to avoid damage to your teeth, gums, and the inside skin of your mouth. After two weeks of use, teeth can be expected to be about eight shades lighter.
- Whitening strips look like clear Band-Aids that are applied to the tooth surfaces. They should be worn twice a day for 30 minutes each time, for seven days. On average, they claim to lighten teeth more than three shades. They take about two weeks to work at 30 minutes per day.
- “Paint on” or “Brush on” whitening formulas are also available. These are gels that are painted onto the teeth every night at bedtime, for two weeks. Some claim that this line of home whitening can whiten teeth two to five shades. These gels may make your mouth feel goopy, but they are relatively inexpensive. Some gels come with a small brush to scrub them onto the teeth.
- Over-the-counter “mouth-tray” whiteners use mouth trays that are not designed for your particular mouth, so they may not fit well and may be messy or uncomfortable. They are filled with gel and worn 45 minutes a day for one week. On average, teeth become two shades whiter.
- Whitening gum is a relatively new product. It requires chewing two pieces for at least 20 minutes, four times a day, to see an effect.
Did you know that studies have shown a relationship between gum disease and heart disease?
The common link is inflammation. This means that if you reduce inflammation caused by gum disease (periodontal disease), you also reduce your risk for heart attacks and strokes. The methods we stress for good dental hygiene — consistent effective brushing and flossing, regular professional cleanings by a hygienist, and dental treatment when needed — are also important for the maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system (from cardio, meaning heart, and vascular, meaning blood vessels).
Here's how it works. Dental plaque is a film of bacteria that settles on your teeth near the gum line every day. When you brush and floss, you remove as much of this bacterial film, or biofilm, as you can. Bacteria that are not removed multiply and produce acid products that begin to dissolve the enamel of your teeth. They also irritate your gum tissues.
Your immune system tries to remove the bacteria and their byproducts through inflammation, your body's way of attacking substances that shouldn't be there (such as bacteria). However, long-term inflammation can be harmful to your own tissues as well. Inflammation in your gums, a symptom of periodontal disease, can destroy gum tissue, bone and the ligaments that hold your teeth in place.
Ongoing inflammation can also increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Bacterial byproducts of periodontal inflammation have been shown to cause the liver to manufacture a protein called CRP (C-reactive protein) that spreads the inflammation to the arteries, where it promotes formation of blood clots.
Of course, other factors are also related to an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. These include smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity. Family history and depression can also influence gum disease and heart disease.
Diet is another factor. You have probably heard of “good” cholesterol (HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (LDL). The bad one, low-density lipoprotein or LDL, is found in animal fats. It can cause an accumulation of fat breakdown products (also called plaque, but a different substance from dental plaque) inside your arteries. The arteries become narrow, so that they can be easily blocked, resulting in heart attacks and strokes. Studies have shown that inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels accelerates this effect.
If tests show that you have high levels of LDL, your doctor may advise you to modify your diet and take specific medication to reduce arterial plaque. You will also be advised to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk factors. Lowering your weight, getting more exercise, and stopping smoking can have a positive effect on your heart health — and so can improving your dental hygiene to combat periodontal disease.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”
Dental professionals agree that effective removal of plaque, the film of bacteria (also called a biofilm) that gathers on everyone's teeth, is the key to good dental health. Daily brushing and flossing are the usual recommendation for plaque removal. It is important to ask us about effective brushing and flossing. At your next appointment, ask us for a demonstration.
Effective brushing removes plaque from the easily accessed surfaces of the teeth. To remove plaque from between the teeth, you must floss.
Some people find it awkward to hold the floss with their fingers as they move it around their teeth. One technique for flossing, suggested by a dentist in Dear Doctor magazine, may make it easier than more traditional methods, although it does take a little practice.
This method requires tearing off a 10 to 12 inch length of floss and tying it to form a circle big enough for your fingers, but not your thumbs, to fit within it. The circle should be knotted with a double knot.
To Clean Teeth and Gums
Keep the floss taut at all times, with about and inch or less between your thumb and index fingers for your upper teeth, or index fingers only for your lower teeth. Curve the floss around each tooth and gently move it up and down until you hear a squeaky clean sound. Extend the downward movement of the floss to just below the surface of the gum, without being too harsh and causing injury. As you move from tooth to tooth, move around the floss circle so that each tooth gets a clean section of floss.
Place all your fingers in the ring, with the floss over your left thumb and right index finger to floss your upper left teeth, and over your right thumb and left index finger to do the other side.
Use both index fingers to floss all your lower teeth.
You may only need to floss once a day before or after brushing to keep your gums health and ward off periodontal (gum) disease. Your dentist will guide you as to how often you may need to floss your teeth. Try this technique and see how it works for you.