Monday, 18 January 2016

Understanding TMD

While often underestimated, the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, plays a significant role in a number of daily functions. From enabling chewing, swallowing and smiling to even to facilitating breathing, the TMJ is an incredibly important part of your anatomy. As a result, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, known as TMD, can significantly impact an individual’s ability to perform those routine and necessary functions.

What is TMD?
TMD is a fairly broad term used to describe a condition affecting the functionality of the jaw joint. Normally, the mandible (jaw) is able to move via a set of condyles which glide along sockets located on the skull. Between the socket and condyle is a soft tissue disc, which ensures smooth movement. However, when the disc becomes dislodged or worn, this gliding motion can be extremely painful, causing movement limitation and affecting the individual’s ability to effectively speak, chew, swallow, and even make facial expressions.

The Causes of TMD
While there is no specific cause of TMD, there are a number of factors that can increase the likelihood of developing a TMD as well as pre-existing conditions that can lead to TMD. These include:
  • Autoimmune Diseases or Infections
  • Trauma to the area
  • Dental procedures or instances of prolonged mouth opening
  • Arthritis
  • Genetic and environmental factors

Interestingly, studies on the prevalence of the TMD have indicated that these conditions were more common among women in their childbearing years, suggesting that hormones may play a role in the development of the condition.

Treating TMD
When it comes to alleviating the pain caused by TMD, night guards have also been shown to be highly effective and non-invasive. Stabilization splints act as a barrier between the upper and lower dental arches. This allows the jaw to rest in a neutral position, preventing muscle spasms as well as bruxism from occurring.

To determine the best stabilization splint for your case of TMD, in-depth images of the patient’s dentition and jaw are taken to determine the best type of oral appliance for your case of TMD. Advanced impressions are then taken to create the splint. Once the splint has been made, final adjustments are made and patients are free to take their oral appliance home with them. At our Pleasant Hill dental office, we also schedule follow up appointments to ensure proper splint use and function.

Additionally, there are a number of home remedies that patients can use to help minimize pain and inflammation. Some of these self-care practices include avoiding hard, crunchy, or sticky foods, applying ice packs, avoiding extreme jaw motion, practicing stress relief and relaxation techniques, as well as trying gentle stretches to help increase and stabilize jaw movement.

Facing TMD Pain? Contact Dr. Dowd today!

At our Pleasant Hill dental office, family dentist Dr. Dowd offers night guards as a way to alleviate jaw pain caused by TMD. For more information about treating this jaw condition, contact our team today.  

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Endodontics 101

Of all available dental procedures, root canals are often among the least desired and most avoided treatments. However, endodontics are sometimes necessary in order to save an infected tooth from extraction.

How does a Tooth Become Infected?
Infections occur when bacteria enters the inner cavity of the tooth through an exterior crack, chip, or fracture. As bacteria multiply they begin to destroy the tissue within the tooth, known as the dentin, as well as attack the nerve of the tooth. If left untreated the tooth infection can escalate into an abscess, during which the nerve dies and the bacteria spreads to the bone, creating a pocket of dead tissue.

What are the Consequences of an Untreated Infection?
In addition to being incredibly painful, neglecting treatment for a tooth infection or abscess can have serious implications for your overall health. In certain rare cases, the infection that caused the abscess can spread to other parts of the body, putting vital organs at risk of damage.

How Do Root Canals Treat Tooth Infections?
Given the comprehensive nature of the procedure, root canals are the most effective method of treating tooth infections. During the endodontic procedure, a small opening is made in the top of the tooth. Special tools are then used to remove the dead tissue and nerve. The inner cavity and nerve canals are then cleaned, shaped, disinfected, and filled with a sealer material. Patients return at a later date to receive their final restoration.

What Can I Expect During My Root Canal?
If there is one thing that potential endodontic patients should understand, it is that root canal treatment itself is not a particularly uncomfortable procedure. Often, individuals tend to be nervous about the procedure, thinking that it is incredibly unpleasant. In actuality, the side effects of the tooth infection or abscess are often more unpleasant than the procedure. Additionally, patients are fully anesthetized during the root canal treatment, ensuring only minimal discomfort during their procedure.

What Symptoms Should I Look Out For?
In addition to severe toothache, tooth infections can also cause dental sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, sensitivity to the pressure of chewing or biting, fever, facial swelling near the infected tooth, and a bad taste or smell. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is recommended that you schedule a visit with your dentist immediately.

Endodontics in Pleasant Hill

While routine cleanings and an effective oral hygiene routine can help minimize risk of developing a tooth infection, a root canal may be needed into order to protect the health and function of a patient’s smile.  At the family-friendly dental office of Dr. Kevin T. Dowd, our team is dedicated to helping patients improve the health of their smiles. Contact Dr. Dowd today to learn more about root canals in Pleasant Hill.