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Tips for Managing TMJ Pain During Orthodontic Treatment: Questions and Answers

February 10th, 2021

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial research, the prevalence of TMJ problems (also known as temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder) is between 5% - 12% of the population. It is more common in females than males, and tends to affect younger people more often.

While orthodontic treatment does not cause TMJ issues, studies also show that it cannot prevent or treat TMJ pain either. Here are some common questions that you may have if you are in orthodontic treatment and are now experiencing some jaw joint pain.

What does TMJ stand for and what is it?

  • TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It is located directly in front of your ears, and it is where your lower jaw hinges upon opening and closing.

What are TMJ problems?

  • TMJ problems include clicking/popping joints, painful joints, or restricted jaw movement. TMJ problems may vary in severity from mild pain to severe pain, and the pain may be a temporary pain or a constant pain. TMJ problems may be related to the actual joint (bones and ligaments), or it may be related to the muscles around the joint.

What causes TMJ problems?

  • TMJ problems may be caused by an injury to the face or jaw, grind/clenching of teeth, stress, muscle fatigue or overuse of the jaw joint. Additionally, it is linked to hormonal changes in women that cause laxity of the ligaments in the jaw joint. TMJ problems are most common in teenage girls and young women.

What can I do to improve my TMJ problems or TMJ pain?
Most TMJ problems can be managed by these conservative measures:

  • Maintain a soft diet, and avoid chewy food and chewing gum.
  • Use warm, moist heat on the jaw muscles to increase blood flow and massage the muscles. Alternate the warm moist heat with an ice pack on the joint area which will help reduce inflammation of the joints.
  • Use anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce pain and inflammation. Ibuprofen is the most common, but you should consult your physician with which anti-inflammatory medication is best for you.
  • Avoid clenching your teeth by setting up reminders to keep your teeth apart and jaw muscles relaxed.
  • Monitor your stress and manage it to avoid muscle tension and clenching.

What if my symptoms do not improve with conservative therapy?

  • If your symptoms are not improving, a referral will be made to another doctor who specifically manages TMJ problems. They may recommend more diagnostic imaging (like an MRI) to evaluate the jaw joint to find the cause of the problem. In some cases, a night guard may be recommended to help alleviate some pain.

Can I continue my orthodontic treatment?

  • In some cases, orthodontic treatment may be paused for a period of time, and occasionally it may be discontinued depending on the circumstances. The recommendations are on a case by case basis.

If you have any other questions, please let your orthodontist know. More often than not, a little patience and conservative measures will improve the TMJ pain, so hang in there : )

How we use technology to eliminate unpopular dental procedures

February 8th, 2021

Perhaps you have memories of sitting in a dental chair anxiously waiting for a dental impression (dental mold).  Memories of a cold, gooey mixture inching closer down your throat. Memories of drool hanging off the edge of your lip while the mold is held in place. The very thought of it for some people will make them gag!

We have good news for you: meet the intraoral scanner. While this technology has been out for some time, it is still not universally used. Here are some information about what it is and how it will make your trip to the orthodontist much better.

Dr. Zach Frazier, orthodontist in Downers Grove, with a 3D tooth scanner used for braces and Invisalign treatment.

  1. What is 3D digital intraoral scanner?

    1. It is a high-tech video camera that captures images of your teeth to create a 3D digital model of your teeth.
  2. Does it use any radiation like an x-ray?

    1. No radiation is used - it is simply a video camera that stitches many images together to create the 3D image of your teeth.
  3. How long does it take to have your teeth scanned?

    1. It depends on the experience of the user, but in most cases it will take less than 5 minutes to get a full scan of all of your upper and lower teeth.
  4. What do you do with the 3D image?

    1. We can use the image in lots of ways. We can use it to diagnose your bite or create 3D printed physical models of your teeth. With the printed models, we can make all sorts of orthodontic appliances and retainers without ever having to take a dental mold.
  5. Do you still have to take a mold to get retainers?

    1. No way : ) Our patients do not have to have dental impressions taken at any time.
  6. Can this be used for Invisalign clear aligner treatment?

    1. Yes! Additionally the aligners will be better fitting as a 3D intraoral scanner is more accurate than traditional dental molds.

We absolutely love the 3D intraoral scanners in our office. Treatment is dramatically more comfortable for our patients leading to a better experience. Additionally, we are getting more accurate orthodontic appliances which leads to better treatment and reduced time spent at the orthodontist. Finally, it is great form an environmental standpoint as there are fewer steps, fewer appointments, and less waste by using the scanner.

If you're interested in pursuing braces treatment or you are considering Invisalign clear aligner treatment, make sure you visit an orthodontist with a 3D intraoral scanner. You will thank me later ; )

Thumbs, Fingers, and Pacifiers: Kick the Habit

September 6th, 2020

All of us are born with the innate sucking reflex. It is needed to survive as an infant and helps us eat as babies. As we develop, some babies will use a thumb, finger, or a pacifier as a comforting mechanism. However, at some point, this habit can start to cause harm to the developing teeth and bones of the mouth.

At what age do kids need to stop sucking thumbs or using pacifiers?
- Depending on how much sucking pressure your child uses on his thumb or pacifier, you may start to see changes as soon as age 2-4 years old. You may notice flaring of the front teeth and changes to the shape of the smile. Typically, these changes can self-correct if the child is done with the habit by age 6 before the adult teeth start to erupt.

Why do we need to break the habit?
- The habit can permanently change shape of bones of the mouth and permanently change the shape of the smile.  Some long-term habits can cause irreversible changes that cannot be fixed with orthodontic treatment alone. Additionally, it will create issues that can make orthodontic treatment more time-consuming, more complex, and more expensive.

How can we start to break a pacifier habit?
Typically a thumb habit is more challenging to break than a pacifier habit because you cannot take a thumb away : ) In most cases, you will start this process at a younger age while the child is still a toddler, and in many cases they will stop on their own. Avoid harsh words or punishment as this is not effective for this age group. Praise progress and use rewards charts to help encourage them to quit. Beware - in some cases, a new thumb or finger habit may emerge!

How can we start to break a thumb habit?
- Be conservative at first! If your child in pre-school or early elementary school, start by talking about it. Kids must be on board to quit; if they do not want to quit, conservative approaches may not be successful, and you may have to revisit it again after waiting a few months. The earlier you start the conversation, the better of you are since the upper front adult teeth will come in around age 6-7. I recommend starting out with simple reminders such as wearing a Band-Aid on the thumb or finger.

My kid is now on board - what can we do to help him quit his thumb habit?
- While they may relapse at times to find comfort, you may need to use additional items to help kick the habit. You can try a baseball batting glove, thin winter glove, or sock over the hand at night time. You can loosely add medical tape around the wrist to make it more difficult to remove, but please be sure it is not too tight. Another product is Mavala Stop which is a sour tasting nail polish to serve as a reminder. Always remember - couple the reminders with a tracking and reward system to celebrate the small wins. Praise will help keep the kids motivated - remember they want to make you happy!

What if the conservative habit break measures don't work?
- More aggressive physical reminders in addition to the above may be needed. An Ace bandage wrap around the elbow will make it more difficult to bend the elbow which will restrict their ability to bring their hand towards the mouth. You may also consider a wrist guard thumb habit appliance (TGuard brand) that is fixed to the wrist and plastic around the thumb/fingers

What if everything else does not work - what is our last resort?
- Orthodontic appliances are the last resort. If all else fails and we see the habit is causing significant bone changes, we can make what we call a "habit appliance" and cement it to the molars in the mouth. It is like a metal cage that fits near the roof of the mouth and difficult to remove. Typically, we will keep it in place for 9 months, but no less than 6 months in order to break the habit. If this appliance is needed, many times a palatal expander will be needed afterwards to correct the changes that have occurred due to the habit.

Orthodontists are skilled in helping you and your child with their habit issues. Additionally, we are skilled at correcting the problems that prolonged habits may cause. Be sure to talk to your local orthodontist early about breaking the habit - it will certainly make a difference in the long run!

Community Spotlight: Skuddlebutts Pizza and Catering in Downers Grove

May 27th, 2020

We love supporting our community in any and every way possible. We are highlighting another person who deserves recognition in our community for his great service - Danny Glover of Skuddlebutts. He is a DG native who is just as passionate about pizza as he is the community - take a minute to check him out!

MEET DANNY GLOVER - OWNER OF SKUDDLEBUTTS IN DOWNERS GROVE

Everyone around town has seen the generosity of Danny and his crew over the past few months in their support for our healthcare workers, and he has supported the community and schools for many years. He’s truly a hometown hero and continues to motivate every business around to support the community!

Originally opened in 1939, Skuddlebutts became Danny’s back in 2009. Born and raised in DG, he started working there at age 15 as a bus boy, and gradually worked his way to gain the opportunity to buy the restaurant. 

While known for their pizza, Skuddlebutts are masters of catering. With summer coming up, they provide an amazing on-site backyard BBQ that you must check out for graduation parties and celebrations!

Danny is truly motivated to do his best for both business and community. He loves basketball, board games, biking and travel. His mentor Bill Gall (previous owner of Skuddlebutts) really instilled a great work ethic, and this is clearly reflected in Danny’s effort.

Make sure to check out Skuddlebutts here in Downers Grove and support the businesses that shape this amazing village!

Skuddlebutts
440 Ogden Avenue
Downers Grove, IL 60515

Web: https://skuddlebutts.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SkuddlebuttsPizzaAndCateringDownersGrove/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/skuddlebutts/

4909 Forest Ave
Downers Grove, IL 60515
(630) 541-3696