Online Dental Education Library
Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.
Teeth Whitening - Brighter, whiter...
The subconscious impact of a white smile is radiant health, happiness, warmth and invitation. This phenomenon has been reinforced with the spread of American culture worldwide, where an especially white smile has even been coined a "Hollywood smile". Today brighter, lighter, whiter teeth have become a norm. Tooth whitening by bleaching is a successful, conservative, relatively inexpensive and safe alternative... Read Article
Smile Design with Porcelain Veneers
In part two of the series on Smile Design, Dear Doctor takes an in-depth look at Porcelain Veneers, a superior yet minimally invasive technique for smile enhancement. We'll explain not only when they're appropriate, but also when they're not... Read Article
Porcelain Veneers – Without A Drill
No drilling — reality or ridiculous? A no-drill technique requires a second look, as new materials and concepts have created new esthetic possibilities. Reactions and opinions among dentists have ranged from absolute disbelief to moderate acceptance. This article gives hope and reasons for patients to get excited about this conservative drill-free cosmetic technique... Read Article
Cosmetic Dentistry - A Time For Change
Join us as we review the myriad of possibilities available to you for cosmetic dental change. But the biggest part is not just how your smile looks, it's how you feel when you show it... Read Article
Dental Implants - Your Third Set of Teeth
A discovery fifty years ago paved the way for one of dentistry's most exciting, natural looking and successful tooth replacement systems. Learn how dental implants might just possibly change your life... Read Article
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth Decay is an infection, and many people don't realize that it is preventable. This article is the first in a series about tooth decay, perhaps the number one reason children and adults lose teeth during their lifetime. Explore the causes of tooth decay, its prevention and the relationship to bacteria, sugars and acids... Read Article
Don't wait for cavities to occur and then have them fixed — stop them before they start. Modern dentistry is moving towards an approach to managing tooth decay that is evidence-based — on years of accumulated, systematic, and valid scientific research. This article discusses what you need to know to assess your risk and change the conditions that lead to decay... Read Article
The Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings
The public's demand for aesthetic tooth colored (metal free) restorations (fillings) together with the dental profession's desire to preserve as much natural tooth structure as possible, has led to the development of special "adhesive" tooth colored restorations... Read Article
Wisdom Teeth – To Be Or Not To Be
Facts you need to know about these curiously named teeth. They are so-called because a moderate amount of wisdom is supposedly achieved at about the same time these teeth typically make their appearance. This article will review the problems associated with wisdom teeth and whether or not they should be removed... Read Article
Oral Hygiene - Dental Health for Life
The best tools for maintaining your oral health and minimizing dental problems are a quality toothbrush, toothpaste, a roll of dental floss, approved mouthwash and good diet. This article cuts through the confusion with a winning game plan for oral health... Read Article
Understanding Gum Disease
Have your gums ever bled when you brushed or flossed? This most commonly overlooked simple sign may be the start of silent (periodontal) disease leading to tooth loss. Learn what you can do to prevent this problem and keep your teeth for life... Read Article
The Impact of a Smile Makeover
Americans are catching on to the emotional and social importance of a healthy, beautiful smile, and they're seeking out ways to improve their smiles. Learn why and what a change could mean for you...Read Article
The orthodontic treatment using clear aligners consists of a series of aligners that you change about every two weeks over a course of treatment lasting six to eighteen months depending on how much movement is needed... Read Article
This article may just save your life. Learn how to notice any unusual lesions (sores or ulcers) anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within two-three weeks. Early detection is key... Read Article
Implant overdentures represent a major change for the dental profession and the public. The lower jaw two-implant overdenture may be considered a more appropriate starting point over regular dentures... Read Article
TMD – The Great Impostor
This “chameleon” of dental disorders manifests in a variety of ways, including joint pain, sinusitus, ear pain, tooth and headaches. The causes of TMD, its signs and symptoms and what can be done to treat this common disorder... Read Article
Lasers Shine a Light on Dentistry
Lasers have revolutionized medicine and now they're beginning to blaze a new trail in dentistry. Today, at the dawn of the 21st century there are a variety of dental uses for lasers, from diagnosing cavities and the removal of gum and tooth structure to the treatment of disease... Read Article
Oral Sedation Dentistry
Step out from under the shadow of fear and into the calm of sedation dentistry. There are safe and time-tested options available to ensure that you have a positive and painless dental experience. Your apprehension and hypersensitivity to pain melt away, yet you remain awake and in control... Read Article
Sleep Disorders and Dentistry
If my partner snores loudly, should I be concerned and what can be done to alleviate the problem? Why does my sleeping partner have lapses in breathing while sleeping and is it dangerous? Why do I wake up exhausted even though I get up to 10 hours sleep at night? The answers to these and more questions and how dentistry can help all revealed within... Read Article
About Dear Doctor Dentistry Magazine
Dear Doctor - Dentistry & Oral Health is a dental magazine written for the education of the general public. Dear Doctor provides information that is accurate, authoritative, and trustworthy on all aspects of dentistry and oral health including teeth whitening, porcelain veneers, dental implants, cosmetic dentistry, smile makeovers and more.
Copyright © 2012 Dear Doctor, Inc. All rights reserved. Copying or reproducing any text or graphics is strictly prohibited.
If you experience ongoing pain in the area near your ear, your jaw or the muscles on the side of your face, possibly accompanied by a clicking or popping sound or restricted jaw movement, you may be suffering from TMD — an abbreviation for Temporomandibular disorders. Sometimes people incorrectly use the term TMJ to refer to these problems, when in fact TMJ is the abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint — or jaw joint — itself. So while you definitely have a TMJ (two of them in fact), you may or may not have TMD.
TMD, then, describes a group of conditions characterized by pain and dysfunction of the TMJ and/or the muscles surrounding it. It's not always so easy to figure out exactly what's causing these symptoms, but the good news is that most TMD cases resolve themselves with the help of conservative remedies that you can try at home. In fact, it's important to exhaust all such reversible remedies before moving on to anything irreversible, such as bridgework or surgery.
The two TMJs that connect your lower jaw, the mandible, to the temporal bone of the skull on either side, are actually very complex joints that allow movement in three dimensions. The lower jaw and temporal bone fit together as a ball and socket, with a cushioning disk in between. Large pairs of muscles in the cheeks and temples move the lower jaw. Any of these parts — the disk, the muscles or the joint itself — can become the source of a TMD problem. If you are in pain, or are having difficulty opening or closing your jaw, a thorough examination can help pinpoint the problem area; then an appropriate remedy can be recommended.
Causes of TMD
As with any other joint, the TMJ can be subject to orthopedic problems including inflammation, sore muscles, strained tendons and ligaments, and disk problems. TMD is also influenced by genes, gender (women appear to be more prone to it), and age. Physical and psychological stress can also be a factor. In some cases, jaw pain may be related to a more widespread, pain-inducing medical condition such as fibromyalgia (“fibro” – connective tissues; “myo” – muscle; “algia” – pain).
Signs and Symptoms of TMD
Clicking Sounds — Some people with TMD hear a clicking, popping or grating sound coming from the TMJ when opening or closing the mouth. This is usually caused by a shifting of the disk inside the joint. Someone standing next to you might even be able to hear it. Clicking by itself is actually not a significant symptom because one third of all people have jaw joints that click, studies show. However, if the clicking is accompanied by pain or limited jaw function — the jaw getting “stuck” in an open or closed position, for example — this would indicate TMD.
Muscle Pain — This can be felt in the cheeks (masseter muscles) and temples (temporalis muscles), where the two big pairs of jaw-closing muscles are located. If you feel soreness and stiffness upon waking up in the morning, it's often related to habits such as clenching and/or grinding the teeth at night. If you have this type of nocturnal habit, a custom-made nightguard should be very helpful in decreasing the force applied to your teeth, which will in turn allow your muscles to relax and relieve pressure on your jaw joints. Other self-care remedies are discussed below (please see Relieving the Pain).
Joint Pain — Pain that's actually coming from one or both jaw joints technically would be described as arthritis (“arth” – joint; “itis” – inflammation) of the TMJ. Radiographs (x-ray pictures) show that some people have arthritic-looking TMJs but no symptoms of pain or dysfunction; others have significant symptoms of pain and dysfunction but their joints look normal on radiographs. There is no cure for arthritis anywhere in the body, but medication can sometimes help relieve arthritic symptoms.
Relieving the Pain
Once you have been examined, a strategy for treating your condition and managing your pain can be developed. Sometimes a temporary change to a softer diet can reduce stress on the muscles and joints. Ice and/or moist heat can help relieve soreness and inflammation. Muscles in spasm can also be helped with gentle stretching exercises. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and muscle relaxants can also provide relief.
Other Treatment Options
Severe TMD cases may require more complex forms of treatment, which might include orthodontics, dental restorations like bridgework, or minor procedures inside the joint such as cortisone injections or lavage (flushing) of the joint. It's rare for major surgery ever to be necessary in a case of TMD. Again, it's important to try the wide range of conservative, reversible treatments available, and give them enough time to work as they almost always prove effective. The first step is an examination at the dental office. To learn more about available treatment options, view this Chart on TMD Therapy
TMD – The Great Impostor This “chameleon” of dental disorders manifests in a variety of ways, including joint pain, sinusitus, ear pain, tooth and headaches. Dear Doctor magazine examines the causes of TMD, its signs and symptoms and what can be done to treat this common disorder... Read Article
Seeking Relief From TMD TMD, or Temporomandibular Disorders, is an umbrella term for various painful conditions that affect the jaw joints. There are different treatment approaches to TMD problems, but not all are based on science. It's important to be up on the latest information and to be an educated consumer. In this comprehensive article, Dear Doctor magazine provides state-of-the-art information and guidance on what you should know, whom you should see, and what you should ask... Read Article