Butter-drenched corn on the cob. Crunchy French bread piled high with basil and garden-ripe tomatoes. Bubblegum. These mouth-watering foods of summer bring exquisite pleasure but they also can bring jaw pain.
“Even yawning can overextend the jaw joint and cause strain and irritation,” Mike said. “Eating foods that require joint overextension combined with a chewing force create conditions ripe for jaw injury.”
Your teeth are made to move just like the rest of your body. But when that movement is compromised, tooth loss can result.
“Teeth are spring-loaded,” Mike said. “Flexible ligaments hold the teeth in place and absorb the shock of chewing. Without this ability to flex, the teeth, tissue and bone would sustain constant trauma.”
Keeping those ligaments as well as the teeth healthy is key to avoiding tooth loss. Besides regular flossing, brushing and visiting your dentist, here’s what you can do to ensure your ligaments remain flexible.
Choose non-abrasive food
Highly abrasive foods can erode teeth and cause occlusal changes. We recommend avoiding foods like pickles (high vinegar content), soda and white wine (high acidic content), and ice (chewing it creates enamel fractures).
Choose high quality repairs
Dr. Gordon Christensen, a major dental guru, wrote that decayed or broken teeth allow teeth to drift and collapse your ability to properly bite. He recommends using restorative materials with wear characteristics that are similar to enamel and to initiate repair as soon as possible to avoid unwanted movement. In addition, adjusting teeth to your natural bite after the restoration will keep teeth properly aligned.
Replace missing teeth
Probably the most common cause of tooth movement is extraction of a tooth without replacement. Dr. Christensen recommends immediate replacement because the resulting movement can be nearly impossible to return to a normal state.
Read more about Dr. Christensen’s insights into occlusion and how dentists can control these changes in his great Q&A in Dental Economics.
If you’d like to get an understanding of how we repair and replace teeth, download our free ebook Before and After Dental Work. Or, if you’re in search of a Milwaukee dentist who can monitor the movement of your teeth, make an appointment with us today.
Intermittent pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a common ailment that can often be treated in our dental office. When the pain is chronic, collaboration among health care professionals makes all the difference. For long term management of TMJ discomfort, we turn to Freedom Physical Therapy (FPT).
They are smart and kind, and, most importantly, they get results. After years of TMJ pain, I can say I am virtually symptom-free because of Mike DeWan and FPT.
Self-management is their mantra
Of course, FPT employs many treatment modalities to treat TMJ, including ultrasound, dry needling and deep tissue massage. During each session, however, the physical therapists also teach their patients how to heal themselves.
Michael Karegeannes, owner and therapist at FPT, is one of the few U.S. physical therapists recognized as a Certified Cervical and Temporomandibular Therapist. He even teaches other physical therapists around the world. Though Michael is quite busy, several therapists on staff are trained in TMJ therapies.
Here are two tidbits of advice that helped me the most. You can find many more on their website at www.treatingtmj.com.
Jaw posture: Remember TTJ
Remember TTJ to help you find the best jaw posture:
Here’s how you can relax your jaw throughout your day. Place your tongue lightly on the palate behind your upper front teeth, allow your teeth to come apart and relax your jaw.
Foam roller pectoral stretch
All of our daily work hunched over our computers shortens our pectoral or our front-of-chest muscles. Stretching them out helps relieve TMJ discomfort. Michael showed me how.
I lie on a foam roller with my spine stretched out on it and my bottom and head supported by it. Then I hold a “goal post” position with my shoulders back, my elbows bent to 90 degrees and my forearms parallel to the ground. And then I take 20 very deep breaths, exhaling longer than inhaling. At the end of the exercise, sometimes my forearms end up resting on the ground and my TMJ symptoms have lessened.
Mike and Ellen work in dark recesses all day with a miner’s light firmly affixed to each of their foreheads. So it’s no surprise they have secrets and deep insights. They each recently shared a few of their secrets with me — and they all actually have to do with you, their patients!
Your healthy mouth = your winning lottery ticket
“Go buy a lottery ticket,” Mike sometimes advises. “If your teeth are healthy, fortune is shining on you and you are almost guaranteed overall health and success.”
Conversely, oral diseases may be linked to your body’s wellness. You’ve probably read about links between periodontal disease and heart disease. Untreated tooth decay can lead to root canals and ultimately tooth loss. Unbalanced occlusion (the way you bite) can lead to tooth fracture and loss, hypersensitivity and even head and neck pain.
Dentistry is 90% mind meld
Spock from Star Trek would be a great dentist because he could meld his mind with other beings.
“Dentistry is 90% psychological and 10% mechanical,” said Ellen Pelz, our associate dentist. “Most of our job is controlling the psychological factors that patients experience – fear, anxiety and discomfort. Though dentists are highly skilled, the actual mechanics are relatively routine.”
We feel your pain
“I’m sad when someone needs a root canal or breaks a tooth,” Mike said. “But I’m glad I can be there for relief.”
In fact, when a dentist administers anesthetic, his or her blood pressure rises far greater than the patient’s does.
We should be in a circus
Dentists are expert fortune tellers, and if they weren’t so busy caring for your health, they would be a major attraction under the big-top. But it’s not all magic. Your teeth tell a unique story and dentists are trained to read it. The good news is that even if you have some dental challenges, the prognosis almost always is favorable.
People often expect really bad news from a dentist especially if their last dental exam was a while ago. Ellen said, “People expect to be in dire straits, but there’s always a solution. And often it’s a pretty simple solution.”
When numb is null
Not getting numb or having an anesthetic wear off used to be a huge fear among dental patients. These days, dentists have enough pain relief options available to make your discomfort a thing of the past. You can even play a role in ensuring proper sedation. Caffeine and an empty stomach can hinder local anesthetic’s effectiveness, so skip that second cup of coffee and have a snack prior to your visit instead.
Chewing is not just a gateway to your digestion. According to Marc David from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, chewing also has a “potent psychological function that helps keep our bodies, minds and emotions in balance.” And I found out firsthand about the importance of balanced chewing.
Use both sides
I always thought we could favor one side in chewing just like we favor one hand in writing. But to maintain the integrity of our jaws, it’s best to chew on both sides simultaneously. Michael Karegeannes shared this tip with me and I’m glad he did. As owner of Freedom Physical Therapy, Mike has been helping me control my jaw pain this year. I noticed a steep decline in pain once I followed his advice.
Chewing relieves tension From a psychophysiologic perspective, chewing and crunching are natural outlets for inborn aggression, says David.
“Developmental psychologists often see this energy as first experienced through the infant’s desire to bite. This is a biting that establishes confluence with the mother. The baby must actively hold on for nourishment and will often keep holding on even when mama has had enough,” David wrote.
Crunch a bunch Even grownups experience this desire to crunch because chewing allows for the release of what psychologists call dental aggressive urges.
For evidence, David’s article points out how grocery aisles sing with words like “super crunchy,” “extra crunchy,” and “stays crunchy even in milk.” So important is the level of crunch that potato chip manufacturers developed a sophisticated apparatus to measure the perceived level of crunch that consumers hear in their heads.
You’ve got rhythm According to David, chewing sets the rhythm for our entire body.
“By chewing rapidly and insufficiently, we initiate an unsettled frame of mind that is reflected in the body as uncomfortable sensations in the digestive system. Chewing at a moderate to slow rate promotes a relaxed, grounded demeanor and for many, a noticeably stronger metabolism.”
A little bit of love So love your food — savor it, delight in it and chew slowly on both sides.