I’ve always liked learning about word derivations. Those roots and their crazy connections to words and ideas and cultures. I probably should have become a linguist. But I digress. Let’s discuss today a word near and dear to the world of cosmetic dentistry–“orthodontics”–and break it down into its parts with the goal of learning what makes a cosmetic dentist tick.
Orthodontics. The word’s origins lie with the Greek words “orthos,” which means “perfect,” and “dontos,” which means “teeth.” It stands to reason, therefore, that the field of cosmetic dentistry is about the quest for perfect teeth. This conclusion is certainly true though it true only to point. Much of the work of cosmetic dentists is whitening teeth, covering up cracked and chipped teeth, closing gaps between teeth. In addition, though, cosmetic dentists do work that allows patients to bite correctly, to eat without pain. More than just providing a perfect smile, cosmetic dentists provide a way to live a normal life. Without the ability to chew and to eat without pain, life is made inconvenient in the best scenario and downright anguish-filled in the worst-case scenario.
Cosmetic dentists help patients suffering from disorders of the termporomandibular joint, TMJ and TMD. They offer myriad treatments; the particular treatment a patient chooses should be chosen only after discussion with the dentist in order to select the best approach. “Conservative” is a word that describes the best general approach to TMJ and TMD therapy as most cases can be treated at home and without surgery.
Relief of pain caused by TMJ and TMD can come through a few home-remedy type treatments. These include hot and cold packs applied to the side of the face and to the temple, limiting jaw movements, a diet of soft foods, and massage to the affected areas. Of course the patient should remain in contact with the dentist, responding to the advice he or she gives for treatment.
The dentist can prescribe additional treatments after a careful and thorough examination of the jaw. Usually, TMD and TMJ are caused by improper bite; many improper bite problems can be rememdied through orthodontics. One popular treatment is the use of a splint or mouth guard. The TMJ splint’s function is to reduce the stress on the jaw, allowing the muscles to function as they should, blocking interferences that affect the bite. The patient will be able to tell if bite is the cause of TMD/TMY pain if the splint relieves jaw pain.
Another treatment a cosmetic dentist can prescribe is occlusal equilibration. Occlusal equilibration is appropriate if deflective interferences on the the teeth are improper bite and jaw closure. This treatment is the diagnosis of bite, focussing on how biting surfaces might be causing improper bite. Post-diagnosis bite surfaces are adjusted to facilitate correct bite.
Only in the most serious cases should surgery be prescribed. The cosmetic dentist will help you to figure out your best option. If it is surgery, he or she will guide you through the process. A future of pain-free biting is on the way.