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The Truth about TMJ

September 23rd, 2020

TMJ is the quick way of referring to your Temporomandibular Joint. Pardon the pun, but that’s quite a mouthful! What is this joint, what does it do, and, if your Dr. Ryan Hinckley and our team have told you that you have a TMJ disorder, what can we do to help?

The Temporomandibular Joint

Your two temporomandibular joints are amazing works of anatomical design. These are the joints where the temporal bone in the skull meets the mandible bone of the jaw, and allow our mouths to open and close, move back and forth, and slide from side to side. Muscle, bone, and cartilage work together to provide easy movement and to cushion the joint. But sometimes, the joint doesn’t work as smoothly as it should, and this can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD.

When Should You Suspect You Have TMD?

You might have TMD if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Painful chewing
  • Pain around your TMJ, or in your face or neck
  • Earaches
  • Changes in your bite
  • Jaws that are limited in movement or lock open or shut
  • Clicking, popping or grating noises when you open and shut your jaw

There are many conditions linked to TMD. If you grind your teeth at night, have arthritis in the jaw, have suffered an injury or infection in the area, or have problems with your bite, for example, you might be more likely to have TMJ problems. If you suspect you have TMD, or suffer from any of the symptoms listed above for an extended period, give us a call.

Treating TMD

During your visit to our Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Center, Crockett, TX office, we will check your medical history, and examine your head and neck. We can take an X-ray or scan if needed for further examination of the joint. Because there is no real scientific agreement yet about the best way to treat TMJ disorders, a conservative treatment plan is often best. If you do show signs of TMD, we might first suggest relaxation techniques, over-the-counter pain relievers, or the use of ice packs or moist heat compresses. A change to a softer diet can help, and you should stop chewing gum and making any exaggerated jaw movements.

If these self-care practices aren’t effective, we might suggest a nightguard. This appliance is a comfortable and flexible mouthguard custom fitted for you, and will bring relief from teeth grinding when worn at night. If this treatment is not effective, talk to us about other options.

Luckily, most cases of TMD are temporary and don’t become worse over time. But any persistent discomfort is a good reason to visit us. Whether you have TMD, or any other problem causing you pain in the head or jaw, we want to help.

Adjusting Your Diet after a Braces Adjustment

September 16th, 2020

We all welcome the idea of braces adjustments at our Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Center, Crockett, TX office—an adjustment, after all, means you have taken another step on the way to your ideal smile! But sometimes the reality of an adjustment can be a little less welcome—you might have a few days of discomfort as you get used to new or different pressure on your teeth. Luckily, there are some menu options that will help you get through these days in a comfortable and tasty way.

Keep Your Cool

If you are feeling a bit sore after your braces have been tightened, a cool treat might be just the thing. Ice cream is the classic choice, but if you are looking for some healthier options, consider yogurt. It generally has less sugar, while still providing soothing, creamy sweetness. A fruit or vegetable smoothie is always a good (and nutritious) choice. Pudding and gelatin cups? Chilly, delicious, and easy to eat.

Comfort Food

Some of our favorite comfort foods mean literal comfort for newly adjusted braces. Creamy soups, soft pastas and noodles, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese are warm, silky options that don’t require a lot of chewing. Just don’t go too hot or too spicy—that might irritate sensitive gum and mouth tissue.

Breakfast All Day Long

Most of our favorite braces-friendly breakfast foods are delicious any time of day. Eggs scrambled, fried, or in an omelet are easy on your braces and packed with protein. Are you an oatmeal fan? Try some oatmeal with mashed fruit for a more flavorful bowl. And you can’t beat the taste and texture of pillowy pancakes.

The discomfort that follows an adjustment is temporary, but treat your teeth—and yourself—gently over the next day or two. Take over-the-counter medication if needed for pain, brush carefully, and eat a comforting, comfortable diet. Soon you will be back to your normal, braces-friendly menu, and one step further on your way to a beautiful smile!

Orthodontic Treatment: Does a Missing Tooth Mean Missing Out?

September 9th, 2020

You’ve decided—now’s the time to talk to Dr. Ryan Hinckley about straighter teeth and a better bite. So what’s holding you back? If you are concerned because you have a missing tooth, don’t let that stop you from making that first appointment. Orthodontists today have many options to help you achieve the benefits of a more attractive, and even healthier, smile.

How can we accommodate a patient with a missing tooth or teeth? Because each patient is different, our approach will be tailored to your specific needs.

A Lost or Missing Permanent Tooth

There are a number of treatment options available, depending on the position of your other teeth.

  • If your teeth are already crowded, it might be possible to close a small gap left by a missing tooth with braces.
  • If the space between your teeth is the perfect size for a replacement tooth, your orthodontic appliance will keep that spot open as your braces move the rest of the teeth into alignment.
  • If you need more space for a replacement tooth, braces can help widen the space between your surrounding teeth for an ideal fit.

Tooth loss can occur for a number of reasons. Accidents, decay, and gum disease can lead to tooth loss.  Congenitally missing teeth, teeth that simple never developed, are also a fairly common condition. But missing teeth are not merely a cosmetic issue, and should not be ignored. A gap in your smile can lead to shifting of the teeth around it, bite problems, difficulty chewing, and gradual loss of bone tissue beneath the missing tooth.

Today’s implants are a permanent, natural-looking replacement for a lost tooth. If you decide that an implant is your best option for tooth replacement, you are still a candidate for orthodontic treatment. Dr. Ryan Hinckley and your oral surgeon can decide on a schedule that will provide the best timing for each phase of your treatment.

A Lost Baby Tooth

Finally, let’s not forget younger patients. Sometimes children benefit from orthodontic care before all of their adult teeth have erupted. If your child has lost a baby tooth too early, a space maintainer can be used to prevent shifting and misalignment of the remaining baby teeth and leave room for the adult tooth to erupt in its proper spot.

We recommend that your child have a first orthodontic assessment around age seven, but if your child has lost a primary tooth before its time, give our Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Center, Crockett, TX office a call. We can let you know if a space maintainer is the best way to prevent future dental and orthodontic problems.

If you have concerns about a missing tooth or teeth, talk to us! Orthodontic treatment is always custom-designed to fit the needs of each individual patient. We can discuss your specific goals, and how orthodontic treatment can help you achieve them. There is no reason to let a missing tooth keep you from a more attractive, healthier smile!

Awesome Archwires

September 2nd, 2020

When we think braces, we can’t help but think of the brackets on each tooth and the colorful ligature bands that surround them. But actually, the whole point of those brackets and bands is to hold the archwire in place as it gradually moves your teeth to create a better bite and a straighter smile. Let’s learn more about this talented part of your braces!

  • Wire We Wearing These, Anyway?

Archwires use gentle, continuous pressure to move your teeth into alignment. That sounds simple, but there is actually a lot going on. Teeth often need more than realigning. Some teeth need to be turned a bit, some tilted. Your teeth need to be better aligned with those next to them, of course, but also need to fit properly with the teeth above or below them. You might have a malocclusion, or bad bite.

How can one wire handle all that? Well, it can’t. That’s why there are different types of wire. We often use thinner, flexible wires at the beginning of treatment, to put gentle pressure on the teeth as they start their movement. Other wires are firmer, and can be helpful in later phases, when each tooth is carefully moved to its specific, ideal spot. Archwires can be round or rectangular, thicker or thinner, springy or stiff, remember their shape or be bendable—all depending on what they need to do.

Whew! This sounds confusing, but Dr. Ryan Hinckley and our team are archwire experts! At every adjustment appointment, we check on the progress of your alignment and choose the exact wire you need to take you to the next stage of your orthodontic journey.

  • Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Wire

Now that you have braces, it’s more challenging to make sure that your teeth are clean after eating. We’ll give you advice on how to get rid of the pesky food particles that sometimes get stuck in your braces. First, that’s absolutely not the look you’re going for. But, more than that, bacteria can use these “leftovers” as fuel to create the acids that damage your enamel and cause cavities.

There’s a whole new world of dental products out there waiting to help get your braces clean. Special toothbrush heads work in the spaces between your teeth and the archwire. There are floss threaders that can get dental floss into tight places, and flosses with one stiff end you can guide under the wire so you can direct the floss to where it’s needed. There are even tiny cone-shaped brushes called “interproximal brushes” that can fit under your wires to clean around your brackets and teeth.

Take a care kit to school or work with you so you can keep the tooth surface under your wires and around your brackets free of plaque. After all the hard work you’ve put in with your braces, the last thing you want is cavities once you’ve achieved your beautiful smile!

  • Down to the Wire

We said archwires were awesome, but we didn’t say they were perfect! We couldn’t leave without suggestions for handling any wire-related problems that might come up.

One of the most common problems is the irritation caused by the end of a wire that has somehow come loose. You might be able to use a cotton swab to gently push the wire flat against the tooth. If that doesn’t work, orthodontic wax can be used to cover the end of the problem wire and smoothed into place. We’ll provide you with instructions on how to handle these and other minor wire problems at home. 

Other problems should be run past us first. If you feel your wire is coming loose, or if a loose end is causing a lot of pain and irritation, call our Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Center, Crockett, TX office. We’ll give you instructions on how to help, and make an appointment if necessary for a professional fix.

In fact, call us anytime you have questions about your braces. We’re here to help you understand each phase of the orthodontic process as you move step by step on the path to a healthy bite and a beautiful smile. And what’s more awesome than that?

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