Your dentist checks more than just your teeth.

Do you really know what your dentist does? Sure, you know they clean teeth, maybe you even know it’s called dental prophylaxis, and that they fill in cavities. You know they pull the occasional tooth and also that they will replace it with a false one so the patient doesn’t have a big gap in their smile. All of these things are true. But they are also just a fraction of the many services a dentist offers. 

Here are some of the little known things dentists do.

Neuromuscular Dentistry

Neuromuscular dentistry focuses on realigning the jaw to relieve the painful symptoms of temporomandibular disorder, more popularly known as TMD. 

TMD is pain in the jaw joint, called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and surrounding tissues that can limit the range of motion to open and close the mouth. It isn’t uncommon for patients with bruxism, arthritis, autoimmune disease, or high stress to find they have developed TMD. 

The jaw alone is an intricate system made up of muscles—including the masseter muscle, one of the strongest in the body—nerves, teeth, and joints. Each piece of the whole depends on the performance of the others do its own job correctly. And since the jaw is just one small part of a larger whole, the human body, TMD can lead to chronic headaches, poor posture, as well as shoulder, neck, and back pain.

During your initial exam, the dentist will look for signs of pain and tenderness in the muscles and jaw, listen for popping, clicking or grinding when the mouth opens and closes, and observe if there is a limited range of motion. They will also check to see how the jaw and teeth sit when the mouth is closed and may take X-rays. 

Treatment plans for TMD most often include an oral splint, practicing relaxation techniques, massage, and applying either hot or cold therapy to the area.  

Occlusion Therapy

Occlusion in dentistry refers to the way the top and the bottom teeth meet when they come together. Malocclusion, also known as a “bad bite,” is when the teeth and jaw are meeting incorrectly causing pain and uneven wear on the teeth. It can occur due to genetics, poor dental habits, or from a trauma injury. 

Symptoms of malocclusion include frequently biting the inside of the cheeks, breathing through the mouth, speaking with a lisp, migraine headaches, the development of TMD, and ear pain. And, as with TMD, it can lead to shoulder, neck, and back pain.

Occlusion therapy treatment plans typically include a dental splint or oral device. Treatment of extreme malocclusion requires orthodontic therapy to correct alignment or placing crowns and veneers to restore height to the teeth.

Mouthguards

If your children play sports you know they need to wear a mouthguard every time they play. If you’ve been using the ones offered by the team or found in the store, your child’s teeth aren’t as protected as you think they are.

Store-bought mouthguards come in two options: stock or boil-and-bite. Both models may be cheap and convenient to pick up on your usual errand run, but that is where the short list of positives for these guys ends. The bulky, hard plastic material is uncomfortable and makes for a poor fit. Even the boil-and-bite models that offer the ability to create a “custom fit” at home lose their shape in a matter of weeks. 

Not only are store-bought mouthguards bulky, uncomfortable, and ill-fitting—they are also far inferior when it comes to performing their one role: protecting your child’s teeth! And that’s when your child is willing to wear the awkward, uncomfortable protective piece in the first place.

A custom-fit mouthguard from the dentist offers the quality material needed for proper protection and a superior fit that won’t lose its shape on you. Your child’s custom mouthguard is expertly designed to meet their sporting needs and protect every tooth from impact. To make their new protective gear more appealing, your child can choose from a selection of fun colors their mouthguard can be made in. 

Early Detection 

Living in the information age, the technology around us has rapidly evolved, and the technology in your dentist’s office has kept pace. Using laser fluorescence encased in a slim wand, your dental team is now able to detect small, developing cavities and cancerous cells that are undetectable by the human eye.

Early detection of cancer can truly save lives. Around 145 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each day here in the United States. When found in its early stages, the survival rate is 80% to 90%. Compare that to the late-stage survival rate of 43%. And, unfortunately, due to lack of awareness and regular screenings, oral cancer is most often found when it is already in the later stages of development. By screening every patient during their routine exams using the VELscope wand, we are able to do our part in catching oral cancer earlier.

Similarly, early detection of cavities saves teeth. The DIAGNOdent wand allows us to find the smallest of cavities long before they become visible to the eye. Thanks to the slim design and fluorescent laser, it also allows the dental team to detect cavities in those hard-to-see places, such as the nooks and crannies on the surface of your molars. The earlier a cavity is detected and treated, the less of the tooth will need to be removed. Keeping as much of a natural tooth’s structure as possible helps to maintain optimum oral health for years to come.