Orofacial Pain and Oral Health

Orofacial pain involves the chewing muscles or temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Problems associate with orofacial pain may include TMJ discomfort, muscle spasms in the head, neck and jaw, migraines, cluster or frequent headaches; or pain with the teeth, face or jaw.

Each day a person swallows approximately 2,000 times. When you swallow, it causes the upper and lower teeth to come together and push against the skull. Patients who have an unstable bite, missing teeth or poorly aligned teeth can have trouble because the muscles are working harder to bring the teeth together, causing strain and pain. When a patient experiences pain, it can also be caused by clenching or grinding teeth, trauma to the head and neck, or poor ergonomics.

Treating Orofacial Pain

As a dentist, you can offer your patients a variety of treatments that can help alleviate a patient’s orofacial pain. One treatment option is an oral appliance, which might also be called an orthotic, or splint. An oral appliance is worn over the teeth until the bite can be stabilized. However, permanent correction may require reshaping teeth, building crowns, orthodontics or a permanent appliance for the mouth. Another option may be physical therapy, counseling, relaxation training or massage therapy.

Some other ways to alleviate pain might include:

  • Place an ice pack on the painful area for 10 minutes at a time, 3 or 4 times a day
  • Eat softer foods
  • Avoid chewing gum and ice
  • Cut food into smaller pieces
  • Keep upper and lower teeth slightly apart at rest by keeping your tongue between your teeth
  • Sleep on your back
  • Don’t rest your hand on your chin

 
Dentists play a key role in treating orofacial pain so that patients can live pain free once again.  To learn more about how you can help relieve your patients’ pain, contact us today!

Dental Sleep Medicine is “In”

The doctor is usually “in,” but with advancements in dentistry and technology, we can now see that Dental Sleep Medicine is “in.” With the growing need for Dental Sleep Medicine and treatment of sleep apnea, it is important for dentists to expand their experience and knowledge of this area of dentistry.

Stand Out

When it comes to a successful dental practice, it is important to stand out. As you may know, patients are drawn to practices that provide superior, unique services and the availability of Dental Sleep Medicine can be your key to standing out. Your general services are often a “given,” which means they are expected, but what can you do to expand on that?

The idea and availability of Dental Sleep Medicine is a great way to expand on your practice and engage with your patients. We all want to get a better night’s sleep, but that can sometimes be difficult if your patient suffers from sleep apnea. As a dentist you have a unique advantage because you can identify symptoms and triggers initially. From this, you can recommend a visit to the physician in which you can work side by side in proper treatment.

What are Patients Looking for?

You may or may not already know what patients are looking for, but it is important to make sure you understand it. We know that over 20 years ago, the most popular form of dentistry was teeth whitening. As dentistry advances, the popularity of different areas continues to change. Today, many dentists have seen that Dental Sleep Medicine has replaced teeth whitening in popularity and necessity. By knowing this, you can continue to improve your practice and what makes it “stand out” to patients.

By offering Dental Sleep Medicine in your dental practice, you can attract many new patients, while standing out among other offices. Attend classes, lectures and other training sessions to learn more about Dental Sleep Medicine and be the “go-to” dentist in your area.

Dentists: Why Treat Sleep Apnea?

As a dentist have you ever thought about treating sleep apnea in your dental office? While it may seem like a long shot, dental sleep medicine continues to grow in importance each year because of a dentist’s unique ability to notice oral symptoms. Many patients who do not respond to traditional treatment will often benefit from oral appliances that are provided by dentists.

The Expertise

It is estimated that more than 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. This happens when a person’s airway gets blocked while they are sleeping. Often, this will happen because a person is overweight and additional tissue thickens the wall of the windpipe, making it more difficult to keep open. And, sometimes it is because the throat muscles relax more than normal.  A long, bony neck can also make for a narrower airway, which leads to sleep apnea as well.

The most common treatment option is the use of a CPAP machine. However, many patients are non-compliant to this form of treatment and do not want to undergo surgery. When this occurs, their best option may be oral appliance therapy, which is provided by a dentist. By wearing an oral appliance, it opens the airway by pushing the lower jaw forward and is more comfortable than a CPAP machine.

The Opportunity to Complete Continuing Education

As a dentist you can easily learn more about treating sleep apnea through advanced education courses and lectures. For instance, as a dental sleep medicine expert, Dr. Mayoor Patel participates in numerous lectures a year to further improve dental practices and their treatment options.

While many dentists can treat sleep apnea, it is important to receive the best education and experience in order to properly treat your patients. Dentists see their patients twice a year and are given the unique opportunity to properly screen patients and recommend treatment long before they may ever visit their regular physician.

With the unique opportunity to diagnose and treat sleep apnea, as a dentist you should consider continuing your learning and expanding your practice. To read more about this “unique opportunity,” you can read an article by Dr. Patel on Sleep Review.

Contact Dr. Mayoor Patel for more information about continuing your education in Dental Sleep Medicine and understanding how you, a dentist, should look into treating sleep apnea in your dental practice.

Join Forces with Physicians

When it comes to Dental Sleep Medicine, you want to be the dentist that physicians refer patients to. Become an active member of your community and introduce yourself to physicians in your local community, especially your local sleep specialist.

By introducing yourself you are marketing yourself and your practice so that your local sleep physician is aware of the services you provide. This also helps in building a strong relationship for proper diagnosis and treatment planning for your patients.

Get Patients Diagnosed

Referrals to provide oral appliance therapy are essential in maintaining your Dental Sleep Medicine practice, but it is also important to get your patients diagnosed. With a close relationship with your local sleep physician, you can easily refer your patients to them for diagnosis. By establishing a solid relationship, you are letting them know that you are screening your dental patients for sleep apnea and will be referring patients to them for evaluation and diagnosis.

Eliminate Unnecessary Repeat Tests

Additionally, joining forces with your local physician helps you to eliminate unnecessary repeat sleep studies. Once an oral appliance is placed, a follow-up sleep study is recommended to determine the success of the therapy. If you have a close relationship with a local sleep laboratory, you can also discuss the devices you use on your patients with the lab. By doing this you can further help your patients during treatment.

I encourage you to contact me today for tips and information on how to introduce yourself to the healthcare community so that they are aware of these unique services that you offer your patients.