Jaw Pain and Muscle Aches from COVID-related Stress

Jaw Pain and Muscle Aches from COVID-related stress

 Dr. Chris Tavakoli, DDS

As the COVID pandemic continues to affect our world population with no definitive end in sight, there has been a noticeable increase in an often-overlooked part of our physical health…TMJ disorder. Ever since the reopening of our office, there have been many patients reporting spontaneous headaches, broken teeth, tight jaw muscles, and sore teeth upon waking up in the mornings. These are all tell-tale signs of bruxism (formal term for excessive teeth grinding or jaw clenching).

The constant stress of being trapped inside our homes under lockdown and the ominous headlines on national news broadcasts about the COVID pandemic have put a lot of patients under extra physical and mental stress. As a result, we are noticing more of our patients clenching their teeth as an anxious habit during the day or showing signs of teeth grinding in their sleep. The heavy forces on the teeth put significant strain and tension on our TMJ (jaw joint) which overworks the nerves supplying our jaw muscles and teeth and thus explains the aches and pains.

While there is no magic bullet solution to avoid grinding our teeth, there certainly are ways to treat the symptoms with safe and simple home remedies.

1)     If symptomatic, start a softer food diet to put less strain on the jaw joint (TMJ)

2)     Avoid chewing gum

3)     Self-jaw muscle massage

4)     Apply heating pad to sore areas of the jaw for 20 minutes (increases blood flow, relaxes the muscle). Repeat up to 3 times a day

5)     Avoid caffeine in the evening hours (can cause hyperactivity of jaw muscles during sleep)

6)     Take OTC anti-inflammatory medication (i.e. Advil or Aleve)

7)     Relaxation techniques (non-caffeinated Chamomile tea before bed, yoga, meditation, acupuncture)

Signs that you may have been clenching and grinding your teeth:

1)     Chipped teeth or flattened edges

2)     Sore jaw muscles and/or teeth when waking up

3)     Unexplained headaches throughout the day

4)     Generalized tooth sensitivity (heavy grinding of teeth can over-activate the nerves of teeth resulting in cold sensitivity)

5)     Difficulty chewing food

If you start to notice any of the above symptoms, do not hesitate to schedule a visit with us and we will do a thorough evaluation of your TMJ and all the supporting muscles. Upon examination, we will recommend the appropriate mouthguard appliance to minimize the heavy forces on your teeth and jaw during nighttime clenching. The mouthguard will be custom made just for you and will serve as a protective cushion for your teeth and help preserve them for many years to come!

Your Child’s First Dental Visit

When should I take my child for the First Dental Visit?

One of the most important things you can do for your child is to set them up for a lifetime of healthy smiles by starting dental visits early. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry as well as the American Dental Association recommend that your child’s first dental visit to the dentist happen when their first tooth appears but no later than their first birthday.  FIRST VISIT BY FIRST BIRTHDAY.

We call this first visit, a “Well-baby Check or a Happy visit” for your child.  It is best for a child to have a pleasant first meeting with the dentist and the team. This first visit helps your child to have a Dental Home. Don’t wait until an emergency arises to introduce your child to the dentist.

Why should I start dental visits early for my child?

Prevention is the key to a healthy smile! At your baby/child’s first visit, we provide nutritional and diet counselling, discuss feeding, oral habits like pacifier or thumb sucking, show you how to clean your child’s teeth, do a quick gentle examination and recommend dental care products. We also make sure that your child is getting the right amount of fluoride, which is a natural mineral that protects your child’s teeth.

This “Well-baby or Happy Visit” also helps you to set up a Dental Home for your child, where you can bring your child every six months. This helps your child get familiar to the dental setting and also helps us to get to know your child and your family’s dental needs so that your child will have the best care.

Tips for your baby/child’s first visit

If possible, schedule a morning appointment when children tend to be rested and cooperative. Don’t schedule during naptime. In the many years of seeing babies and children we have found that children younger than age 8 and specially babies and toddlers do best during the mid-morning hours like between 10AM – 1PM.

Stay positive! Children and even little babies can pick up on any anxiety that their parents may show.



Your Mouth Says a Lot about Your General Health

You may be reading more and more in the news about the connection between oral health and overall health. That’s because scientists continue to discover concrete evidence of the link between the two.

According to the Mayo Clinic, oral health can offer clues about your overall health. They say that studies suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with severe gum disease might play a role in some diseases. In addition, the Mayo Clinic maintains that certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe. 

Research has also found an association between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints. Evidently, the mechanism of the destruction of connective tissues in both gum disease and RA is similar.

Chronic inflammation from gum disease has also been associated with the development of cardiovascular problems like heart disease, blockages of blood vessels, and strokes.

Additionally, adults with gingivitis performed worse on tests of memory and other cognitive skills than did those with healthier gums and mouths, according to a report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. Those with gingivitis were more likely to perform poorly on two tests that measured skills used in everyday life; delayed verbal recall and subtraction.

Good oral hygiene, visiting your dentist on a regular basis, and eating a balanced diet will reduce your risks of gum disease – and improve your overall health and well-being!

Exciting News: Expanded Services and Advanced Technologies for our Columbia patients

On May 5th, we’ll be excited to welcome the patients from Fusion Dental’s Columbia office at our Clarksville location, just five short miles away. The change is the result of our goal to constantly make improvements in order to provide patients with the very best care and service. We will rename the office Columbia / Clarksville as a result of the expanded service area. 

The Fusion Dental’s Columbia / Clarksville office is not only an expanded facility, offering comprehensive services under one roof, but patients in our former Columbia office will be happy to learn that the same dentists and staff they have come to know and trust have moved to Columbia / Clarksville.

We are very proud of the Fusion Dental – Columbia / Clarksville Office, located at 5005 Signal Bell Lane in Clarksville. The facility offers comprehensive care, the latest dental technologies and advanced techniques in a modern facility. Patients have the ability to receive a wide array of dental services for any family members from children and adolescents to adults of all ages. In addition to general dentistry care, specialty care includes pediatric dentistry, oral surgery, orthodontics, endodontics and periodontics, all under one roof.  The facility is also equipped with advanced technology, such as electronic dental records and digital radiology.

The Columbia / Clarksville location offers expanded hours and the same quality customer care and service our community has come to expect from all Fusion Dental locations. It also participates in the same insurance plans as the former Columbia office. 

We are always seeking to improve our services in order to provide the best possible service for our patients.  Hopefully our current and future patients find that the Fusion Dental location at Columbia / Clarksville exceeds their expectations! 

November isn’t just for Thanksgiving. For Fusion Dental it’s also about walking for ST. JUDE GIVE thanks, WALK. ™

On November 23, some of my fellow doctors, professional staff, family members and I will be putting on our sneakers and walking on the National Mall as part of the national fund raising effort: St. Jude Give Thanks. Walk. ™  Joining in with more than 75 communities across the country, we are participating in this great event to support St. Jude, the unique pediatric treatment and research facility responsible for discoveries that have completely changed how the world treats children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases.

We’re pleased to be a part of this family-friendly event and to help raise funds for this critical life-saving mission. In addition to Fusion Dental’s individual and team of walkers and volunteers, we’re also proud to be a corporate “course” sponsor. That day, Fusion Dental volunteers will also be distributing walk-related materials and water during the event at Constitution Gardens on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

We’d welcome any support! You can already start tracking the Fusion Dental team and individual walkers and sponsors at the St. Jude Give Thanks. Walk. ™ website.

This Thanksgiving as we count our blessings, we can be grateful for opportunities like this that enable us to show our support and make a difference. Fusion Dental is very proud of our staff and welcomes this chance to expand our community outreach to this national fundraising endeavor. Helping to save the life of a child is a great cause.

Fusion Dental Provides Langley Field Hockey Teams with Mouth Guards in Effort to Limit Sports-Related Dental Injuries

It’s mid-way through the season, and both Langley Varsity and JV Field Hockey Teams are having great seasons…But the teams’ wins aren’t the only thing the players are smiling about this fall. Before the competition began this year, we donated custom fitted mouth guards to 27 of these outstanding young athletes as part of our mission to support our community. Joining us in this public health service effort was Voss Laboratories, which donated the lab work needed to make the devices.

I really enjoyed meeting these young women athletes, and I know that dental assistants Celina Steere, Renee Ibanez and Sylvia Wellington did too. We were gratified to know that by providing them with properly-fitted mouth guards we would be assisting in a nationwide effort to limit sports-related dental injuries.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) mandates the use of mouth guards for hockey, as well as a broad range of additional high school sports that involve impact, especially those with sticks, bats, or balls. Before this rule was implemented, the NFHS says that an athlete participating in contact sports had a “better than 50% chance of sustaining a significant oral-facial injury during his or her secondary school career.”

In fact, according to the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry, sports accidents account for 10-39% of all dental injuries in children. The Academy for Sports Dentistry also recommends the use of a properly fitted mouth guard; specifically one made over a dental cast and delivered under the supervision of a dentist.

Fusion Dental treats too many children with unnecessary injuries from wearing poor quality mouth guards, so we thought we could make a difference here. We hope the Langley teams continue with their good season and that we may have played a part in preventing many potential injuries this fall!  We encourage you to ensure your children, or even yourselves, are properly protected by wearing a well fitting mouthguard.

Next time you’re in the office, consult your Fusion Dental dentist about an athletic guard for you or your child. We are proud to say that we provide custom athletic mouth guards to all patients of record at no charge!

Start Your Summer with 50% off on a Brighter Smile!

Because we appreciate your loyalty and know you would like to look your best this summer, we are offering all of our current and new patients a 50% discount on teeth whitening. All Fusion Dental patients who have had a regular exam and hygiene appointment within the past 12 months in one of our offices are eligible for this discount!

This summer no doubt you and your family will be more likely to grill out, eat fresh vegetables and fruits, and celebrate with icy drinks. Many of these summer foods and beverages can increase the likelihood of stained tooth enamel. Pigmented molecules called chromogens, acidity, and tannins can stain or promote staining by eroding the dental enamel.

According to WebMD, here is the list of top teeth-staining foods and beverages:

  • Wine
  • Tea
  • Cola
  • Sports Drinks
  • Berries
  • Sauces
  • Sweets

So, enjoy your summer and counteract the effects of teeth-staining foods and beverages by calling us for an appointment. We will be offering this customer appreciation offer through September 30th. Please note that this discount applies to Ultradent and Nitewhite tray whitening treatments only, and treatments used may vary by office. We may recommend that you postpone whitening if signs of dental disease or infection are evident.

Give us a call today and get your summer off to a great start!

Fusion Dental-Bethesda Sponsors Second Annual Big Train Celebrity Softball Classic

Societies have long recognized the importance of youth sports to the development of character and citizenship. So when Fusion Dental – Bethesda had the opportunity to get involved in a community event that would impact youth sports, we jumped right in. Fusion Dental is committed to community involvement, and we were excited to participate in a new event: the second annual Big Train Celebrity Softball Classic with proceeds going to improve youth ball fields in our area.

As a sponsor of the event, staff from Fusion Dental’s Bethesda office mingled with the crowd of over 1,400 fans on Saturday April 20th. The sold-out crowd came to watch a team of college and professional players vie against members of the media who cover them. The Athletes vs. The Media battled it out on Shirley Povich Field, with the Athletes winning 10-3. The Athletes were led by MVP Byron Mouton (Maryland Terrapins Basketball) who had two doubles in the game.

Representatives from the Washington Redskins, Washington Post, CBS, NBC, Fox, Comcast SportsNet and 106.7 The Fan participated. In addition to myself, Dr. Christine Sullivan, along with Office Manager Jaime Byerly, and staff members Hannah Menapace and Sergio Soria, distributed over two hundred toothbrushes and gave dental advice to the crowd from our booth.

The Big Train non-profit organization and summer baseball league is named after local baseball legend Walter Johnson who played for the Washington Senators from 1907 to 1927. He is one of the “Five Immortals” – selected as one of the first to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Through funds raised by The Big Train, the Shirley Povich Ball Field was built and named for the famous Washington Post sports writer. Povich covered local baseball starting with the days of Walter Johnson and running through the Cal Ripken era.

Our office has been involved with numerous community outreach events in the past year. We are always looking for new opportunities to educate families about the importance of dental health to overall health, and reach children when they are young about the importance of good oral health care. We hope that the kids, parents, athletes and members of the media all remember to use those toothbrushes!

Fostering the Next Generation of Dental Team Practitioners

Fusion Dental has completed a $25,000 endowment to the University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry. We did this, our first ever endowment, because of the high value we place on education as the foundation of everything we do at Fusion Dental, from general dentistry to an extensive array of dental specialty areas. In addition to me, many of our dentists trained and studied at UMD’s School of Dentistry.

Our endowment was not just because many of our dentists were trained at the distinguished UMD School of Dentistry, instead we are hoping to help foster the next generation of dental team practitioners. The endowment will help to support the professional dental practice model that we at Fusion Dental employ: a team of dental professionals trained in state-of-the-art dental specialty areas, all working together as a team under one roof. This model ultimately serves one goal: to provide the best possible level of dental service to our patients.

The endowment to the UMD School of Dentistry, originally established as the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1840, was presented last month to the school’s Dean, Christian S. Stohler, DMD, by our Board of Directors, which includes Gregory Bob, DDS; Scott Synnott, DDS; Christine Sullivan, DDS as well as myself. The money will be used at the school’s discretion.

The UMD School of Dentistry also has the distinction of being the world’s first dental college, so we are extremely proud to be affiliated with this dental education and research university. 

Brighten Your Smile – Brighten Your Outlook in 2013!

Here we are – 2013!  If you’re like most Americans, you have a list of resolutions that you are very enthusiastic about. Whether you have decided to stop smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, or look for a new job — no matter what you have resolved for this coming year — most likely a confident and bright smile will help!

At Fusion Dental, in all of our office locations, we have a range of options available for whitening your teeth, depending upon your specific needs, and we’d be happy to discuss what option would work best for you.

You might be tempted to pick up an at-home bleaching kit at the drug store. These kits will contain a peroxide whitener that is usually in the form of a gel on a thin strip or in a standard tray.  For light discoloration or stain, these can sometimes be effective. You can also try whitening toothpastes that provide additional stain removal. These toothpastes don’t change the color of your teeth but may remove stains on the surface.

While these over-the-counter options are now available for consumers, more extensive and thorough whitening can be achieved with the assistance of a dental professional. A very popular system uses custom made, flexible trays that fit over the teeth.  The patient adds the whitening agent and wears the trays for several hours or overnight. In the course of 10 to 14 days dramatic results can be achieved. The trays can be used later to touch up as needed if discoloration reoccurs.

In-office systems allow for single visit treatments which only take about an hour and a half. A whitening agent is applied to the teeth and a gel is applied to protect your gums. Sometimes molds are made and trays provided for home use to enhance the whitening process.

Whether your teeth have taken on a yellow, brown, or grey hue, whitening will definitely make a difference. Talk to your dentist if you have bonding or tooth-colored fillings in your front teeth. Existing fillings will not whiten and sometimes veneers or crowns are necessary to achieve the desired results.

Contact us today to set up an appointment for your teeth whitening. Let your winning smile lead you to success in 2013! Happy New Year from Fusion Dental.