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Healthy Horizons Blog

The Difference Between TMD And TMJ

tmj-tmdMedical terms can be confusing for consumers, and even sometimes for some doctors and dentists. One of the best examples is the confusion between TMJ and TMD. Many people mistakenly say they suffer from TMJ.

What they really mean is that they suffer from TMD, which is an acronym for temporomandibular disorder. TMD is a medical condition affecting the temporomandibular joint where the jaw meets the side of your head. The bones, muscles, and cartilage that make up the temporomandibular joint — TMJ for short — allow you to move your jaw to chew, speak and yawn.

You have two TMJs, one on each side of your head, just in front of each ear. You can feel your TMJs function by placing a finger in front of each ear then opening and closing your jaw.

When your jaw joints are working well, muscles move your lower jaw smoothly up and down, and even side to side. A small cartilage disc in the joint itself, located just in front of your ear, prevents your jawbone from grinding against the bones of your skull.

Problems with the bones, muscles or discs of the temporomandibular joint may cause pain and other symptoms associated with TMD. Injury to the TMJ may increase the risk for symptoms of TMD, as can arthritis or other illnesses that cause joint inflammation or dysfunction. Misaligned teeth may also cause discomfort in the temporomandibular joint. In many cases, doctors can never positively identify the source of temporomandibular disorders.

Scientists do not know how many people suffer from TMD, but the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research suggests as many as 10 million Americans may struggle with symptoms of TMD.

TMD Causes Symptoms in Your TMJ

Temporomandibular disorders cause symptoms affecting the temporomandibular joint. Symptoms may worsen and ease over time.

TMD causes a variety of symptoms that can appear when you chew, speak or yawn, including:

  • Pain in the chewing muscles or near the ear
  • Jaw muscle stiffness
  • Limited jaw mobility or locked jaw
  • Painful clicking, popping or grinding when you open or close your mouth
  • Changes in the way your upper and lower teeth fit together

Pain occurs when the cartilage slides out of place or rubs against nearby nerves as you move your jaw. Popping and clicking can happen when cartilage snaps back into place. Spasms or malfunctions in the muscles serving the temporomandibular joint can cause pain and tenderness in the TMJ.

Natural Horizons Wellness Centers Provide Safe and Effective Treatment for TMD

Fortunately, Natural Horizons provides safe and effective treatment for TMD that begins with a comprehensive evaluation of the temporomandibular joint, including a physical assessment of the affected area and careful notation of your medical and dental history. Your healthcare professional at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers may order X-rays and other imaging tests to detect any underlying problems that may be causing symptoms of TMD.

Your healthcare providers at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers can then create an individualized treatment plan based on your specific needs. Treatment usually begins with conservative therapies, such as dietary changes, stretching exercises for jaw muscles, ice and non-prescription pain relievers. Your practitioner may recommend painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants. Stabilization splints and other medical devices may help. Surgery may be possible when all other options fail.

Make an appointment with Natural Horizons Wellness Centers today for safe and effective treatment for TMD tomorrow.


Shocking Clues Your Teeth Reveal About Your Health

teeth-body-healthTaking care of your teeth isn’t just about having fresh breath and an attractive smile. Recent studies are finding that the condition of your mouth is closely linked to your total body wellness. Here are four reasons why your dentist may be the first health care professional to detect serious health problems, such as long-term stress, poorly controlled diabetes, heart disease and pregnancy complications.

1. Heart conditions

Studies have shown that people with gum disease are more likely to suffer from heart problems than those with healthy gums. This can occur when bacteria in the mouth enters the bloodstream and causes inflammation in other parts of the body. The inflammatory response can trigger clot formation and thickening of the arteries, which increases the risk for heart attacks and strokes. If you have a history of heart problems, it is important to practice proper oral hygiene at home and to visit your dentist for routine examinations.

2.    Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you have a much higher risk of developing gum disease than someone without diabetes — more than twice as likely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oral infections are also more severe in diabetic patients because the condition affects the body’s healing process and lowers resistance to infection. Conversely, having gum disease makes it very difficult for someone with diabetes to control his or her blood sugar levels. Proper brushing and flossing, routine checkups with your dentist and managing blood glucose levels are the best ways to ward off oral health issues causes by diabetes.

3. Chronic stress

A peek inside of your mouth by your dentist may indicate that you’re stressed. That’s because worn down teeth caused by grinding or clenching in your sleep, also known as bruxism, is a common condition diagnosed and treated by dentists. Many people aren’t aware of the impact of their grinding until they visit their dentist for a routine checkup. Wearing a mouth guard at night will protect your teeth and prevent further damage and discomfort by alleviating the tension on the teeth and jaw.

4. Pregnancy complications

Failing to properly care for teeth and gums during pregnancy can also have serious consequences for an expectant mother and her baby. As a woman’s hormones fluctuate during pregnancy, her risk of developing gum disease increases, which can result in preterm, low-birth-weight babies. If you are pregnant and notice changes in your gum tissues, including inflammation, bleeding or tenderness, talk to your dentist right away. Women can reduce their risk of pregnancy complications caused by gum disease by addressing oral health issues before becoming pregnant.


Bottom line: Good oral health plays a critical role in your overall health, and visiting your dentist may unveil important clues about your general well being. Combined with proper oral hygiene and a healthy lifestyle, you can maintain your optimal oral health and avoid a range of serious health problems.

Toothbrush Mistakes: 4 Reasons To Put Bad Brushing Habits To Rest

shutterstock_96944639Most of us have been brushing our teeth for so long that it’s second nature. But proper brushing may not be as simple as you think. Here are four common toothbrush mistakes you should avoid in order to prevent cavities and other serious oral health issues.

1. You’re using the wrong toothbrush.

If you want to brush your teeth correctly, then you must first start with the right tool. Toothbrushes today come in all shapes and sizes, but if you aren’t using the right one for your teeth, you may be causing more harm than good. Stiff, hard bristles can damage your gums, and a toothbrush that is too big can’t clean hard-to-reach back teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends a soft-bristled brush with a small head that allows you to easily reach all surfaces of the mouth.

Once you’ve selected the right toothbrush for the job, make sure you replace it at least every three months or when the bristles have become frayed. You should also replace your toothbrush following a cold or the flu to avoid recontamination.

2. You’re brushing too hard.

One misconception about tooth brushing is that the harder you brush, the cleaner your teeth will be. But the truth is that brushing with too much force can wear away the tooth’s protective enamel and irritate the gums by exposing the sensitive root area. Instead, focus on brushing gently and thoroughly with a soft-bristled brush to effectively remove plaque and debris from your teeth and along the gum line. As a general rule, if the bristles on your brush are flattening or fraying, you are applying too much pressure when you brush.

3. You’re not brushing long enough or often enough.

In order for brushing to benefit your teeth and gums, the ADA recommends that you brush your teeth at least twice a day for a full two minutes. If you don’t brush long enough, there’s a good chance you are leaving behind food and bacteria on your teeth that can cause decay and gum disease. If you’re having trouble adhering to the two-minute rule, consider setting a timer or listening to a song to ensure you pay attention to all areas of your mouth.

4. You’re not brushing correctly.

Effective tooth brushing also requires proper technique. A back-and-forth motion should be avoided as it can cause gums to recede. Instead, hold your brush against your gum line at a 45-degree angle and use short, gentle strokes to thoroughly clean all surfaces of each tooth. Finally, don’t forget to floss daily — it’s just as important as brushing.

As you can see, brushing your teeth doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple improvements to your brushing regimen combined with regular visits to your dentist can have a positive and lasting impact on the health of your teeth and gums.

Surprising Everyday Habits That Wreck Your Smile

shutterstock_131593952Keeping your smile healthy and attractive requires dedicated, daily care. However, even with the best brushing habits, you could be causing serious damage to your smile without knowing it. Here are common habits you should avoid in order to keep your teeth healthy.

Excessive grinding

Many people grind or clench their teeth when they are nervous, stressed or sleeping. When this behavior persists, it can wear down teeth, fracture teeth and even ruin past dental work. Many people who grind also experience frequent jaw pain and headaches. Fortunately, this behavior can usually be managed with something as simple as wearing a custom-fitted oral appliance while you sleep to reduce pressure and damage on the teeth and jaw.

Chomping on ice

If you habitually chew on ice while sipping a cold beverage, you could be setting your teeth up for serious damage. That’s because ice cubes can chip or crack your teeth. Instead of munching on ice, try chewing sugarless gum instead or request your drink without ice when dining out.

Playing sports without protective gear

Just as you need to protect your head and other parts of the body when playing football, hockey or other high impact sports, it’s also important that you protect your smile from injury by wearing a mouth guard. By wearing a custom-fitted mouth guard during sports and other physical activities, you can help avoid chipped or broken teeth, tooth loss and other mouth-related injuries.

Using teeth as tools

Teeth aren’t designed for non-chewing purposes, so avoid using them for tearing tags, biting nails, chomping on pencils or opening packages. When teeth are used for anything other than chewing and smiling, it can lead to fractured teeth, tooth loss or even jaw damage. Instead, use the right tool for the job, such as scissors or pliers, and save yourself a lot of pain and unnecessary dental work in the future.

Drinking soda

Soft drinks may be your beverage of choice, but they contain large amounts of sugar and acids that weaken tooth enamel and contribute to the formation of cavities. To avoid the harmful effects of soft drinks on your smile, rinse your mouth with water after having a soda, reduce the amount you consume, and opt for healthier beverage choices in place of sugary, carbonated drinks.


There are countless reasons to stop smoking, and protecting your smile is one of them. Cigarettes and other tobacco products can stain teeth and lead to gum disease and oral cancer. Stop using tobacco now to significantly reduce your risk of serious oral health issues.

Other habits that can wreck your smile include getting oral piercings, brushing too hard and even using toothpicks. The good news is that with a heightened awareness of bad dental habits, you can take steps to reduce and eliminate damaging behaviors and preserve your healthy, beautiful smile.

Seniors And Oral Health: Keeping Your Natural Teeth

shutterstock_84539731It’s common to experience changes in our teeth and gums as we get older. In fact, reaching the golden years puts seniors at a much higher risk for oral health issues, many of which result from the natural aging process, limited access to oral health care, or physical limitations that prevent someone from properly caring for their mouth on a daily basis.

Here are some common dental concerns faced by seniors and ways you can keep oral health issues at bay with age.

Dental Concerns for Seniors

Dry mouth

Dry mouth is a common condition experienced by seniors, often caused by certain illnesses or medications. Without proper saliva flow — the body’s natural defense against bacteria and debris that accumulate in the mouth — teeth are much more susceptible to cavities and gum disease. A dedicated brushing routine combined with regular visits to your dentist can help combat dry mouth that leads to decay and other dental problems as you age.

Tooth decay

Studies show that today’s older adults, particularly those aged 65 and older, experience higher rates of tooth decay than younger individuals. This may be caused by receding gums and exposed root surfaces that naturally occur with age; increased dryness in the mouth; and poor oral hygiene due to infrequent dental visits and an inability to properly care for their teeth with age. Maintaining proper oral hygiene and seeking professional dental care are just a few ways to avoid decay in your later years.

Gum disease

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, also becomes more prevalent with age. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 70 percent of Americans 65 and older have some form of gum disease, a chronic infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. Without proper treatment, periodontal disease can destroy the surrounding tissues, eventually causing bone and tooth loss. To preserve your natural smile and avoid tooth loss caused by gum disease, adopt healthy oral hygiene habits at home and maintain routine checkups with your dentist.

Oral Health Tips for Older Adults

The good news is that in recent years advances in dental care have made it much easier and affordable for seniors to retain their natural teeth for life. Practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to reduce common dental problems associated with aging.

  • Brush at least twice a day and floss daily.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for routine cleanings and checkups.
  • Stop smoking or using tobacco.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and regulate sugar intake.
  • Notify your dentist immediately if you notice changes in the condition of your mouth, teeth and gums.
  • Properly maintain dental appliances, including dentures and dental bridges.

Though older adults are faced with additional oral health challenges, you can take important steps now to reduce the risk of serious dental issues. Start by practicing excellent dental health habits at home, adopting smart diet and lifestyle choices, and visiting your dentist for regular exams and cleanings.