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What to expect at South Sound Oral Medicine

Many of the patients we treat have a condition that falls between medicine and dentistry. Many conditions are fairly common, while some are not. At South Sound Oral Medicine, we begin by taking a detailed history and performing a thorough oral exam. Additional imaging, lab tests, and/or a biopsy may be recommended. First appointments typically take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, and you can expect to leave with a working diagnosis and treatment plan.

Some conditions don’t have a definitive cure, and the most appropriate therapy is reversible and non-surgical. Doctor and patient work together to fine tune an effective management strategy, rather than trying to “fix” something that can’t be fixed. We spend time on patient education, as understanding improves treatment success and reduces worry. With the right approach, patients often experience considerable improvement.

When a problem extends beyond the scope of our field, we work with providers in other disciplines, such as oral surgery, endodontics, oral pathology, neurology, ENT, physical therapy, acupuncture, psychology, and pain management. We communicate our findings to referring doctors with written reports. Most of our services can be billed to one’s medical insurance.

-TMD, tooth grinding, and splint therapy -

Bruxism is defined as repeated jaw clenching, with or without tooth grinding, and is often a contributing factor in temporomandibular disorders (TMD or “TMJ”). Bruxism can cause or contribute to tooth damage, clicking jaw joints, jaw pain and stiffness, ear ringing, and headaches. Many people clench their teeth when concentrating or driving.

Clenching and grinding are also common sleep behaviors that may get worse during periods of stress or poor sleep, or following a motor vehicle accident. During sleep, the jaw muscles are not under conscious control and can undergo bursts of intense contraction, exerting several times more force than when awake. Sleep apnea, and certain medications that act on the central nervous system, are also associated with bruxism. However, a malocclusion (bad bite) does not cause bruxism, as was once thought.

There is no treatment that reliably prevents bruxism during the night, but habit awareness, relaxation, certain medications, and improved sleep may be helpful in reducing it. It’s important to allow adequate time for sleep. Practical guidelines for getting a healthy night’s sleep can be found here.

Somewhat like crutches for a sprained ankle, a properly designed occlusal splint (similar to a nightguard) can reduce the harm of bruxism, giving fatigued jaw muscles time to rest and recover. These appliances also protect the teeth and jaw joints (TMJ’s) from the effects of excessive loading.

(253) 874-2583 | 34709 Ninth Ave S, Ste. B300 | Federal Way, WA 98003