August Newsletter

The Influence of a Teacher

By Dr. Nathan Pettit

Dr. Pettit
Dr. Nathan Pettit
Dr. Ronald Auvenshine
Dr. Ronald Auvenshine

Throughout my life, God has blessed me to have associations with good and powerful teachers. Many of us can recall one teacher who made a difference in our life. Perhaps it was the teacher who took extra time to help us understand a concept or hone a skill. Perhaps a teacher comes to mind who, for whatever reason, believed in you more than you believed in yourself. I remember those teachers who looked outside themselves to share their gift of knowledge with me.

With deep respect, I wish to acknowledge one such educator in my life, a teacher and friend to all of us: Dr. Ronald Auvenshine. It was three years ago in July, at the end of a busy week at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. I was excited to meet Dr. Auvenshine, whose expertise was highly regarded by my fellow residents and attending faculty. He had been teaching as faculty at the VA hospital for many years, providing treatment for veterans suffering from chronic pain. One of the advantages of being a prosthodontic resident in Houston was the opportunity to learn from this world-renowned professional in temporomandibular disorders.

Dr. Auvenshine conveyed a passion for his field, a love of science and human anatomy, and an understanding that made his lectures more captivating and engaging than any other of its kind. He taught human dental anatomy and function as I had never before seen. I was inspired by his instruction and expertise of this complex human system.

I remember the first patient I treated under his direction, a patient suffering with severe pain and limited mouth opening. She responded so well to his prescribed treatment it was hard to believe. In a short period of time, the patient could open her mouth again, pain had decreased substantially, and she was a happier person. His therapy wasn’t invasive. It was conservative and precise. I was elated with the success and yearned to help others. This was only the beginning. Time and time again I was able to participate and witness the miracle of knowledge in the hands of an expert. It became my goal to learn everything I could in the field of craniomandibular disorders and their treatment.

Dr. Auvenshine recognized my interest in his field of expertise. He met with me outside of class to discuss my goals and to offer his assistance. He helped me discern what I wanted from life, my education and my profession. Being a man of great faith, he shared my common goals to be of service to God, family, and fellow men. He explained the demands of becoming an expert in his field and the path to achieve true excellence. Power comes from working past the point when others would have taken a rest.

I loved dentistry and chose to receive training in prosthodontics so I could become a “super dentist.” My training was intensive and rewarding. Now I had the opportunity through Dr. Auvenshine to focus on a complex and uniquely necessary field of dentistry often ignored by other professionals. I was grateful for his influence and felt providence had provided my chosen calling.

New life came to me. I had an increase of energy and was able to maximize my time during my residency. I petitioned my director to allow me to spend more clinical and didactic time to learn about and treat craniomandibular disorders. I began rotating regularly in Dr. Auvenshine’s office. I completed master’s research on myofascial pain under his direction. I attended continuing education courses and mini-residencies to expand my knowledge. An important lesson learned from Dr. Auvenshine was to never underestimate the value of a question.

One day, as Dr. Auvenshine and I were visiting together, he expressed his love and concern for his patients and their well-being. He explained the immeasurable work and countless hours spent in his commitment to provide the best service for his patients. He expressed the desire to share his knowledge and experience with another who wanted to provide that security and who would share in his love and commitment for his patients. He hoped that his legacy would continue to thrive and that I would be the one to carry it forward. I was moved. I was struck. What an opportunity. After many humble prayers I graciously accepted. I knew I was committed to continuing and sustaining the excellence previously demonstrated at MedCenter TMJ. Plans were made for me to join the team as Dr. Auvenshine’s associate. It is with great pride I now call Houston my home. Dr. Auvenshine is the quintessential teacher. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to learn from the best in the field of craniomandibular disorders, their treatment and management.

“Have you ever really had a teacher? One who saw you as a raw but precious thing, a jewel that, with wisdom, could be polished to a proud shine? If you are lucky enough to find your way to such teachers, you will always find your way back.” – Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie (1997), 192.

I have found my way back and commit to do everything in my power to continue and sustain the excellence you have come to expect.

Nathan J. Pettit, DMD, MSD

Happy Labor Day!

Summer is almost over, but at least it ends with one last holiday…Labor Day! It may seem odd, but Labor Day was initially celebrated on a Tuesday. On September 5, 1882 in New York City, workers came together to honor and give thanks for the American labor movement. Two years later, in 1884, the first Monday in September was selected as its annual designated date. And that’s how we continue to celebrate it today.

Labor Day is a time to commemorate the social and economic achievements of the American worker. It’s also a tribute to a past generation of workers who sacrificed and toiled to ensure the prosperity and strength of the united States.


Whatever your Labor Day plans include, don’t forget to remain diligent in your healthy TMJ regimen. By now, you should be picnic-savvy about what’s safe to eat and what you should avoid. But as a reminder, don’t forget to ask! If there is a smorgasbord selection of potluck entrees, be certain of the ingredients before you indulge. Make sure to steer clear of hard, crunchy foods. Always cut your meal into small, bite-friendly portions. As best you can, avoid the unhealthy, fatty food selections that are offered.

Back-to-College Tips

August is the month when students of all ages get ready to go back to school. For college students, whether you’re an incoming freshman or a seasoned senior, don’t forget to follow these important suggestions to ensure your semester is both TMD-pain-free and stress-free.

Establish and maintain healthy habits. Studying for school tests and allocating extra time to complete assignments is no excuse. Remember, your brain won’t process information as well if you’ve neglected your body.

Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Never stay up all night cramming for exams. Adequate sleep is one of the single most important things you can do to combat stress if you suffer from a TMJ disorder. Take time to discover the campus gym as well. These days most colleges offer an assortment of exercise amenities for their student body. Find the school gym, pool or track and make a commitment to use it regularly. Exercise is another great way to help relieve TMJ-pain-inducing stress.

Don’t forget to make friends in your new classes. The first day of the semester is stressful for everyone and it’s easy to overlook the fact that other students are just as anxious as you are. So lean over and say hello to the person sitting next to you. Introduce yourself and, if you feel comfortable doing so, exchange contact information. If you’re absent in the future, your new friend can fill you in and he or she could even serve as a study buddy!

Make sure to read our blogs this month for even more back-to-school stress-reducing TMD tips.


Recipe of the Month

Since summer is almost over, why not indulge in as much watermelon as you can while it’s still readily available? This month, try this delicious Watermelon Summer Salad recipe. As one reviewer advised, don’t be scared off by the ingredients. They actually complement each other nicely. But remember, watermelon pieces should be diced into small cubes to avoid the jaw strain that comes with larger bites. Take the finished salad and place it in the hollowed out shell of the watermelon for a festive serving dish!

• 3/4 cup halved, thinly sliced red onion
• 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
• 1 1/2 quarts seeded, cubed watermelon
• 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
• 1/2 cup pitted black olive halves
• 1 cup chopped fresh mint
• 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Place the onion slices in a small bowl with the lime juice. The acid of the lime will mellow the flavor of the raw onion. Let stand for 10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine the watermelon cubes, feta cheese, black olives, onions with the lime juice, and mint. Drizzle olive oil over it all, and toss to blend. Dig in and be prepared for a pleasant surprise.

Here’s a great idea for a healthy TMJ-friendly college snack. First, combine your favorite fruits in a bowl. Use fruits like strawberries, blueberries, bananas and kiwis. Then add a splash of orange juice. Many college dorms have small kitchenette areas for student use. Put the container in a freezer with your name on it. If you’re a student who is commuting to classes from home, your freezer is even closer at hand. Pack the snack in your backpack as you head out the next morning to attend classes. By midday it will be thawed but still fresh, cold and ready to eat!


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