February 2016 Newsletter

So what is Zendoodling?

Ronald C. Auvenshine, DDS, PhD

Dr. Ronald Auvenshine
Dr. Ronald Auvenshine

February is here and we are beginning to see signs of Spring on the way. February is an exciting month, not only because of Valentine’s Day and the special time that it represents to tell loved ones how much they mean to you, but also it’s rodeo time in Houston. This is a special time of the year when the trail rides come to town, then the rodeo parade and then the chili cook-off and all the other events that surround this time of the year. It seems as if Houston comes “alive” every February.

On another subject, I want to share with you something that I personally have been doing since Thanksgiving. It’s called “Zendoodling.” My son’s mother-in-law, Barbara, is a creative artist. She does beautiful work. She also teaches art classes in the small town where she lives and has quite a reputation, not only for being an excellent teacher but a gifted artist. At Thanksgiving we were visiting my son and his family in Sioux Falls, SD. Barbara and her husband, Winston, joined us for dinner. After dinner Barbara and I began to visit about some of the things that I was doing to help my handwriting. I have been trying to perform exercises that would help me not grip things so tightly. It seems like all of my professional life I have worked with hand pieces, drills, and very small instruments. I have found over the years that my grip just seems to continue to get tighter and tighter. One of the suggestions that was given to me to help loosen my grip was “Adult Coloring.” So I went out and bought an adult coloring book and started coloring in the evenings. It was very enjoyable. At Thanksgiving, while visiting with Barbara about my newfound interest in adult coloring, she said “Ron, have you ever looked into ‘Zendoodling’?” Of course I said, “No, I have not.” So Barbara began to teach me how to “Zendoodle” designs and patterns on art paper. I even went to Hobby Lobby and got a special drawing pen and paper and a Zendoodling guidebook. Come to find out, this is a very popular craze among adults.

So what is Zendoodling? Well, as some people have described it, it’s like “yoga for your mind.” When you begin to doodle and form repetitive patterns, you relax and time almost seems to standstill. I not only enjoy Zendoodling for helping relax the muscles of my hand, which it does beautifully, but it also relaxes my mind. Now I can spend an evening listening to good music while I doodle on paper, creating beautiful designs. Is this anything that I’m going to publish? No! Is this anything that I’m going to frame for a room? No! It’s just something that is totally fun and relaxing.

All of us today live extremely busy lives and I, like my patients, find it very difficult to relax. When we do sit down to relax, it seems as if there’s always something we need to do other than relax. As result, by the end of the day we crash and burn. We jump in bed, totally exhausted, and expect to get a good night’s sleep. When sleep doesn’t come, we get frustrated. The more frustrated we become, the less sleep we get. So it becomes a vicious cycle. The result of that cycle is that we live most of our life in sleep deprivation. The thing that I have found most beneficial with Zendoodling is the ability to relax your mind and put all stress aside. Not only is this activity fun but it’s also a way of escaping, if only for a few minutes. Sometimes I’ll sit at a meeting or I will be on an airplane and rather than being stressed out, I simply pull out my doodling paper and pen and start drawing. I can safely say that my plane trips now are extremely brief, because I allow my mind escape into doodling.

If you’re interested in pursuing this, I recommend that you go to Hobby Lobby and get a Zendoodle book. There are also books available on Amazon. You can even go to YouTube and watch videos on how to Zendoodle. Google “Zendoodle” and read about this art form. I challenge you to do this. I love the description of the Zendoodling as “yoga for the mind.”

Dr. Pettit and I continue to be extremely busy. We have lots of activities going on in February. I will be travelling to Chicago for a meeting of the American Equilibration Society on the 24th and 25th of February. This is a society that has been in existence for almost 80 years. It is a very prestigious organization. I am the Program Chairman for the AES meeting in 2017. So this next year, I will be extremely busy planning for that meeting. Dr. Pettit and I have activities planned for March. It too will be an extremely active month for us. I will tell you more about that in the March newsletter.

As you can see, we continue to be busy on your behalf. We are constantly seeking new ways of helping you deal with TMD and orofacial pain. Some of our techniques, like Zendoodling, are not scientific but simply a way to help relax and control the pain and discomfort in order to rebuild the immune system. We’re here to help you. That is our major goal. We will continue to strive every day to provide you the greatest and best care you can receive anywhere in the world. That is our commitment to you.

Ronald C. Auvenshine, DDS, PhD
Diplomate, American Board of Orofacial Pain

Dr. Pettit’s Tip for Healthy Living Update to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Nathan J. Pettit, DMD, MSD

Dr. Nathan Pettit
Dr. Nathan Pettit

The New Year likely came with new resolutions! I hope nutrition made your list. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services released an update to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.*  I want to highlight some of the changes for you.

For the first time, the new guidelines target added sugars specifically, suggesting we limit intake to less than 10% of our calories. This does not include natural sugars found in fruit or milk, but the sugar added to make processed foods sweeter.  Processed sugars cause the release of inflammatory cytokines which trigger inflammation in your cells. Decreasing our added sugar consumption can help calm down inflammation in the jaw, and elsewhere in the body. Recognizing sugars in food can be difficult, because they come with many names. Look for any ingredient ending in “ose,” e.g. sucrose or fructose.

In a change from the past, eggs are now a recommended protein food. I was particularly happy to see this change. Eggs can be a great source of protein, and are typically kind to the jaw. Seafood, legumes, soy products, and lean meats are also suggested as good sources of protein. Choosing variety in the foods we consume is emphasized in the Guidelines. It also encourages us to increase our fruit and vegetable intake as well.

Also new in the updated version of Dietary Guidelines is the removal of the restriction on how much total fat we consume. Diets high in unsaturated fats have found favor over the last decade, such as the Mediterranean diet, which shows great health benefits. Health scientists aren’t as concerned as in the past about total fat intake. However, as before, excess saturated fat is still frowned upon, as well as excess sodium.

I hope we can each focus on small changes in what we eat and drink to become healthier individuals. Health is a great asset to a fulfilling and enjoyable life. Happy February!
close up of different food items on table
Nathan J. Pettit, DMD, MSD

*U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.

Keeping an Eye Out for TMD Symptoms in Kids

Keeping an Eye Out for TMD Symptoms in Kids

It’s National Children’s Dental Health Month! Since Dr. Pettit will be speaking about TMD in Adolescence to the Houston Association of Pediatric Dentistry on February 25, we thought it was only fitting to cover it in this month’s newsletter.

Regular dental checkups and cleanings are important for every child’s health, but some kids could have issues beyond their teeth. It’s rare, but it is possible for children to develop TMJ problems.

The TMD symptoms for kids are the same as adults. The most common signs to watch out for include:

  • Grinding their teeth while awake or asleep
  • Clenching their teeth involuntarily
  • Earaches but no infections
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Regular headaches
  • Soreness/pain in the face, neck and/or jaw area
  • Pain while chewing food
  • Clicking and popping sounds when the jaw opens and closes

Although the causes of TMD aren’t always clear, we do know that stress can lead to problems like bruxism in kids and adults. If your child already has another dental problem such as a bad bite this can also lead to TMJ issues.

Addressing the issue as soon as possible is even more important for children because they are developing at a very fast pace. With early intervention and treatment the issues can be alleviated before they cause more problems. It’s just one more reason to schedule an appointment during National Children’s Dental Health Month.

Easy Ways to Relax During a Plane Ride

Airplane Interior

Maybe you’re taking a weekend trip to go skiing before the snow melts. Or maybe you’re making your way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. No matter where you’re headed, flying is a serious source of stress for many people. Studies have shown that up to 20-25% of people experience feelings of anxiousness when they have to fly, and 6.5% of people have aviophobia.

If you have TMD this stress can cause a domino affect that makes the trip more miserable than memorable. With a little preparation you can relax and enjoy the flight using the tips below.

  • Try Zendoodling – Dr. Auvenshine mentioned this highly effective pastime where you can lose yourself in doodling repetitive, geometric designs. It’s actually used in gifted classes to help kids relax and ease their minds.
  • Take a Fear of Flying Workshop – Some airlines like Virgin Atlantic and Air France offer day-long workshops where they show you how the planes work, let you ask pilots questions and offer therapy sessions.
  • Avoid Drinking Caffeine Before the Flight – Caffeine can make you jittery and more anxious. Instead, trade your coffee in for electrolyte-infused water so you stay hydrated.
  • Listen to Calming Music – Melodic music will help to drown out the noises of the plane and calm your nerves.


A Valentine’s Treat TMD Patients Can Eat!

raspberries against white

Show the people you care about some love with this TMJ-friendly Valentine’s Day treat. Taste of Home’s Mini Raspberry Mousse Parfait recipe is an indulgence that is easy on your jaw and waistline. Unlike sugary chocolates, each serving of this decadent mousse has just 143 calories and 4 grams of fat.


  • 1 ¾ cups of raspberries – fresh or thawed, unsweetened frozen raspberries
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 12 ½-inch cubes of angel food cake
  • 1 1/3 cups whipped topping
  • Chocolate syrup (optional)


  1. Press raspberries through a strainer to get rid of the seeds and pulp. Sit a few raspberries aside for the garnish.
  2. Using a small saucepan, combine the sugar and cornstarch before stirring in the raspberry juice. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir continuously for 2 minutes until thickened.
  3. Refrigerate the mixture until chilled.
  4. Divide the chilled raspberry mixture into two equal halves. Stir the orange juice into one portion and set aside.
  5. Put the remaining raspberry mixture in a small bowl and fold in the whipped topping until smooth.
  6. Put three squares of angel food cake into four dessert dishes. Layer a little bit of the raspberry-orange mixture on top of the cake followed by a 1/3 cup of the creamy whipped mixture.
  7. Refrigerate until serving.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the team at MedCenter TMJ!

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