February 2017 Newsletter

February is a joyful month!

Ronald C. Auvenshine, DDS, PhD

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

February is shaping up to be a very wonderful and busy month for me and for those of us here at MedCenter TMJ. It is the month that includes Valentine’s Day. Of course, February 14th is always a special day because we get to tell those people that mean so much to us just how much we love them. Valentine’s Day brings back so many memories of my childhood and receiving Valentines from that “one special person.” Now, that special person is the one that I’m married to and each moment that I get to spend with her is an added blessing in my life.

Each year, starting in January, I give an eight-hour course in the Graduate School at the University of Texas School of Dentistry. The eight hours of lecture is on the topic of the importance and function of the bite and how the evolutionary changes and anthropological measurements affect the way the teeth occlude together. It focuses on the importance of the occlusion to the overall health and function of the individual. It is a very exciting course and one that I have been teaching for over 30 years.

The week of February 20th, I will be in Chicago. I am the Program Chairman this year for the Annual Meeting of the American Equilibration Society (AES). I have been a member of the AES since 1985. It’s one of the first organizations I joined as a young practicing TMJ dentist. AES deals with issues of the bite and reconstruction of the mouth which revolves around the temporomandibular joint. Therefore, this is one of the few organizations in dentistry which encompasses all fields of interests that I have in the profession. On Tuesday, February 21st, I will teach an all-day Head and Neck Dissection course. There are 33 dentists who have signed up for this course. I will be teaching along with two of my very close associates, Dr. Henry Gremillion, Dean of LSU School of Dentistry and Dr. Terry Tanaka, Professor Emeritus, Department of Head and Neck Anatomy and Prosthodontics at the University Of Southern California School Of Dentistry. Dr. Pettit will also be helping us as we delve into the structures that comprise the head, face, and jaws. Along with the help of Dr. Andy Miles, my Program Co-Chair from Trinidad, I have assembled a group of outstanding speakers for Wednesday and Thursday. I will remain an extra day in Chicago on Friday, February 24th. I will teach a review course for the American Board of Orofacial Pain. This course will be given to candidates who will sit for the boards. When they pass the exam they will be entitled to the distinction of Diplomate of the American Board of Orofacial Pain. I am a founding member of the American Board of Orofacial Pain and have been a contributor to the board exam since 1994.

March will be equally as busy, as we will attend the Greater Houston Dental Conference here at the George R Brown Convention Center. I have a very close friend who will be speaking at the meeting on 3-D Cone Beam Radiology. The following week Dr. Pettit and I will travel to New Orleans to attend the Mahan Study Group. I will tell you more about both of those events in the March newsletter.

As you can see we are always busy. We are constantly taking courses and learning new techniques so that we will be able to provide you, our patient, with the best and latest techniques of care for your TMD and facial pain problems. This is a very complex disorder, as you know, and one which requires constant learning. We appreciate the fact that you have chosen us to be your caregivers. Our commitment to you is that we will continue to pursue, with all our energies, the latest information and technology so that the care you receive here at MedCenter TMJ is the very best available. You are our greatest asset and we will strive to provide you with the very best care.

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

Dr. Pettit’s Tips for Healthy Living

TMJ Treatment: Avoiding Certain Foods

Nathan J. Pettit, DMD, MSD

Cheese allergiesMany of you have inquired about our “foods to avoid” list in our treatment booklets. You may be wondering why certain foods are on the list, or if avoiding these foods is a permanent lifestyle change to be made. I will briefly address each of these concerns.

Why is there a “foods to avoid” list?

We believe that the symptoms of temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) are multifactorial. Jaw alignment, occlusion, structural problems, muscle tension, sleep habits, parafunction, airway, social stressors, chemical disturbances, diet, and many other factors all play a part in the symptoms of chronic pain. For many of us, certain ingredients in foods act as triggers for headaches or inflammatory reactions. These ingredients may be high levels of amines, caffeine, or chemicals used in the processing or preservation of food. These can cause vascular reactions or change body chemistry in a way which activates other pain mechanisms. For example, cheese is on our list of foods to avoid. Cheese contains high levels of amines. Amine-sensitive individuals can get headaches, rashes, and blood pressure elevation with consumption of cheese. There is also potential for dairy allergy or lactose intolerance.

Will you have to avoid these foods indefinitely?

During the first 6 months of treatment, we will suggest you limit as many disturbances as possible which may be contributing to your symptoms. You may not have the same susceptibilities as someone else, as this depends on your genetics and biology. Because we cannot know every potential dietary stressor for your genetic make-up, we begin by widely limiting the most common disturbances. This allows us to rule out any possible dietary triggers to your pain. Once you’ve reached a point where pain levels and headaches are greatly reduced, we can begin to gradually introduce some of the items on the avoid list, to see if your body will react to these triggers or not. By learning your individual dietary restrictions, you become more effective at managing your symptoms. Remember, successful management is the key for long-term relief.

Nathan J. Pettit, DMD, MSD
Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics


Massage Techniques for Your Jaw

Man With A Lot Of Pain On His ToothPeople who suffer from bruxism and/or teeth grinding deal with a number of symptoms, including sore jaws. The masseter is a sizable muscle that runs along both sides of the face from the temporal bone to the lower jaw. Continuously clenching or grinding your teeth can overwork the muscle. Like other muscles, when the masseter gets overused soreness can become a problem.

There are several things you can do to ease the strain, but massage is one of the best remedies since you can easily do it anywhere. Massage is an effective way to relax the muscles and ease tension when you start to feel it build. Use the tips below to massage the soreness out of your masseter muscles.

  • Apply a light amount of pressure being careful not to press too hard.
  • If it feels uncomfortable lighten your touch.
  • Use the pads of your first 2-3 fingers and move in circular motions over the muscle from the bottom upward.
  • Use slow, gliding motions from the bottom of the masseter up to the temple.
  • Slowly opening and closing your mouth while applying pressure can help stretch the muscle.
  • Include heat therapy to enhance the muscle relaxation.

Relative to its size, the masseter is one of the strongest muscles in the body. Taking a few minutes a few days a week to massage and stretch your jaw muscles can help you relax and avoid a painful symptom.


Jaw Muscle Relaxation Through Yoga

Young black woman in the downward-facing dog yoga poseAnother way to ease jaw muscle strain is yoga. But you don’t have to go to a studio or roll out a mat. You can do certain yoga stretches while seated on the floor or in a chair to relax your body and ease tension all over.

Many of our muscles are interconnected. That means the muscles in your neck, back, shoulders and face can have an effect on the jaw muscles. Yoga stretches that keep the tissue of these muscles healthy can have a positive impact on some TMJ symptoms.

While seated with your back straight try the following:

Shoulder Roll – Roll your shoulders backwards in a circular motion, then reverse the direction and roll them forward.

Shoulder Shrugs – Do several exaggerated shoulder shrugs, holding the pose for a few seconds each time before releasing.

Head Rotation From Left to Right – Start by looking straight forward, then slowly rotate your head as far as you comfortably can to the right. Slowly return to center then repeat turning your head to the left.

Head Circles – With your head tilted back slightly, move it in a circular motion.

Keeping your muscles limber and strong is important for overall health, but for anyone with TMD it can also provide natural relief for soreness, headaches and more.


Cranberry Cherry Sauce That’s Sweet Enough for Valentine’s Day

There are many foods that can potentially make TMJ symptoms worse, such as refined sugar and cheese. Show yourself a little love on Valentine’s Day with this naturally sweet cranberry cherry sauce. You can drizzle it over a chocolate treat or mix it with creamy Greek yogurt without worrying about a TMD flare up.


  • 1pack fresh cranberries (8 oz.)
  • 1pack frozen cherries (10 oz.)
  • 1cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 10drops of stevia (optional)


  • Mix the cherries, cranberries, orange juice and stevia in a saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat.
  • Simmer for about 20 minutes until the berries have burst and the sauce has thickened.
  • Remove from the heat and serve immediately or store in a bowl.

Sweet, delicious and healthy – treat yourself well this Valentine’s Day!

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