Monday, March 2, 2009

NY Times Article Makes Dentist Grind Her Teeth

In a recent NY Times article, Best Treatment for TMJ May Be Nothing, reporter Jane Brody relied "on narrow and outdated perspectives supplied by a small group of dentist/academicians" -- an opinion expessed by one of my Las Vegas Institute (LVI) colleagues.

In a Letter to the Editor -- which of course was never published by the Times (but did run on the LVI email forum) -- my colleage wrote:

The information you were provided would lead one to believe that TMD (or "TMJ" as it is inaccurately called by so many colleagues) is easy to treat and self-manage or that it may all be in your mind. Your sources stated that, "TMJ problems were originally thought to stem from dental malocclusion," and go on to say that this was an infrequent cause of the problem.

The American Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), an organization of some 40,000 of the nation’s leading general dentists, recognizes the relationship between malocclusion and headache. . . . A simple Google search for TMD on keywords such as headaches, TMD, TMJ, etc., would have taken you to many other informative sources of information regarding the subject of your article.

As one who treats patients with severe TMD symptoms, I can assure you that my patients are unable to manage the pain associated with these conditions by simply receiving counseling on their habits. Further, I find that dental malocclusion is frequently one of the principle causes of TMD. Your informant’s comments that MRI and CAT scans are among the biggest advances in diagnosis of TMD is ludicrous. Those modalities are valuable and will tell you about the status of the jaw joint, but tell you little to nothing about the causes of joint misalignment, which I frequently find to be malocclusion.

Yet another incredulous statement is that "80-90 percent of the needed information can be obtained just by talking to the patient." Certainly a complete history is a vital part of the diagnostic process, but when modern objective evaluation tools such as electromyography to study muscle condition, computerized jaw tracking to document functional abnormalities, X-ray and MRI to study structure are ignored, it is much like saying, "Let’s do away with electrocardiograms, we can just ask the patient if he has chest pain."

We are now in the 21st-century. It is time for the profession to recognize that occlusion and jaw function are governed by a physiological process and diagnose and treat accordingly. I am hopeful that you will do further research and publish on this topic again, this time avoiding a slanted perspective by a small self-serving group of "experts."

All I can say is "AMEN SISTER."

Having tried for years to get the attention of the press in the Boston area regarding oral health, I can state that the NY Times and other media simply do not care that dentists are no longer the "tooth plumbers" of years past but are today's modern "mouth physicians."

(In fact, healthcare IT blogger Neil Versel posted that he was told by the Boston Globe that there is no market for Healthcare IT -- a $2.5 billion dollar industry. Amazing.)

No one would say that a dermatologist or opthalomolgist weren't medical professionals.

Why then do people -- and the press -- have blinders on when it comes to modern dentistry?

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