Confident Dental Treatment Comes from a Correct Diagnosis

By Phillip Durden, D. M. D.

Knowing that broken-down teeth may be just a symptom of a deeper deteriorating dental condition helps you and your patients be confident in your treatment.

 In 1997, Mr. Gavigan, a 53-year-old man that looked like he was having a bad day, came into my office. As it turned out, he was having more than just a bad day. He’d been suffering from chronic headaches for most of his life. I knew headaches could be linked to problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), but most of my patients with headaches would dismiss them as sinus headaches. I would usually agree with their self-diagnosis and move on to address their teeth. After all, they were there to take care of their teeth, not their headaches. Mr. Gavigan, however, was different.

His panorex made me take notice of his condition immediately. He had two long bones extending down from behind both condyles, almost touching in the center. He said he had incredible neck pain when he turned his head and that he often had relentless headaches. He had been to every conceivable doctor about his headaches, but no one was able to help him. He’d received many diagnoses and treatments over the years, but none had really worked.

Somehow, I managed to remember a condition called Eagle’s Syndrome and referred him to an oral surgeon. The surgeon removed the calcified stylohyoid ligaments, and for the first time in 25 years Mr. Gavigan did not wake up with headaches. As you might imagine, we were both delighted with the outcome. Mr. Gavigan was ecstatic to finally be headache free. He has since told everyone he knows about his recovery and continues to refer his friends to my practice.

This one event changed my dental practice forever. I realized from this experience that the headaches my patients report may not be just sinus headaches. Headaches can also indicate how stable the entire stomatognathic system is. Now, I no longer just restore with caps; I look at the position of the mandible as it relates to occlusion and musculature. I’ve learned that mandibular positioning is very important in achieving stomatognathic health and is the basis for the neuromuscular theory of occlusion. This approach to dental care has proven to help me predictably and favorably achieve optimal aesthetics and stomatognathic function.

To help me restore this favorable mandibular position, I incorporated the BioPAK System™ into my practice. BioPAK immediately allows me to see how important it is to have TMJ stability during restorative and/or cosmetic dental care. Many times, it’s not just broken-down teeth or restorations that cause a person’s deteriorating dental condition. These teeth may actually be signs of a more complex problem. The system helps me to identify how all these potential problems can affect the outcome of my treatment before I even begin. It also lets me be truly objective when I assess a patient’s stomatognathic health. And, once I begin treatment, I use the system to objectively monitor the patient’s progress and document his improvement. I have never before been able to provide this level of care to my patients.

All people have dental needs and wants. They all fundamentally desire to have a functional, attractive, and healthy smile. I strive each day to provide them with that basic desire. As I develop relationships with patients, I hope I can help them develop high-trust for and low-fear of dentistry. I discovered that if I listen, my patients can tell me things that affect them greatly.

Each one of us has the opportunity to take our level of patient care to new heights. Today, I have more confidence in my diagnostic abilities than ever before. With the new technology available today, I can more accurately determine treatment prognosis by obtaining a better diagnosis and truly provide exceptional dentistry.

For continued learning in our dental CE courses click here.

A Georgia native, Dr. Durden has had a thriving dental practice in the quiet, rural town of Winterville, Georgia since 1989. He believes there has never been a more exciting time to be in dentistry. He graduated from the Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry