TMJ is an acronym for the temporomandibular joint, which is the joint located at the base of the skull that connects the lower jaw with the upper jaw. Considering how often we use this joint over the course of a given day to talk, chew, and even breathe, it should come as no surprise that about a third of all Americans will at some point complain of pain in their TMJ.

Dr. Diane Hourigan can help treat discomfort in the TMJ, but before making any decisions about undergoing such treatment, it is important that patients understand exactly what the TMJ does and how it works.

How Does the TMJ Work?

Put as simply as possible, the TMJ is the most complex joint in the entire human body, in part because it is comprised of three distinct parts, and in part because of the complex way it moves in relation to your teeth for all sorts of different purposes.

There are two ways the TMJ works to open your mouth. It can act as a hinge to simply open and close your mouth, or it could initiate a move called translation, where the lower jaw moves down and forward or side to side to eat, sing, or yawn.

What Problems Can Occur to the TMJ?

Every single joint in the human body can get worn out over time, but in the most severe cases, the TMJ can be displaced or could fracture, swell, or generate pain at the location of the joint, which is right beneath the ear. These fractures are rare, but any sort of inflammation can be incredibly uncomfortable. Even worse, anti-inflammatory drugs don’t always work as well as they do with joints in the knees, elbows, and hands.

In other instances, grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw can harm your TMJ, and while this may ultimately be caused by stress, the impact on the TMJ can be very painful.

How Does One Treat TMJ Pain?

The good news is that surgery only is required in the most extreme cases. It is rare that TMJ problems would come to that point, and Dr. Diane Hourigan offers solutions that are much more affordable and less invasive.

After receiving an evaluation and a diagnosis, Dr. Hourigan can fit patients for occlusal mouth guards to minimize pressure on the TMJ and protect your maxillofacial structure and your teeth. These mouth guards are custom-built for each individual patient based on whatever problem may be causing the TMJ pain, whether that be muscle spasms, improperly-angled front teeth, uneven molar biting surfaces, overbites and underbites, or some sort of jaw injury. Whatever the cause, we can provide TMJ treatment that will relieve the pain.

Schedule an Appointment

TMJ disorders are inconvenient and uncomfortable, which is why getting in to see Dr. Hourigan as soon as you experience any pain in your jaw is a great idea. The sooner you have the problem diagnosed and begin treatment, the more likely you are to find yourself relieved of the pain. Then you can eat, talk, yawn and even sing the way you did before you began experiencing pain in that joint.




You made the decision to get a dental implant, and now you are thrilled with the results! Your smile looks great and your self-confidence is through the roof. Dental implants placed by the Chapel Hill dental implants dentist look and feel so much like your real teeth, you may forget that you still have to protect it from damage.

How Does a Dental Implant Work?

A dental implant consists of a very small titanium post capped off with a dental restoration. The post is surgically placed in the jawbone and will eventually integrate with surrounding bone and tissue.

The dental crown is the visible replacement for your missing tooth and is attached to the implant. Once the process is complete, you will end up with a fully functioning replacement tooth.

Protect Your Dental Implant from Damage

The implant itself is stable and will remain in place permanently, but it’s important to remember that the visible part of the unit is a dental crown created by the Chapel Hill dental implants dentist.

Just like any other dental restoration, the crown can be damaged if not cared for properly. You need to protect it from breakage and avoid biting down on foods like nuts or hard candies that can crack, chip, or loosen the crown.

Grinding your teeth can also cause the crown to become damaged. If you grind your teeth, you should let your dentist know so that we can suggest options to protect the restoration from damage.

How to Clean Your Dental Implant

You can care for your dental implant by brushing and flossing normally, just as you would your natural teeth. Be sure to schedule regular dental exams and cleanings with your hygienist and dentist so that your implant can be checked periodically to make sure that it remains in good condition.

If you have questions about your dental implant or restoration, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We will be happy to schedule an appointment to check the condition of your implant to make sure it is functioning properly.


When It’s Time for a Dental Crown

by Dr. Diane Hourigan

When something goes wrong with a tooth, there are a lot of ways that dentists can approach the problem. One of the most common procedures to repair and restore damaged or decaying teeth is the dental crown, and at the office of Dr. Diane Hourigan, we certainly do our fair share of them.

If you’re new to the concept of dental crowns, however, don’t fret! The procedure is a fairly simple one that can restore the integrity of your tooth and ensure that further problems don’t affect your oral health in the future.

What Is a Dental Crown?

The easiest way to explain a crown is that it serves as a sort of cap for teeth that no longer look or function the way they are supposed to. They are a tooth-shaped cover that slides right into place to improve your smile and/or return functionality to whatever tooth had previously been broken, cracked, or damaged.

There was a time not that long ago when these types of dental problems resulted in extraction, but today dentists can complete this relatively painless procedure quite easily, leaving patients in Chapel Hill with dental crowns rather than gaps in their smile.

Do You Need a Dental Crown?

Should you experience any of the following, there’s a good chance that a dental crown is in your immediate future:

Your Teeth Have Weakened

Should you ever end up with a crack in your tooth, there is a good chance that the tooth will eventually split, causing unsightly damage and a great deal of pain. A crown can cap the tooth and keep it together so that crack doesn’t get any worse and you never have to experience the pain that would come from a more dramatic split.

You’ve Had Too Many Fillings on a Tooth

Fillings are a great fix for minor issues with cavities, but if you’ve had fillings multiple times on multiple sides of the same tooth, that can compromise the tooth’s integrity. A dental crown can hold everything together.

You Need to Replace a Missing Tooth

If you have received a dental implant to replace a tooth, you will need a crown to cover the implant. Since crowns look and feel like real teeth, your friends and family will never even know the difference.

You’ve Had a Root Canal

During a root canal, dental surgeons will remove the damaged root, but that procedure can put enough strain on the tooth that a dental crown is necessary to cover the brittle tooth.

Your Teeth Are Crooked or Stained

If you’ve got an especially unattractive tooth, either because it’s severely discolored or crooked, a crown can cover the offending tooth and make it as aesthetically pleasing as the rest of your smile.

If you believe that a dental crown might be the answer to one of these problems, give us a call here at the office of Dr. Diane Hourigan, and we will be happy to diagnose the issue and get you on the right path toward the tooth restoration you need.