Dental emergencies are always inconvenient and often painful. Prompt treatment is almost always necessary to alleviate pain and to ensure the teeth have the best possible chance of survival. ALWAYS contact your dentist immediately if you experience a dental emergency. Chapel Hill emergency dentist Dr. Diane Hourigan explains the more common dental emergencies and how you should handle them:

Severe Pain

This is the most common type of emergency, and it’s an indication that a serious problem is developing. After you call your dentist, you can try over-the-counter pain relievers and a cold compress on and off your face for 20-minute intervals.

Knocked-Out (Avulsed) Tooth

If a tooth has been knocked out of the mouth, it is crucial for you to deal with it immediately. Contact your Chapel Hill emergency dentist immediately because if the tooth can be placed back into its socket within an hour, there is a chance the tissues will grow to support the tooth once again.

  • DO NOT touch the root of the tooth to avoid damaging attached tissue. Handle it carefully by the crown and rinse under warm water.
  • Place the tooth in a cup of milk, saliva, or water. It is important to keep the tooth from drying out.
  • If your emergency involves trauma to the face or jaw, or you experience excessive bleeding, call 911 or go directly to an emergency room.

Lost Filling or Crown

Once you’ve lost a filling the affected tooth may become highly sensitive to temperature changes and pressure. When a crown comes out, make a dental appointment as soon as possible. If you wait too long, you may damage the tooth and require a new restoration. Wrap the crown in tissue and bring it to the dentist. A lost crown can often be reused if we can replace it immediately.

Cracked or Broken Teeth

Natural teeth are strong, but they are still prone to fractures, cracks, and breaks. If the crack extends into the root, the pain may be extreme. If a tooth fractured or cracked, you must see an emergency dentist as quickly as possible.

Don’t let a dental emergency compromise your oral health. Call us right away to get the fast relief you need!


How TMJ Is Affecting Your Health

by Dr. Diane Hourigan

The jaw joint is one of those things most people flat-out take for granted. For many, it does its job on a daily basis without any issues, but when something goes wrong, it can be painfully obvious for the person suffering from the problem.


Should the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) become misaligned, the side effects can be incredibly painful throughout the face and ears. In some cases, the effects of a TMJ disorder can be even more painful or far-reaching.

TMJ Disorder and Its Effects on Overall Health


There are a number of ways in which TMJ can negatively impact a person’s health beyond the discomfort they may feel in their jaw on a daily basis. The following are some possibilities for how TMJ can eventually manifest itself in different ways:


Chronic Headaches & Migraines


Perhaps the most common symptom associated with TMJ is painful headaches. Because the jaw isn’t behaving the way it should, it can cause all sorts of pain in the face and jaw muscles, and that can manifest itself as a headache that simply will not go away. For those that suffer from migraines anyway, TMJ can exacerbate the problem, causing excruciating chronic headaches that make it hard to function in everyday life.


Difficult Sleeping


As is the case with any kind of major pain, TMJ can cause difficulties sleeping, and a lack of sleep can cause hosts of other problems. Losing sleep can affect a person’s memory, mood, concentration, blood pressure, weight, and immune system. In every possible way, losing sleep as a result of TMJ is something that can spiral into much bigger problems over time.


Abnormal Tooth Wear


Because TMJ causes misalignment of the jaw, it is possible for a patient’s jaw to chew differently than it should, often resulting in abnormal wear and tear on certain teeth. No damage to teeth is good damage, which means over time this abnormal wear could require cosmetic procedures to save the tooth. If not, patients could be at higher risk for cavities.




Vertigo is a disorder that can make it feel like everything around a person is moving or spinning and is most often caused by problems with the inner ear. This very sensitive part of the inner ear is located in proximity to the TMJ, so any inflammation of that joint certainly can have an impact on vertigo.




Another problem that concerns the ear, tinnitus is an incessant ringing attached to hearing loss, and while most cases are not curable, those associated to TMJ can be with proper treatment. That’s good news, but experiencing the problem in the first place is no fun. Again, because the TMJ is located near the inner ear, any issues with muscle, cartilage, or ligaments near the eardrum can be responsible for tinnitus.

Treatment for TMJ Disorder

Thankfully, the experts at Dr. Diane Hourigan’s office want to help if you are experiencing any discomfort in your jaw. As your Chapel Hill dentist, we have the professionals and the equipment to provide professional TMJ treatment and help relieve patients of this issue, hopefully clearing up all the other long-term risks associated with TMJ in the process.


Do you brush and floss routinely, avoid sugary foods and drinks, and see your dentist for scheduled appointments but still get cavities? Do you have friends who don’t follow healthy oral habits and don’t deal with tooth decay and wonder if there’s any fairness left in the world?

Your Chapel Hill general dentist understands your frustration! How is it possible to take care of your teeth and still get cavities? It turns out that your genes may be responsible.

It’s Not Just about Bacteria

Keeping your mouth free of harmful bacteria is essential if you want a healthy smile, but another significant factor is the resistance of your teeth. A study conducted by two researchers from the University of Zurich shows a definite condition between defects in the gene complex that’s responsible for the formation of tooth enamel and the rate of caries (cavities).

What This Means for You

There’s a lot more study that needs to be conducted in this area to understand how these findings can change the way we approach oral health care. But whether or not your genetic makeup puts you at higher risk for tooth decay, there are always steps you can take:

  • Make sure your oral hygiene’s up to par – Brushing and flossing for decades does not make you an expert, and if you aren’t doing it properly, you may not be getting the benefit of your efforts. Talk to your hygienist to “brush up” on your oral hygiene for the best results.
  • Keep up with routine dental appointments – Prevention is the key to enjoying good oral health, making semi-annual exams and cleanings with your general dentist crucial. Decide if you’d rather take a couple of hours out of your week now or wait until you need costly and complex treatment!
  • Pay attention to what you eat and drink – Certain foods, especially those high in sugar and acid, are very damaging and weaken dental enamel which can lead to cavities.


Please Call to Arrange an Appointment

Your family dentist can offer you many helpful tips for keeping your smile healthy, regardless of genetics. If you would like to learn more, please call the Novato family dentist to arrange a convenient appointment.