Dr. Avila's first contact with TMD came while he was a senior in dental school in 1983. One of his patients was complaining of TMD and how she was considering surgery for it. Even though he was in his fourth year of dental school, this was the first time he had heard of TMD.
After graduating from dental school in 1984, Dr. Avila's first job was to provide dental care for the patients of a dentist who was having medical problems. Dr. Avila recalls a female newspaper reporter who came in begging to have a tooth extracted. After evaluating an x-ray of the tooth and performing other vitality tests on her tooth, Dr. Avila concluded the tooth did not need to be extracted – yet the patient insisted her pain was so severe she had to have the tooth extracted immediately!
Dr. Avila consulted with an orthodontist next door who said the pain came from her TMJ disorder and the orthodontist fabricated an orthotic for her. The reporter came in a week later pain-free! Dr. Avila asked the orthodontist to share with him information on TMD. The orthodontist was happy to and Dr. Avila found the information technical and confusing. This experience sparked his interest and he started to read about TMD and take whatever courses were available to him on the subject.
In 1985, Dr. Avila became a Clinical Instructor at the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in the Oral Diagnosis, Radiology and Pathology Department. Any patient receiving dental care from students at the Dental School having TMD was referred to the Oral Diagnosis Department for evaluation and care supervision. The Oral Diagnosis Department employed two dentists who had training in TMD care. In his private practice, Dr. Avila would occasionally find a patient requiring TMD care. To learn how to care for these patients, Dr. Avila spent substantial time with both Oral Diagnosis Dentists learning about TMD care. In 1990, Dr. Avila began accepting referrals in his private practice for TMD evaluation and care. In 1994, Dr. Avila entered the orthodontic residency at Loma Linda University, thinking he would no longer be involved in the evaluation and care of TMD again. In 1997, Dr. Avila left the Oral Diagnosis Department with the title of Associate Professor.
In 1997, Dr. Avila established his orthodontic practice in Muncie, Indiana. In Dr. Avila's office, TMD evaluation and care is secondary to orthodontic evaluation and care. Dr. Avila has treated over 500 TMD patients since moving to Indiana. Nearly all TMD patients are released from active TMD care after one or two visits. Because of the number of TMD patients Dr. Avila has treated, he expected he would be busy with follow-up care of his TMD patients. Yet, Dr. Avila has only two to four TMD patient appointments that require follow-up care after having been released from active TMD care. This fact started Dr. Avila wondering if his treatment was providing long-term relief for his patients. While caring for TMD patients as a general dentist, Dr. Avila was accustomed to having his patients return year after year without having experienced long-term relief. So Dr. Avila surveyed his TMD patients to find out how many of them were still having symptoms. He was thrilled to find long-term relief was being experienced by over 80% of his TMD patients!
Dr. Avila enjoys caring for TMD patients because of the successful outcomes his patients achieve.
Click here for additional information on Dr. Avila's TMJ/TMD survey and survey statistics.