Cris Simmons DDS

Your Jaw Pain & TMJ Expert

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Keeping Current with Orthodontics

I recently attended the International Association for Orthodontics Annual Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a full-time staff member and my office manager, my wife Anna attended as well. I must confess the lure of a tropical vacation enticed her to go along and we spent a wonderful week prior to the conference touring the island. Most Americans know very little about Puerto Rico even though it has been a United States Territory since 1898 when we “liberated” it from the Spanish Crown. We spent the week out in the country making an effort to learn something about the culture and people. I don’t want to bore you with all the fun experiences we had, but I will say the people are friendly and helpful, the food tasty and plentiful and the rum available everywhere. When we returned to San Juan for the conference we were only a short bus or cab ride from the beautiful old city. Spanish forts, colorful Caribbean streets and great restaurants as well as other tourists awaited us there. Should you be tempted to consider Puerto Rico for a tropical Caribbean holiday keep in mind you are in U.S. territory, no passport is required and U.S. currency is used.

The orthodontic conference was one of the best I have attended in recent years. Approximately 300 dentists from all over the world were there to get the latest information on orthodontic diagnosis and treatment. Among the many lectures and seminars I attended were two all-day seminars, one given by Dr. Derek Mahoney from Australia and the other given by my friend, Dr. Duane Grummons from Spokane, Washington. Both of these practicing orthodontists are internationally recognized as leaders in their field.

Dr. Mahoney’s presentation focused entirely on current treatment of what is known as Class II, division 2 malocclusion. Patients with this common problem present with a short lower jaw and lower incisor teeth that seem to disappear behind the upper front teeth when they bite down. Dr. Mahoney covered current concepts such as early orthopedic arch expansion, airway improvement (often in collaboration with ENT specialist), enhancement of lower jaw growth using the MORA appliance technique and new techniques of distraction osteogenesis to lengthen the lower jaw in patients who are no longer growing.

Dr. Grummons’ presentation focused on applying orthodontics to improve restorative and TMJ-TMD outcomes. His perspectives on how to create functional comfort, smile symmetry, facial balance and TMJ stability consistent with individualized facial morphology are very exciting and I might add congruent with my own philosophy and training. I also appreciated his research and fact-based approach to decision making regarding treatment methods and appliances. In my opinion there are too many treatment decisions being made today that are driven by marketing, NOT science. Dr. Grummons left the audience with no question regarding his feeling in this regard and I applaud him for his professionalism and commitment to learning and teaching others. Thank you Dr. Grummons!

Other highlights from the meetings included a presentation by my dear friend Dr. Terrance Spahl. Dr. Spahl gave an interesting presentation on the current understanding of the neurophysiology of craniofacial pain and the orthodontic options available to assist in treating patients suffering from chronic headache pain. Dr. Steve Galella gave a presentation on the “controlled arch system” of orthodontic treatment he has been developing for over 20 years. Dr. Galella was a classmate of mine at the University Of Tennessee College Of Dentistry. Although we have followed each other’s careers over the years, we had not seen each other since graduation. A couple of years ago we reunited at an IAO Annual Meeting and we are once again collaborating in learning. I am very proud of Dr. Galella’s achievements and honored  to say he is my friend, classmate and colleague.

This year was the 50th anniversary of the International Association for Orthodontics. At the awards banquet some time was allotted to reviewing the history of the organization and I was surprised to learn how many of the founders and early leaders were still active. One of my heroes, a founder and a past president of the IAO, gave a great presentation on what the IAO has meant to him both professionally and personally.  At 89 years-old, he has never missed an annual meeting. When I ask the oft repeated question “do you have any plans to retire?” he said he hadn’t thought about it and indeed had just signed up for a 2 year training program in orthodontic diagnoses and treatment. I know it may sound crazy to many of you, including my wife, but I hope to be so fortunate. Time will tell.

In summary, the Puerto Rico IAO meeting was a great success and I am looking forward to the next meeting in 2013 in Los Angeles, California. It will be even more exciting because I have been asked to speak on the TMD-TMJ-Orthodontic connection.

Coming up next, a visit with my friend and fellow dentist, Dr. Peter Ferro at his office in Manhattan where we will review current neuromuscular treatment and management techniques.

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