TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre

Drop the Pacifier

Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers – Ways to Wean

 One of the many parenting choices new moms and dads struggle with is the decision to give their newborn a pacifier. Once a standard accessory of childhood, the pacifier – and by association, the habit of thumb sucking – has developed a critical reputation for causing oral and tooth issues later on down the road. Long-term pacifier use is associated with dental problems in older children and may cause nipple confusion for breastfeeding newborns.  And, once your baby has been hooked on a binky, it can be difficult to stop the behavior.

Born with the Need

The urge to suck is one of the few instincts babies are born with. Many even begin to suck on their own fingers and thumbs while still in the womb. Once babies are out in the real world, they may use the habit of sucking to self-soothe and calm themselves, and even help themselves fall asleep. As any exhausted new parent can tell you – that’s a good thing!

However, rather than plugging a baby’s mouth with a pacifier, the best way to keep that urge satisfied is through regular breast-feeding sessions during the night. Co-sleeping can also help regulate baby’s sleeping and sucking patterns.

Hard Habit to Break

Between the ages of two and four, dental issues resulting from pacifier use or thumb sucking become more prevalent. Front teeth may become crooked and bite problems are observed. There also may be changes in tooth and jaw alignment.  The use of a pacifier will force the baby’s lower jaw back and can prevent proper airway and mid-face development.

Pacifier use after age two is also linked to ear infections, as constant sucking can cause auditory tubes to stay open, allowing secretions from the throat to drip into the middle ear.

Children typically grow out of thumb sucking by age four, and although pacifier use should be avoided, don’t beat yourself up if you have already given in and now find yourself in a situation that, well, sucks. If either of these activities has become an issue for your child, there are ways to help discourage the habit without using excess pressure or punishment.

  • Praise your child when they do not suck their thumb rather than scolding them when they do.
  • Focus on other ways to help with anxiety and worry – which can contribute to a child’s need to suck and self-soothe.
  • Offer a reward system to encourage good behavior.
  • Start the weaning process when your child has a cold and may be congested – thumb and pacifier sucking is much less appealing when you can’t breathe through your nose.

Your dentist may also have some helpful hints on how to best break the pacifier or thumb sucking habit. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that your child will not want to suck forever, and as long as the habit ends before permanent teeth start to appear, the repercussions of either activity are minimal.

Need tips on weaning pacifier use and thumb sucking? Talk to us! With locations in Alexandria, VA and Washington DC, DC Smiles provides a holistic approach to dental care that incorporates total-body health and wellness. Learn more at or

Do You Need a Sleep Appliance?

In the day-to-day hubbub and stresses of life, we all have mornings that find us feeling less rested than we’d like to be. Even if you went to bed at a reasonable hour, job or family worries weighing on your mind can keep you from getting that kind of restful and restorative sleep we all need.          

But, if you find that you are chronically tired, stumbling your way through days like a zombie and your spouse is continually complaining about the loud snoring you do each night – you may want to seek a doctor’s opinion on whether you suffer from mild to moderate sleep apnea.

Why are You Always Tired?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that occurs when breathing is disrupted during sleep.  The more common form – obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – is caused by the collapse of soft tissue at the back of the throat that results in a blockage of the airways, and can cause loud snoring.  If you suffer from sleep apnea, you may stop breathing repeatedly during the night – up to hundreds of times over the course of several hours – and as a result, your brain may not be receiving enough oxygen.

Overweight men over the age of 40 with a family history of sleep apnea or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) are more at risk for suffering from sleep apnea, but anyone – including children – can be affected. Untreated, the disorder can lead to high blood pressure, a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, diabetes, and depression. That’s on top of the daily exhaustion and negative effects on concentration and focus. People with sleep apnea never feel fully rested, because they never get a full night’s sleep.

If your doctor suspects you may have sleep apnea, you may be asked to undergo a sleep apnea test – also called a polysomnogram.  Many times, this test is done under the surveillance of a medical team in a sleep disorder center, where patients are monitored and recorded to determine the nature and severity of a sleep disorder.

Like any chronic condition, getting a diagnosis as soon as possible can improve your chances of successful treatment and lower the risk of developing further complications.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

So, once you’ve been diagnosed, how will your sleep apnea be treated? If lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking or changing sleeping positions don’t help enough, you may be required to use a breathing machine known as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which regulates breathing by increasing air pressure. Unfortunately, it can be a large, loud apparatus with tubing and a mask that gets in the way of relaxing bedtime routines. Thankfully, this technology is evolving and smaller, quieter alternatives are becoming available.

If your sleep apnea is mild, you probably won’t need a CPAP machine and may get successful results with a dental appliance. These oral devices, which resemble sports mouth guards or retainers, work by pushing the lower jaw and lower tongue slightly forward which keeps breathing airways open during sleep. They are custom made and fitted by your dentist to conform precisely to your mouth and jaw.

Sleep apnea is more than just a nuisance – it’s a serious health issue that can affect nearly every facet of your well-being. If there’s a chance you may have it, get checked out right away. Your snoring, your mental focus and your overall health will greatly improve – and your suffering spouse will thank you!

Have you been diagnosed with sleep apnea? Talk to us about dental appliances. Located in Alexandria, TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of the Greater Washington Area,  provides a holistic approach to dental care that incorporates total-body health and wellness. Learn more at




Chew Your Way to Better Health

How many times this past week did you glance at your watch, realize you were late for something, grab a snack or meal on the run and wolf it down while hurrying to your next appointment?

Although we can acknowledge that our society is too fast-paced and harried at times, the idea of eating on the run has been around for a while. Fast food, drive-throughs, and super-speed pizza delivery all support the practice of rushing through our meals – which unfortunately may be to the detriment of our health.

When was the last time you sat down and purposefully chewed your way through your food? For many of us, it’s a time luxury reserved for special dinners out or first dates. But, the exercise of chewing, also known as mastication, is a critical first step to the digestion process and taking it slow ensures you will start out – and finish – with better nutrition absorption, a healthier relationship with food and even a trimmer waistline!

Chew, Chew

Making a conscious effort to slowly chew your food more completely has significant benefits:

It helps digestion

You may not connect chewing to digestion, but it’s actually an important preliminary part of the process. As you chew, your secreted saliva coats the food with enzymes that start to digest it while it’s still in your mouth. Additionally, the smaller the particles of food that you swallow, the easier it is to digest them. Chewing your food until it’s almost liquefied (we know – that’s a lot of chewing!) ensures enzymes and stomach acid can properly dissolve all those particles.

It ensures nutrient absorption

Breaking down all those food particles is essential for distributing the proteins and nutrients they contain. Amino acids – which are what proteins are broken down into – promote repair and growth throughout the body and support healthy sleep, energy levels and brain activity.

It controls your weight

The longer you take to eat, the easier it is for your brain to signal to your stomach that you’re full before you wind up scarfing down half a chocolate cake at one sitting. Slow, purposeful chewing of your food allows you to taste it better, appreciate it more and truly stop when you’re satisfied.

It’s good for your teeth

When you chew your food into smaller particles, the bones and muscles around your teeth get a workout, which helps to keep them healthy and strong. Increased saliva also washes away bacteria which means less plaque build-up in your mouth.

So, how carefully should you chew your food? Try to take smaller bites to begin with, chew each mouthful until it’s lost all its texture and wait to drink fluids until after you’ve swallowed each bite. Chewing more slowly can remind you that food is meant to be savored and enjoyed – not eaten at full speed on the run.

Dr. Singer provides a holistic approach to dental care that incorporates total-body health and wellness. Learn more at


Can Mouth Breathing Be Dangerous to Your Health?

The average person takes between 17,000 and 30,000 breaths in one day. That’s a lot of air traveling through your respiratory system! As long as air is traveling into your lungs, you might not be concerned about whether it’s flowing in through your mouth or your nose.  Breathing is breathing, right?

Maybe not. Humans were designed to breathe through the nose, which provides a natural filtration and humidifier for the air they take in. When it becomes difficult to breathe through your nose – you have a cold or you’re breathing hard after exercising, it’s normal and appropriate to take in oxygen through your mouth.

However, when mouth breathing become chronic in older children and adults, it can cause serious health concerns including problems with speech, the need for braces and orthodontia facial development issues, lack of oxygen and even changes in posture. It’s certainly a problem that needs to be addressed as early as possible.

In Through Your Nose, Not Through Your Mouth

Typically, mouth breathing starts because of a blockage of the nasal passages. Whether it’s allergies, enlarged tonsils or sinus issues, it may be difficult for a child or adult suffering from any of those conditions to breath easily through the nose.

It’s a common issue, and in fact affects up to 40% of the population. Unfortunately, even if the underlying problem is addressed, the habit of mouth breathing can continue and remain a problem.

It’s only been recently that the negative impacts of mouth breathing have been studied and exposed. Understanding how mouth breathing can affect the health of you and your children may compel you to seek medical intervention if required.

Snoring and Poor Sleep Quality

Mouth breathers snore more during sleep. Snoring can interfere with the quality of sleep and healthful rest of an individual and lead to tiredness and lack of focus during the day. Snoring can also aggravate sleep apnea.

Postural Changes

Incredibly, breathing through your mouth can cause an altered positioning of your head and shoulders as your body must adjust to keep airways open. Elevated shoulders, forward positioning of the head and increased curvature of the spine can result.

Changed Facial Appearance

Over time, young children who predominantly mouth breathe may experience changes in the overall shape of face. Abnormal tongue positioning can lead to narrow faces and misaligned teeth.

Decreased Oxygen and Compromised Immune System

Chronic mouth breathing means bypassing the body’s natural filtration system against germs, allergens and other pollutants. In fact, the nose produces its own bacteria-killing gas – nitric oxide. Mouth breathers lose that advantage of fighting off common microbes with every breath they take. Nitric oxide also enhances your lungs’ capacity to absorb oxygen.

Are You a Mouth Breather?

If you or your child suffers from chronic mouth breathing, addressing the issue sooner rather than later can help prevent many of the issues mentioned above. It’s essential to retrain your child to breathe normally through the nose.

  • Identify the underlying cause and treat allergies or sinus issues.
  • Focus on your own breathing patterns (we usually don’t!).
  • Encourage children to breathe through their noses.
  • See a dentist or orthodontist about a jaw expander if necessary.

90% of a child’s facial development is complete by early adolescence, so correct mouth breathing issues before they become untreatable!

Healthy bodies start with healthy teeth.  Learn more at TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of The Greater Washington DC Area.




You probably don’t think too much about your tongue. It’s there when you need it – like, when you’re licking an ice cream cone – and tucked away when you’re not. Sometimes you might burn it on hot coffee or soup, but that’s probably the biggest trouble it can cause, right?

Wrong. You might not believe it, but tongue positioning is an important indicator of oral and overall health.

Although babies are typically born with tongues that stick out a bit, there is a normal receding process that happens as a child develops. If something prevents that progression and a child’s tongue protrudes during swallowing, speaking and even at rest, it’s known as an orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD). In fact, any disorder of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth falls under this diagnosis.

Left untreated in children and adults, OMD can actually cause a myriad of other problems all over your body, including:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Facial pain
  • Mouth breathing
  • Teeth-grinding
  • Stomach aches
  • Speech problems
  • Sleep apnea

Who knew improper tongue positioning could cause such havoc!?

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder – Where Does It Start?

OMD typically appears in developing children. Many times, it will start with insufficient nasal breathing or mouth breathing. Such issues can be caused by allergies or chronic nasal congestion. If a child can’t breathe properly through his or her nose because it’s clogged and begins to rely on mouth breathing, the tongue will be forced to lie flat and lip muscles will weaken.

Similarly, OMD can also be caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids that block air passages. Even after tonsils are removed, the mouth-breathing habit can continue and cause more issues.

And although family heredity does play a role in the size and strength of facial muscles, parents will be chagrined to learn that thumb-sucking and extended pacifier use in babies can also lead to the disorder.

Signs and Symptoms

You may be able to recognize the signs of OMD in your young child. If you notice she is snoring regularly, breathing through her mouth consistently or developing speech issues – such as lisping – it’s a good idea to visit a dentist.

OMD can also be recognized through dental problems – specifically an improper alignment between the upper and lower teeth, also known as a malocclusion. Overbites and other issues can cause difficulties in biting and chewing food.

A diagnosis of OMD is usually made by a dentist or orthodontist, although a treatment plan may include the participation of a speech-language pathologist, as well.

OMD Therapy – How Can It Help?

Although it may be difficult to believe that an exercise-based therapy can help retrain and strengthen the oral and facial muscles to dramatically improve these disorders, a growing field of professionals have demonstrated such results through orofacial myofunctional therapy.

A trained professional works with patients to evaluate and treat OMDs by gradually training the tongue back into its natural position. Awareness of facial and oral muscles is taught and proper swallowing techniques are demonstrated. A program of exercises is followed – sometimes over a six to twelve-month period in order to promote proper coordination and patterns of muscle movement.

OMD is best treated when caught early, so if you think your child suffers from incorrect oral postures and swallowing issues, see your dentist or doctor right away. Orofacial myofunctional therapy techniques can improve critical speaking, breathing and sleeping capabilities. Don’t underestimate the importance of your tongue!

Think you or a loved one suffers from OMD? Make an appointment today – we can help!  TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of The Greater Washington DC Area, located in Alexandria Virginia,  provides a holistic approach to dental care that incorporates total-body health and wellness. Learn more at



Does Diet Affect Your Child’s Facial Development?

If your dentist suggested that what you eat affects the health and development of your child’s teeth, you’d nod your head and agree.  After all, at this point, everyone is aware of how sugary snacks and drinks speed tooth decay and contribute to cavities and other dental woes, right?

But, the effect our diet has on our teeth may be more complicated than that. Our western diet of processed and nutritionally empty foods may have serious consequences for the way teeth and jaws form.  And, it may start as early as birth.

Lack of Nutrition Leads to Braces?

Dr. Weston A. Price (1870-1948) was a dentist often called the Isaac Newton of nutrition. He traveled the world studying different cultures and their dental formations, and theorized that many modern tooth issues – such as crowding, overbites and spacing – were due to overall societal changes in diet and nutrition and an increase in consumption of flour, sugar and processed foods.

Although genetics plays a role, he believed such a diet in lacking in nutrient dense foods had a powerful physical effect on the development of jaw and bone structure. Evidence of increasingly common dental issues within more recently industrialized societies supports his research.

Do Your Teeth Need to Work Out, Too?

Although we know that sugars and starches lead to bacteria and increased tooth decay, the very textures we chew may have an effect on how our teeth develop as children.

Before the advent of our agricultural society, ancient humans strenuously chewed through meat, nuts and wild plants. Modern diets are often softer and require less jaw strength to bite through. This may also change a child’s mandible growth during formative years.

Breast vs Bottle: How Are Teeth Affected?

Variations in tooth and jaw formation may occur as early as the first few months of life. Breast-feeding has been demonstrated to provide optimal oral mechanical stimulation for developing infants. The shape and positioning of a breast versus a bottle may have a strong effect on the growth and positioning of babies’ teeth.

Although some of these theories are debated, there is enough evidence to support the idea that modern, softer diets may have an impact on jaw development. Before the Agricultural Revolution, incidents of malocclusion and wisdom teeth impaction were practically unheard and are now quite common. And, incredibly, human faces have become 5 to 10% smaller over the course of last few thousand years – which is really a blink of an evolutionary eye.

You may not be able to avoid braces for your child, but you can you support healthy tooth and jaw development. Besides practicing good oral hygiene, make sure your kids are eating nutrient-dense foods, including choices that exercise chewing muscles and encourage proper oral posture. See a family dentist that takes a holistic, whole-body approach to oral care.

Healthy bodies start with healthy teeth. With a location in Alexandria, VA. TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of the Greater Washington DC Area provides a holistic approach to care that incorporates total-body health and wellness. Learn more at




Fermented Foods Are Good For You!

Think about healthy foods and what comes to your mind?  Vegetables, maybe?  Lean proteins? How about sauerkraut and pickles? No? If you believe those options sound more like hotdog toppings than nutritious foods to add to your shopping list, think again. Fermented foods provide unique health benefits, are easy to add to your diet and are suddenly back in vogue.

Here are a couple of reasons fermented foods are fabulous:

Probiotics: These beneficial bacteria support digestion, create a balance of flora in your gut and protect against certain diseases.

Nutrient Absorption: Increasing your good bacteria allows you to absorb more vitamins and nutrients from your food – whether they are fermented or not.

Food Preservation: Fermentation preserves foods for longer periods of time – sometimes months – without losing nutritional values. Store-bought foods designed to sit on a shelf for long periods of time undergo processes and contain preservatives that suck the vitamins right out of them.

What is Fermentation?

Fermented foods start out as regular foods.  They undergo a conversion process allowing bacteria to feed on the sugar and carbohydrates to produce lactic acid – which gives pickles and sauerkraut their distinctive sour taste. The process also boosts the levels of probiotics, vitamin and enzymes in the food –  which supports the good bacteria we have in our gut that helps with digestion and overall health.

For generations before the modern advent of canning and refrigeration, fermentation was used as a primary form of food preservation. Today, we buy our fresh foods from the grocery store and eat them the same afternoon – there’s need to preserve our food for long periods of time. Our purchased milk undergoes pasteurization– the process that removes all existing micro-organisms – and the notion that fermented foods could be healthy is just recently making its way back into the mainstream consciousness.

Fermentation vs Pickling

Before you load up your grocery shopping cart with multiple jars of Kosher Dills, you should know that many supermarket brands use a commercial pickling process with vinegar rather than a traditional fermenting process with salts, spices and a food’s own juices. Unfortunately, pickling does not provide the same health benefits or support the body’s “good bacteria.”  When shopping for fermented foods, make sure the ingredients do not include vinegar.

Ready to Take a Bite?

If you are not used to eating fermented foods, you may need to warm up to the taste slowly. Beneficial fermented foods go beyond traditional pickles and sauerkraut and include foods that are now easy to find in health stores and restaurants.

Miso: Fermenting soybeans with salt or grains produces miso paste which can be added to soups and stir-fry.

Yogurt and Kefir: These fermented milk products contain high amounts of probiotics and are great sources of calcium and Vitamin D. (You’re probably eating yogurt already!)

Kombucha: This tea is created from black tea, natural sugars, bacteria and yeast and includes high levels of B vitamins and acetic acid, which helps stabilize blood glucose levels.  It comes in many delicious flavors.

Now that you know about all the benefits of fermented foods, it might be time to try them out for yourself. Raise a glass of kefir or kombucha and drink to your health!

Healthy bodies start with healthy teeth. With a location in Alexandria, TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of The Greater Washington DC Area provides a holistic approach to integrative care that incorporates total-body health and wellness.


Are Sleep Issues Causing Your Headaches?

We all know that sleep plays a vital role in our day-to-day health and well-being.  During regular periods of shut-eye, our body repairs cells and regenerates itself. Adequate sleep cycles are related to both physical and mental health and supports brain function and emotional well-being. Lack of sleep can raise your risk of suffering from a host of health issues, including disease, increased reaction time and decreased mental proficiency.

OK, so you know how important sleep is, but how do you know if you need more? If you wake up more than occasionally with a bad headache and/or neck pain, it may be a sign that you need to focus on night-time habits that increase your quantity and quality of sleep.


Waking up with a pounding head forces you to re-examine what you might have done the night before to cause it. Although alcohol or caffeine are possible culprits, quality of sleep may also be contributing to your headaches or migraines.  In fact, headaches are two to eight times more common among people with sleep disorders.

What’s going on during your night-time hours that’s causing your headache?  It could be any one of these issues:


We all have the occasional night of restlessness, but if you suffer from insomnia on multiple nights during a given week, you may want to seek help. Stress and anxiety prevents relaxation and cumulative nights of less than ideal sleep creates a cycle of fatigue and worry. A headache is a common symptom of all these conditions.

Tooth Grinding

Clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth during the night – which is also known as “bruxism,” puts stress on the mouth and facial muscles, resulting in aches all over your head and face. If you think you might be grinding your teeth in your sleep, see your dentist for a treatment plan that may include a referral for a sleep study.  Grinding may be a sign of a sleep disorder.


Did you know 75% of Americans don’t drink enough water? Many of us suffer from a constant state of mild dehydration. Not getting enough fluids during the day can lead to severe headaches upon waking. Make sure you’re drinking about 8 eight ounce glasses of water or other fluids a day.

Sleep Apnea   

If you suffer from migraines and sleep apnea, they may be related. Many of those who suffer from sleep apnea, or an inability to breathe consistently while asleep, find it more difficult to breathe when lying on their backs. But, being forced to lie on one’s side can lead to discomfort and eventually even a pinched nerve.  Pinched nerves happen to be a common trigger for migraines. If you get migraines and have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about your treatment for both.

Neck Pain

Waking up with a stiff neck can set you up for a day of pain and agony every time you try to turn your head. Whether it’s a muscle pull or a tension headache, consider improving a few of your bedtime habits to ensure you’re not giving yourself a pain in the neck.

Pillow Support

Your neck agony may be related to the wrong pillow. If you fall asleep without enough support to your head and neck or strain your muscles for hours overnight, you’re almost guaranteed to wake up with some tension pain. Make sure you keep your head and neck in a neutral position while lying in bed– as if you were standing up. If you do wake up with a stiff neck, try a hot shower to relax your muscles or take some over the counter pain medication.

Sleep Position

Some sleeping positions are more likely to cause neck pain. Sleeping on your back (unless you have sleep apnea) or on your side is less stressful on the spine than spending the entire night on your stomach.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to change the habit of what sleep position you settle in to. Try to start the night on your back or side, at the very least.

Getting quality sleep is important for many reasons – not the least of which is feeling focused and capable of getting through your day. Headaches and neck pain that are related to poor sleeping habits prevent you from looking and feeling your best – get to the bottom of what’s causing that throbbing in the top of your head!

Healthy bodies start with healthy teeth. With locations in Alexandria, VA and Washington DC, DC Smiles provides a holistic approach to dental care that incorporates total-body health and wellness. Learn more at



Reduce Inflammation with Your Diet

nutritionIt usually doesn’t take a professional nutritionist to point out the difference between the foods that we should be loading into our grocery carts on a regular basis and the ones we should pass on by.

Think about foods that have been deemed “bad for you” and you’ll probably come up with a list that includes sugary sweets, soda and anything fried. These types of foods are synonymous with excess calories, weight gain, and contributing to health risks.

Although there are many reasons we should limit our consumption of these foods that provide little in the way of nutrition and force us to carry a lot of baggage (mostly in our thighs), the number one argument for keeping them out of your body is the inflammation they can cause.

Inflammation Situation

What is inflammation? Well, in small doses, inflammation is actually good for your body. It occurs whenever your immune system attacks a foreign chemical or microbe.  It is your system’s attempt to protect itself and whatever “invader” it perceives is doing you harm. Acute inflammation is the immediate reaction of the body to some kind of trauma. Redness, heat or swelling are symptoms of inflammation – and they can occur during an infection or other injury.

However, chronic inflammation is when your body continues to remain in that heightened state for months or even years. It’s a systemic condition that occurs when acute inflammation does not rid your body of a pathogen or when your own cells are being attacked as foreign entities. It may be mostly undetectable, but chronic inflammation contributes to many illnesses including heart disease, forms of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Foods Can Help or Hurt

Stress, smoking and exposure to toxins contribute to chronic inflammation, as do many foods.  Conversely, your diet can play a big part in preventing inflammation – IF you eat the right foods.  Make sure you are following an anti-inflammatory diet to lower your risk of diseases, and prevent symptoms of chronic inflammation, like depression, fatigue and digestive issues.

Foods that CAUSE Inflammation:

  • French fries and other fried food
  • Red meat and processed meats
  • Refined carbohydrates, like white bread and cakes
  • Soda and sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Margarine and shortening

Food that PREVENT or FIGHT Inflammation:

  • Leafy greens, like spinach and kale
  • Olive oil
  • Tomatoes
  • Nuts, like almonds and walnuts
  • Fatty fish like tuna and salmon
  • Fruits like blueberries and oranges

Need another reason for adopting an anti-inflammation diet? Foods that fight inflammation are also high in nutrients and included in diets linked with longevity and increased health benefits.

Healthy bodies start with healthy teeth. With locations in Alexandria, VA and Washington DC, DC Smiles provides a holistic approach to dental care that incorporates total-body health and wellness. Learn more at

How Your Smartphone May Be Hurting Your Neck

We are a nation of smartphone addicts.

From email to social media to games to music, we now use our smartphones daily to complete various everyday tasks.  In fact nearly two-thirds of American adults own a smartphone, with many relying on it as their only internet-connected device.

As a result, we have also become a nation of slouchers, hunchers and slumpers. And, it’s becoming a real pain in our necks.

“Text neck,” a term coined in 2008 by Dr. Dean Fishman to diagnose a teenager complaining of headaches and neck pain, refers to the resulting physical and medical issues that can arise from time spent leaning forward while sitting or standing to examine the tiny scrolling screen we hold in the palm of our hand.

We Were Not Designed to Text

But, how can using your smartphone be so dangerous?

The average human head weighs between 10-12 pounds when held in a neutral position, with your ears over your shoulders. But, as you bend your head forward, the pressure increases.  For every inch, you double the load on your neck.

By the time your chin has dropped to your chest while scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, you’re putting the equivalent of 60 pounds of pressure on your spine.  And, you were not designed to support that much weight on your neck.

Extended periods of holding the text neck position can lead to headaches and back pain and years of it can eventually damage your spine to the point of requiring surgery. Staying slumped can also reduce the capacity of your lungs and cause gastrointestinal problems by placing pressure on your organs.

When we consider a recent survey that reported 59% of smartphone owners use apps on their phones at least several times a day and 27% use them “continuously,” the potential for prevalent long-term neck and spine injuries becomes clear. Your smartphone is not the only culprit.  Video games, reading devices and laptops can all induce text neck.

Preventing Text Neck

So, other than getting rid of your devices (which we know you won’t do), how can you stop text neck from happening?

  1. Try to cut down on checking your smartphone and take frequent breaks when working with a laptop. Get up and stretch every 20 minutes or so.
  2. Bring your device up to eye level, rather than looking down at it.
  3. Use the range of motion of your eyes to look down at a phone rather than dropping your head.
  4. Regularly stretch your neck to keep the joints limber.

Conditions that were unheard of a decade ago like text neck and other long-term effects of prolonged smartphone usage can give us pause about whether these devices overall help or hinder our lives. Everything in moderation, as they say, and that should include texting.

Head and face pain has many causes, including symptoms related to disorders of TMJ (temporomandibular joint).  The TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of the Greater Washington, DC Area focuses on conditions of sleep apnea, TMJ disorders, as well as pediatric  and adolescent facial and airway development. Learn more at