The Dangers Of Chronic Teeth Grinding

The Dangers Of Chronic Teeth Grinding

Grinding our teeth briefly when we’re nervous or frustrated is pretty normal.

When the grinding doesn’t stop, however, it can do a lot of damage, whether it happens during the day or while we’re asleep. This kind of chronic grinding is called bruxism.

What Causes Teeth Grinding?

While daytime bruxism can be the result of stress and sleep bruxism is often associated with sleep apnea or snoring, you don’t need stress or a sleep disorder to have a teeth-grinding habit (and vice versa). It could be because of missing or improperly aligned teeth, or a bad bite.

Certain factors can predispose someone to bruxism. These include anxiety and stress, age (children are more prone to grinding than adults), antidepressants (including prescription drugs, tobacco, and alcohol), a family history of bruxism, and other disorders like Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, and GERD.

Common Signs Of A Grinding Habit

Many people who grind their teeth don’t notice when they do it (especially if they’re mainly doing it in their sleep) but you don’t have to catch a teeth-grinder in the act, because there are plenty of other indicators:

  • Shortened, worn down teeth with flat chewing surfaces
  • Chips, cracks, and splits in the teeth
  • Exposed dentin (the more yellow layer beneath the white enamel)
  • Tooth loss
  • Soreness in the jaw (for nighttime teeth-grinders, the jaw will be most sore in the morning; for daytime grinders, the jaw will be most sore in the evening)
  • Frequent headaches
  • Overdeveloped jaw muscles

Treatment Options For Bruxism

The best treatment for bruxism will depend on which type it is, and some treatments focus more on minimizing damage while others focus on finding the cause of the grinding and addressing it.

Orthodontic Treatment

For bruxism that is caused by a bad bite or poorly aligned teeth, straightening those teeth out and correcting the bite may fix the problem.

Custom Mouthguards

While a mouthguard can’t do anything about the grinding itself or what’s causing it, it can protect the teeth from further damage by providing a cushion between the upper and lower teeth.

Behavioral Therapy

Habit-reversal techniques and behavioral therapy can help patients with teeth grinding become more aware of the habit and make a more conscious effort to stop. This is more effective for awake bruxism than sleep bruxism, as the latter is much more difficult to control.

Relaxation

In cases where bruxism is caused by stress or anxiety, relaxation techniques can help. These include activities like massages, warm baths, listening to calming music, getting a full night’s sleep, yoga, and deep breathing exercises.

It’s Time To Stop The Grind!

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms that indicate bruxism, schedule an appointment with us so we can make a plan for how to address it and stop the damage. It’s crucial not to leave a habit like this untreated, because that will only give it more time to hurt your teeth.

We’re here to help you keep your teeth healthy!

Top image by Flickr user Joseph Lindley used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
Plaque, Tartar, And Your Teeth

Plaque, Tartar, And Your Teeth

Plaque and tartar are two words that you probably hear a lot when you come in for a dental cleaning.

You might already know that they cause tooth decay and gum disease, but do you know what they are? Let’s take a closer look at these two substances that are a constant threat to our oral health.

Stage 1: Plaque

Dental plaque is a soft, sticky, colorless biofilm composed of bacteria, food particles, and saliva. It builds up on and between our teeth and beneath our gums every day. If you’ve ever forgotten to brush in the morning or at night, you’ve probably felt that unpleasant texture with your tongue.

Plaque contains millions of bacteria, and this bacteria digests leftover sugars and starches from the food we eat, then excretes acid onto our teeth. Because plaque is soft, it can be removed with simple brushing and flossing, but we have to be thorough and diligent to get as much of it as possible.

Stage 2: Tartar

The reason it’s so important to scrub away the plaque is that when plaque is allowed to sit on the teeth too long, it becomes tartar. Tartar is a hard, yellow or brown substance that bonds to tooth enamel and can only be removed at a professional cleaning appointment.

How does this transformation happen? When the acid excreted by oral bacteria comes into contact with minerals in our saliva, it causes a chemical reaction that hardens the plaque into tartar. The risk of tartar buildup is higher for people with braces, dry mouth, crowded teeth, or a smoking habit, and it also increases with age.

Keeping Plaque And Tartar Under Control

A rigorous oral hygiene routine, paired with regular professional cleanings, is the best way to control the plaque in your mouth and prevent it from hardening into tartar. Here are some of the things a good routine should include:

  • Brush twice a day for two minutes, making sure to brush all surfaces of the teeth and paying special attention to the gum line.
  • Floss or use a water flosser daily to clean the plaque and food debris left in those hard-to-reach spots between the teeth.
  • Choose an anti-plaque toothpaste.
  • Consider getting an electric toothbrush for more effective plaque removal, and replace your toothbrush (or the head of your electric toothbrush) regularly.
  • Give oral bacteria less fuel by cutting down on sugary foods and drinks.
  • Avoid smoking, which increases plaque and tartar.
  • Schedule dental cleanings once every six months.

Win The Battle For Your Dental Health

It might seem discouraging to think that plaque will creep back up throughout the day even after you brush and floss thoroughly. A better perspective is that it only takes a few minutes each morning and night to win the daily battle against plaque and tartar, and you can improve the odds for your teeth even more with regular dental visits!

Together, we can keep those teeth plaque and tartar free!

Top image by Flickr user sittered used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

It’s Time To Kick That Ice-Chewing Habit

Chewing ice might seem refreshing in the moment, but it’s not doing any favors for your teeth in the long run.

Today we’re going to take a look at why ice chewing is such a common habit despite the dangers it poses, as well as what someone with this habit can do to stop.

Compulsive Ice Eating

The scientific name for compulsive ice eating is pagophagia. This goes beyond a simple habit and enters the territory of a mental disorder. Getting cravings for ice can be a sign of an eating disorder called pica, which involves a compulsion to eat things with no nutritional value, such as ice, clay, hair, and dirt. Pica is often the result of a nutritional deficiency.

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Studies have shown a correlation between compulsive ice eating and iron deficiency anemia, which is pretty common, with 20 percent of women, 50 percent of pregnant women, and 3 percent of men being iron deficient. Without enough iron in the blood, the red blood cells can’t effectively do their job of carrying oxygen throughout the body.

What does iron have to do with ice? Well, researchers theorize that chewing ice sends more blood to the brain, temporarily improving alertness and clarity of thought. This feels good, and so they keep doing it even when it causes dental problems.

Ice Versus Your Teeth

Our teeth are not designed to crunch against solid ice, and they are particularly not designed to chew through several trays of ice cubes a day. Doing this can destroy tooth enamel over time, not just because ice is hard but because it’s cold. The enamel expands and contracts due to these extreme temperature changes, creating tiny cracks in it and making it much weaker, just like pavement in snowy climates. All of this leaves the teeth painfully sensitive to hot and cold and far more vulnerable to cavities.

The texture of the ice can also cause injuries to gum tissue, which you may not even notice because of the numbing effect of the cold, and sometimes the ice can actually chip or break a tooth!

Breaking The Ice Eating Habit

The first step to kicking the ice eating habit is to find out what’s causing it. If the ice chewing is a symptom of anemia, getting iron supplements may eliminate the cravings, so it will be much easier to stop. If it’s pica, there are interventions to explore such as therapy and medication.

There’s also plenty you can do on your own. You can replace the crunchy texture of ice with baby carrots or apple chunks. If you struggle to give up the ice altogether, try letting slivers of ice melt on your tongue like candy rather than crunching on them. This will spare your teeth and gums from the damage of chewing the ice.

Your Dental And Health Care Professionals Can Help

If ice chewing is something you struggle with, make sure to schedule appointments with your doctor and dentist. Iron deficiency can cause a number of other problems besides triggering ice cravings, and it’s important to get diagnosed and treated before it gets worse, particularly for pregnant women.

Now go put that ice-chewing habit on ice!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Wisdom Teeth: What You Need To Know

Wisdom Teeth: What You Need To Know

Getting your wisdom teeth removed is such a common procedure these days that it’s almost a rite of passage among teenagers.

But why do some of us have to get them out anyway, and why do we even have them in the first place? In today’s blog post we’re going to answer these and a few other common wisdom teeth questions!

Wisdom Teeth Are Remnants Of An Ancient Era

The most widely accepted theory about wisdom teeth’s origins goes back to our early human ancestors. Because they had a very different diet–mainly roots, raw meat and fibrous plants–they needed extra molars to grind up tough food. These days, we eat much softer foods. We also have smaller jaws that don’t fit in those third molars quite as well.

Wisdom Teeth Are Removed For A Number Of Reasons

While some people never get their wisdom teeth, they’ll show up for most of us between the ages of 17 and 21. Unfortunately, they don’t always come in the way they should, which is why a lot of us have to get them removed.

If your dentist recommends getting your wisdom teeth taken out, it could be for one of the following reasons:

  1. They become impacted. This means that the wisdom teeth don’t come through and become trapped in the jaw, under the gums. Impacted wisdom teeth can form cysts around them and do significant damage to nearby teeth and bone.
  2. There isn’t enough space for them. This can cause damage to nearby teeth, crowding, and pain.
  3. They don’t come in correctly. Wisdom teeth that come in partially or aren’t in the right position can make flossing more difficult, allowing food and bacteria to become trapped and cause problems.

Some dental work may require wisdom teeth removal as well. However, if your wisdom teeth come in correctly and you are able to clean them properly, you will most likely not need to have them removed. And that means that you’ll have some extra molars in your mouth to chew with—awesome!

Remember These Tips If You Get Your Wisdom Teeth Out

To facilitate healing after wisdom teeth removal, make sure you get plenty of rest. Drink lots of water and avoid alcoholic, caffeinated and hot beverages for the first 24 to 48 hours. And of course, everyone’s favorite part of the healing process, eat soft foods such as ice cream, yogurt, and applesauce for the first day. You can add in broth-based soups one to two days after the procedure, but stay away from hard or chewy foods for one to two weeks.

We Want What’s Best For Your Smile

We treat wisdom teeth removal on a case-by-case basis. We will monitor them closely as they come in and together, we will make the best decision for your smile! And remember, having your third molars come in may cause some discomfort, but if it causes pain, come and see us immediately.

Do you have any more questions about wisdom teeth? We’d love to answer them! Comment below or on our Facebook page to let us know!

Thank you for placing your trust in our practice!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
Taking Care Of Your Pet’s Teeth

Taking Care Of Your Pet’s Teeth

It’s easy to assume that our pets don’t need dental care like we do.

After all, wild animals can’t exactly brush their teeth, and that doesn’t seem to be a problem for them. However, it turns out that our pets’ teeth have a very different situation than the teeth of wild animals, and they do need our help to stay healthy.

Animal Teeth In The Wild

There are two main reasons wild animals don’t need dental care. The first is diet. Unlike us and our pets (particularly cats and dogs), wild animals don’t consume a lot of sugar or carbs, which is what feeds the bacteria that causes tooth decay. Wild animals are more likely to wear their teeth down than they are to get cavities.

The second reason wild animals don’t seem to get tooth decay as often is that their teeth essentially outlive them. Their lifespans aren’t long enough for their teeth to rot before they die. If an animal’s teeth do rot, it won’t survive much longer in the wild, because unlike domesticated animals, it doesn’t have a friendly human to feed it after it can no longer eat its usual food.

What Dental Problems Are Pets At Risk For?

Our puppies and kitties might have teeth that look a lot different from ours, but they can get cavities and gum disease just like we can. In fact, a whopping 85 percent of dogs and cats get gum disease by age three. Keep an eye out for symptoms like difficulty chewing, tooth loss, and bad breath, as well as loose teeth, swollen or bleeding gums, and loss of appetite.

In a way, dental problems are even more serious for our pets than they are for us. We can take care of our own teeth, and we can describe what our teeth and gums feel like to our dentists. Our pets can’t do any of that, so when a problem happens, it’s more likely to get worse.

Tips For Pet Dental Care

Don’t wait for your pet to start showing symptoms of dental problems to begin a dental hygiene routine for them. Whether you’re keeping their teeth healthy or helping fight back against existing problems, you’ll be making your furry friend’s life so much better. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Brush their teeth daily.
  • Only use veterinary toothpaste, if any. (Your toothpaste will make them sick.)
  • Give them vet-approved dental treats to help clean their teeth.
  • Get their teeth professionally cleaned! Some vets offer dental services, but if your vet doesn’t, they can probably recommend a veterinary dental specialist in the area.

Do It For Those Happy Doggy And Kitty Smiles!

As a pet owner, there’s nothing better than seeing them happy and full of life, and taking good care of their teeth is a great way to make that happen. If you have any questions about what to do for your pet’s teeth or if you’re having trouble getting them used to a dental hygiene routine, make use of resources like our practice and your veterinarian.

We look forward to seeing you at our practice!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.