Posts for: April, 2012
Grinding, clenching, and gritting your teeth are common reactions to stress — but their results can be quite complex. Here are some questions and answers that will fill you in on what you may not know about this widespread problem.
My dentist said I was bruxing. What does that mean?
Bruxing means that your teeth are grinding upon each other. Many people carry out this habit subconsciously and are not even aware that they are doing it.
Is bruxing or gritting harmful?
Such habits are called “parafunctional” (from para, meaning outside, and function, meaning purpose). This is because these stress habits exert much larger biting forces — as much as ten times more — than in normal biting and chewing activities. This excess pressure can cause damage to jaw joints and muscles, resulting in muscle spasm and pain; and to the teeth, resulting in wear, fractures or looseness. They can also cause headaches, earaches, and even neck and backaches because of the pressures on various structures in the face and mouth.
What is the usual treatment for problems arising from these stress habits?
The first thing we want to do is relieve your pain and discomfort. Second, we want to stop future damage. Application of heat or cold is helpful, and mild anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant drugs are prescribed for pain and muscle spasm. To prevent future occurrences, we may treat you with biofeedback or refer you to someone who can offer psychotherapy.
What is a night guard and how can it help?
A night guard is an unobtrusive thin plastic appliance that is made to fit over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. These guards are so unobtrusive that they can even be worn during the day if your stress level is so high that you grind your teeth during the day. The guard is adjusted to leave the lower teeth free to move against the surface of the guard, but they cannot bite into the upper teeth. This prevents wear on the teeth and lets the jaw muscles relax, preventing the pain of muscle spasm.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), community water fluoridation has been a safe and healthy way to prevent tooth decay effectively for over 65 years now. In fact, the CDC has recognized water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
It all began back in the 1930's when it was discovered that fluoride had oral health benefits. However, community water fluoridation did not begin until January 25, 1945, when Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first city to add fluoride to its municipal water system. Before it was officially rolled out in other cities, Grand Rapids was compared to other cities or “controlled groups” that had not added fluoride to their water so that scientific research could assess the relationship between tooth decay and fluoride. Well, you can guess the results — it was proven that fluoride helped reduce tooth decay when added to ordinary tap water. On November 29, 1951, the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC) declared water fluoridation safe, effective, and beneficial based upon the results of their findings and the fact that there was a dramatic decline in tooth decay in the children of Grand Rapids.
Ever since, fluoride has continued to play a critical role as a simple, safe, effective way to provide improved oral health by helping reduce tooth decay in the United States. This reality is still being demonstrated with each new generation benefiting from better oral health than the previous generation.
As for identifying when the time is right to introduce fluoride to your children's oral health program, ask us. Most children get the right amount of fluoride to help prevent cavities if they drink water that contains fluoride. And if by chance you live in an area where your tap water is not fluoridated, brush your children's teeth with no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day and ask your dentist about fluoride supplements and treatment.
Learn more on this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article, “Fluoride And Fluoridation In Dentistry.”
For generations, root canal treatment has received a bad rap. Thought to cause pain, it is actually just the reverse. The truth is that root canal treatment does not cause pain but actually relieves it. Not only does root canal treatment relieve pain, it literally saves the affected tooth or teeth from further damage and/or loss.
To get started, let's define this procedure. A root canal treatment is a procedure in which the diseased pulpal tissue in the root canals are removed, disinfected, cleaned, and sealed. This is usually necessary following inflammation and infection of the pulp — which is the cause of your pain — as a result of severe decay or in a very heavily filled or damaged tooth.
However, if left untreated, an infected tooth can spread into the bone and even cause an abscess — and that can be more painful and impact your overall general health. The good news is that once a tooth has had the appropriate endodontic treatment (“endo” – inside; “dont” – tooth) followed by a proper restoration, it can last as long as your other teeth. The key is to take proper care of your teeth, have routine cleanings, and visit our offices as soon as you feel you have a problem with a tooth.
If you are having pain from a tooth or several teeth, you may need a root canal treatment. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment before it gets worse. To learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment for a root canal, read the article “Common Concerns About Root Canal Treatment.”
A pregnant woman has a lot to think about while preparing to welcome a new member of her family. It's important to think about her oral health as well. She is sharing her body with the developing infant, so problems with her health — including her dental health — can affect the baby. The following facts will help you understand the relationship between oral health and pregnancy.
- A baby's primary (baby) teeth begin to form during the sixth week of pregnancy. They begin to form their enamel (the hard outer layer of the teeth) and dentin layer (just under the enamel) at about the third or fourth month. The calcium, phosphorous, and protein that are needed for these structures must all be provided by the mother's diet.
- A good diet for a pregnant mother, in order to provide for both her needs and those of the fetus (the developing baby), includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables — including green leafy vegetables — proteins and dairy products. A doctor may also recommend iron and/or folic acid supplements.
- If the mother's diet does not provide enough calcium for the baby's bones and teeth, it will come from calcium stored in her bones — not from her teeth. The old idea that a mother's teeth lose calcium during pregnancy has been found to be a myth.
- Progesterone, a normal female hormone, is elevated during pregnancy. This hormone stimulates production of prostaglandins, substances that cause inflammation in gum tissues if the bacteria that cause periodontal (gum) disease are present. The resulting swelling, redness, and sensitive gum tissues, called pregnancy gingivitis, are common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy.
- The bacteria involved in periodontal disease can affect whole body conditions such as heart disease and strokes, diabetes, and respiratory diseases. The inflammation resulting from such bacteria can also cause premature delivery (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or low birth weight in the baby.
- Periodontal disease is also related to pre-eclampsia, or high blood pressure, during pregnancy.
- Dental x-rays do not expose the mother to very high radiation, but in any case every precaution is taken to minimize exposure to the fetus. These include a leaded apron that shields the baby from exposure.
- Most drugs commonly used in dentistry, including local anesthetics, can safely be given to pregnant women without affecting the fetus. However, it is important to let your dentist know you are pregnant before embarking on any treatment to make sure anything that is done will be safe for the fetus and its developing teeth.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about pregnancy and your oral health. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Pregnancy and Oral Health.”