Posts for: January, 2013
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.
Everyone agrees that education is an important part of personal growth. However, one area of study that often slips through the cracks centers on oral healthcare basics. And whether or not we all do it as often as we should, most people know they should brush and floss their teeth daily. But other than that, do you feel you are knowledgeable and thus have a healthy dental IQ?
We have developed a quick and easy oral health IQ test to help you self-assess your expertise. The answers are listed at the bottom of this article.
- What has been the largest, single factor influencing the decline in tooth decay over the past 40 years in America?
- Fluoridated water
- Fluoridated toothpaste
- Your dentists can help treat which of the following problem(s)?
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Snoring and sleep apnea
- Headaches, Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), or Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
- All of the above
- The most important aspect of brushing your teeth is...?
- The brand of toothpaste you use
- Your brushing technique and frequency
- The brand of your toothbrush
- Using an electric toothbrush
- At a minimum, how often should you have a thorough dental evaluation?
- Every six months
- Once a year
- Every five years
- Only if you are experiencing pain
- At a minimum, how often should you have your teeth professionally cleaned?
- Every six months
- Once a year
- Every five years
- It depends on your age and oral health
Want to learn more?
1) a = fluoridated water, 2) d = all of the above, 3) b = your brushing technique and frequency, 4) b = once a year, 5) d = It depends on your age and oral health
Did you know that studies have shown a relationship between gum disease and heart disease?
The common link is inflammation. This means that if you reduce inflammation caused by gum disease (periodontal disease), you also reduce your risk for heart attacks and strokes. The methods we stress for good dental hygiene — consistent effective brushing and flossing, regular professional cleanings by a hygienist, and dental treatment when needed — are also important for the maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system (from cardio, meaning heart, and vascular, meaning blood vessels).
Here's how it works. Dental plaque is a film of bacteria that settles on your teeth near the gum line every day. When you brush and floss, you remove as much of this bacterial film, or biofilm, as you can. Bacteria that are not removed multiply and produce acid products that begin to dissolve the enamel of your teeth. They also irritate your gum tissues.
Your immune system tries to remove the bacteria and their byproducts through inflammation, your body's way of attacking substances that shouldn't be there (such as bacteria). However, long-term inflammation can be harmful to your own tissues as well. Inflammation in your gums, a symptom of periodontal disease, can destroy gum tissue, bone and the ligaments that hold your teeth in place.
Ongoing inflammation can also increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Bacterial byproducts of periodontal inflammation have been shown to cause the liver to manufacture a protein called CRP (C-reactive protein) that spreads the inflammation to the arteries, where it promotes formation of blood clots.
Of course, other factors are also related to an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. These include smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity. Family history and depression can also influence gum disease and heart disease.
Diet is another factor. You have probably heard of “good” cholesterol (HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (LDL). The bad one, low-density lipoprotein or LDL, is found in animal fats. It can cause an accumulation of fat breakdown products (also called plaque, but a different substance from dental plaque) inside your arteries. The arteries become narrow, so that they can be easily blocked, resulting in heart attacks and strokes. Studies have shown that inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels accelerates this effect.
If tests show that you have high levels of LDL, your doctor may advise you to modify your diet and take specific medication to reduce arterial plaque. You will also be advised to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk factors. Lowering your weight, getting more exercise, and stopping smoking can have a positive effect on your heart health — and so can improving your dental hygiene to combat periodontal disease.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”
A good night's sleep...have you been getting them lately? While everyone knows that sleep is important, did you know that we all spend about one-third of our lives asleep? And did you know that when deprived of sleep, the negative impact is detrimental on both an individual as well as at the societal level? These important facts are just some of the reasons why there has been an increased interest in studying sleep, sleep loss and sleep disorders.
If you have issues with sleep, you might have a sleep disorder — an epidemic problem that impacts approximately 50 to 70 million people in the US alone. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (“a” – without; “pnea” – breath) (OSA) is a medical condition that occurs when your tongue collapses against the back of your throat causing a significant reduction in your intake of air or even total temporary blockage. If left untreated, OSA can lead to an irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and other forms of heart disease plus strokes and even impotence.
Please note that while your responses to the questions below do not equate to a diagnosis, sharing them with our office can be extremely beneficial in helping us properly evaluate and treat issues related to poor sleeping habits.
- Do you weigh 15 pounds or more than the normal weight range for your height, sex and age?
- If you are male, is your neck measurement 17 inches or more? Or if you are female, is it 16 inches or more?
- Do sleep partners routinely tell you that you are a loud snorer and/or that during your sleep you choke, gasp for air or briefly stop breathing?
- Do you often wake up still feeling tired after 8 or more hours of sleep?
- Do you often find yourself falling asleep at work or home during periods when you should be awake?
- Do you suffer from irritability, depression, loss of memory, poor judgment and/or concentration?
The first and most important step in treating sleep apnea is to obtain a proper diagnosis. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about sleep apnea. We can assist in the diagnosis and treatment of sleeping disorder along with a physician trained in this area. And rest assured that we have many treatment options we can use to help you get a great night's sleep. To learn more about sleep apnea, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “If You Snore, You Must Read More!”