The “Harmless” Habit That Could Make Your Teeth Fall Out. Literally.

The “Harmless” Habit That Could Make Your Teeth Fall Out. Literally.

Do you wake up some mornings with a headache of origins you can’t define? Do you experience vague muscle pain in your face? If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of bruxism. What’s bruxism? You likely know it by its more informal name – two names, actually: “clenching” and “grinding.” It’s also not something you’ll want to ignore, because bruxism wears down the surface of your teeth and sets you up for cavities and tooth fractures. Severe cases can even contribute to tooth loss. Let’s find out how to stop this menace in its tracks.

What Causes Bruxism?

Many factors can combine to create a bruxism habit. Stress and anxiety are believed to be leading causes, as are a misaligned bite, missing teeth, and sleep abnormalities. Some medications can also trigger episodes, as can neurological or musculature illnesses.

Why Should I Be Concerned About Teeth Grinding? Isn’t It Normal?

Teeth grinding may be common, but it’s not “normal,” per se. Because the stresses of bruxism affect the entire jaw, this pressure can create cracks and chips in teeth, and over time can contribute to a shortening of lower face height due to bone loss. If that sounds scary, it should. It’s also a change you’ve seen before – in individuals who have lost all their teeth and do not wear dentures. We’re pretty sure that’s not a look you’re aiming to achieve.

How Do I Know I Have a Problem, and What Treatments Are Available?

In many cases, your dentist will see evidence of bruxism in your X-rays, and on the surface of your teeth, and will alert you to the problem long before you exhibit a single symptom – particularly if you sleep alone. Occasionally however, you may start to clench and grind in between visits and begin to notice symptoms on your own. If that’s more like your situation, and you find that you often wake with a sore jaw, a headache that goes away shortly after rising, or if a loved one tells you your teeth are making clickity-clankity noises all night, mention it the next time you’re in the office.

As far as treatment goes, because the causes of bruxism are varied, the treatments vary as well. If your doctor determines stress is the primary cause, they may recommend you abstain from excessive caffeine and alcohol, and attempt some form of daily relaxation. Even something as simple as a warm bath before sleeping can work wonders. If your bite is a concern, they may suggest you visit an orthodontist for an evaluation, and if prescription medicine or neuromuscular illnesses are believed to be the cause, referral to the appropriate specialist would be part of your plan to break the habit.

In each of these cases, though, your dentist and/or physician will likely recommend a splint, or occlusal mouth guard to protect your teeth and bone from further damage. These protective devices are easy to wear, and contrary to what you may believe, will not impede your ability to get a good night’s sleep. In fact, they tend to enhance the quality of your sleep so you’ll wake up more refreshed.

So, check with your dentist! Many people go years without being aware they’re clenching and grinding since it takes time for symptoms to show in your mouth. Getting a mouthguard or splint once you know you have this habit, though, will help you with headaches and muscle pain now – and tooth trouble down the road.

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Are My Gums Receding? And Why?

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Progressive change can be difficult to notice, especially when it occurs to us and not someone else. Changes occurring along our gum line certainly fall into this category, and since recession is measured in millimeters it’s especially easy to miss.

So, how much gum erosion is normal, and what causes it? Let’s take a look.

Is Gum Recession Normal?

Gum recession is often considered a normal part of aging. Even the expression “long in the tooth” stems from our gum line receding and exposing more of our teeth as we age.

However, there is nothing normal about gum recession. Luckily, for most of us it can be prevented.

Rather than keep things as they are, embracing gum recession as the well-paid price of wisdom, be vigilant against gum erosion!

Though there are a host of factors that contribute to the erosion of your gumline, a vast majority are preventable.

The Biggest Offenders

  • Clenching or grinding your teeth
  • Over-vigorous, or improper brushing
  • Aggressive flossing
  • Exposure to acids in sports and energy drinks
  • Tobacco use
  • The frequent use of whitening products

All the above causes of gum loss can be prevented. All of them. If you grind your teeth at night, wear a mouth guard. If you brush as though you’re sanding down the statue of David, learn proper technique from your dentist, or from a video online. Bleeding a lot when flossing? You’re not slicing cheese – go easy, there, friend! If you smoke, drink too many energy drinks, or chew tobacco, cut back, or stop altogether. None of that stuff is good for you in any way imaginable. And lastly, if you’re trying to look like a movie star by abusing whitening strips, you can stop now. Your teeth have got to be super-white already!

Be Proactive

What’s next? How can you tell if your gums are receding faster than the Amazon rainforest?

Well, the most proactive step is to visit your dentist. In fact, if you’re going regularly, your dentist has been monitoring the recession for some years now.

If you’ve ever noticed your dentist poking around in your mouth, all while reciting numbers to the hygienist, they’re probably doing two things: measuring the recession of your gums, and gauging the depths of your gum pockets. Both speak to the health of your gum line.

So, the next time you hear your dentist reading off what seem like lottery number, just ask about the health of your gums … your dentist will be happy to keep you in the loop.

The first sign of gum recession is usually tooth sensitivity, so be on the lookout. Reduce, or eliminate the above discussed habits, and ask your dentist how you’re doing in terms of taking care of your gums.

With a little bit of knowledge and proactive behavior, no one will ever say you’re long in the tooth. And, that’s a good thing!

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