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.

If you have more questions, please complete the form below.

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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!

If you have more questions, please complete the form below.

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What are Dental Veneers, and When are They Used?

Dental Venners. Are they right for you?

Strikingly-white, straight, perfect teeth. It’s something we all want – and especially so during our teen years. Whitening kits and toothpastes can help, and sneak-arounds like sipping coffee and soda through a straw can also aid the cause. But what do you do when one of your kid’s teeth gets cracked or chipped – or is genetically off-color or misshapen? Dental veneers may be the answer.

What is a Veneer?

A “veneer” is a wafer-thin layer of material molded to the surface of a tooth to correct a chip or crack, or to enhance its cosmetic appearance. Veneers are made of either porcelain or a composite synthetic resin, such as acrylic polymer or polymethyl methacrylate. These materials are used in dentistry because of their ability to create a strong bond with the tooth, and their ability to mimic the natural color of adjacent teeth. Veneers can either be placed directly onto a tooth at the dental office, or fabricated off-site in a dental laboratory.

Which Type of Veneer is Right for My Child?

There are two types of veneers, and the choice as to which one to use should be made less based on one’s desire (or apprehension of the procedure), and more on the design of your child’s teeth.

  • Traditional Veneers: Traditional veneers are applied to teeth much in the same manner a crown is applied. That is, weak or decayed areas of the tooth are removed, and the tooth is “shaped” to provide a mounting place for the veneer.Even healthy teeth require a minimal amount of re-shaping to ensure a natural look when the veneer is applied. The reason for this is that the veneer itself has a certain degree of thickness, and to not whittle down the tooth would result in a “bulky,” unnatural-looking tooth when compared to adjacent teeth.
  • Prep-less Veneers: On the other hand, with prep-less veneers, there is very little (if any) removal of tooth material. This can be ideal, but is generally limited to situations when there are existing spaces between teeth (like a gap between two front teeth), or when the tooth being treated is smaller than adjacent teeth.

Making the Right Choice

As you can see, deciding on which veneer to choose is as important as the decision to get one in the first place. If you think dental veneers may be an option for your child, speak with your doctor for help in making the right choice.

If you have more questions, please complete the form below.

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Are there Non-Surgical Means of Fixing an Underbite?

Smiles of SpokaneIf you’ve ever had the occasion to speak with someone about how to correct an under bite, your conversation no doubt centered on the painful idea of having to “break” the jawbone, weeks on a liquid diet because of a jaw that was then wired shut, and the application of braces both before and after surgery. Understandably, such conversations tend to elicit a lot of wincing from any parent considering the same for their child. There are alternatives, however, IF you act early.

Why it’s Important to Act Early

When a child is young, the bones in their jaw are more malleable and welcoming to adjustment than at a later age. If treatment is delayed until later in life, the “tender” jawbones of a child become fused to such a degree that surgery presents itself as the only option. The options we’ll discuss below play upon this particular window of opportunity.

  1. Expanders:  As is the case when a child has a crossbite, initial treatment for an underbite typically involves the use of an expander to adjust the spread of a child’s teeth so the bite matches evenly on all sides. Expanders resemble orthodontic retainers, and include a screw that is tightened nightly so as to “spread” a child’s bite to the prescribed measurements.
  2. Braces: If a child is presented with a minor underbite restricted to tooth overcrowding, braces alone can sometimes alleviate the concern. Most often, however, braces are used in conjunction with, or as a precursor to a headgear appliance, which can apply a more direct, and significant, amount of “pull-pressure” to the lower jawbone.
  3. Reverse-pull Face Mask (with or without a chincap): Sometimes used in combination with or after an expander, headgear can provide additional stimulation and directional guidance to a jaw not wanting to develop in the correct fashion. Headgear works by applying forward “pull pressure” to the jaw by resting atop the face, and connecting to either braces or an expander contained within the mouth.
  4. Veneers: Very mild underbites can be cosmetically altered with veneers so the teeth give the appearance of no underbite. There is a good degree of artistry with this approach, and when done correctly, this creative placement of veneers on the upper jaw mimics a jaw in proper alignment.

Fixing an under bite doesn’t have to be fraught with expense and pain if dealt with in a timely fashion. Speak early and often with your dentist and orthodontist about the options available to your child. If you have any questions please call our office or complete the form below.

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