Make this New Year’s resolution count by getting your teeth checked. No matter your age or health level, chronic teeth grinding can do some real damage. If you find you wake in the morning with a slight headache and/or a stiff and sore jaw, you could be grinding your teeth while you sleep. There can be several causes of teeth grinding and, at South Charlotte Dentistry, we have the information you need to keep those teeth healthy.
“Bruxism,” or grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw, typically happens while you sleep or while in deep concentration. This unfortunate phenomenon can cause all sorts of issues, such as snoring, sleep apnea, not to mention damage to the teeth and jaw.
Flattened teeth; loose, chipped, or cracked teeth; tight or sore jaw muscles: especially when you wake from sleep; regular toothaches and/or increased sensitivity; a dull ache surrounding your ears and temples; joint pain in the jaw (TMJ) that causes a clicking or grinding when you move your jaw—these are all signs you might be grinding your teeth. The only way to know for sure is to visit your dentist to have a trained eye that can quickly spot the side effects of teeth grinding. He can also diagnose the issue and begin working towards a solution.
Some of the Reasons Behind Teeth Grinding
Unfortunately, we are not entirely sure what causes bruxism, but you can hazard a guess as to some of the most likely culprits: increased stress and anxiety, an intense change in one’s life, these alone can cause all sorts of issues, teeth grinding not the least of them. It has also been noted that teeth grinding is a common side effect of certain medications like antidepressants.
The myriad of possible reasons for teeth grinding doesn’t help to narrow the root cause, but it’s worth the effort to sit down and think things out: are you stressed? What is causing that stress? You know the routine, narrowing things down to a culprit and focusing on bettering that area of your life. It’s also a good idea to see if teeth grinding runs in the family. Maybe there are some wise words from the past that can help your condition.
Rather than trying to live with bruxism until your teeth are whittled down to nothing, consider visiting your dentist. Even if you are unsure if you are suffering from bruxism, it’s worth a quick appointment to find out and get help if needed.
During your dental exam, we will look for any excessive wear on your teeth, any cracks or chips, even loose teeth. Depending on what we find, we will then discuss a plan to stop you from grinding those teeth every night. Here are some possible solutions:
• Wearing a Mandibular Advancement Device. This is a method for the more serious grinders where a mouthpiece is attached to your head that keeps your jaw fixed in one position. It’s not the most comfortable solution, but it works!
• Wearing a basic mouth guard to protect the teeth while asleep. The mouth guard is perfectly molded to your teeth, and though this is a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, you will quickly get used to it.
• Wearing a splint that keeps the teeth separated. If the mouth guard is too bulky or awkward, consider the low-profile splint instead.
• Abstain from alcohol for a while. It has been proven that drinking alcohol does, at times, intensify bruxism while sleeping.
• Cut back, or cut out completely, anything with caffeine in it. The energy gained from caffeine can cause nerves and muscles to work overtime while sleeping.
• Begin using stress-management techniques. Maybe even begin some behavioral therapy, such as training yourself to hold your jaw and mouth in a single position for long periods of time.
At South Charlotte Dentistry, we have found that teeth grinding is treatable. There are countless cases of people finding ways to stop, which is why it is so important you seek help as soon as you suspect you are grinding your teeth. We can then assess and apply the appropriate method of treatment and make any needed adjustments along the way.
Keeping Your Teeth Healthy
Maintaining healthy teeth is not difficult. Advances in types of toothbrushes have made cleaning your teeth much more thorough and, dare we say, even fun! Gone is the “one size fits all” toothbrush of 20-30 years ago. Now there are multiple sizes and types of bristles, easy to grip handles, and electronic versions on the market in all price ranges.
Flossing is an important thing to do at least daily (after every meal is ideal) to remove plaque and excess food particles. Many types of floss are on the market now (vs. one type fits all 20 or so years ago). Flavored floss, flosser sticks (or picks), waxed and unwaxed string floss, dental tape, electric flossers, and natural floss are all available options.
Water picks (the most commonly known and manufactured by Waterpik) are water flossers that are handy for reaching those hard to get to teeth in the back. These come in a variety of price points and models, from tabletop to handheld.
With all dental tools, check with your dentist about the best fit for you and your teeth.
Maintaining Your Oral Health
Poor oral health has been debated as a possible cause of heart disease for years.
In 2012, experts from the American Heart Association reviewed the available scientific evidence and concluded that poor oral health hasn’t been proved to cause heart disease — and that treating existing gum disease hasn’t been proved to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Still, studies have shown:
• Gum disease (periodontitis) is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease.
• Poor dental health increases the risk of a bacterial infection in the bloodstream, which can affect the heart valves.
• Tooth loss patterns are connected to coronary artery disease.
• There is a strong connection between diabetes and cardiovascular disease and evidence that people with diabetes benefit from periodontal treatment.
Even though oral health isn’t a key to heart disease prevention, it’s important to take care of your teeth and gums. Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria, most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defense and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Certain medications, such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics, and antidepressants, can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.
Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease, might play a role in some diseases.
The team here at South Charlotte Dentistry is ready to treat your dental health needs, whatever they may be, especially if helping you stop grinding your teeth.