Posts for: January, 2014
Clenching, or grinding of your teeth (also known as bruxing) are common habits. Biting forces are normally small, gentle, fleeting and very frequent throughout the day. In fact, it's the normal stimulus necessary to keep your teeth and jawbone healthy. When you clench or grind your teeth you apply forces up to ten times normal (in the 200 lb range). And it's not just the force, it's the duration and frequency with which they're applied. High forces lasting for seconds or minutes, frequently exerted, can affect some or all of the masticatory system. This includes the teeth, jaws, jaw joints and muscles, causing aching jaws, headaches, earaches, neck and even backaches; and the teeth themselves causing excessive wear, fractures, or even loose teeth.
Why does grinding occur? Habitual grinding is most frequently a reaction to stress. Sometimes abnormalities in your bite or malocclusion (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite) can trigger clenching or grinding. It is normal for children to sometimes grind their teeth when new teeth are coming in, but it may be indications of stress too. You may be grinding your teeth subconsciously in your sleep, but it may be so loud as to awaken your sleeping partner. Or our office may be the first to suspect it during a dental exam because of the apparent signs of change to muscles, joints and teeth especially abnormal tooth wear.
What can be done about teeth grinding or bruxing? If you are symptomatic, having pain, muscle, joint or tooth soreness, the first step is to get you comfortable. Generally, a mild non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (aspirin, ibuprofen) and muscle relaxants will help in addition to moist heat and mild jaw exercises. Stress management is also helpful. To prevent further damage, we may recommend a bite guard made of wear-resistant plastic that fits over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. These customized unobtrusive appliances when properly fitted and adjusted stop clenching and grinding activity, or at least the damage they can do. A bite guard can be worn day or night especially during stressful periods.
Periodontics is a branch of dentistry that specializes in the supporting structures around the teeth, including the gums and bone, as well as the ligaments that join these structures to the tooth roots. From the Latin peri (“around”) and the Greek odont (“tooth”), periodontics serves one purpose: to keep these supporting structures healthy.
This specialty is critical when it comes to periodontal disease. The term actually refers to a category of inflammatory diseases that affect the periodontal tissues. The inflammation arises from the body's response to bacterial plaque that has collected at the gum line because of poor oral hygiene. It begins as gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), but if left untreated can develop into periodontitis, which results in bone loss. If left to continue, eventual tooth loss occurs.
Proper oral hygiene and regular cleanings are your best defense against developing periodontal disease in the first place. Once the disease gains a foothold in the area below the gum line, routine brushing and flossing will not be enough. To defeat the disease will require more aggressive treatment.
This usually begins in our office with oral hygiene instruction, scaling and root planing or debridement to rid the root surfaces of plaque and calcified deposits, also referred to as tartar or calculus. This may be followed up with a surgical procedure to remove any remaining pockets that were too deep to resolve with conservative treatment.
Another option we may add to your oral hygiene routine is the use of an anti-microbial mouthrinse, usually containing a 0.12% solution of chlorhexidine. We may also prescribe the use of a topically-applied antibiotic such as tetracycline to stop the infection and promote tissue healing.
Once the disease is arrested, it's important that you continue good oral hygiene practices. Vigilance and prevention are critical to keeping these all important structures around your teeth healthy and functioning.
If you would like more information on the diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treating Difficult Areas of Periodontal Disease.”
It’s often said that thereâ??s a first time for everything: Driving a car by yourself; getting your first “real” job; even… having a root canal?
Now don’t get us wrong — we’re not wishing that anyone should go through a medical procedure, no matter how minor. Yet the fact remains: A root canal procedure is one of the most common treatments performed in many dental offices… and, especially for first-timers, it’s one of the most misunderstood.
Let’s start off with the biggest misconception of all. Have you heard that a root canal is an exceptionally painful treatment? Get ready for some news: It just isn’t so. The fact is, in the vast majority of cases, having a root canal procedure is comparable to cavity treatment in terms of discomfort. Yet it brings immediate relief to the intense pain that can result from an infection in the pulp of the tooth. To understand how this works, we need to look a little closer at a tooth’s anatomy.
The hard outer surface of the tooth doesn’t have nerves, so it can’t “feel” any sensations. But deep inside of the tooth lies a bundle of nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue called the pulp. Safely sealed off from the outside world, pulp tissue is needed for proper tooth development, but has no essential function in adults. Sometimes, however, a deep cavity or a crack in the tooth allows bacteria to infect this soft tissue. That’s when the tooth’s pulp will let you know it’s still there — by causing the sensation of pain.
Pulp tissue fills a branching network of tiny canal-like passages, which can be compared to the roots of a plant. When infection develops in the root canals, the best treatment is to remove the diseased and dying tissue, clean out and disinfect the passageways, and seal up the area against further infection. This, in essence, is a root canal procedure. It is performed under local anesthesia, so you won’t feel any pain as it’s being done. When it’s over, a crown (cap) will be needed to restore the tooth’s appearance and function.
What happens if you need a root canal but don’t get one? If you can manage to ignore it, the pain may (or may not) eventually cease: This signals that the nerves have died — but the disease still persists. Eventually, it may lead to further infection… a pus-filled abscess… even tooth loss. And that’s a truly bad outcome.
It’s normal to feel a little apprehension before any medial procedure. But don’t let faded myths about the root canal procedure keep you from getting the treatment you need. Remember, root canal treatment doesn’t cause pain — it relieves it!
If you would like more information about root canal treatment, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “A Step-By-Step Guide To Root Canal Treatment” and “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!”