Category Archives: Bruxism
Approximately 40% of otherwise healthy individuals suffer from chronic headaches, and about one in eight North Americans suffers from recurring headaches that are so severe they interfere with normal life. It has been estimated that 80% of all headaches occur from muscle tension. You may be surprised to learn that many tension headaches are related to your bite. It may feel as though you’re wearing a steel hatband, or it may be a dull ache on one or both sides. Your headaches may be dental in origin if you experience:
- Sore jaw muscles when you wake up
- Teeth grinding
- Jaw joints that click or pop
- Head or scalp that’s painful to touch
If your physician has ruled out other possible causes, and you suspect the cause might be your bite, contact a dentist for an examination.
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders are problems that affect your jaw joint, and the muscles in your face that allow you to chew. It is a small ball-and-socket joint that can be felt by placing your fingers in front of your ear, and opening and closing your mouth.
According to studies, 20%-30% of people experiencing symptoms of TMJ disorders, and most agree that women are much more likely than men to develop symptoms. Causes of TMJ disorders are known to include trauma to the jaw, grinding of the teeth, tension or stress, poor tooth alignment. Also, some general medical problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and tumors can produce negative results.
Symptoms can be very painful, and can last weeks, months, even years. Most will experience one or more of the following symptoms: pain and tenderness in the joint, especially when chewing; “lock-jaw” (mouth is stuck open or closed); facial muscle spasms; clicking, popping or cracking sounds or a grating sensation in the jaw when you open or close your mouth; and headaches.
Only in sever cases is surgery necessary. With proper care and control of habits, the symptoms should go away. Other cases, such as those involving arthritis or people with long-standing or severe bruxism, may take longer.
Your dentist will examine how your jaw moves and probe the TMJ and muscles of your jaw and neck for signs of tenderness to pinpoint the problem. If you are experiencing pain in your jaw, call to make an appointment with your dentist to determine if you have a TMJ disorder.
How to Keep the Cost of Dental Care Down
1) Eat Right
Limit the number of snacks you eat daily. Each time you eat food that contains sugar or starch, your teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more. These acids, produced by bacteria that naturally exist in your mouth, weaken enamel and eventually cause a cavity. If you can’t brush immediately after eating a snack, at least rinse your mouth with water … not soda.
2) Drink Water
Avoid sugary drinks that tend to adhere to teeth and give bacteria “food” to work with. Water flushes the mouth of decay-causing bacteria and food debris. Los Angeles’s water recently became fluoridated which means that a controlled amount of fluoride is added to the city’s water supply. This is good news because it means that every time you drink from the tap, you are coating your teeth with fluoride. Fluoride is an integral part of preventing tooth decay because it becomes incorporated into your tooth structure, making your teeth stronger and less susceptible to penetration by bacterial acids.
3) Replace Your Toothbrush Every 3 Months
Studies show that a new toothbrush can remove 30% more plaque than a toothbrush that is three months old. Why? As you use your toothbrush the bristles become stiff. The harder the bristles, the less they conform to the shape of the tooth and the less effective your plaque removal. Also, stiff bristles can irritate your gums and cause them to be inflamed. I recommend getting a new soft toothbrush every three months for optimum results.
4) Floss, Please
Most adult tooth decay occurs in between teeth due to lack of flossing. Most people claim they “don’t have time” to floss after brushing so they don’t. One of my patients suggests keeping floss next to your television set so when you sit down to watch t.v., you are reminded to floss. Ideally, you should floss after brushing. But flossing any time is better than not flossing.
5) Use Mouthwash
Bacteria in our mouths produce toxins that can damage teeth and gums and cause periodontal disease. This is a chronic gum disease that usually starts as gingivitis. This disease can be costly to treat and maintain. Mouthwash has been shown to fight periodontal disease. Anti-microbial mouthwashes help because they bind to oral bacteria, rupturing the bacteria’s cell wall and killing it. Prescription mouthwashes are most effective. However, non-prescription mouthwashes, like Listerine, do kill surface bacteria and although results are not as long lasting or as effective as prescription mouthwashes, they do help the general population maintain their gingival health.
As with any product, be sure to follow the instructions on the bottle for best results. Do not dilute your mouthwash and do not rinse more than recommended by the manufacturer. Most mouthwashes are to be used twice daily. Using it more often can cause gum irritation and actually make things worse. So be sure to follow the directions for your particular product of choice.
6) Invest in an Electric Toothbrush
Studies show that electric toothbrushes remove plaque more effectively than conventional toothbrushes. People tend to brush more regularly if they have a “gadget” to use. One positive aspect of an electric toothbrush is that the brush is designed to move at a certain speed. Therefore, people aren’t using their toothbrushes like a scrub brush and brushing too fast. Plaque is very sticky, therefore, it is more effective to take more time brushing and apply less pressure to your teeth. Most patients, when properly instructed by their dentist, will get good results with their conventional toothbrush. But the truth is that most people don’t pay attention to their technique while brushing and therefore don’t have effective plaque removal.
7) Visit Your Dentist Regularly
Your dentist can help prevent problems from occurring and catch those that do occur while they are small and less costly to treat. Most people don’t realize that a cavity that is ignored when it’s small, can “grow up” to be a root canal. When it comes to your teeth, silence is not golden! Decay can silently wreak havoc in your mouth. In fact, by the time it becomes noticeable, either through a tooth ache or sensitivity, that usually means it’s pretty big…and more expensive to treat. The key to saving money in dentistry is PREVENTION!
8) Unclench Those Jaws!
One of the most damaging oral habits is bruxism (habitually clenching or grinding your upper and lower teeth). Bruxism can cause teeth to crack or break. It can tire jaw muscles and cause muscle spasms. If you are experiencing stress and find yourself waking up with headaches, a sore jaw or sore teeth, you’re probably bruxing in your sleep. A Night guard is a custom made mouth piece designed to keep you from grinding your teeth at night and help relax your jaw muscles.
Mouth guards are custom made mouth pieces worn during athletic activities such as boxing, martial arts, football, hockey and basketball. They are different than night guards in that they’re designed to protect your upper jaw bone as well.
Night guards should never be used in place of a mouth guard because they do not offer the same protection. After all, a night guard is meant to be worn while sleeping to protect teeth and train jaw muscles. A mouth guard protects teeth and jaw bones and is designed for rigorous activity. Although they serve different purposes, both can prevent costly injuries.
9) Avoid bad habits
Chewing ice or popcorn kernels tend to crack or break teeth, fillings or crowns. Nail biting irritates gums. Wedging toothpicks in between teeth tends to wear away the tooth’s root structure thereby undermining the tooth and making it more likely to break off at the gum line.
10) Chew Gum !?
Chewing gum stimulates more than three times the normal flow of saliva, which is the mouth’s natural cavity fighter. Saliva helps flush out food particles from between teeth. It helps remineralize and strengthen teeth because of its naturally rich store of calcium, phosphate and fluoride. Sugarless gum helps neutralize harmful plaque acids because it is high in pH, therefore, it creates a healthy environment for teeth. I recommend chewing sugarless gum for at least 20 minutes after meals, if you are unable to brush.
If you are motivated to keep the cost of dental care at a minimum, call the office today to begin your preventive oral health program.