Sure, it’s big news when celebs tweet selfies from the dental office… if you’re still living in the 20th century. But in Hollywood today, it’s harder to say who hasn’t posted snaps of themselves in the dentist’s chair than who has. Yet the pictures recently uploaded to Twitter by Mark Salling, the actor and singer who regularly appears as Noah “Puck” Puckerman on the popular TV series Glee, made us sit up and take notice.
“Getting my chipped tooth fixed. Also, apparently, I’m a big grinder,” read the caption. The photo showed a set of upper front teeth with visible chips on the biting surface. What’s so special about this seemingly mundane tweet? It’s a great way of bringing attention to a relatively common, but often overlooked problem: teeth clenching and grinding, also called bruxism.
Although bruxism is a habit that affects scores of people, many don’t even realize they have it. That’s because the condition may only become active at night. When the teeth are unconsciously ground together, the forces they produce can wear down the enamel, cause chipping or damage to teeth or dental work (such as veneers or fillings), or even loosen a tooth! While it’s common in children under 11 years old, in adults it can be a cause for concern.
Sometimes, mouth pain, soreness and visible damage alert individuals to their grinding habits; other times, a dental professional will notice the evidence of bruxism during an exam or cleaning: tooth sensitivity and telltale wear and tear on the chewing surfaces. Either way, it’s time to act.
Bruxism is most often caused by stress, which can negatively impact the body in many ways. It may also result from bite problems, the overuse of stimulating substances (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs), and as a side effect of certain medications. Sometimes, simply becoming aware of the habit can help a person get it under control. Common methods of stress reduction include exercise, meditation, a warm bath or a quiet period before bedtime; these can be tried while we monitor the situation to see if the problem is going away.
If stress reduction alone doesn’t do the trick, several other methods can be effective. When bruxism is caused by a minor bite problem, we can sometimes do a minor “bite adjustment” in the office. This involves removing a tiny bit of enamel from an individual tooth that is out of position, bringing it in line with the others. If it’s a more serious malocclusion, orthodontic appliances or other procedures may be recommended.
When grinding is severe enough to damage teeth or dental work, we may also recommend a custom-made night guard (occlusal guard), which you put in your mouth at bedtime. Comfortable and secure, this appliance prevents your teeth from being damaged by contacting each other, and protects your jaw joints from stresses due to excessive grinding forces.
Whether or not you have to smile for a living, teeth grinding can be a big problem. If you would like more information about this condition, call our office to schedule a consultation for a consultation.
When it comes to chronic pain, one of the most common problems you can face is Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), which was formerly known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ). TMD is a condition that can be tricky to diagnose because it frequently mimics other conditions. This is why many healthcare professionals refer to it as “the great imposter.” However, regardless of what it is called, the pain it causes is real and can become quite severe — especially if left undiagnosed and untreated.
To grasp the condition fully, you must first understand the TMD pain cycle. It can start with any traumatic, psychological, metabolic, or mechanical stimulant that causes spasm in the muscles that move the jaw joints (opening, closing, chewing, and even smiling.) This is because of the constricted blood supply to the muscles resulting in less oxygen along with the accumulation of waste products. This is followed by chemical changes in the muscles and a buildup of lactic acid due to muscle fatigue. Abnormal or involuntary muscle contractions or spasms lead to pain signals to the brain that can stop muscle movement. Depending on the severity, this cycle can repeat itself resulting in acute pain that may be extremely severe at times. The pain may then seem to disappear only to resurface again later. The good news is that our office has highly trained professionals who cannot only diagnose but also treat your TMD.
If you suffer from chronic jaw pain and feel that you might have TMD, please let us know so that we can address your concerns and conduct a thorough history and examination. Or if you are in constant or severe pain, contact us immediately to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for TMD by reading the article “TMD — Understanding The Great Imposter.”
Have you started orthodontic treatment recently? Are you having a little trouble getting used to your braces? If so, you are not alone: Everybody goes through an adjustment period during which they momentarily wonder if they’ll really ever get used to this. Don’t worry — you will! And we’ve never heard anyone say, on the day their braces come off and their new smile is revealed, that they aren’t glad they went the distance. Just ask Houston Rockets all-star center Dwight Howard, who discussed his own orthodontic treatment in a recent interview.
“I’m sure I was no different than anyone else who has ever had braces,” he told Mediaplanet. “At first I hated them so much… That changed once I got used to them and I actually grew to love them.” What’s Howard’s advice? “Do exactly what your orthodontist says and know that the outcome is well worth it in the end.” We couldn’t agree more! Here are some tips for wearing braces comfortably:
- Hard & Chewy Foods: If you love fresh fruits and vegetables, that’s great; there’s no reason to give them up, just the really hard ones. You don’t want to bite into an apple or carrot or any other hard foods like bagels and pizza that have any “size” to them. Small pieces may be ok as long as they can’t bend your wires. Chewy, sticky candy should really be avoided completely. Same with soda, sports drinks and so-called energy drinks because they contain acids that promote tooth decay and can cause a lot of damage around the braces.
- Effective Oral Hygiene: Keeping your teeth clean is more important than ever, but also more challenging than ever. It’s easy for food to get stuck under wires and around brackets, but failing to remove it can cause tooth decay, gum irritation and soreness. Therefore, the cleaner your teeth and your braces are, the healthier you will be. Use interdental cleaning brushes and/or a floss-threader to get behind your wires. A mouthrinse can also help strengthen teeth and keep bacteria in check. If you have any questions about how to clean between your teeth, please ask for a demonstration at your next visit.
- Pain Relief: Some soreness at the beginning of orthodontic treatment is normal. To relieve it, you can use an over-the-counter pain reliever and/or a warm washcloth or heating pad placed on the outside of the jaw. If brackets or wires are rubbing against the inside of your cheeks or lips, try applying wax to these areas of your braces. If this does not offer enough relief, we may be able to trim the end of a poking wire. Call us if you need help with this.
Our goal is to make your orthodontic treatment as comfortable as possible on the way to achieving your all-star smile. If you have questions about adjusting to braces, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Caring for Teeth During Orthodontic Treatment.”
In our constant battle against infectious disease, the “enemy” is often too close for comfort: hospitals and other medical facilities must be ever vigilant against opportunistic infections their patients may contract while in their care.
Dental offices are no exception. Because even the simplest procedure — a dental cleaning, for example — may result in exposure, providers and patients alike face a possible health risk. We must be especially concerned with blood-borne viral infections — spread by person to person contact through blood — the most serious being hepatitis B and C, and HIV/AIDS.
Hepatitis is a viral inflammatory disease that disrupts the critical functions of the liver, particularly as it cleanses and regulates the blood, and cause serious bodily impairment or death. The virus can be transmitted when the blood from an infected person makes its way into the bloodstream of another person, mainly through cuts or a needle injection. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can lead to the chronic condition AIDS that destroys the body’s immune system; it spreads mainly through sexual contact, as well as through person to person blood contact.
The best defense against the spread of these diseases in dental offices or other healthcare settings is to eliminate as much as possible any opportunity for blood-to-blood contact. To accomplish this, all healthcare providers, including dentists, are mandated by federal, state and local authorities to incorporate and follow routine safety precautions. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues regularly updated comprehensive guidelines for protocols and procedures to disinfect and sterilize equipment and facilities.
We dentists and our clinical staffs are also mandated by state licensing boards to refresh our knowledge of infection control procedures through continuing education. Such procedures cover every aspect of infection control, from barrier protection — by way of gloves, masks or gowns — to instrument disinfection.
Protecting patients as well as providers from the spread of infection is one of our profession’s highest standards. As a result, incidents of infection among the 170,000 practicing dentists in the United States are rare. You can be assured, then, that we’re taking every precaution to keep you and your family safe from disease when you visit our office.
If you would like more information on dental office procedures to prevent the spread of infection, 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 “Infection Control in the Dental Office.”
During Nancy O'Dell's interview with Dear Doctor magazine, the former co-anchor of Access Hollywood and new co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight could not resist her journalistic instincts to turn the tables so that she could learn more about a baby's oral health. Here are just some of the facts she learned from the publisher of Dear Doctor about childhood tooth decay, pacifier use and what the right age is for a child's first visit to the dentist.
Many moms-to-be and parents or caregivers of young children are surprised to learn that around age 1 is the ideal time to schedule a child's first visit to the dentist. This visit is crucial because it sets the stage for the child's oral health for the rest of his or her life. It can also be quite beneficial for the parents, too, as they can be reassured that there are no problems with development and that the child's teeth appear to be growing properly. And if by chance we identify any concerns, we will discuss them with you as well as any necessary treatment strategies.
Nancy also wanted to learn more about pacifiers — specifically, if it is a good idea for parents to encourage their use. Obviously, children are born with a natural instinct for sucking, so giving a child a pacifier seems totally harmless. Pacifiers definitely have some advantages; however, if used for too long — past the age of 18 months — they can cause long-term changes in the child's developing mouth (both the teeth and the jaws).
Another problem that parents and caregivers need to be aware of is baby bottle syndrome. This is a condition that develops in children who are perpetually sucking on a baby bottle filled with sugary fluids such as formula, fruit juices, cola or any liquids containing a large amount of sugar, honey or other sweeteners. It is important to note that a mother's own breast milk or cow's milk are good choices for feeding babies, as they both contain lactose, a natural sugar that is less likely to cause decay. However, if these liquids are placed in a bottle and a child is allowed to suck on it throughout the night, they, too, can promote tooth decay. The key is to feed your child properly while avoiding all-night feedings and liquids loaded with sugar.
To read the entire Dear Doctor magazine article on Nancy O'Dell as well as to learn more about a baby's oral health, continue reading “Nancy O'Dell — A life full of smiles.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination, listen to your concerns, answer your questions and discuss any necessary treatment options.
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