Ever since childhood, when her career as a model and actress took off, Brooke Shields has enjoyed worldwide recognition — through advertisements for designer jeans, appearances on The Muppet Show, and starring roles in big-screen films. But not long ago, that familiar face was spotted in an unusual place: wearing a nasal anesthesia mask at the dentist's office. In fact, Shields posted the photo to her own Instagram account, with the caption “More dental surgery! I grind my teeth!” And judging by the number of comments the post received, she's far from alone.
In fact, researchers estimate that around one in ten adults have dental issues that stem from teeth grinding, which is also called bruxism. (Many children also grind their teeth, but it rarely causes serious problems, and is often outgrown.) About half of the people who are teeth grinders report problems like persistent headaches, jaw tenderness and sore teeth. Bruxism may also result in excessive tooth wear, and may damage dental work like crowns and bridges; in severe cases, loosened or fractured teeth have been reported.
Researchers have been studying teeth grinding for many years; their findings seem to indicate that it has no single cause. However, there are a number of factors that play a significant role in this condition. One is the anatomy of the jaw itself, and the effect of worn or misaligned teeth on the bite. Another factor relates to changes in brain activity that occur during the sleep cycle. In fact, nocturnal (nighttime) bruxism is now classified as a sleep-related movement disorder. Still other factors, such as the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, and a high level of stress or anxiety, can make an individual more likely to experience bruxism.
What can be done for people whose teeth grinding is causing problems? Since this condition may have many causes, a number of different treatments are available. Successful management of bruxism often begins by striving to eliminate the factors that may cause problems — for example, making lifestyle changes to improve your health, creating a soothing nighttime environment, and trying stress-reduction techniques; these may include anything from warm baths and soft music at bedtime, to meditation and mindfulness exercises.
Several dental treatments are also available, including a custom-made occlusal guard (night guard) that can keep your teeth from being damaged by grinding. In some cases, a bite adjustment may also be recommended: In this procedure, a small amount of enamel is removed from a tooth to change the way it contacts the opposite tooth, thereby lessening the biting force on it. More invasive techniques (such as surgery) are rarely needed.
A little tooth grinding once in a while can be a normal response to stress; in fact, becoming aware of the condition is often the first step to controlling it. But if you begin to notice issues that could stem from bruxism — or if the loud grinding sounds cause problems for your sleeping partner — it may be time to contact us or schedule an appointment. You can read more about bruxism in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Stress and Tooth Habits.”
Winter is the time for snowy landscapes, hot cocoa and flannel PJs, but for some 'tis the season for tooth trouble. What can you do to keep your teeth from becoming a pain this winter?
Tackle tooth sensitivity. Does crisp winter air on your teeth give you a jolt? A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that 1 in 8 people (over 12%) suffer from tooth sensitivity, particularly to cold. Sensitivity can result from receding gums, erosion of tooth enamel, tooth decay or other dental problems. If you experience tooth sensitivity, use toothpaste that is specially formulated for sensitive teeth and breathe through your nose to protect your teeth from extreme cold. Most importantly, schedule a dental exam to determine why your teeth are sensitive.
Stay hydrated. In winter, we spend more time with the heat on and we tend to drink less water. A dry mouth can result, which can lead to bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease. Staying well hydrated keeps your gums and teeth moist and helps you produce more saliva, which is key to good oral health and fresh breath. Saliva helps wash away food debris and bacteria, neutralize decay-causing acid and repair weakened tooth enamel. For healthy teeth and gums, be sure to drink plenty of water this winter.
Safeguard your teeth on the slopes. Are you planning to hit the slopes this winter? Be sure to wear a mouthguard to help protect against injury. Beginning skiers and snowboarders are more likely to suffer falls that could result in dental injuries, while experts may fly over bumps and jumps, causing the upper and lower teeth to knock together with force. Even backyard sledders are at risk of dental injury. Mouthguards help protect against chipped, broken, or knocked-out teeth as well as soft tissue damage. So before you enjoy wintertime sports, make sure your teeth are protected. For the best fit and comfort, ask us about a custom mouthguard.
If you have questions about these or other dental issues, please contact us or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Treatment of Tooth Sensitivity” and “Dry Mouth.”
As the old song says, “’Tis the season to be jolly.” And for many of us, the year-end holidays offer a perfect opportunity to break out of our daily routine and get together with co-workers, friends and family. Whether it’s a casual gathering at home or a night on the town, one thing is for sure: There’s likely to be plenty of food and drinks at hand to keep the good times rolling.
We’re not going to say that you should never indulge in a sugar cookie or a tumbler of eggnog. But everyone knows that too much of a good thing can be bad for your health. So here are some simple tips to help keep your oral health in good shape while you’re enjoying the holiday season.
Choose Healthier Snacks — good-tasting munchies don’t have to be bad for you. Plant-based hors d’oeuvres like hummus with raw vegetables can be just as delicious and satisfying as chips and dip—and a lot healthier, with plenty of vitamins and fiber, and little or no sugar. Cheese, yogurt and other dairy products, eaten in moderation, can actually be beneficial for your oral health: they can stimulate the flow of saliva and restore minerals to the teeth. If you choose to eat sweet snacks, limit them to around mealtimes. That way, your mouth gets a break from sugar and acid in between meals.
Drink Plenty of Water — Sure, there are plenty more exotic beverage choices. But for better health, alternate those fancy drinks with glasses of water. Sugary, acidic beverages like soda (or even juice) can feed decay-causing bacteria and weaken the tooth’s enamel, leading to cavities. Alcohol dries out the mouth, which can cause a number of oral health problems. But water promotes the body’s production of beneficial saliva, and keeps you healthy and hydrated. It also helps neutralize tooth-eroding acid and wash away sticky food residue that can cling to your teeth.
Don’t Neglect Your Oral Health Routine — Sure, between frantic holiday shopping and eagerly anticipated get-togethers, it may seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day. But it’s always important to maintain your regular oral health routine—and even more so at this time of year. Brushing twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing once a day are proven ways to prevent cavities and gum disease. Find a few minutes to take care of yourself and you can keep your smile looking good all year long.
The holidays are a time for friends, family, fun and celebration. We offer these suggestions with our best wishes for a safe and healthy season. If you would like more information about how to maintain good oral health—during the holidays or any time of year—please contact our office or schedule a consultation. Read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Nutrition and Oral Health” and “10 Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home.”
Periodontal (gum) disease causes more than simple gum swelling—this bacterial infection can harm and destroy your teeth’s supporting structures, including the bone. Its aggressiveness sometimes requires equally aggressive treatment.
Gum disease usually begins with dental plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles on tooth and gum surfaces. Without proper oral hygiene plaque builds up with large populations of bacteria that can trigger an infection.
The growth of this disease is often “silent,” meaning it may initially show no symptoms. If it does, it will normally be reddened, swollen and/or bleeding gums, and sometimes pain. A loose tooth is often a late sign the disease has severely damaged the gum ligaments and supporting bone, making tooth loss a distinct possibility.
If you’re diagnosed with gum disease, there is one primary treatment strategy—remove all detected plaque and calculus (tartar) from tooth and gum surfaces. This can take several sessions because as the gums begin responding to treatment and are less inflamed, more plaque and calculus may be discovered.
Plaque removal can involve various techniques depending on the depth of the infection within the gums. For surfaces above or just below the gum line, we often use a technique called scaling: manually removing plaque and calculus with specialized instruments called scalers. If the infection has progressed well below the gum line we may also use root planing, a technique for “shaving” plaque from root surfaces.
Once infection reaches these deeper levels it’s often difficult to access. Getting to it may require a surgical procedure known as flap surgery. We make incisions in the gums to form what looks like the flap of an envelope. By retracting this “flap” we can then access the root area of the tooth. After thoroughly cleansing the area of infection, we can do regenerative procedures to regain lost attachment. Then we suture the flap of gum tissue back into place.
Whatever its stage of development, it’s important to begin treatment of gum disease as soon as it’s detected. The earlier we can arrest its spread, the less likely we’ll need to employ these more invasive procedures. If you see any signs of gum disease as mentioned before, contact us as soon as possible for a full examination.
If you would like more information on preventing and treating gum 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.”
In real life he was a hard-charging basketball player through high school and college. In TV and the movies, he has gone head-to-head with serial killers, assorted bad guys… even mysterious paranormal forces. So would you believe that David Duchovny, who played Agent Fox Mulder in The X-Files and starred in countless other large and small-screen productions, lost his front teeth… in an elevator accident?
“I was running for the elevator at my high school when the door shut on my arm,” he explained. “The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the hospital. I had fainted, fallen on my face, and knocked out my two front teeth.” Looking at Duchovny now, you’d never know his front teeth weren’t natural. But that’s not “movie magic” — it’s the art and science of modern dentistry.
How do dentists go about replacing lost teeth with natural-looking prosthetics? Today, there are two widely used tooth replacement procedures: dental implants and bridgework. When a natural tooth can’t be saved — due to advanced decay, periodontal disease, or an accident like Duchovny’s — these methods offer good looking, fully functional replacements. So what’s the difference between the two? Essentially, it’s a matter of how the replacement teeth are supported.
With state-of-the-art dental implants, support for the replacement tooth (or teeth) comes from small titanium inserts, which are implanted directly into the bone of the jaw. In time these become fused with the bone itself, providing a solid anchorage. What’s more, they actually help prevent the bone loss that naturally occurs after tooth loss. The crowns — lifelike replacements for the visible part of the tooth — are securely attached to the implants via special connectors called abutments.
In traditional bridgework, the existing natural teeth on either side of a gap are used to support the replacement crowns that “bridge” the gap. Here’s how it works: A one-piece unit is custom-fabricated, consisting of prosthetic crowns to replace missing teeth, plus caps to cover the adjacent (abutment) teeth on each side. Those abutment teeth must be shaped so the caps can fit over them; this is done by carefully removing some of the outer tooth material. Then the whole bridge unit is securely cemented in place.
While both systems have been used successfully for decades, bridgework is now being gradually supplanted by implants. That’s because dental implants don’t have any negative impact on nearby healthy teeth, while bridgework requires that abutment teeth be shaped for crowns, and puts additional stresses on them. Dental implants also generally last far longer than bridges — the rest of your life, if given proper care. However, they are initially more expensive (though they may prove more economical in the long run), and not everyone is a candidate for the minor surgery they require.
Which method is best for you? Don’t try using paranormal powers to find out: Come in and talk to us. If you would like more information about tooth replacement, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Crowns & Bridgework,” and “Dental Implants.”
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