Posts for: January, 2013
Grinding, clenching, and gritting your teeth are common reactions to stress — but their results can be quite complex. Here are some questions and answers that will fill you in on what you may not know about this widespread problem.
My dentist said I was bruxing. What does that mean?
Bruxing means that your teeth are grinding upon each other. Many people carry out this habit subconsciously and are not even aware that they are doing it.
Is bruxing or gritting harmful?
Such habits are called “parafunctional” (from para, meaning outside, and function, meaning purpose). This is because these stress habits exert much larger biting forces — as much as ten times more — than in normal biting and chewing activities. This excess pressure can cause damage to jaw joints and muscles, resulting in muscle spasm and pain; and to the teeth, resulting in wear, fractures or looseness. They can also cause headaches, earaches, and even neck and backaches because of the pressures on various structures in the face and mouth.
What is the usual treatment for problems arising from these stress habits?
The first thing we want to do is relieve your pain and discomfort. Second, we want to stop future damage. Application of heat or cold is helpful, and mild anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant drugs are prescribed for pain and muscle spasm. To prevent future occurrences, we may treat you with biofeedback or refer you to someone who can offer psychotherapy.
What is a night guard and how can it help?
A night guard is an unobtrusive thin plastic appliance that is made to fit over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. These guards are so unobtrusive that they can even be worn during the day if your stress level is so high that you grind your teeth during the day. The guard is adjusted to leave the lower teeth free to move against the surface of the guard, but they cannot bite into the upper teeth. This prevents wear on the teeth and lets the jaw muscles relax, preventing the pain of muscle spasm.
We've all heard of morning sickness, but did you know that it's also not unusual for pregnant women to experience oral discomfort? This is what Entertainment Tonight co-host Nancy O'Dell discovered when she was expecting her daughter, Ashby. In an exclusive interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Nancy described how her gums became extra-sensitive during pregnancy, leading her dentist to diagnose her with “pregnancy gingivitis” (“gingival” – gum tissue; “itis” – inflammation).
“While my dental health has always been relatively normal, pregnancy did cause me some concern about my teeth and gums,” Nancy said. “With my dentist's advice and treatment, the few problems I had were minimized,” she said.
It's especially important to maintain good oral hygiene during pregnancy with routine brushing and flossing, and regular professional cleanings. This will reduce the accumulation of the dental bacterial plaque that leads to gum disease. Both mother and child are particularly vulnerable to these bacteria during this sensitive time. Scientific studies have established a link between preterm delivery and the presence of periodontal (gum) disease in pregnant women. Also, the elevated hormone levels of pregnancy cause the tiny blood vessels of the gum tissues to become dilated (widened) and therefore more susceptible to the effects of plaque bacteria and their toxins. Gingivitis is especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy.
Excess bacterial plaque can occasionally lead to another pregnancy-related condition in the second trimester: an overgrowth of gum tissue called a “pregnancy tumor.” In this case, “tumor” means nothing more than a swelling or growth. Pregnancy tumors, usually found between the teeth, are completely benign but they do bleed easily and are characterized by a red, raw-looking mulberry-like surface. They can be surgically removed if they do not resolve themselves after the baby is born.
If you are experiencing any pregnancy-related oral health issues, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Nancy O'Dell, please see “Nancy O'Dell.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Pregnancy and Oral Health: Everything You Always Wanted To Know But Never Knew To Ask.”