Are you a grinder? You may be, and not even know it!

Andra Mahoney, BS RDH

Are you a grinder? You may be, and not even know it!

Do you ever wake up in the morning with sore teeth and jaws?  You could be grinding your teeth.  Teeth grinding is usually done unconsciously in your sleep, but it can also occur when you are awake.  It is common to find people that clench or grind their teeth occasionally throughout their lives.  However, chronic clenching and grinding can cause long term damage and problems with your teeth and mouth in general.

Why do people grind their teeth?

Although teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety, it is more likely caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth (malocclusion/malalignment). It can also be caused by a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea.

How can you tell if you grind?

Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth.  Here are some common signs that you may be a grinder:

  • Wake up with Headache/Sore Jaw or teeth
  • Significant Other hears you grind in your sleep
  • You notice flattening of your teeth
  • Broken teeth/fillings
  • Increase in teeth sensitiviy

A dental professional, like your Dentist or Dental Hygienist, will be able to tell the last three, as well.  If they haven’t mentioned it to you already, feel free to ask if this is something that may effect you.

Why is it harmful to grind?

Most people clench or grind at night.  When you are asleep, so is the function that regulates the jaw’s power.  In the day time, your brain puts limitations on how hard you can bite or clench.  When you are asleep, so is this part of your brain.  That means you are biting way harder than you are able to while you are awake.  Those that clench or grind while they are awake, are usually doing it subconsciously.  Usually when they are extremely focused or concentrating on something else.

The biggest concern with clenching or grinding is the wear on your teeth.  Once you have worn through the enamel, the hard outer structure of your tooth, the wear will increase!  The dentin, the inner structure of your tooth, is not as strong as enamel and will wear a lot faster.  This will result in wearing your teeth down to stumps.  If the wear gets to this point, and no preventative treatment has happened, it can be a very long and expensive problem to fix.  Your Dentist can talk to you about crowns and other treatment to restore the height and function of your teeth.

Another concern would be breaking teeth or fracturing your natural teeth or restorations, such as fillings, and crowns.  We want to prevent fracturing so that the tooth does not break in a non-restorable way.

As we get older, we will wear on our jaw joint (temporomandibular joint, TMJ), that is a natural process.  However, when we are constantly and continually clenching or grinding, that will accelerate the wear.  The faster the wear, the increase of problems that can occur: jaw pain, clicking, popping, jaw deviation, or locking open/closed.

What can you do about it?

If you are having these symptoms and concerns, schedule an appointment to visit your Dentist.  They can confirm if this is the case.  If so there are options.

If you are clenching or grinding your teeth due to malalignment, the Doctor may recommend Invisalign or traditional orthodontics.  Putting the teeth in their proper spot will help the jaw align properly as well.  It will also prevent fractures or breaks since the teeth will be biting on even surface instead of placing  constant and uneven force on the teeth.

A mouthguard, also know as night guard, is a great help.  A nightguard is a thick, hard material that does not allow your jaw to clench all the way together.  This will prevent advanced wear of your TMJ.  Also, clenching or grinding will occur on the guard, instead of your teeth, thus saving your natural and restored tooth structure.

Sources:

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What’s the Deal with Wisdom Teeth?

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Becky Larson, RDH

What’s the Deal with Wisdom Teeth?

Everyone has them, but not everybody knows what to do with them.  “Wisdom teeth” or 3rd molars can cause a number of problems in the mouth.

Wisdom teeth are believed to be evolutionary and were helpful to our distant ancestors who frequently ate rougher foods.  Wisdom teeth would erupt as replacements for worn out or missing teeth.  Nowadays modern advancements, better hygiene, and softer diets allow us to keep most of our teeth so we really don’t need wisdom teeth at all! For most people, wisdom teeth erupt in the late teen years or early 20’s, usually earlier for females.  They are the most posterior (towards the back) teeth.  Most people have 4 wisdom teeth total, but sometimes they can be congenitally missing.  Other times people may have extra (supernumerary) wisdom teeth.

Even if there is sufficient space in the mouth and the wisdom teeth are in alignment with the other teeth, they can still cause problems.  Because of their location, wisdom teeth are extremely hard to brush and floss.  If they are not kept clean, they can cause periodontal pocketing, which can lead to tooth loss in other areas of the mouth.  Unfortunately, most people don’t have enough space and when wisdom teeth erupt, they can push on the surrounding teeth.  This can cause crowding and misalignment throughout the entire mouth.  Wisdom teeth can also be impacted – meaning they are enclosed in the gum tissue or jawbone.  When this happens they can partially erupt or even try to erupt horizontally.  When teeth are only partially erupted, it allows bacteria to enter the tooth.  This can lead to infection, pain, swelling, jaw soreness, cysts, and other systemic illnesses.

X-ray showing impacted wisdom teeth:

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A dentist will usually take a panoramic x-ray to view the wisdom teeth to determine when/if they need to be extracted.  If extractions are indicated, getting them out at a younger age is preferable for recovery time.  If wisdom teeth are fully erupted and not impacted in the gums or bone, they can be extracted as easily as a regular tooth.  If they are impacted, the gums and/or bone need to be cut open in order to extract.  Wisdom teeth can be extracted with local anesthetic only, though other pain/anxiety management techniques can be used.  These include nitrous oxide, conscious sedation, and/or anti-anxiety pre-medication.

Recovering time is usually about 2 weeks.  During the recover a person may experience bleeding and facial swelling.  Pain medications and antibiotics are often prescribed as well.  Possible complications of wisdom teeth extractions include dry socket and parasthesia.  Dry socket occurs when a blood clot fails to form or falls out and is extremely painful.  A person should not drink from a straw for several days after the extractions to avoid dry socket.  During wisdom teeth extractions the nerves can sometimes become damaged or bruised.  This results in prolonged numbness or parasthesia, which can last weeks or months and can sometimes be permanent.  Parasthesia is more rare and generally the numbing sensation wears off after several hours.  Dry socket and/or parasthesia don’t always occur after wisdom teeth are extracted.

So you can see that wisdom teeth can cause many headaches (literally)!  Be wise and get your wisdom teeth extracted as soon as your dentist recommends it.

Want to learn more? Visit us at

http://www.shalimarfamilydentistry.com

http://www.northstapleydentalcare.com

http://www.alamedadentalaz.com

http://www.dentistingilbert.com

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/wisdom-teeth

http://crest.com/en-us/oral-care-topics/general-oral-hygiene/never-ignore-your-wisdom-teeth-symptoms

picture from: http://www.quora.com/Do-all-humans-have-wisdom-teeth