Posts for: March, 2013
Do you clench your jaw or grind your teeth? Bite your nails? Chew on pencils or toothpicks? Or, heaven forbid, unscrew hard-to-open bottle caps using your precious pearly whites?
Over time, habits such as these — referred to in dentistry as “parafunctional” (para – outside; functional – normal) or beyond the range of what nature intended — can inflict excessive wear and tear on your teeth. Besides the impact damaged teeth can have on your smile, so called “tooth to tooth” and “tooth to foreign object” behaviors can cause physical problems, such as jaw joint and muscle pain, headaches, earaches, and even neck and back pain.
Use of Excessive Force
Parafunctional behaviors exert an abnormal amount of force on your teeth — up to 10 times the amount used for biting and chewing. Tooth grinding or “bruxism” (from the Greek word brykein – “gnash the teeth”) is particularly detrimental and is commonly seen in individuals who are experiencing a stressful time in their life. Some medications can also trigger it. Since bruxism often occurs while people sleep, it's possible to be unaware of it unless a partner comments (it can be noisy!) or a dental professional points out the tell-tale signs of wear.
To counter the adverse effects of nocturnal tooth grinding our office can create a customized night or occlusal (bite) guard. Typically fashioned from a hard, clear “processed acrylic” (wear-resistant plastic), this type of guard is amazingly inconspicuous. It is made to fit over the biting surfaces of the upper teeth only and is thinner than a dime. When it is worn, the lower teeth easily glide over the upper teeth rather than chomping into and gnashing with them, which minimizes the likelihood of erosion, chipping and uneven or excessive wear of the biting surface of the teeth. The guard is so unobtrusive, that some people even wear it as they go about their daily activities.
Remember: In addition to proper dental hygiene, you can help keep your teeth healthy by using them wisely!
If you would like more information about parafunctional habits like bruxism and ways to protect your teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Stress & Tooth Habits” and “How And Why Teeth Wear.”
When it comes to childhood injuries — cuts and scrapes, growing pains, even wounded pride — it's often a parent's job to try and make things better. But sometimes it's hard to know whether the hurt indicates a serious problem, or if it's a situation that will resolve itself as soon as the sun comes up. If pain is being caused by a toothache, here are some general rules that can help you figure out what's the best thing to do.
1. Unless it's accompanied by fever and swelling, a child's toothache isn't generally an emergency.
The first thing to do is calm down (both you and the child) — and talk! Find out exactly where the pain comes from, and when and why it might have started. (Your child may have forgotten to tell you about that fall in the gym...) Sometimes, a little sleuthing will give you a clue about what's causing the pain.
2. Tooth decay, a bacteria-induced infection, is the most common cause of toothaches.
Check the teeth for brown spots or tiny holes (cavities) which might indicate decay — especially on the biting surfaces and in the areas between teeth. Next, look at the gums around the hurt tooth. If they show cuts or bruises, that's a sign of trauma. If you see only swelling, it may indicate the formation of an abscess.
3. If nothing looks obviously wrong, try gently flossing both sides of the tooth.
This may dislodge a bit of trapped food or candy, and relieve the pressure and soreness. But if that doesn't help, remember that some conditions — like nerve damage inside the tooth, for example — may have no apparent symptoms except pain.
4. Treat pain with an appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Base the dose on your child's age and weight, according to the medication's instructions. You can also apply an ice pack (one minute on, one minute off) to the outside of the jaw. But NEVER rub aspirin (or any painkiller) directly on a child's gums: It can cause burns and severe discomfort.
5. Pain that keeps a child awake at night, or persists into the next day, needs professional evaluation as soon as possible.
Otherwise, unless the pain resolves quickly and you're sure you know exactly what caused the toothache, it's best to bring your child in for an examination as soon as it's practical. You'll feel better having a dental professional, backed with years of experience and training, taking care of your child's health — and you just might prevent a future problem.
If you are pleased with your smile except for that one front tooth that appears darker, then we have good news for you. Often a tooth appears darker as a result of trauma that may have occurred years ago. Your tooth may need root canal treatment or may have already had root canal treatment in the past. Regardless, you can whiten this tooth via a process called internal bleaching. And as the name suggests, the tooth can be bleached from the inside out. Here's a brief summary of how this entire process works:
- Performing an x-ray exam: The first step is to take a radiograph (x-ray) to make sure that your root canal filling is intact adequately sealing the root canal and the surrounding bone is healthy.
- Making an access hole: To apply the bleaching agent, a small hole will need to be made in the back of your tooth to apply the bleach. However, before doing that, the area must be thoroughly cleaned and irrigated.
- Sealing above the root canal filling: This step is critical to prevent the bleach from leaking into the root canal space.
- Applying the bleach: To obtain the whitening needed, it typically requires between one and four office visits for additional bleaching.
- Applying a permanent restoration: Once your tooth has lightened to the desired color, a permanent filling will be placed over the small hole to seal your tooth's dentin. This is then covered with tooth-colored composite resin (filling material) so that the access hole is undetectable to the naked eye.
To learn more about this procedure and see amazing before and after images, continue reading the Dear Doctor article, “Whitening Traumatized Teeth.” Or, you can contact us to discuss your questions or to schedule an appointment.