Why Was I Prescribed a Night Guard?

Here you are, heading home from your most recent dental visit contemplating why your dentist prescribed an occlusal guard, also referred to as a night guard. After all, you sleep well and certainly don’t notice that you grind your teeth. The fact is, unless your bedmate tells you, you may be completely unaware of your destructive night time habit. It is estimated that 1 in 10 adults grind or clench their teeth regularly in their sleep and most of them don’t realize it until their dentist notices signs of worn down or cracked teeth. Symptoms such as jaw pain, headaches, a clicking sound in your jaw and sensitive teeth have all been attributed to night time grinding. The technical term for tooth grinding is bruxism.

Bruxism can not only impair your sleep quality and damage teeth, but in severe cases it can lead to TMJ (tempromandibular joint) disorders, and can cause gum recession and worsen periodontal disease. Grinding can not only cause damage to your teeth, but can also damage expensive dental work that you have invested in like crowns, bridges and implants.

Luckily there are ways to protect yourself from the harmful effects of night time grinding. Because bruxism can have many causes there is no single treatment to completely eliminate the condition. Stress is a likely factor, so practicing relaxation techniques can help. Smoking and drinking alcohol can also contribute, so it helps to cut back or abstain, at least late into the evening. The main treatment for bruxism is to wear a night guard during sleep. Your dentist takes impressions of your teeth and has an acrylic guard custom made for your mouth. A guard won’t prevent all grinding, but it can redistribute the forces exerted while grinding and protect your teeth and dental work. It may help you get used to keeping your jaw unclenched thus helping during the day while it isn’t being worn. Custom night guards can be costly and often times aren’t covered by insurance, but the protection they offer is invaluable. Inexpensive over the counter night guards are available at drug stores, but being bulkier and not custom fit they are likely to cause additional problems like an altered bite or mouth sores. Discuss such devices with your dentist before using one.

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Here They Are! The Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Dental Questions.

Q: I was told I have a large filling that needs to be replaced with a crown. Why can’t you just replace the filling?
A: When a tooth becomes structurally flawed from decay, a failing filling or a fracture there is often little tooth material left to work with. A crown becomes necessary because filling material can’t be sculpted to replace large amounts of tooth structure resulting in a quick failure. The tooth must be protected by a crown which encapsulates the remaining tooth to fit like a “cap” to protect and preserve the tooth.
 
Q: Can’t you just pull my tooth if its bad? Why should I pay to fix it?
A: It is always best to retain your natural teeth as long as possible. Pulling a tooth may fix the immediate problem, but it sets you up for future problems that can be far more costly. The space of the lost tooth will allow adjacent teeth to tip into the hole. This will affect how all your teeth fit and work together. In addition, missing teeth are not esthetically pleasing. In the event you do have to pull a tooth as a last resort, it is best to replace it in a timely manner. Something like a dental implant will maintain the integrity of the surrounding bone structure and will act much like your natural tooth did.
 
Q: My dentist told me that my tooth ache required a root canal, but it doesn’t hurt anymore. Did it go away?
A: When the innermost part of a tooth is injured or infected debilitating pain can result. The pain is caused by damage to the nerve inside the tooth. Over time the nerve will lose vitality causing the pain to dissipate. During this process, however, toxins are released from inside the tooth and will ultimately result in a painful infection known as an abscess. The only way to resolve the issue is by removal of the nerve during a root canal.
 
Q: I was told I have cavities but I am too busy to come back for another appointment. What will happen if I just leave them?
A: The short answer is: they grow. The longer a cavity is left untreated, the weaker the tooth will become resulting in a larger filling than would have been necessary, or a crown. If the decay grows until it reaches the nerve a root canal will be necessary. It is always best to address dental issues when they are small and manageable. Allowing treatment to remain un-done almost always results in further pain and expense.
 
Q: I was told I need a night guard. Is that really necessary?
A: Tooth wear on biting surfaces is very common, and very damaging. People commonly clench and grind their teeth resulting in significant damage to their teeth, the temporomandibular joint and facial muscles. Clenching and grinding may cause teeth to break, become sensitive or infected. Pain in front of the ear and at the side of the face are common. Clicking and grinding noises in the jaw are also noticeable. Commonly a night guard provides relief of symptoms and prevention of further damage or wear.

Q: I have noticed my insurance won’t pay the full amount for white fillings on my back teeth. Is it worth the extra money to have white fillings?
A: The benefit of filling teeth with white (resin) fillings instead of silver (amalgam) fillings is well worth the few extra dollars it will cost you. An amalgam filling requires far more healthy tooth structure be removed, while a resin filling can be done much more conservatively preserving the structural integrity of your tooth. A resin filling will actually help to strengthen your tooth as opposed to weakening it. There is always the controversy over the mercury contained in amalgam fillings to consider. There is some research that suggests the mercury can leak out and can affect your overall health.
 
 

Braces Aren’t Just For Kids!

You’re never too old to benefit from orthodontic treatment. Today, adults make up about one in every 5 orthodontic patients.  Orthodontic treatment is not just for looking good. While it can help correct crooked teeth or spaces you’ve been self-conscious about for years; leaving misaligned teeth untreated can lead to other dental problems including abnormal wearing of tooth surfaces and a misaligned bite can cause problems with your TMJ.

Most adults are candidates for orthodontic treatment. Healthy teeth can be moved at any age, and many times adults have a need for only limited orthodontics, making their total treatment time much shorter.

I recently approached Dr. Glass about correcting the alignment of my two front teeth. While they weren’t horribly crooked, they were noticeable to me, particularly in pictures and it made me self-conscious. I felt like the problem might be too minor to address at all, but after consultation with Dr. Glass, I learned that my teeth were moderately rotated and my bite was also off.  Even though my teeth could have been cosmetically straightened with veneers, the better course of treatment was limited orthodontics on my front 6 teeth, correcting my bite and turning my teeth.  I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly my teeth began to move, and symptoms of TMD (Temproal Mandibular Joint Disorder) that I had learned to ignore were disappearing. Dr. Glass adjusted my braces every couple of weeks, and I would experience some pressure and discomfort, but never anything that wasn’t easily managed with ibuprofen. After 3 short months my braces came off and I was fitted with a permanent retainer. I couldn’t be happier with the results and my new smile was well worth three months of braces! I have since learned that left untreated, my joint disorder would have only continued to get worse causing me a lifetime of problems and pain.

If you have any questions or concerns about the alignment of your teeth and would like to know if orthodontics would be an option for you, come by for a free consultation with Dr. Glass.

written by: Jodi With

The Holiday Grind

It’ s that time of year again! As we are bustling about getting ourselves prepared for the upcoming holiday season, listening to songs declaring it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and trying to juggle our normal hectic lives and the new demands that shopping, baking and parties are putting on us, some of us may be feeling less than jolly. Even if you are not quite ready to declare, “Bah-Humbug”, do you realize the effects that added stress could be having on your oral health?

Stress has been linked to ailments such as canker sores, teeth grinding, TMJ (pain in the jaw joint) from clenching, dry mouth, and gum inflammation.  Your body reacts to chronic stress by producing the stress hormone in your body called cortisol.  This cortisol weakens your immune system, and your weak immune system allows plaque’s harmful bacteria to invade your gums, making your food choices and good oral hygiene even more important.  

Everyone reacts to stress differently. Two of the most common stress-coping mechanisms that we see during the holidays are nighttime grinding or clenching as well as stress eating, or indulging on holiday candies, cookies, and sweets.  When we clench or grind our teeth, we exert immense pressure between the teeth, and ultimately tooth enamel wears off and gums recede.  As for our overindulgence on holiday treats, the high sugar content creates a breeding ground for bacteria in your mouth, and this bacteria produces the tooth decaying acid which causes cavities. Even if you avoid the obviously sugary treats like egg nog or hot chocolate, the extra glass of wine, or crackers and cheese can have the same effects. Wine is erosive, and the high carbohydrate content in wine and other party foods can be a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Beware of foods like peanut brittle, or biting hard candies, as it is easy to crack a tooth while eating them.

It’s important to remember not to neglect yourself or your oral health this holiday season.  Sometimes you can get so wrapped up in the holidays, your commitments, your family, and your friends that you lose sight of what is really important….you and your health. Stick to your normal healthy diet and exercise program as much as possible, and remember to take some time for yourself. Dr. Glass and his staff would like to wish you a very happy and healthy holiday season!