Teeth Grinding: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Teeth grinding or bruxism occurs when you clench your jaws. It is usually done unconsciously during sleep, but it can also occur when you are awake. 

Occasional teeth grinding does not usually cause harm to our oral health, but if left untreated it may quickly turn into a regular habit that may result in a few oral health complications. 

What are the symptoms?

Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth. However, there are some few major symptoms you can be on the lookout for and they include facial pain and morning headaches. You might also experience minor earaches and jaw pain that can lead to a temporomandibular disorder (TMD). 

Another symptom includes tooth sensitivity, fractured teeth and fillings plus gum inflammation. 

All these can lead to tooth loss and that’s why bruxism is a much complex subject than people realize. You should see your dentist as soon as you notice any of these signs. He or she will conduct an oral exam and guide you through any extensive dental treatment you might need.

What causes teeth grinding?

It is not always clear what causes bruxism but it has been linked to stress and anxiety in many patients. Bruxism can also develop from an abnormal bite. When teeth rest against each other abnormally, they tend to cause a crossbite or an overbite. This can cause a lot of discomfort in the mouth that may later lead to teeth grinding. If you snore or have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, you are also more likely to develop bruxism. Other factors that can make you more likely to grind your teeth include drinking alcohol and smoking.

What are the treatments?

There are several treatments available for teeth grinding. They include using a mouth guard, practising stress-reducing techniques and obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants. 

If a sleeping disorder is causing the grinding, treating it early is bound to eliminate the habit. Other tips that can help you include cutting back on foods that contain caffeine and avoiding alcohol. You should also resist chewing on pencils and pens and chewing gum. 

Last but not least, you can simply train yourself not to clench your jaw by positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth. Do this and you will see some drastic changes very soon.

Might Thumb-Sucking Affect A Child’s Bite?

Is your child in the habit of sucking his or her thumb? If so, there is normally nothing to be worried about. This behaviour will generally end between the ages of one and three. 

However, this habit might become an issue if it is allowed to continue for an extended period of time. 

Were you aware that prolonged thumb-sucking may lead to problems with the teeth and the overall development of the jaw? What are some potential concerns and when should parents (and dentists) actively intervene? Let us quickly examine what the industry experts have to say. 

The Issue with Chronic Thumb Sucking

The main problem is that constant thumb-sucking can cause baby teeth to improperly enter once they break through the gum line. There can even be times when the teeth begin to grow “around the thumb” due to its constant presence. 

This can result in crooked teeth at an early age, possibly requiring dental intervention as the child ages. 

The other major concern is that thumb sucking can affect the bite of a child. This is known as a “malocclusion” and it is particularly worrisome if the habit continues once the permanent teeth have begun to enter. 

The most common situation is a condition referred to as an “open bite”. This is characterised by teeth that do not properly align even when the jaw is completely closed. In other words, a small space is present between the upper and lower teeth. 

Other problems which can arise as a result include discomfort, difficulty chewing or even speech problems. So, when should parents seek the help of a dentist?

When to Intervene

Most experts recommend that intervention should take place if your child has not stopped sucking his or her thumb by the age of five. By this point, the teeth may still be able to return to their normal position (although orthodontic options might also be considered). 

A dentist will be able to determine what steps need to be taken as well as the severity of any issues with the teeth that may already be present.

Of course, thumb sucking represents a normal stage of childhood development. The main issue involves when this habit does not cease on its own. If you hope to avoid any future orthodontic problems with your child, it is a good idea to consult with a dentist to learn more.

Is it Better to Repair a Broken Tooth or to Have it Completely Replaced?

Our teeth are extremely delicate structures ad unfortunately, unintentional damage can occur from time to time. Whether resulting from an accidental fall or playing contact sports, experiencing a broken tooth is not entirely uncommon. 

Of course, treating this situation as soon as possible is critical if you hope to avoid further complications. This brings us to an important point. Is it better to repair a cracked tooth or should it be replaced? Let us answer this question by looking at three situations and what is the best course of action for each.

Minor Chips and Cracks

If a dentist determines that the damage is not too severe, a dental crown might be able to solve the problem. Crowns are intended to prevent further damage and to restore the initial appearance of the tooth. These are essentially non-invasive procedures and they can work wonders for smaller issues. 

Severe Damage

If the tooth has been severely cracked or if a large portion is missing, it could be better to opt for a complete extraction. This is normally required if a tooth happens to break below the gum line. 

During such a situation, a crown cannot be attached and root canals will often prove ineffective. There can even be times when a fracture has occurred and it is not visible to the naked eye. This is why it is important to consult with a dentist. You will also be able to discuss the options for a tooth replacement. 

Instances When a Root Canal is Needed

Assuming that a major crack has occurred or the top of the tooth is missing, it may be possible to perform a root canal. This procedure will remove the entire nerve; preventing the possibility of a subsequent infection. 

Additional restoration work such as the installation of a crown can then take place. The good news is that modern root canals are essentially the equivalent of having a cavity filled, so there is no reason to fear such an option. 

See Your Dentist Right Away

Breaking a tooth is certainly not a pleasant experience. Still, always remember that there are numerous options to consider. If you suspect that one of your teeth has been recently damaged, it is critical to schedule an appointment with a dentist as soon as possible. Taking a proactive approach is one of the best ways to be presented with the greatest number of options. 

Invisalign vs Metal Braces

Invisalign offers both teens and adults a discreet alternative to traditional metal braces for orthodontic corrective treatment. The removable clear plastic aligners used in Invisalign can straighten your teeth while being almost undetectable to those you meet. 

While these custom-made clear aligners may not be suitable for some complex issues, they can help correct most irregular bites and cracked, chipped or crowded teeth.

People who use Invisalign to straighten their teeth will tend to find it a more comfortable process than metal braces. The clear aligners used in Invisalign are plastic and are custom-made to fit the individual. They straighten the teeth using subtle pressure. 

The aligners can also be removed at any time, whereas fixed metal braces can feel quite relentless from the off. The brackets and wires on braces can also catch and irritate the gums, leading to discomfort.

This is a main advantage of Invisalign, as this makes maintaining a regular oral health routine far easier compared to having metal braces. Food particles can get stuck between metal braces and teeth and can require interdental cleaners or water flossers to ensure a thorough clean — or plaque can start to build up. 

With Invisalign, you can remove the aligners to brush and floss your teeth as normal. This makes it easier to clean and reduces the risk of bacteria and plaque building up. This is why many Invisalign users show improved gum health compared to using braces.

Also, having removable aligners means you are not denied your favourite foods. Metal braces make eating certain foods difficult, if not impossible

Invisalign generally needs wearing for 20 to 22 hours a day, which means you could also remove them for activities such as sports.

Orthodontic treatment to straighten teeth can help restore your smile and confidence in your smile tends to boost self-confidence overall. Anyone who has considered teeth straightening should consult with their dentist to see what orthodontic treatment suits their situation best — and it might just be Invisalign.

How TMJ disorder Can Cause Migraines

Migraines are severe painful headaches that often render the sufferer sensitive to sounds, light and/or smell as well as causing a throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. People who experience migraines are often incapacitated by them and can still feel unwell for a day or so after the migraine has passed. 

There are many causes of migraines, however not many people are aware that a common dental condition called temperomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, can sometimes be the cause of them. If the doctor has ruled out common medical reasons as the cause of your migraines, it might be worth speaking to your dentist about them instead. 

The TMJ is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull and is responsible for your ability to talk, eat and yawn. This joint undergoes a lot of movement and pressure so it is understandable that problems can arise with it. The TMJ can easily become inflamed, stressed or misaligned resulting in tenderness and pain in the area. Other signs of a TMJ disorder include difficulty chewing food or speaking without pain.

When a TMJ disorder arises, this affects the nearby supporting muscles, causing them to become tense. For instance, if the TMJ is misaligned causing an improper bite (upper and lower teeth not meeting when the mouth is closed), the jaw attempts to correct it, straining the surrounding muscles in the jaw and cheeks. 

This tension can spread to nearby areas of the body such as the neck, shoulders, ears or head. If the tension radiates to the head it can cause a migraine. A TMJ disorder can also result in teeth grinding, a condition which also causes headaches, particularly when waking up in the morning.

If your dentist thinks that you may have a disorder of the TMJ then this could be the cause of your migraines. Treating the underlying cause of the TMJ problem could prevent these migraines from occurring. For misaligned bites, an oral appliance can be worn to reduce pressure on the joint or orthodontic treatment such as braces can provide a permanent solution by moving teeth to correct the under or overbite. 

Pressure on the TMJ can also be minimised by avoiding chewing gum and foods that require a lot of chewing or are particularly difficult to eat. Gently massaging the jaw muscles can also help relieve the pressure surrounding the joint.

Teenage Oral Health

E-cigarettes May Pose A Threat to Teenage Oral Health

Adolescence is a time when there are already strains being placed on oral health, yet the rapid rise of e-cigarette use among teenagers could be adding to potential issues such as gum disease. The teen years can see many wearing braces to correct teeth alignment issues, helping their oral care as they go forward, with straighter teeth being easier to clean and keep healthy. 

Besides braces and the possibility of professional teeth whitening to further enhance their smile, they will also have their wisdom teeth come through. If there is not enough room for these third molars to develop then they will need specialised dental care.

Now a sharp rise in vaping sees another potential threat to oral care according to recent studies. Instead of being less harmful than regular cigarettes, the nicotine in e-cigarettes may still pose the same threat of gum disease. Also, as the vapours within the device are burned cells release inflammatory proteins. These proteins can aggravate the cells in the mouth which could lead to oral health problems. Studies also point to the flavouring chemicals within e-cigarettes compounding cell damage.

However, recent cases in the US have suggested further serious health problems may be linked to vaping. In a two-month period during 2019 there were 153 cases across 16 states of respiratory illness recorded which may be linked to e-cigarette use. Inflammation appears to be the cause of illness, resulting in fluid in the lungs. Tests showed the inflammation was not due to infection and so the possibility of it being connected to e-cigarette use is being explored. With 1 in 5 high school students in the US using e-cigarettes more research is required to evaluate the potential harm they may cause.

Researchers have stressed that these respiratory problems have not been linked to any specific device or flavoring chemical. Indeed, many of those who have been ill also admitted to recently using a marijuana containing product. Yet e-cigarettes do contain ultra-fine particles and oils which can be an irritant to the lungs, plus flavored vapor can contain diacetyl which has previously been linked to lung ailments in factory workers. 

The teenagers who have been treated for respiratory problems have generally recovered, yet the concern is what the possible long-term effects might be. At present, until further research is carried out, the possibility of a link between vaping and health, including oral health, remains.