Posts for: September, 2014
You may not realize it, but the simple act of eating can generate a tremendous amount of force on teeth and jaws. Fortunately, your teeth can absorb much of this biting force — but within limits. If the force exceeds normal limits on a continual basis, you may begin to notice aching teeth or sore jaws, and we may begin to notice unusual tooth wear during your dental checkups.
The most common cause for this is a chronic habit of grinding or clenching the teeth, also known as bruxism. It can manifest itself by teeth grinding against each other, teeth pressing against soft tissue (as with thumb-sucking) or biting or chewing on hard objects such as pencils or nails. We commonly see bruxism with patients who are experiencing excessive stress, sleep-related problems or as a result of lifestyle habits such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption. You may not even be consciously aware of it as in the case of bruxism that occurs while you sleep, but your sore jaws in the morning (as well as your sleeping partner’s complaints of noise) may be evidence of it.
Treatment involves a two-part approach. First, we want to relieve the pain symptoms and stop the damage. To relieve pain we’ll often prescribe mild, anti-inflammatory or muscle-relaxant drugs, or perhaps medication to help you sleep better. We may also design a bite guard for wear on your upper teeth at night: the lower teeth will tend to glide or skate on the wear-resistant plastic and prevents them from placing excessive forces on your teeth.
The other part is to address the underlying cause for long-term results. If the habit arises from severe stress or other lifestyle issues, we may recommend biofeedback therapy or psychotherapy to improve your coping mechanisms. If an abnormality like a bad bite (malocclusion) is an underlying factor, we may recommend a minor bite adjustment by reshaping the teeth to lessen the bite impact.
The right course of action depends on a thorough dental examination to determine the exact nature of your clenching or grinding habit. From there we can discuss your options on how to relieve the soreness and pain, as well as prevent problems in the future.
If you would like more information on bruxism and its effects, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Stress & Tooth Habits.”
Martha Stewart has built a flourishing career by showcasing the things she’s designed and made — like floral arrangements, crafts, and even home renovations. Just recently, she was showing off her latest restoration project: a new dental bridge. In fact, she live-tweeted the procedure from her dentist’s office… and she even included pictures of the bridgework before it was placed on her teeth!
OK, it’s a departure from paper crafts and home-made pillows… but why not? We can’t help feeling that there’s just as much craftsmanship — even artistry — in dental bridgework as there is in many other custom-made items. If you learn a little more about what goes into making and placing bridgework, perhaps you’ll understand why we feel that way.
Bridgework is one good solution to the problem of missing teeth (another is dental implants). A fixed bridge is anchored to existing teeth on either side of the gap left by missing teeth, and it uses those healthy teeth to support one or more lifelike replacement teeth. How does it work?
Fabricated as a single unit, the bridge consists of one or more crowns (caps) on either end that will be bonded or cemented to the existing teeth, plus a number of prosthetic teeth in the middle. The solid attachment of the crowns to the healthy teeth keeps the bridge in place; they support the artificial teeth in between, and let them function properly in the bite.
Here’s where some of the artistry comes in: Every piece of bridgework is custom-made for each individual patient. It matches not only their dental anatomy, but also the shape and shade of their natural teeth. Most bridges are made in dental laboratories from models of an individual’s teeth — but some dental offices have their own mini-labs, capable of fabricating quality bridgework quickly and accurately. No matter where they are made, lifelike and perfect-fitting bridges reflect the craftsmanship of skilled lab technicians using high-tech equipment.
Once it is made, bridgework must be properly placed on your teeth. That’s another job that requires a combination of art and science — and it’s one we’re experts at. From creating accurate models of your mouth to making sure the new bridge works well with your bite, we take pride in the work we do… and it shows in your smile.
If you would like more information about dental bridges, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Fixed vs. Removable Bridges” and “Dental Implants vs. Bridgework.”