Friday, August 28, 2009

Pain and Tooth Fractures are Linked to Grind of Recession

Although there is no official data, dentists are noticing an increase in the number of patients seeking repair for chipped and fractured teeth. All the evidence points to tooth grinding (a.k.a. bruxism), brought on as a result of stress. And the stress levels have increased with the recent economic Recession.

The body reacts to stress, real or perceived, with what is known as the "fight or flight" reaction. Since most of us do not burn off this stress- reduction- energy with extreme physical activity, we burn it off by clenching or grinding our teeth at night.

Clenching teeth can cause cold sensitivity and sometimes nerve trauma in the teeth (requiring root canal treatment to fix.) Grinding teeth can cause wear or chipping of the biting surfaces of the teeth; cracking or fracturing of the cusps (or bumps on the biting surface of the teeth); destruction of the bone that holds teeth in the mouth; shortening of the roots of the teeth; pain and spasm of the chewing, face, and neck muscles; pain or ringing of the ears, and jaw joint pain. The damage to the jaw joint and its muscles is often referred to as "TMJ".

What can we do for tooth grinding? We can’t stay up all night to make sure we aren’t rubbing our teeth together while we sleep. We can, however, cover the biting surface of our teeth with a hard plastic guard or splint at night. This way the wear- and- tear happens to the guard instead of to our teeth and their supporting structures. The guard splints the teeth together so that clenching forces are shared and do less damage to the nerves of the teeth. The guard also decreases the muscle forces needed to slide our teeth side to side, therefor decreasing the spasm of the chewing and face muscles, and decreasing the stress on the jaw joint. Many patients try over- the- counter night guards, but although they are cheap, they are not effective. At Okun Orthodontics we make custom night guards. The cost of a custom night guard is significantly less than the cost to repair the damage done by those patients who grind their teeth without protection.

It pays to prevent the pain and avoid the tooth fractures that are caused by the "grind of Recession." As the expression goes "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

--Dr. Judith Okun

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