Patient Newsletter

Understanding Bruxism & TMJ Disorder: Find Relief from Nighttime Teeth Grinding

March 10th 2015

178901519Do you often awaken in the morning to find that your jaw is sore or that your neck and shoulders feel tense? Perhaps you suffer from frequent headaches that tend to begin in the area surrounding your temples. These symptoms are common in individuals with nighttime teeth grinding and daily jaw clenching, or bruxism and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Fortunately, treatment for these orofacial issues is typically non-invasive, affordable, and easily accessible at your dentist’s office.

What Causes Jaw Clenching and Teeth Grinding?

There are a variety of reasons that people with TMD and bruxism engage in the unconscious behavior of teeth grinding and clenching. Malocclusion, or an improper bite, is a major factor, as is daily stress. While you are sleeping, you are not able to stop the overworked muscles in the jaw and face from overtaking themselves further, leading to numerous symptoms that can affect you all day.

For many, the primary complaint related to TMJ disorder is headache pain that interferes with daily functioning. The delicate joints that connect your lower jaw to your cranium can become irritated and inflamed, causing nerve pain that can even spread to your upper back. This can lead to posture problems that further exacerbate the issue. In cases of teeth grinding, the patient is typically unaware that their jaws are placing inordinate amounts of pressure on their teeth all night. Bruxism can cause tooth fractures and enamel erosion, both of which can prove to be serious problems if not treated in a timely manner.

Bruxism & TMJ Treatment

In the majority of cases, a nighttime mouthguard is used to prevent damage to the teeth caused by clenching and grinding. This custom oral appliance fits comfortably in your mouth as you sleep, helping position the jaws properly so that the muscles aren’t unnecessarily strained. Patients who have been clenching their jaws for years are surprised to find that they experience relief from their discomfort in as few as one or two nights with their new appliance.

If you believe that you or someone in your family is suffering with the ill effects of TMJ disorder or bruxism, ask your dentist about a custom oral appliance. Relief could be a phone call away!

Here’s Some Helpful Valentine’s Day Dental Tips

February 13th 2015

138066200This Valentine’s Day, you’re probably looking forward to spending some quality time with your sweetheart, as well as indulging your sweet tooth with some yummy treats. Of course, it’s important to remember to show your smile some love as well! Here are some helpful guidelines for avoiding decay and making sure your teeth truly shine when you step out on the town with your date:

  • While bad breath can be a common symptom of a great meal, it’s probably not that appealing to the person you’re sharing it with. Keep some floss in your pocket so that you can quickly get rid of food particles and pesky bacteria in the bathroom; then, pop in a mint to give your smile a fresh, appealing feel. If your bad breath persists even after the minty scent has worn off, though, that means it’s time for a checkup with your local dentist.
  • Cross your fingers for chocolate on the big day! Solid chocolate (the ones without chewy or sugary centers) don’t tend to stick to the teeth like more chewy treats too, making them better for your oral health. In fact, dark chocolate is an even better option, as it contains less sugar than milk chocolate!
  • It’s best to avoid gummy candies, hard candies, and sticky caramels, if possible. These can be a nightmare for your teeth. Instead, why not give your loved one flowers, a card, or even a romantic dinner at home?
  • If you and your main squeeze just can’t stay away from the candy, it’s best to enjoy a few while our meal or just after it in order to keep from constantly exposing your teeth to sugar and harmful bacteria. Also, be sure to drink water and practice a good, thorough hygiene routine afterwards!
  • Looking to surprise your sweetheart? Teeth whitening may be just the gift your smile needs to look its very best! Your local dentist can use this common cosmetic dentistry method to erase stubborn stains and improve the color of your teeth by several shades.

The Oral-Systemic Connection

January 5th 2015

145991961We live in an era of health consciousness, and that’s a good thing. Many people try to exercise and eat right. But being healthy is not simply a matter of what you put in your mouth, it’s also dependent on how you take care of your mouth. More and more evidence shows that there is a direct link between oral health and overall health.

The oral-systemic connection characterizes the link between diseases and conditions in the mouth and health problems throughout the body. For example, periodontal or gum disease—called gingivitis in its early stages and periodontitis later—is caused by bacteria that can have access to the bloodstream when gum tissue bleeds, a common symptom of gum disease. Thus, preventing or treating gum disease and other oral infections early can be critical to avoiding secondary health concerns. So, those bi-annual dental checkups are more than just a matter of clean teeth. They can mean the difference between life and death.

Medical Conditions that Start in the Mouth

While research continues, the following is a partial list of medical conditions and diseases that have already been found to have a connection to oral health:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Osteoporosis
  • Diabetes
  • Some forms of cancer
  • Some autoimmune disorders
  • Low birth weight in newborns

Furthermore, the importance of maintaining oral health in order to have a proper diet and nutrition cannot be understated. People who have missing teeth are often unable to eat raw fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods that require chewing. Therefore, they choose softer foods that tend to be higher in saturated fats and sugar, both of which can have detrimental effects on the body when over consumed.

The Oral-Systemic Connection and You

What can you do to keep your oral-systemic connection healthy? First of all, brush your teeth and floss twice each day. Be sure to floss well below the gum line where bacteria hide. Secondly, see your dentist at least twice each year for a checkup. With regular visits, you and your dentist will better be able to recognize changes in your oral health and fend off any conditions that could compromise your general health.

Keep Your Smile Happy and Healthy This Holiday Season

November 26th 2014

84468671The holidays are a great time for family, lots of food, and guilt-free indulgence. However, the last thing you probably want is to have to spend some quality time with your local dentist right in the middle of all this fun. That’s why it’s always important to make smart choices and be aware of potential problems that could threaten your oral health. Here are five helpful tips to keep in mind when you’re sitting down at the table with your loved ones to enjoy that big, scrumptious meal:

  • Be careful when it comes to chewy treats. Having a sweet tooth is fine in moderation, but when it comes to sticky substances, less is always more. Foods like caramel and taffy can encourage tooth decay and even yank out fillings.
  • Don’t crack nuts between your teeth. Nuts offer several valuable health benefits, but don’t treat your mouth like you would a nutcracker’s. Shelling nuts with your teeth can cause serious enamel and gum damage. You’re definitely better off removing the shells before enjoying your snack.
  • Enjoy your wine, but not too much. The high acidity levels in wine can eat away at the enamel on your teeth, which is really important to retain when it comes to fighting off decay and cavities. Avoid swishing wine around in your mouth for too long, and be sure to drink plenty of water in between glasses.
  • Don’t let stress get you down. Holiday anxiety is a very common, understandable problem, but be careful – it can lead to grinding and clenching of the teeth. Seeing your local dentist about a nightguard can help you protect your smile while you sleep and avoid unpleasant damage.
  • Feel free to feast! Yes, you heard right! When you eat, more and more saliva is produced, which can be a beneficial agent when it comes to neutralizing acids and repairing tooth enamel. Just be sure to take breaks here and there from the food so that it has time to work within your mouth.

Don’t Just Brush Your Teeth… Brush Your Teeth Correctly

October 27th 2014

brushingMost people know that good oral hygiene includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day. And for most, those two times are usually in the morning—as you’re rushing to work or getting the kids off to school—and at night, when you’re fighting to keep your eyes open before falling into bed. Regardless of whether your day is beginning, ending or somewhere in between, proper brushing is worth the time and effort for good oral health.

First off all, did you know that proper brushing requires at least two minutes? Most adults spend a fraction of that time brushing their teeth every morning and night. Try looking at the clock when you start brushing, then brush normally and check the time when you’re finished. Chances are you didn’t spend enough time to thoroughly clean your teeth. To really do a good job and ensure better oral hygiene, spend two minutes brushing.

What is the Best Technique for Brushing Teeth?

When brushing your teeth, it’s important to hold your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle against the gum line and sweep or roll the brush away from your gums. Don’t brush side to side, which can scrape your gums. And be sure to use short strokes as you brush away from your gums.

Start out cleaning the outer surface of your upper teeth and then your lower teeth. Continue by brushing the inner surface of upper and lower teeth. Then, brush the chewing surfaces of your teeth, concentrating on your molars. Finally, be sure to brush your tongue, too.

Tools for Proper Brushing

Always choose a soft brush with round-ended bristles. Stiff bristles can hurt your gums. A powered toothbrush can be a good choice, too, especially if you have difficulty brushing because of limited manual dexterity. The type of toothpaste you choose is an individual matter. There are a variety of toothpastes to address a variety of concerns from teeth whitening and cavity prevention to eliminating tartar and reducing teeth sensitivity. Talk with your local dentist about which toothpaste is best for you.

 

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Peter M. Virga, DDS Watertown NY dentist (315) 788-1070