Sure, it’s big news when celebs tweet selfies from the dental office… if you’re still living in the 20th century. But in Hollywood today, it’s harder to say who hasn’t posted snaps of themselves in the dentist’s chair than who has. Yet the pictures recently uploaded to Twitter by Mark Salling, the actor and singer who regularly appears as Noah “Puck” Puckerman on the popular TV series Glee, made us sit up and take notice.
“Getting my chipped tooth fixed. Also, apparently, I’m a big grinder,” read the caption. The photo showed a set of upper front teeth with visible chips on the biting surface. What’s so special about this seemingly mundane tweet? It’s a great way of bringing attention to a relatively common, but often overlooked problem: teeth clenching and grinding, also called bruxism.
Although bruxism is a habit that affects scores of people, many don’t even realize they have it. That’s because the condition may only become active at night. When the teeth are unconsciously ground together, the forces they produce can wear down the enamel, cause chipping or damage to teeth or dental work (such as veneers or fillings), or even loosen a tooth! While it’s common in children under 11 years old, in adults it can be a cause for concern.
Sometimes, mouth pain, soreness and visible damage alert individuals to their grinding habits; other times, a dental professional will notice the evidence of bruxism during an exam or cleaning: tooth sensitivity and telltale wear and tear on the chewing surfaces. Either way, it’s time to act.
Bruxism is most often caused by stress, which can negatively impact the body in many ways. It may also result from bite problems, the overuse of stimulating substances (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs), and as a side effect of certain medications. Sometimes, simply becoming aware of the habit can help a person get it under control. Common methods of stress reduction include exercise, meditation, a warm bath or a quiet period before bedtime; these can be tried while we monitor the situation to see if the problem is going away.
If stress reduction alone doesn’t do the trick, several other methods can be effective. When bruxism is caused by a minor bite problem, we can sometimes do a minor “bite adjustment” in the office. This involves removing a tiny bit of enamel from an individual tooth that is out of position, bringing it in line with the others. If it’s a more serious malocclusion, orthodontic appliances or other procedures may be recommended.
When grinding is severe enough to damage teeth or dental work, we may also recommend a custom-made night guard (occlusal guard), which you put in your mouth at bedtime. Comfortable and secure, this appliance prevents your teeth from being damaged by contacting each other, and protects your jaw joints from stresses due to excessive grinding forces.
Whether or not you have to smile for a living, teeth grinding can be a big problem. If you would like more information about this condition, call our office to schedule a consultation for a consultation.
Periodontal (gum) disease is an aggressive bacterial infection caused by built-up plaque on tooth surfaces. Gum disease results in bone loss and causes loss of attachment from the teeth, leading to eventual tooth loss.
The goal of any gum disease treatment is to remove as much plaque and calculus (hardened deposits of plaque) from the gums and teeth as possible. Scaling with special hand instruments or ultrasonic equipment is the basic technique for plaque and calculus removal above and below the gum line. As the infection spreads below the gum line, it can widen the natural gap between teeth and gums to form voids known as periodontal pockets that fill with infection. Accessing and cleaning these pockets, which can occur as deep as the tooth roots, will require more invasive procedures.
Pockets that form at a depth greater than 5 mm below the gum line will most likely require surgical access through the gum tissue. But for pockets not quite that deep there’s an intermediary technique called root planing without surgical intervention. As the name suggests, the roots are physically “planed,” much like shaving a wooden board to remove minute layers of wood.
Using similar instruments as with scaling, root planing removes calculus, bacteria and other infected matter adhering to the root surfaces. It’s best to perform the procedure with local anesthesia to numb the gum tissues, which may be quite sensitive depending on the degree of infection. Working in a pain-free environment also helps us to be as thorough as possible in detecting and removing every bit of plaque and calculus we can find.
In advanced cases, it may be necessary to perform this procedure during multiple visits. As plaque and calculus are removed the inflammation in affected tissues will begin to subside, revealing more deposits of plaque and calculus. It’s also important to begin and maintain a daily habit of effective brushing and flossing to lessen the chances of a recurring infection.
Treating gum disease is an ongoing effort that requires constant monitoring and sustained efforts to remove plaque and calculus, including root planing. Saving your teeth, however, is well worth the effort.
If you would like more information on treating periodontal disease, 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 “Root Planing.”
Children are prone to cavities and other tooth related problems because they love eating sweets and candies, but they don’t always love to brush their teeth thoroughly. That’s a formula that could lead to frequent dental visits. The best way to reduce the chance of cavities in your child's teeth is to take a simple preventive measure. Dr. Garret B.K. Oka often suggests a sealant treatment for his young Kona, HI patients with dental concerns. Learn how a dental sealant can help save your child's teeth.
Children and Cavities
A young child’s teeth are still developing and more susceptible to dental decay compared to adults. Dental caries (the disease that causes cavities) also can spread quickly within families because family members share germs. Add the fact that children consume more sugar than ever before and poor at-home dental habits, and you have a high risk of cavities. Children have been known to get cavities as young toddlers and it’s estimated that four million pre-school aged kids have problems with tooth decay.
How Sealants Work
You can help reduce your child’s risk of getting cavities by requesting dental sealants the next time you visit Dr. Oka’s Kona, HI dentist office. A sealant is a plastic coating that goes on the surface of the tooth to protect it from the bacteria that causes cavities. It’s usually applied to the back molars, because there are so many grooves and cracks where cavities can form. Sealants are recommended as soon as a child gets his or her permanent teeth. One treatment can last for up to 10 years, but regular biannual checkups are necessary.
Saving Your Child’s Teeth (And Your Budget)
Untreated cavities in children can lead to dental problems that plague them well into adulthood. Getting a dental sealant can significantly reduce a child’s risk of tooth infections and expensive dental treatments like root canals. So this relatively simple treatment not only saves your child’s teeth, it can also save you a lot of money on dental bills in the future.
Bring Your Child to Dr. Oka’s Office
If you believe that your child can benefit from getting a dental sealant treatment, call Dr. Oka’s Kona, HI office at (808) 329-0889 to set up a convenient time to bring him or her in for a visit.