What is Bruxism?


Bruxism is a term for grinding and clenching that abrades teeth and may cause facial pain. People who grind and clench unintentionally bite down to hard at inappropriate times, such as in their sleep. These people also tend to bite their fingernails and their cheeks. Many people are completely unaware that they have the habit.

What are the signs?

When a person has bruxism, the tips of the teeth look flat. Sometimes the teeth are worn down so much that the enamel is rubbed off and the inner layer of the tooth is exposed. Many times these teeth become sensitive. Bruxers may experience TMJ (jaw joint) pain which may lead to popping and clicking as well as headaches and neck pain. Tongue indentations are another sign of clenching. Stress and certain personality types are prime candidates for bruxism. People who are aggressive, competitive and hurried also may be at a greater risk for bruxism.

What can be done about it?

During regular visits, the dentist automatically checks for physical signs of bruxism. If the dentist or patient notices signs of bruxism, the condition may be observed over several visits to be sure of the problem before recommending and starting therapy. Research has shown that there are 3 root causes of bruxism. 1) Central Nervous System reflex   2) Bad bite (unbalanced or over closed bite) 3) Habit.   Peoples whose root cause is due to a bad bite may benefit from neuromuscular TMD treatment. This involves having a computer assited bite splint fabricated. Patients with a unbalanced or over closed bite usually report having headaches or painful jaw joints. Those patients that have CNS reflex or habits are usually best treated with a custom fabricated nightguard made by a dentist. This protects the teeth from losing further tooth structure. It is very important that the night guard fits very snug and is very rigid. This is so that the forces generated by the clenching and grinding are dispersed over the surface of the night guard. Over the counter night guards do not meet this criteria and are therefore potentially harmful.

If you think you may be a bruxer make sure you discuss it with your dentist.

What Can I Do To Help Protect My Teeth?


The best way to combat cavities is to follow these 3 steps:

  1. Cut down on sweets and between-meal snacks. Remember, it’s these sugary and starchy treats that put your teeth at extra risk for cavities.
  2. Brush after every meal and floss daily. Cavities most often begin in hard-to-clean places between teeth and in the grooves and pits, edges around a crowned tooth and gaps between the teeth. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brush inside, outside and between your teeth and on top of your tongue. Replace your toothbrush about every 2 months or sooner if the bristles become bent. Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly after brushing. Try to brush for at least 3 minutes. Only buy toothpastes and rinses that contain fluoride. Children under 6 should only use a small pea-sized dab of toothpaste on the brush and should spit out as much as possible because swallowing toothpaste can result in a stomach ache. Finally, because the bacteria that causes caries is transmittable, toothbrushes should never be shared, especially with your children.
  3. See your dentist at least every 6 months for checkups and professional cleanings. Because cavities can be difficult to detect a thorough dental examination is very important. If you get a painful toothache, if your teeth are very sensitive to hot or cold foods, or if you notice signs of decay like white spots, tooth discolorations or cavities, make an appointment right away. The longer you wait to treat infected teeth the more intensive and lengthy the treatment will be. Left neglected, cavities can lead to root canal infection, permanent deterioration of decayed tooth substance and even loss of the tooth itself.

Burning Mouth Syndrome


Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a common, but complex problem that causes people to experience a burning or scalding pain on the lips and tongue (and sometimes throughout the mouth). There are often no visible signs of irritation, and the cause of the syndrome may be caused by the onset of menopause to vitamin deficiencies. Though members of both sexes are susceptible to BMS, it occurs more frequently in older women. BMS is not a form of nor can cause cancer.

There are many symptoms associated with BMS. The main symptom is a burning sensation , ranging from moderate to severe, in your mouth, throat, lips and tongue. Other symptoms include dry mouth, bitter or metallic tastes and other taste alterations. People with BMS often say the pain is gradual and spontaneous, intensifying as the day moves along. The discomfort and restlessness associated with BMS may cause mood changes, irritability, anxiety and depression.

The exact cause of BMS is difficult to determine. In 30% of the cases it is caused by existing conditions that affect the oral and systemic health. Some conditions include the onset of menopause, diabetes, nutrient deficiencies and complications to cancer therapy.

In a majority of cases, no specific diagnosis for the symptoms can be made. BMS symptoms may occur from dry mouth, tongue thrusting, teeth grinding, irritating or ill-fitting dentures, and thrush (a common fungal infection). Some research points to nerve disorders and damage; psychological factors, particularly depression and anxiety; allergies; acid reflux; and medications that cause dry mouth. It’s not unusual for a person suffering with BMS to have more than one cause attributed to the ailment or to have health care providers fail to find any cause at all.

Your dentist will begin by reviewing your medical history and asking you to describe the symptoms. Your dentist may look for oral causes by taking an oral swab or biopsy to check for thrush. But because BMS is caused by so many conditions, your dentist may refer you to a physician or specialist for other blood, allergy, liver or thyroid tests.

Treatment for BMS depends on the patient and the cause. For dry mouth, your dentist may prescribe a medicine that promotes the flow of saliva. Thrush may be treated with oral anti-fungal medications. If dentures are the culprit, your dentist can make adjustments sot they won’t irritate the mouth, or replace them with better fitting dentures. If your dentist determines that there are no oral conditions causing BMS he or she may refer you to your family physician or specialist.