If you often wake up with a sore jaw, headache, and/or you feel your teeth are sensitive to heat and cold, you may be a grinder. Also called bruxism, teeth grinding affects up to 50 percent of the population. Clenching your teeth and grinding while you sleep may seem harmless, however if not treated it can lead to fracturing, loosening or even loss of teeth.
Some effects of bruxism include:
- Pain and damage to the gums and teeth
- Sore facial muscles, headaches and earaches
- Shortened teeth, from being ground down
- Sensitive teeth, due to worn enamel
- Fractured teeth and cracked fillings from the pressure of grinding
- Damaged TMJ (the small joint connecting the lower jaw with the upper jaw)
The first thing you should do if you think you grind your teeth in your sleep is to see your dentist. Dr. Baker will examine your mouth for signs of grinding. You can be fitted for a mouth guard to wear at night, that will keep you from grinding in your sleep.
Here are some tips you can do to cut down on grinding:
- Avoid or cut back on caffeine
- Avoid alcohol, which can intensify grinding
- Do not chew on anything other than food. Avoid chewing gum, as it makes your jaw muscles used to clenching, making you more likely to grind your teeth.
- Train yourself. If you notice you are clenching or grinding during the day (like in traffic), position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This will help your jaw muscles relax.
- Try holding a warm washcloth against your cheek, in front of your earlobe to relax your jaw muscles at night.
Sources: Michigan Dental Association and WebMD
Apply sunscreen every day. The American Melanoma Foundation (AMF) recommends applying sunscreen if you are going to be outside for 20 minutes or more. Most of us reach this with our usual day-to-day activities. Make applying sunscreen part of your morning routine (ladies, apply before makeup). AMF recommends applying 30 minutes before you go outside and to reapply every two hours, after swimming or perspiring heavily.
Drink more water. We hear this every day. It seems simple, but some of us have a hard time making the switch. It is convenient to grab a bottle of pop or a sports drink when you are on the go, but you are causing more harm than good to your body and teeth. An easy way to drink more water is to substitute your mealtime drink with water. Here’s a tip: stock the fridge with water bottles of instead of pop. They’ll be easy to grab and take on the go.
Switch to sugarless gum. Recent studies show chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after eating can help prevent tooth decay. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “If you chew after eating, the increased salivary flow can help neutralize and wash away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque on your teeth.” Over time, this acid will break down your enamel, causing decay. Sugarless gum brands with the ADA seal of approval include: 5 Sugarfree Gum, Bazooka Sugarfree Bubble Gum, Eclipse Sugarfree Gum, Extra Sugarfree Gum, Icebreakers Ice Cubes Sugarfree Gum, Orbit Sugarfree Gum and Trident Sugarfree Gum,
Go outside. It’s summer and arguably the best time to be outdoors. So why do we spend time sitting in front of the TV or computer? Go outside and take a walk, ride a bike, work in the yard or play a game with the kids. Staying active will improve your overall health.
Source: American Dental Association
- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and gently brush teeth in a circular motion.
- Since your toothbrush can only clean one or two teeth at a time, change its position to properly clean each tooth.
- Gently brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces and the chewing surfaces of all your teeth.
- Use the tip of your brush to clean the inside surfaces of your front teeth using a gentle up-and-down stroke.
- Be sure not to brush your teeth too hard or use a hard bristled toothbrush, as this can cause your gums to recede and also wears down the tooth structure. These conditions can lead to tooth sensitivity.
- Last but not least, remember to brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
Do this for two minutes, two times a day, and floss once a day to keep your smile healthy.
For tips on selecting a toothpaste, read “Are you using the right toothpaste?”
Source: American Dental Association
Is your child participating in a spring sport? Make sure their smile is protected by wearing a mouthguard during both games and practices.
Types of mouthguards:
- Stock or ready-made mouthguards are the least expensive and can be purchased at most sports stores. These mouthguards are pre-formed, so often they don’t fit perfectly.
- Boil-and-bite mouthguards can be molded to fit your child’s mouth by boiling them in water and then biting into the warm plastic. They are available at most sporting goods stores.
- Custom-fitted mouthguards are designed and constructed by your dentist. This type of mouthguard can be more expensive than others, but ensures a perfect fit.
Caring for your mouthguard is simple. Just rinse it under cold water after each use and occasionally clean it with soap and cool water. Since mouthguards can tear or wear out, be sure to replace it after each sporting season.
To learn more about mouthguards and take a fun quiz, visit the American Dental Association’s Mouth Healthy website.
Source: American Dental Association
Worried about bad breath? You’re not alone. 50% of adults have had bad breath, or halitosis, at some point in their lives. Bad breath can get in the way of your social life. It can make you self-conscious and embarrassed. Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways to freshen your breath.
- Floss daily. Need another reason to floss your teeth at least once a day? Flossing daily helps improve bad breath by effectively removing the food particles and bacteria that contribute to it. That makes flossing one of the easiest ways to prevent and banish bad breath.
- Scrape your tongue. The coating that normally forms on the tongue can harbor foul-smelling bacteria. To eliminate them, gently brush your tongue with your toothbrush, or, better yet, use a tongue scraper. They’re designed to apply even pressure across the surface of the tongue area, removing bacteria, food debris, and dead cells.
- Drink more water. Drink plenty of water to help maintain the level of saliva in your mouth to help prevent bad breath in addition to following a good oral care routine. After eating, swishing your mouth with plain water also helps freshen your breath by eliminating food particles.
- Kick the habit. Bad breath is just one of many reasons not to smoke. Smoking damages gum tissue and stains teeth. It also increases your risk of oral cancer. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs that can help you give up tobacco for good.
- Skip after-dinner mints and chew gum instead. Sugary candies promote the growth of bacteria in your mouth and add to bad breath problems. Instead, chew sugarless gum, which stimulates saliva … the mouth’s natural defense against plaque acids.
Sources: American Dental Association WebMD, Oral-B
Like all forms of cancer, early detection is extremely important. Be sure to check your mouth when brushing and flossing. If you notice any changes, or any of these signs and symptoms, contact Dr. Baker immediately, especially if you’ve experienced them for two weeks or more:
- A mouth sore that does not heal or that bleeds easily.
- A white or red patch in the mouth that will not go away.
- A lump, thickening or soreness in the mouth, throat, or on the tongue.
- Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or lips.
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing food, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue.
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when your mouth is closed.
Source: American Dental Association (ADA)
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Start practicing good dental health habits when they are young. Here are a few tips to keep your child’s smile healthy:
- Avoid giving your child sweetened liquids
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day and floss once a day
- Make sure your child gets enough fluoride
- Start regular dental visits by age 3
- Ask your dentist for advice on sealants and mouth guards
- Keep your dentist informed of any changes in your child’s health
- Set a good example for your child!
Patients often tell me they have a hard time getting their young children to brush their teeth. It doesn’t have to be a battle each time. Here are some ideas to try with your kids:
- Start young. Toddlers love to imitate their parents. Give them a toothbrush and sit with your child on the bathroom floor so he/she can watch you use a toothbrush and try to copy it.
- Have your child brush the teeth of their stuffed animal or doll.
- Make it fun! Sign a song, read a story, turn it into a game.*
- Let your child practice brushing your teeth, while you brush his or hers.
- Have your child pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste at the store.
- Children learn from example. If they see that you are taking good care of your teeth they will want to do the same.
*See 7 Toothbrushing Tunes Kids (and Parents) Will Love from the American Dental Association (ADA).
Choices, choices, choices! Some toothpastes provide whitening enhancement, some guard against sensitivity and some protect against the effects of acid wear, and the list gets longer.
Toothpastes don’t merely clean teeth anymore. Different types have special ingredients. Many adults have, or are at risk of having, some form of gingivitis. It is a benefit to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride plus an antibacterial ingredient. Some toothpastes can also fight germs for 12 hours.
Here are a few tips on picking the right toothpaste:
- Look for the American Dental Association (ADA) seal to see if that toothpaste meets your specific oral health needs.
- If you have sensitive teeth, look for toothpaste without heavy abrasives. Try a desensitizing paste with either strontium chloride or potassium nitrate as an added ingredient.
- Toothpaste with “tarter control” on the label won’t remove tarter, however studies have shown it will reduce tarter formation up to 36 percent.
- Toothpaste with “baking soda” is less abrasive and will reduce sensitivity if you have gum recession or eroded teeth due to rigorous brushing with abrasive toothpaste.
- If you’ve had your teeth whitened, try a whitening toothpaste, which helps maintain the tooth shade. Look for ingredients carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide.
- Children under 3 are more likely to swallow toothpaste, so they should brush with a non fluoride toothpaste. Once they are able to spit, switch to a fluoride toothpaste.
- Most toothpastes for children come in fruit and bubble mint flavors. Fruit flavor is most popular, while bubble mint can seem “too spicy” or “hot” for some kids.
- Choose a toothpaste that tastes and feels best for you.
- Still have questions? Ask us at your next hygiene visit and we will help you make the right choice.
Here are some ideas for gifts and stocking stuffers that are not only fun, but will help protect the smile of a friend or family member:
- Sugar-free gum or mints
- Single-use toothbrushes, preloaded with toothpaste (Ex: Colgate Wisps)
- Travel size dental floss, mouth rinses, toothpastes, toothbrush and toothbrush holder (can be packaged nicely in a travel bag too!)
- New toothbrushes (cartoon characters and bright colors are popular for children)
- New toothpaste and/or mouth rinses in fun flavors
- Hourglass timer in fun colors for kids to time brushing
- Tooth fairy pillow/box
- Sports mouth guard (in team colors)
- Zoom! Whitening pens
- Electric toothbrush
- A gift certificate for professional Zoom! teeth whitening
Another idea is to offer to pay for (or a portion of) a dental procedure your loved one has been putting off.
Many people save up their dental benefits until the end of the year and never use them. Don’t let this happen to you … there’s still plenty of time to have some of those fillings and crowns replaced. Maximize your 2018 dental benefits before they’re gone! Call my office today, 586-992-9222.
A reminder of Dr. Baker’s special services:
Same day dentistry … most porcelain crowns, inlays, onlays and veneers can be completed in just one day with the E4D Cad-Cam Restoration System.
Regular hygiene appointments include thorough cleaning and flossing, full mouth and periodontal (gum) exam, oral cancer and blood pressure screening, periodic X-rays to detect decay, bone loss or tumors, as well as individual care consultations.
Ask about in-office fluoride treatments. Not just for children. Many insurances cover fluoride treatments for all patients.