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
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).
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.
Bad breath can be embarrassing. It can get in the way of our professional and social lives. If you suffer from bad breath, you are not alone.
Here are some helpful tips from WebMD:
- Brush and floss more frequently. The prime cause of bad breath is plaque. It will build up on your teeth and in between teeth, making an ideal place for bacteria to grow. Brush at least twice a day, and floss at least once a day to prevent the buildup of plaque.
- Scrape your tongue. The coating that forms on your tongue can contain foul smelling bacteria. You can brush your tongue with a toothbrush or use a tongue scraper to clean it.
- Avoid foods that sour your breath. Foods like onions and garlic are the worst offenders. They can make their way into your bloodstream and to your lungs where you breathe them out. It is best to avoid these foods before events when you want to be sure your breath is fresh.
- Kick the habit. Smoking will no doubt cause bad breath, as well as other oral health problems. You’ll notice a huge difference after you quit.
- Rinse your mouth. Using mouthwash will freshen your breath and help get rid of bacteria in your mouth. If you don’t have mouthwash handy, simply rinse with water after eating to remove food particles.
- Chew gum instead of mints. Sugary mints will only promote bacteria growth in the mouth. Gum (especially sugarless) stimulates saliva production, which is a natural defense against bacteria.
- Keep your gums healthy. Gum disease is a common cause of bad breath. Regular brushing and flossing will prevent gum disease and keep them healthy.
- Be aware of dry mouth. Lack of saliva promotes tooth decay and bad breath. If your mouth is feeling dry, drink some water or chew sugarless gum (or mints). Be sure to tell your dentist if you are experiencing persistent dry mouth.
- See your dentist. If your bad breath continues be sure to see your dentist. It could be a symptom of a medical condition such as a sinus infection, lung infection, liver or kidney disease.
If there’s one thing my patients need to do more of, it’s floss. Regular flossing removes plaque buildup between teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach, preventing gum disease.
Types of dental floss:
- Unwaxed floss—a thin nylon floss made of about 35 strands twisted together. It fits into tight spaces if your teeth are close together, but it can be prone to shredding or breaking.
- Waxed floss—a standard nylon floss with a light wax coating. It is less likely to break, but the wax coating may make it harder to use in tight spots.
- Dental tape—broader and flatter than standard floss and comes in waxed or unwaxed versions. People with more space between their teeth often find dental tape more comfortable to use than traditional floss.
Using a “flosser”
If you have trouble reaching the back of your mouth or gripping traditional floss, try a flosser. A flosser is basically a piece of floss on a handle. Like toothbrushes, flossers come in a variety of shapes and colors (even battery-powered!). Look for one with a long handle for easier holding and a compact head that makes it easier to reach behind the back teeth—a particularly tricky spot to clean. Dental flossers also come in a variety of kid-friendly colors and cartoon characters.
The best type of dental floss is the one that is most comfortable for you. The easier to use, the more likely the patient will floss on a regular basis.
Source: Oral B
Many of the things we do every day, often without a second thought are actually harming your teeth.
Chewing on ice—It may seem harmless, ice is just frozen water and water is good for you, right? Wrong. Chewing on hard, frozen cubes can chip or crack your teeth. Try chewing sugarless gum instead.
Tongue/lip piercings—Accidently biting down on a metal stud can crack a tooth. It can cause gum damage if the metal rubs against the gums. And since the mouth is a haven for bacteria, a piercing raises the risk of infections and sores.
Opening things with your teeth—Using your teeth as a tool to open bottle caps or plastic packaging can cause them to crack or chip. Keep scissors and bottle openers handy.
Drinking pop—It can have up to 11 teaspoons of sugar per serving, plus phosphoric and citric acids, which eat away at tooth enamel. Diet pop may have less sugar, but it contains more acid in the form of artificial sweeteners.
Chewing on pencils—Just like chewing on ice, this can chip or crack your teeth. When you feel the need to chew, grab a stick of sugarless gum.
Bedtime bottles—Giving your child a bottle in bed may seem comforting, but it could lead to decay. By sleeping with a bottle in their mouth, their teeth are immersed in sugars all night.
To keep your smile shining bright and healthy, be sure to have your teeth cleaned and examined twice a year.