How To: Stop Grinding Your Teeth

shutterstock_198052919Everyone learns how to handle stress in their own way. If you tense your jaw muscles in response to stress or anxiety, that’s known as bruxism, a condition where a person grinds or clenches teeth unconsciously. Sleep bruxism is the most common version, but some may also clench during the day.

How do I know if I have bruxism?Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder. If you are grinding your teeth, you may experience symptoms of a dull, constant headache, sore jaw, tooth sensitivity, inflammation of the gums, flattened or chipped teeth, and/or cuts inside the mouth from biting. Bruxism can also cause damage to your teeth, restorations, crowns, or jaw which can lead to a TMJ disorder.

When should I see a dentist?

If you suspect you have been grinding your teeth, schedule a visit with us. We will be able to examine your mouth and look for signs of bruxism, like jaw tenderness or worn-down teeth.  It is time to see a doctor if:

  • You have locked jaw or are uncomfortable chewing
  • You have pain in your jaw, face or ear
  • Your teeth are damaged, worn or sensitive

It’s important to see a dentist if you are suffering from these symptoms so we may diagnose any dental disorders, ear disorders or infection, TMJ, TMD, or a medication side-effect.

How do I stop grinding my teeth?

If you are grinding your teeth, it’s important to take measures on your own to help yourself get out of the habit.

  1.  Reduce your stress. We know this easier said than done. But stress is one of the major causes of teeth grinding. Try fitting things into your life that will relax you—a great workout, some yoga, or a bike ride. Take time to see your friends and family, and set aside time just for you every single day.
  2.  Make sure you’ll feel great. Eating a well-balanced diet can also help you have more energy, resulting in less stress. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule where you go to bed at the same time every night will prevent you from feeling over-tired, therefore lowering your stress level.
  3. Eliminate caffeine. We all love our coffee and soft drinks, but the caffeine is a stimulant which will make it challenging for you to relax your mind, and in turn, the muscles of your jaw. If you need coffee, try decaf.
  4. Remove alcohol from your diet. Because alcoholic beverages are a depressant, they can hinder healthy sleep patterns. Studies show that grinding behavior actually gets worse with alcohol consumption.
  5. Be careful about what you chew on a regular basis. Chewing on pens, pencils, or ice can actually hurt your jaw event more.
  6. Train yourself. Practice relaxing your jaw during the day by either lightly tapping your front teeth or placing the tip of your tongue between your teeth. Try to stay aware during your day of if you are clenching, and as your jaw begins to tense, do these things to prevent it from getting worse.
  7. Take in more calcium and magnesium. Both of these supplements are necessary for muscle function and nervous system health. If you don’t have enough, problems with clenching, tension and other muscle problems can occur. Do this on an ongoing basis, as this will not produce an instant result.
  8. Take time to relax yourself before bed. Everyone has different ways of relaxing, so find something that works for you. For some, relaxing music, a hot shower, and reading in bed is a relaxing low-stress nightly routine. Turn off the television, computer, and any bright lights at least an hour before bed. Massage your jaw muscles before you fall asleep so they remain relaxed for the night.

We can help.

If taking these measures don’t work, we can help! Chronic teeth grinding can result in fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. Grinding of teeth consistently could lead to the need for bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, or dentures, so if you believe you have bruxism, please contact us for an evaluation today.  Depending on how severe your bruxism is, we may need to prescribe muscle relaxants which help to loosen the jaw and prevent teeth grinding.

Having crowns or onlays put onto your teeth can help reshape the surface of your teeth to repair your bite, which will help to prevent teeth grinding. We may also recommend different types of mouth guards or splints based on your needs.

  • Mouth guards can be custom-fit or purchased over the counter, and could help if the patient wears them at night.
  • Self-adjustable mouth guards are also an affordable alternative, which can easily be molded in hot water and adjusted to your bite.
  • Dental splints are harder and will fit over either your upper or lower teeth. Wearing these at night can help protect your teeth from the damage of bruxism.

In some cases bruxism can affect how your teeth look. If your teeth have been shortened or made uneven by teeth-grinding, we can restore your look with natural looking crowns or veneers. To learn more about our cosmetic dentistry options, visit http://myfortmyersdentist.com/cosmeticdentistry/ or call us at 239-936-0597.

Summertime Dental Care

Girl and boy on beach smilingAhhh… it’s summer time again! Time for us to kick back, spend some time enjoying the great outdoors. In Southwest Florida, we’re lucky that there are so many ways to enjoy our natural resources. During the summer months, most people are concerned with their skincare routine—which is extremely important—but what about dental care?

Sports
Outdoor activities can pose certain dangers to your teeth. Participating in sports like biking or kayaking means you could fall, have an accident or get hit in the mouth, which can result in a chipped or lost tooth. In some situations, it may be helpful for you to wear a mouth guard or some other protection for your teeth, ensuring you don’t injure your mouth, leaving your teeth untouched!

Grinding your teeth
It is common for people who are playing sports to clench their jaw or grind their teeth under pressure—this can deteriorate enamel and tooth structure, sometimes requiring cosmetic dental procedures such as crowns, veneers, or dentures. This can also cause TMJ, Temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Using a mouth guard can help with this issue.

Using your teeth for things other than chewing
We’ve all done it—you’re laying on the beach, trying to open your snack, and you use your teeth. Your teeth were made for chewing, not for tearing open things. It’s always better to make sure that you bring scissors with you, but if you can’t, use your jaw muscles to help open the bag, not only your teeth!

Fruit & Sweets
During the summertime, we’re used to having treats to help us cool down—ice cream, popsicles, fresh fruit and soft drinks. These types of sugary goodies can actually harm our teeth because the sugar sits on top of teeth, eventually eroding enamel and causing cavities. While it’s not practical to carry a toothbrush with you to the beach, try rinsing out your mouth with some water after eating snacks. This can get some of the sugar off your teeth, as well as keep food from getting stuck in-between them. Apples and pears may cause less decay because these fruits are less acidic.

Don’t forget your dental care essentials
Having fun keeps us busy—so busy we might forget to do our daily dental care routine! When you go on vacation, don’t forget to pack your toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, floss, and fluoride mouth wash. If you wait until you’re extremely tried to brush your teeth, change up your routine a bit! Try brushing your teeth after dinner so when you’re finally tired, you can go straight to bed.

Wear lip balm with an SPF of 15 (at least)
Lips are more sensitive to burning than other parts of your body, but some people may overlook them when applying sunscreen. Don’t forget your sunscreen, too!

While it’s important to be conscientious about your dental care routine, don’t forget to make some memories and enjoy the summer sunshine! We love seeing our patients happy and healthy, so as this summer comes to a close, be sure to schedule an examination and a cleaning. Contact us today to schedule! 239-936-0597

So you have TMJ, what now?

TMJTMJ muscles, formally known as temporomandibular joints, are the joints and jaw muscles that make it possible to open and close your mouth. The jaw muscles are located on each side of your head and work together to help you chew, speak, or swallow and include muscles and ligaments as well as your jaw bone.

TMJ muscles also control the lower jaw as it moves forward, backward and side to side.Each TMJ has a disc between the ball and socket that cushions the load when enabling the jaw to move. Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs, and bones from working properly can result in a painful TMJ disorder.

TMJ disorder can be caused by:
• Arthritis
• Injury
• Stress and teeth grinding
• Tooth and jaw alignment
• Dislocation

Symptoms of TMJ can include pain in your jaw including tenderness, headache, earache, clicking, popping, or difficulty moving the jaw. If you are experiencing symptoms of TMJ, call our office to set up an appointment at 239-936-0597 so we can evaluate you.

In the meantime, here are some tips you can try in your daily life to make your TMJ disorder a little more bearable:
• Eat softer foods that are high in flavonoids (plant-based antioxidants, known to reduce joint pain), such as cooked fruits and vegetables
• Avoid chewing gum and biting nails
• Avoid saturated fats, fried foods, and caffeine. These food can sometimes increase inflammation.
• Practice relaxation techniques like meditation or biofeedback
• Use heat packs to modify the pain

If symptoms persist, we may recommend exercises to strengthen your jaw muscles, medications such as muscle relaxants or analgesics, or a night guard to decrease clenching or grinding of teeth.

TMJ disorder treatment options are on a case by case basis, so if you suspect you suffer from TMJ and are in pain, talk to our office about the best treatment options for you. For an appointment, contact us at info@myfortmyersdentist.com or call us at 239-936-0597.