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.
We’ve all experienced eating or drinking something hot enough to scald the inside of our mouths. But what if you regularly have a burning sensation but haven’t consumed anything hot to cause it? You may have a condition called burning mouth syndrome, or BMS.
In addition to the sensation of feeling scalded or burnt, BMS can also cause dryness, tingling and numbness, as well as a change or reduction in your sense of taste. You can feel these sensations generally in the mouth or from just a few areas: the lips, tongue, inside of the cheeks, gums, throat or the roof of the mouth.
The root cause of BMS isn’t always easy to pinpoint, but it seems related to systemic conditions like diabetes, nutrition or vitamin deficiencies and acid reflux; it’s also been known to accompany the use of irradiation or chemotherapy for cancer treatment or psychological problems. It seems to occur most often in women around the age of menopause and may be linked to hormonal changes.
To determine the best treatment course, we must first eliminate the possibility that another condition besides BMS may be causing your symptoms. Some medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) cause mouth dryness, which can irritate the inner linings of the mouth or contribute to yeast infection, either of which could result in similar symptoms to BMS. Allergic reactions to dental materials in dentures or toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, whiteners or cinnamon flavor can cause irritation and skin peeling within the mouth.
If we’ve determined you have BMS, there are a number of strategies we can try to bring relief, like stopping or cutting back on habits that worsen dry mouth like smoking, alcohol or coffee consumption, or frequently eating hot or spicy foods. You should also drink water more frequently to keep your mouth moist, or use biotene or products containing the sweetener xylitol to promote saliva production. If mouth dryness is related to medication, you should speak with your physician or our office about alternatives.
In some cases, BMS resolves over time. In the mean time, though, promoting good saliva flow and reducing stress will go a long way toward diminishing this irritating condition.
If you would like more information on the causes and treatment of burning mouth syndrome, 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 “Burning Mouth Syndrome.”