The “Harmless” Habit That Could Make Your Teeth Fall Out. Literally.

Nov 19th, 2016
Easton Dentists Mar 1st, 2017

BiteGuard

Do you wake up some mornings with a headache of origins you can’t define? Do you experience vague muscle pain in your face? If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of bruxism. What’s bruxism? You likely know it by its more informal name – two names, actually: “clenching” and “grinding.” It’s also not something you’ll want to ignore, because bruxism wears down the surface of your teeth and sets you up for cavities and tooth fractures. Severe cases can even contribute to tooth loss. Let’s find out how to stop this menace in its tracks.

 

What Causes Bruxism?

At The Dental Center at Easton, we’ve seen many factors can combine to create a bruxism habit. Stress and anxiety are believed to be leading causes, as are a misaligned bite, missing teeth, and sleep abnormalities. Some medications can also trigger episodes, as can neurological or musculature illnesses. If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort due to bruxism, give us a call at (614) 414-0111.

 

Why Should I Be Concerned About Teeth Grinding? Isn’t It Normal?

Teeth grinding may be common, but it’s not “normal,” per se. Because the stresses of bruxism affect the entire jaw, this pressure can create cracks and chips in teeth, and over time can contribute to a shortening of lower face height due to bone loss. If that sounds scary, it should. It’s also a change you’ve seen before – in individuals who have lost all their teeth and do not wear dentures. We’re pretty sure that’s not a look you’re aiming to achieve.

 

How Do I Know I Have a Problem, and What Treatments Are Available?

In many cases, we’ll be able to see evidence of bruxism in your X-rays – and on the surface of your teeth – and will alert you to the problem long before you exhibit a single symptom, particularly if you sleep alone.  Occasionally however, you may start to clench and grind between visits and begin to notice symptoms on your own. If that’s more like your situation, and you find that you often wake with a sore jaw, a headache that goes away shortly after rising, or if a loved one tells you your teeth are making clickity-clankity noises all night, mention it the next time you’re visiting us.

As far as treatment goes, because the causes of bruxism are varied, the treatments vary as well. If we determine stress is the primary cause, we’ll likely recommend you abstain from excessive caffeine and alcohol, and attempt some form of daily relaxation. Even something as simple as a warm bath before sleeping can work wonders.

If your bite is a concern, we may suggest you visit an orthodontist for an evaluation, and if prescription medicine or neuromuscular illnesses are believed to be the cause, referral to the appropriate specialist would be part of your plan to break the habit.

In each of these cases, though, we’ll likely recommend a splint, or occlusal mouth guard to protect your teeth and bone from further damage. These protective devices are easy to wear, and contrary to what you may believe, will not impede your ability to get a good night’s sleep. In fact, they tend to enhance the quality of your sleep so you’ll wake up more refreshed.

So, the next time you’re sitting in one of our super-comfy chairs at The Dental Center at Easton, ask if some sort of guard may be right for you. Many people go years without being aware they’re clenching and grinding since it takes time for symptoms to show in your mouth. Getting a mouthguard or splint once you know you have this habit, though, will help you with headaches and muscle pain now – and tooth trouble down the road. And, we make some beautiful, comfortable mouthguards at The Dental Center at Easton!

Saving Space for Permanent Teeth with a Space Maintainer

Nov 16th, 2016
Easton Dentists Mar 1st, 2017

space_maintainer

If your little one’s teeth have begun to fall out, and their permanent replacements appear to be lagging far behind, you may wish to consider a space maintainer to minimize future orthodontic work. Believe it or not, the absence of your child’s teeth might seem cute now, but those tiny little gaps can cause deep gouges in your pocketbook as you watch them fill up with teeth that don’t belong there. Space maintainers are simple to use, kids get along fine with them, and they have become the de-facto standard for protecting the cosmetic and functional aspects of your growing child’s mouth.

 

Why Your Child Might Need a Space Maintainer

When a child’s tooth is lost early due to trauma, tooth decay, or nature’s insistence that it drop out before its permanent replacement is due, a space maintainer can be used to hold back the natural inclination of teeth to move forward. Without preventing this movement, teeth that should be in the rear of our mouths end up along the sides, and take up precious real estate destined for another tenant. The result is overcrowding, and in some cases impacted teeth. In the end, it’s always easier to save the space now, then create it later.

 

How They Work

Space maintainers are very similar in purpose and design to an adult “bridge,” but instead of placing artificial teeth over the gap, the space is kept open to accommodate its future resident. At The Dental Center, we make most space maintainers out of metal, (sometimes both metal and plastic), and custom-mold them to the shape of your child’s mouth. In most cases, the maintainer is made up of a metal band attached to a rectangular-shaped wire that butts up against the tooth across the gap. This acts to temporarily preserve the space where the baby tooth once was, so its replacement can erupt without obstruction. To some, the final product looks like an old Radio Flyer® snow sled, or a shoe horn you might use to maintain the shape of unworn shoes.

 

Does My Child Need One?

It’s important to note that dental space maintainers are not required for all childhood tooth loss, and that we’re not going to suggest you create a decade worth of space maintainers as each tooth falls out of your child’s mouth. Our bodies are quite effective at saving space for the loss of our front teeth as well as our incisors – it’s the teeth along the sides of our mouths that tend to cause the majority of complications. Of course, each mouth is different, so be sure to discuss with us the best course of action for you and your child. If your child has recently lost a tooth, or several teeth, and it’ll be awhile before they’re scheduled to see Dr. Gilmer, give us a call at (614) 414-0111 to see if you should come in a little earlier.

Using a space maintainer is an affordable and effective way to ensure your child’s teeth come in where they are supposed to, and when they’re ready. It can have a positive effect on your wallet, reduce the amount of time your child needs to wear braces, and control the cosmetic appearance of your child’s teeth and mouth.

Energy Drinks and Your Child’s Teeth. Should You Worry?

Nov 14th, 2016
Easton Dentists Mar 1st, 2017

Energy Drink

The hard clack of cleats echo about as your “little” sports hero rushes to get out of the house … soon to be late for practice. Armed with all they’ll need for a day in the sun, their equipment bag is packed and slung awkwardly over one shoulder, bursting at the seams with untold numbers of pads and dirty gear. And after making a final beeline through the kitchen to raid your refrigerator of a 64oz bottle or two of rainbow-colored sustenance, they’re off for what will no doubt be another grueling practice session. You’re proud of your kids – they’re growing up. And yet you wonder as you stare at the door that just shut behind them. Are those techni-colored drinks they’re drinking every day hurting them?

The truth, unfortunately, is yes. While they may keep your children energized and awake for the next few hours, the bad news is, they’re secretly eating away at their teeth – and fast.

Why Are Energy Drinks Such a Threat to Teeth?

The crux of the problem is the double-whammy that comes from an exceedingly high sugar content and citric acid pH that can be as low as 2.9. Now, we understand pH can be a tricky thing to understand, so to help put that number in perspective, a bit, consider this: battery acid has a pH of 0.0 (so, a lower number means a higher acid content). Stomach acid (which we can imagine as being quite acidic, at least!) has a pH that fluctuates between 1.0 and 3.0.  A lemon, in contrast, comes in at around 2.0, a grapefruit at 3.0, and tomato juice at 4.0.

The real distinction though is in knowing that with each increase in numerical value, the acid intensity increases 10-fold. So, in the example above, a lemon ends up being 10 times more acidic than a grapefruit, and 100 times more acidic than tomato juice – a sensation you can certainly taste if you bite into one!  In contrast, milk and water have a pH of 7.0, so, it’s easy to see the difference in the numbers – they’re huge.

The Science

What all this means to your child’s teeth is the real question, though, and precisely what researchers at Southern Illinois University set out to discover in 2012.  The results, which surprised even the research team, showed considerable damage to tooth enamel after only five days of steady consumption. Five days.

To determine the effect of these drinks on our teeth, the research team looked at 22 popular sports and energy drinks, and exposed artificial tooth enamel to the beverages for 15 minutes at a time, four times daily. This schedule was chosen because it mirrors the consumption habits of many users who drink these beverages every few hours – a particularly common habit among those who consume sports drinks, particularly when your kids are involved in sports.  After each 15-minute exposure, the enamel was then placed into an artificial saliva solution for two hours to mimic what would happen once consumption stopped.  After only five days on this schedule, the enamel showed a 1.5% loss with sports drinks, and a shocking 3% loss with energy drinks.

We have seen to many patients in their younger years already suffering from extensive enamel loss. One case was especially heartbreaking because the patient thought they were doing a great job simply by staying away from soda. The result: it gave that patient more perceived  freedom to consume these sport drinks at a higher rate because they were “better” than soda.

The Critics

While critics in the beverage industry suggest the time used to expose the enamel to the drinks may have been excessive, it’s widely known that snacking, as well as regular sipping of any beverage other than water, creates acidic activity in the mouth that promotes tooth decay. Of course, adults also need to be careful, and if you’re the weekend warrior type, or are pulling shifts and consuming these beverages throughout the day, the time of exposure might actually not be long enough.  The sweet spot is in the middle-ground, and that’s basically the advice we’re going to offer today.

There is no doubt that these beverages are not good for our teeth. They’re also not good for our stomach, and esophagus if one is prone to acid reflux.

The Middle Ground — It’s about being Informed

We’re not asking you to force your kids to give up their sports beverages and energy drinks. However, it is wise to know the risks, and to understand how you can help your kids combat some of their side-effects. Here are two quick tips that will help if they can’t shake the habit:

  • Have them keep water nearby so they sip on it to dilute the acid covering their teeth. This also increases saliva production to help protect tooth enamel.
  • Suggest that they don’t brush immediately after consuming such beverages.  Why? Because in the thirty minutes to an hour after consumption, tooth enamel will be slightly softer, and brushing in this window of time literally ends up spreading the acid around to other parts of the teeth. Not good.  If brushing is desired, save it for an hour or so after.

Lastly, here is the breakdown of most caustic to least caustic drinks as found by the researchers. Remember, the lower the number, the more harmful to your teeth!

Sports Drinks:

  • Filtered Ionozed Alkaline H2O – pH: 10.0
  • Water – pH: 7.o
  • Odwalla Carrot juice – pH: 6.2
  • Odwalla Vanilla Monster – pH: 5.8
  • Unflavored Pedialyte – pH: 5.4
  • Vita coco – pH: 5.2
  • Aquafina,Dasani, Smart water – pH: 4.0
  • GU2O – pH: 4.29
  • Powerade – pH: 3.89
  • Accelerade – pH: 3.86
  • Gatorade Endurance – pH:  3.22
  • Monster – pH:  2.7

Energy Drinks:

  • Red Bull – pH: 3.3
  • AMP Energy – pH: 2.7
  • Monster Energy – pH: 2.7
  • Full Throttle  – pH: 1.45
  • Rock Star – pH: 1.5

P.S. Don’t forget the mouthguard!