Posts for: August, 2017
Ever since childhood, when her career as a model and actress took off, Brooke Shields has enjoyed worldwide recognition — through advertisements for designer jeans, appearances on The Muppet Show, and starring roles in big-screen films. But not long ago, that familiar face was spotted in an unusual place: wearing a nasal anesthesia mask at the dentist's office. In fact, Shields posted the photo to her own Instagram account, with the caption “More dental surgery! I grind my teeth!” And judging by the number of comments the post received, she's far from alone.
In fact, researchers estimate that around one in ten adults have dental issues that stem from teeth grinding, which is also called bruxism. (Many children also grind their teeth, but it rarely causes serious problems, and is often outgrown.) About half of the people who are teeth grinders report problems like persistent headaches, jaw tenderness and sore teeth. Bruxism may also result in excessive tooth wear, and may damage dental work like crowns and bridges; in severe cases, loosened or fractured teeth have been reported.
Researchers have been studying teeth grinding for many years; their findings seem to indicate that it has no single cause. However, there are a number of factors that play a significant role in this condition. One is the anatomy of the jaw itself, and the effect of worn or misaligned teeth on the bite. Another factor relates to changes in brain activity that occur during the sleep cycle. In fact, nocturnal (nighttime) bruxism is now classified as a sleep-related movement disorder. Still other factors, such as the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, and a high level of stress or anxiety, can make an individual more likely to experience bruxism.
What can be done for people whose teeth grinding is causing problems? Since this condition may have many causes, a number of different treatments are available. Successful management of bruxism often begins by striving to eliminate the factors that may cause problems — for example, making lifestyle changes to improve your health, creating a soothing nighttime environment, and trying stress-reduction techniques; these may include anything from warm baths and soft music at bedtime, to meditation and mindfulness exercises.
Several dental treatments are also available, including a custom-made occlusal guard (night guard) that can keep your teeth from being damaged by grinding. In some cases, a bite adjustment may also be recommended: In this procedure, a small amount of enamel is removed from a tooth to change the way it contacts the opposite tooth, thereby lessening the biting force on it. More invasive techniques (such as surgery) are rarely needed.
A little tooth grinding once in a while can be a normal response to stress; in fact, becoming aware of the condition is often the first step to controlling it. But if you begin to notice issues that could stem from bruxism — or if the loud grinding sounds cause problems for your sleeping partner — it may be time to contact us or schedule an appointment. You can read more about bruxism in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Stress and Tooth Habits.”
What are radiographs?
Dental radiographs, or x-rays as they are commonly called, are a crucial part of dentistry. Dentists use radiographs to help diagnose oral conditions that cannot be seen by simply looking in the mouth.
Radiographs use a form of electromagnetic radiation that passes through the area being examined. Dense tissues like bone and teeth block the rays and appear white or grey on the image, while less-dense tissues such as gums appear black. This allows dentists to see the inner structure of the teeth and bone to check for abnormalities.
Who needs radiographs?
Dentists prescribe radiographs on an individual basis. Different factors will influence how often and what type of radiographs are needed. Age, oral condition, history of cavities or periodontal disease, restorative work, the presence of implants or wisdom teeth and any symptoms the client has are all taken into consideration.
Why are radiographs important?
Without radiographs, the dentist cannot make a proper oral assessment. Radiographs are used to monitor the development of teeth, diagnose cavities and dental infections, detect cysts or other abnormalities and assess the bone supporting your teeth.
Radiographs can be used to identify small issues before they turn into larger ones. A small cavity between your teeth may not cause pain and cannot be seen by looking in your mouth. Periodontal disease is usually painless and cannot be properly diagnosed without a combination of oral examination and radiographs. If these conditions are left untreated, they could progress and need more extensive and costly treatment and may even result in loss of teeth.
Weighing the risks and benefits
Dental x-rays do expose clients to a small amount of ionizing radiation. This type of radiation exposure accumulates over time, so efforts are made to reduce your exposure.
Radiation is found naturally in the environment (background radiation), and we are exposed to it every day. Background radiation involves your whole body while dental x-rays only involve a specific area. Dental radiographs only emit a small amount of radiation, which is even further reduced with newer digital technologies.
Radiographs are regulated with guidelines and exposure is kept well under the allowable safe exposure limits. Dentists follow the principle ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) when prescribing dental x-rays and any dental professional taking x-rays must have special training. Use of a protective lead apron ensures there is no radiation exposure to other areas of your body and X-ray machines are checked regularly to make sure they are working properly. Dental x-rays have even been deemed safe during pregnancy if indicated.
Dental radiographs are an important part of an oral assessment, allowing dentists to properly diagnose and treat any dental problems. With proper dental care, clients can achieve and maintain optimal oral health. These benefits outweigh the minimal risks associated with dental x-rays.
So the next time your dentist or dental professional tells you that they need to take x-rays, keep this information in mind.
You may not be nervous at all about visiting the dentist. But put yourself in a child’s place — a routine dental visit could be an anxious experience for them, and even more so if it involves dental work.
Dental professionals recognize this and go to great lengths to make children’s visits as pleasant as possible. It’s common among pediatric and family dentists to see child-friendly exam rooms and a well-trained staff experienced with interacting with children.
While this helps, some children still struggle with anxiety. Dentists have one other technique that can ease a child’s nervousness: conscious sedation. This technique involves the use of pills, inhaled gas or intravenous drips to help patients relax.
Sedation is different from general anesthesia, which uses drugs to render a patient unconscious so they won’t experience pain. A sedated patient remains in a conscious but relaxed state: they can still breathe independently and, with the most moderate form of oral sedation, be able to respond to touch or verbal instructions.
Oral sedation may also be accompanied by other methods like nitrous oxide gas that also aid with physical discomfort. Many drugs used often have an amnesiac effect — the patient won’t remember details about the procedure, which could contribute to less anxiety in the future.
Typically, a child receives an oral sedative just before the procedure. Most drugs are fast-acting and leave the child’s system quickly afterward.Â A staff member monitors their vital signs (pulse, respirations, blood pressure, etc.) during the procedure and after in recovery. They’ll remain in recovery until their vital signs return to normal levels and then be able to go home. They should stay home the rest of the day under adult supervision, but should be alert enough the next day to return to their normal activities.
Relieving anxiety is an important tool to ensure your child receives the dental care they need. It also creates a positive experience that could encourage a young patient to continue regular dental care when they reach adulthood.
If you would like more information on conscious sedation for children, 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 “Sedation Dentistry for Kids.”