Jaws: Grinding, Clenching, Popping

When was the last time you checked in with your jaw?  In these stressful times, perhaps you’ve noticed that you clench or grind your teeth more frequently, or that your jaw has begun to pop as you chew or talk.   While occasional grinding or clenching may not be harmful, regular grinding can cause damage to your teeth and impact your jaws and joints.  Sounds scary!  However, you’re not alone!  Some 30 to 40% of Americans have jaw pain or grind their teeth. Talking to Dr. Brunacini or Dr. Karagiorgos is a great first step to addressing the aches in your jaw and face.  Here are some symptoms to look out for and some tips to keep your jaw from causing you pain.

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, often happens at night while you sleep.  Even if you’re not aware of grinding and clenching your teeth, you’re probably experiencing some symptoms in the daylight hours.  Here are a few common symptoms:

  • Dull headache
  • Sore jaw, neck, or face muscles
  • Popping or cracking when moving jaw
  • Tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Chipped or flattened teeth

There are steps you can take to stop grinding your teeth and Dr. Brunacini or Dr. Karagiorgos should be part of your plan.  If you feel like you have been experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, come in for a comprehensive dental exam so we can help develop a special treatment plan for you. For example, we can prescribe and fabricate a night guard to help protect your teeth.  We can also help you address your stress, as well as find resources and support for relaxing your mind and your jaw muscles.  Some tips to consider include:

  • Exercise for whole body health and stress reduction
  • Counseling to help with stress and anxiety
  • Warm compresses to help ease jaw tension
  • Jaw exercises to help relax the muscles before bedtime

So, remember to brush your teeth, floss, and relax your jaw!  If you need help addressing your jaw pain or teeth grinding, give us a call at 207.781.5900.  We are here to help you have dental care that treats you and helps you have a healthy mouth and a healthy life!

Is Oral Sedation Right for You?

Here at FDA, we offer oral conscious sedation for patients who need help being comfortable and relaxed during dental procedures.  With oral conscious sedation, a patient takes a pill an hour before coming in for an appointment and needs a companion to escort them to and from the appointment.  When the patient arrives, they are drowsy and relaxed. Our experienced dental team can often perform several procedures while the patient relaxes. However, not everyone is eligible to receive oral sedation. Here is what Dr. Brunacini has to say about the sedation process and who can become a sedation patient:

1.  Why does FDA offer oral sedation as opposed to other relaxation options such as nitrous oxide gas or IV sedation?

Dr. Brunacini:  Oral conscious sedation can be beneficial for the patient who has significant dental anxiety.  It provides amnesia so that the patient doesn’t remember the procedure. Because the patient is more relaxed, typically their healing time is improved too.  Nitrous oxide gas does a good job of reducing anxiety, but the patient will still remember their time in the dental chair. We have had great results for our patients using oral conscious sedation!

2.  Who do you recommend oral sedation for?  

Dr. Brunacini:  Patients that have mild to moderate dental anxiety are good candidates for sedation, as well as patients that have a difficult time getting numb. Sedation dentistry can also be a good option for patients who haven’t been to a dentist for a long time and have a lot of work to be completed…typically we can provide more dental treatment in fewer visits while a patient is under sedation.  It’s a win-win!

3.  What is the process for becoming a sedation patient?

Dr. Brunacini:  First, we schedule a comprehensive dental exam in order to determine the patient’s needs.  During that appointment, we have an in-depth conversation with the patient about their dental needs and how we can complete the treatment.  If oral sedation seems like a good fit for the patient, we will schedule a separate baseline appointment to discuss the details of the sedation protocol as well collect vital signs for monitoring purposes.  After the baseline appointment, the patient is scheduled for their dental treatment accordingly.

4.  Please describe what a typical sedation appointment is like.

Dr. Brunacini: The patient will take valium the night before prior to going to sleep; the valium reduces anxiety so that they can get a restful night of sleep.  In the morning, the patient will take a pill one hour prior to the appointment. This medication is called triazolam and it will begin the sedation process for the treatment.  The patient will need a driver to take them to their appointment. Once they arrive at the office, they are connected to our vital signs monitoring system. I will then evaluate the sedation level of the patient and can give more medication to achieve the satisfactory sedation level that the patient requires to perform dental treatment. Once the dental treatment is completed, the patient is sat up and given a sugary beverage to begin waking them up from the sedation.  When the patient is awake enough, their driver will be allowed into the room to discuss the dental treatment performed and how to care for the patient afterwards. They are then escorted to their vehicle to go home.

5.  If I become a sedation patient, does that mean I will always have to be sedated for all my dental appointments?

Dr. Brunacini:  There are certainly those patients that will always require some level of sedation in order to complete their dental treatment.  It is the goal; however, to eliminate the need for sedation procedures for any patient. Sometimes it does happen where the patient feels comfortable enough to forgo future sedation procedures for dental work.  We are here to support our patients in this process and work to build relationships with our patients based on trust and a commitment to care!


If you’re interested learning more about oral sedation for your next dental visit, call us at 207-781-5900 to schedule your baseline appointment today!

Frankie Says Relax… at the Dentist!

It’s common to feel overwhelmed by going to the dentist. Here at Falmouth Dental Arts, we strive to make your appointments with us as easy and comfortable as possible. Here are some techniques we’ve found to be helpful for many patients:


If you experience fear or anxiety before or during your dental appointment, tell us!  We care about the well-being of our patients and want to help our patients feel comfortable.  Patients tell us that talking through their fears and learning the step-by-step of a procedure can help alleviate anxiety.  We are always happy to take the time to answer questions and to listen to you.

Talking to your family and friends can help, too.  People may have tips and suggestions for what helps keep them calm and relaxed for dental procedures.  


Directing your mind toward something more pleasant often helps reduce anxiety.  Many patients find it helpful to bring headphones to a dental appointment so they can listen to music, a book-on-tape, or even a guided meditation.  Find something that puts you at ease and bring it to your next appointment! If you forget your headphones or music, we’ve got you covered!

Focus on Breathing

The technique of breathing deeply and slowly can be quite effective and is central in meditation and yoga.  By focusing on your breath, you are giving your body more oxygen and helping your nervous system calm down. Practice deep breathing at home and as you come to your appointment.  Our clinical team can help remind you to keep taking deep breaths during your appointment as well. We are here to help!

For some people, overcoming their anxiety remains a hurdle to receiving dental care.  If the above relaxation techniques don’t calm your fear, we also offer oral conscious sedation. Dr. Brunacini will discuss the oral conscious sedation process further in our next article.  

As always, we are here to help you get the best dental care possible.  If you have any questions or concerns about an upcoming appointment, please give us a call at 207.781.5900.


*Image courtesy of www.certifiedmexdentist.blogspot.com