It’s summertime and the living is easy…except the reality is that many of our patients are dealing with increased stress and anxiety levels from the past year. This has had an impact on oral health as well, with patients reporting jaw clenching, teeth grinding, as well as cracked teeth. Fortunately, there are ways FDA can help. We talked with Dr. Karagiorgos about the impact of stress on the mouth and what treatment options are available for patients.
Have you noticed any changes in your patient’s oral health during Covid?
Dr. Karagiorgos: Most definitely. While maybe a few people started flossing and brushing more regularly as they saw themselves more on ZOOM conferences for work or family gatherings, the pandemic has had a negative impact on oral health for most patients. Tooth decay, plaque and gum disease did not stop during the pandemic. Small cavities turned into bigger cavities, big cavities turned into root canals. Some teeth that needed root canals turned into tooth extractions.
Also, people have been under a lot of stress. Stress and anxiety are bad for people’s health in general, and teeth and jaws are no exception. As a result of this increase in stress and anxiety, we are seeing a lot more clenching and grinding in patients. Some people are aware of it — they catch themselves clenching or grinding their teeth during the day — but many are clenching while they are sleeping and are not even aware they are doing it. I often ask patients if they sleep next to someone because that person might know more about their grinding or clenching habits than they themselves do.
Other questions I ask that may reveal a night grinding or clenching habit include:
- Do you wake up with sore teeth?
- Do you wake up with a sore jaw?
- Do you suffer from headaches?
- Do you suffer from neck muscle spasms?
What are your recommendations for patients who clench or grind their teeth?
Dr. Karagiorgos: The most important thing to reduce the ill effects of clenching and grinding is to recognize that it is happening. We can work with patients to develop a treatment plan, as well as help find resources and support for relaxation. For example, a warm compress on the jaw is helpful and there are exercises patients can do before bedtime to help relax their jaw.
However, since nighttime clenching and grinding is happening subconsciously, patients might continue the behavior despite their best attempts to curb it. I am a big believer in the benefits of a custom night guard; it’s an insurance policy to protect natural teeth, crowns and fillings, and especially dental implants. Like the old adage says… an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is definitely true in teeth! I would much rather replace worn out mouth guards than have to repair damaged teeth!
What does getting a night guard entail?
Dr. Karagiorgos: It’s a simple procedure: We take a mold of a patient’s teeth and create a mouth guard specifically suited to the structure of their mouth and teeth to be worn while sleeping. We design these night guards to direct and dissipate the forces created when clenching and grinding, something that the over-the-counter versions cannot. Custom night guards also provide a much better fit than options you can find at a store, which means it will be more comfortable and less likely to dislodge while sleeping.
That said, over-the-counter versions are a great tool to help a patient learn to sleep with a night guard. We want to know that it is something a patient can and will use before going through the process and dealing with the cost of creating a custom night guard. Night guards don’t work if they are sitting in a drawer collecting dust!
If a patient has a cracked tooth from grinding or clenching, what options do they have?
Dr. Karagiorgos: Dental bonding is the most common procedure to help smooth out or repair damaged teeth. We use a special tooth-like material that adheres quickly to teeth and can be polished and shaped to match your other teeth.
One thing to note is that a cracked tooth could be obvious or not so obvious. A piece of tooth might chip off and leave the tooth sharp to our tongue, or a cracked tooth might be completely intact but cause sensitivity to hot or cold, to biting on it, or to releasing pressure after biting. Small chips and cracks in your teeth could become larger over time, so if you have any concerns or are experiencing any of these systems, please give us a call. Dr. Brunacini and I are happy to talk to you about your concerns. We are here to help!
Thank you Dr. Karagiorgos!
If you are experiencing stress-related symptoms like a sore jaw or teeth, or have noticed a cracked tooth, please give us a call at 207.781.5900 so we can help! Our team of compassionate professionals will work with you to find a treatment plan that supports your oral health needs. Let us help you get back to that easy summertime living!
As we begin a new year, one cannot help but think about the future. What lies ahead? How will things change? How will our lives improve? When it comes to oral health care, there are a lot of interesting developments in the works and on the horizon. To gain a better understanding of what the future may hold for dentistry, we spoke with Dr. Brunacini.
1.When you think of the future of dentistry, what is most inspiring to you?
Itero Element 2 Digital Scanner
Dr. Brunacin: The digital workflow in dentistry will be a significant gamechanger. By using a digital scanner (pictured, right) instead of traditional impressions, we can achieve better fitting crowns and dentures in a much more efficient and comfortable manner. Digital scanners are a wand-like device that allow us to capture a 3D image of a patient’s mouth.
We can now begin planning oral rehabilitations digitally before performing any surgeries as well. This helps us better anticipate any challenges that may arise and creates improved predictability, which also helps us achieve one of our top priorities: a much better patient experience!
Also, replacing teeth with dental implants will continue to increase in prevalence because they combine both great esthetics and function for the patient. There are so many advances to look forward to in dentistry!
2. Have there been any takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic that you think will impact the future of oral health care?
Dr. Brunacini: During the pandemic, I’ve been struck by the power that stress has on our bodies. The increase in stress and anxiety that we all feel has correlated to a significant increase in TMJ symptoms and broken teeth. Of course, we need to treat teeth with cavities due to decay, but broken teeth due to bruxism (grinding/clenching) is new to a lot of people and really can do significant damage to the teeth and gums over time. As we’ve discussed before, it will continue to be important for patients to consider their whole body health as part of their oral health. It’s all connected…when you’re stressed, it shows in your mouth.
3. Integrative Dentistry is an important part of the oral health care philosophy at FDA. How do you see that evolving in the years to come?
Dr. Brunacini: Integrative Dentistry is a care philosophy that views the oral cavity – mouth, teeth, and gums – as another system in the human body that requires a whole body approach when thinking about care. I’m looking forward to the continued increase in collaboration between medicine and dental care. For so many years, dental care has always been separate from the medical model. Over time, I expect more connections between oral health and overall health to increase, which will create more motivation for both the patient and provider to improve oral health.
4. Technology is advancing all the time. What are some of the exciting technological advances taking place in oral health care?
Dr. Brunacini: As I’ve mentioned before, the digital workflow using digital scanners and 3-D printers will continue to improve in quality; therefore, it will soon become the preferred way to fabricate crowns and dentures. This will create a more efficient and more effective treatment for the patient, which is really sensational!
5. What’s one thing patients can do to improve the future of their oral health?
Dr. Brunacini: Proper homecare and diet continue to be the best way to improve oral health. I tell patients repeatedly that the best dentistry is no dentistry. If a patient can maintain proper oral hygiene plus a healthy diet to minimize decay risk, then a majority of dental problems can be prevented. So keep brushing, flossing, and eating healthy!
Thank you, Dr. Brunacini!
Your teeth have a lot to look forward to in the future! As Dr. Brunacini recommends, keep those teeth healthy and happy by following a proper home care regimen: brush twice-a-day, floss daily, and come in for your regular check ups! And don’t forget to eat well and find ways to reduce stress in your life, too. If you have any questions about your oral health care, or need to schedule an appointment, call us today at 207.781.5900.
*Scanner image courtesy of www.itero.com
The start of a new year is a great time to incorporate healthy new habits into your routine…hello new year’s resolutions! This year, we want to encourage you to take a holistic approach to your oral health. Yes, we still would love if you started flossing every day, but we also want you to think bigger. That means going beyond the toothbrush and thinking about how your mouth is connected to the rest of your body. From your mind to your stomach, how you treat yourself impacts the health of your teeth and mouth. Chances are, you’ve heard Dr. Brunacini and Dr. Karagiorgos talk about this oral health care philosophy before, or read about holistic oral health care on our blog. But it is a message worth repeating! We thought it would be useful to share 3 tips to help you begin practicing more holistic oral health care in 2021.
More and more, we see signs of stress are showing up in dental exams. Not only does stress increase the likelihood of clenching or grinding teeth, but it can also cause dry mouth, a neglect of oral hygiene, and decreased immune function. While we can help address the symptoms that arise with these issues, it is just as important to think about the root cause and find ways to lower your stress levels. One of the most effective ways to reduce stress is to meditate. Meditation not only helps reduce stress, but it also improves your oral health by boosting your immune system, reducing chronic inflammation, and increasing saliva production. There are loads of resources out there to help you get started and please feel free to ask our team of compassionate care providers to recommend an app or breathing technique at your next appointment. We are here to support you! So breathe in…and breathe out for a healthier mind and a healthier mouth.
2. Eat Your Greens
Perhaps eating more vegetables was already on your list of new year’s resolutions, which is great! Eating a healthy diet is not only good for your body, it’s good for your mouth too. In particular, leafy greens like kale and spinach pack a real punch! These superfoods are full of calcium which support teeth enamel, and folic acid which may help treat periodontal disease. We love to recipe share, and there are plenty of tasty options like blueberry-spinach smoothies and kale pesto that will make incorporating more greens into your diet a cinch!
3. Turn to Tea
Fancy a cup of tea? Go for the green! Dating back some 4,000 years as a popular and medicinal beverage enjoyed in China and Japan, recent studies have shown that green tea protects against cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. The tasty beverage is full of antioxidants and compounds called polyphenols, which help reduce bacteria and promote the health of gums. Studies have also shown a decreased risk of oral cancer in green-tea drinkers, another important reason to incorporate a cup into your day. It’s important to remember that sweeteners can still erode your teeth, so for the best health benefits skip the sugar and honey.
While these tips are a great way to more holistically support your oral health, they are no replacement for the tried-and-true routine of brushing twice-a-day, flossing daily, and coming to see us for regular check ups. If you have questions about how you can incorporate more holistic health habits into your oral health care routine, please let us know! We are your partner in your oral health care and want to support you. Call our office at 207.781.5900.
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!
The holiday season is upon us and along with it is holiday stress. Stress is one of the main causes of bruxism or teeth grinding, which often happens while you sleep. While occasional grinding or clenching may not be harmful, regular grinding can damage not only your teeth, but also affect your jaw muscles and joints. We examine the common symptoms of teeth grinding as well as look at ways to stop teeth grinding.
Beyond stress and anxiety, teeth grinding can also be caused by sleep disorders, an abnormal bite, and alcohol or tobacco use. In fact, a study from the November 2016 edition of the Journal of the American Dental Association found that smokers and people who abuse alcohol and drugs were almost twice as likely to grind their teeth. Since teeth grinding often happens while you sleep, it is helpful to know the symptoms so complications don’t arise.
Common Symptoms of Bruxism
- Dull headache
- Sore jaw, neck, and face muscles
- Tooth pain or sensitivity
- Chipped or flattened teeth
In some cases, prolonged teeth grinding can lead to tooth loss or fractured teeth. Cracked teeth can impact your appearance and even change your bite which could alter your facial profile.
There are steps you can take to stop grinding your teeth, and your dentist should be part of your plan. A dentist can prescribe and fabricate a night-guard to help protect your teeth. If you feel you have been experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, come in for a comprehensive dental exam so we can help develop a treatment plan that is specialized for you.
If stress is the cause, then finding a way to relax your mind and your jaw muscles is important. Relaxation techniques and meditation are powerful ways to not just unclench your jaw, but also to improve your overall health. Counseling and exercise are also effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety as well as improve your well-being.
This holiday season, remember to take a deep breath and allow yourself some time to relax. If you need help addressing and treating your bruxism, give us a call at 207.781.5900. We are your dental care partner and we want you to have a healthy mouth and a healthy life!
*Image courtesy of www.metro.co.uk