Bruxism - Causes and Treatments

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Bruxism is the term dentists use to describe the act of grinding your teeth. The exact cause of bruxism is unknown but it is believed to be linked to abnormal alignment of the jaw, a bad bite, stress, anxiety and possibly obstructive sleep apnea.

Symptoms of bruxism include:

  • Teeth that are sensitive to hot and cold
  • Tense or sore facial and jaw muscles
  • Wearing down of the crowns of the teeth
  • Gum inflammation
  • Frequent headaches
  • Jaw pain, neck pain, or shoulder pain
  • Grinding sounds while sleeping
  • Popping or cracking of the jaw

Your dentist will ask questions about your symptoms and perform a complete examination of your teeth and jaw. Patients who grind their teeth typically show damage to the teeth including enamel wear, cracks or broken teeth.

Treatment options for bruxism will depend upon the needs of the individual patient. If the bruxism is due to a poor bite or tooth alignment then orthodontics will provide relief when the proper bite is achieved.

Most cases of bruxism are treated with a combination of an oral device that is designed to protect the teeth and jaw joint, along with behavioral and lifestyle changes.

Patients who are experiencing symptoms of bruxism should try the following self-help suggestions:

  • Avoid opening the mouth too wide – stifle yawns
  • Don’t chew gum
  • Stick to a soft food diet for a few days – nothing chewy or hard
  • Over-the-counter medications such as Motrin or other NSAIDS may help reduce inflammation
  • Call your dentist and schedule an appointment

Ignoring bruxism will not make the problem go away. Long term bruxism can lead to severe tooth damage, tooth loss and damage to the jaw joint itself (TMJ or temporomandibular joint dysfunction). Early intervention can help avoid further damage and a great deal of pain and discomfort.

Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777 to schedule your bruxism consultation. Together we can ensure that your healthy smile will last a lifetime.



Feeling Anxious?

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

Do you feel anxious in social situations? Anxiety disorders such as social anxiety affect one out of every six people in the US. A new study from Tel Aviv University found that anxiety experienced in social settings elevates the risk of teeth grinding.

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, causes tooth wear and breakage and can lead to jaw pain and painful TMJ problems. The research found that interaction with other people was likely to trigger teeth grinding in patients who are social anxious.

“This is not a dental problem but one with clear dental consequences,” said lead researcher Dr. Ephraim Winocur. “If we are aware, then we can bring it into consciousness. Psychiatrists can identify patients predisposed to bruxism and can try to help prevent it, and dental experts will immediately know what to treat.” Although antidepressant drugs have previously been linked to bruxism, this study found no association.

Many people grind their teeth, even if they don’t suffer from social anxiety. Most grind at night when they don’t realize they are doing it and wonder why they wake in the morning with headaches and jaw pain. Many patients who have suffered from “migraine headache” for years actually have been causing their headaches by grinding their teeth. Long term grinding not only damages teeth but can cause painful damage to the jaw joint.

Bruxism can be treated and the headaches, jaw pain and broken teeth can be put behind you. Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777 to schedule your consultation.

Headache Pain? Visit Your Dentist

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Do you experience headaches on a regular basis? Many people who have frequent, painful headaches spend years visiting doctors trying to find the reason for their pain. The true cause of your headache pain might not be in your head — it could be in your jaw.

The temporomandibular joint (jaw joint) is one of the most complex joints in the body. Not only does it move up and down, but from side to side and front to back. If you think about the workout that our jaw joints get on a daily basis from eating, talking, yawning, etc. it is amazing we don’t have more problems with this joint.

When the jaw joint is damaged or inflamed the pain can be experienced in several ways. Headaches are common symptoms. Some patients experience jaw pain, neck pain, ear pain or stuffiness as well as clicking sounds in the joint. Damage to the joint may come from an accident, from an improper bite or from grinding the teeth. Fortunately, most TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction) symptoms can be resolved by a dentist with training in dealing with these problems.

Teeth grinding can cause TMJ pain and it can also lead to wearing down of the teeth or breaking teeth. Fortunately, a custom bite splint can protect your jaw and teeth from further damage and can relieve the pain that accompanies this condition.

IF jaw problems are caused by a poor bite then old dental restorations may need to be replaced or adjusted to place the bite in proper position. Once the optimal bite has been achieved the muscles surrounding the jaw joint will be able to relax and painful symptoms will ease.

Find out more about TMJ symptoms and treatments by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777.


5 Bad Habits That Wreck Your Teeth

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Our teeth are designed to last a lifetime – if you take care of them. You probably have habits that are wrecking your teeth that you never thought much about. Here are 5 bad habits that you need to change to preserve your smile.

  1. Chewing ice. Some people like to chew the little round cubes, some people like the crushed stuff… but chewing any type of ice is terrible for your teeth. Ice is a very hard substance and the hard, cold, crystalline structure can cause teeth to chip or fracture in mid-chew.
  2. Using teeth instead of tools. Almost everyone has used their teeth to rip open that stubborn bag of chips. Some people use their teeth to open stuck bottle tops and worse! Your teeth are not a good substitute for a pair of pliers or a bottle opener. Save your teeth for eating and smiling!
  3. Drinking sports drinks. So you thought swapping soda for sports drinks was a smart trade — sports drinks contain the same damaging ingredients as soda. High amounts of sugar and acids combine to soften and damage tooth enamel leading to decay. Stick with water or (unsweetened) iced tea to maintain a healthy smile.
  4. Constant snacking. When you eat a full meal your saliva glands kick into gear and wash away food debris. When you snack, your mouth creates much less saliva which allows food to remain stuck on teeth for an extended period of time. This serves as a feast for oral bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay. Stick with healthy snacks like carrot sticks or chew some sugar free gum after snacking to clean teeth.
  5. Grinding. Grinding your teeth is usually not something you are conscious of doing. Many people grind in their sleep and don’t realize it until teeth start breaking or wearing down. Grinding your teeth can lead to tooth breakage and painful problems with the jaw joint (TMJ). If you think you might grind your teeth talk to your dentist about a protective device that can be worn during sleep to protect your teeth and jaw.

Keeping a healthy, beautiful smile for life is possible – if you take care of your teeth. If it has been a while since you have visited the dentist please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA at 706-391-8777 to schedule your visit.


What is Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder?

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is a small joint, located in front of where the skull and the lower jaw connect. This joint enables one to move talk, yawn, and chew food comfortably.

Although many do not realize it, the TMJ is among the most commonly used joints in the entire body!

TMJ can manifest itself in several ways, and is often linked to other conditions. Internal Derangement of the Joint often results in TMJ disorders. This condition occurs when the jaw is dislocated or injured, or the TMJ disc is moved out of place.  Degenerative Joint disease is also linked to TMJ disorders. Degenerative Joint Disease is usually linked to health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis. Finally, Myofascial Pain Disorder, which is when pain or discomfort occurs in the jaw joint or the neck and shoulders, can result in TMJ disorders.

Symptoms associated with TMJ include difficulty chewing food, swelling on one or both sides of the face, chronic facial, neck, or jaw pains, a sudden inability to open up your mouth wide, and an audible “clicking” noise whenever you open your mouth.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to the development of TMJ disorders. Arthritis, misalignment of the upper or lower jaw, traumatic injury to the head or neck, missing teeth and poor oral habits , such as repeatedly grinding or clenching the teeth, have been linked to the development of this joint disorder.

TMJ disorders can range from being mild, or seriously debilitating. It is always important for the patient to undergo an comprehensive examination with a qualified dentist in order to determine if they have the condition. During the initial examination, the dentist will also evaluate your medical history.

The method of treatment used for TMJ will depend on the patient’s specific needs. Some patients may benefit from nonsurgical treatment methods, such as pain medication, stress reduction counseling, or wearing a bite plate. Once nonsurgical treatment methods are no longer enough, surgery may be necessary, especially if it has been determined that there is joint damage. Surgery methods will range from less-invasive surgical treatments such as arthocentesis or arthroscopy, to the more serious procedure, open joint surgery.


Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) in Toccoa

If you would like to learn more about TMJ and its treatment, contact us today. Our offices are located in Toccoa, GA, and we can be reached at 706-886-9439. We look forward to hearing from you!

Stress Can Affect Oral Health

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Did you know that stress can affect your smile? Too much stress can affect your whole body and it impacts your oral health by causing mouth sores, teeth grinding, and even gum disease.

Canker Sores and Cold Sores

Mouth sores like canker sores and cold sores commonly pop up during stressful times. Canker sores are not contagious and researchers still haven’t entirely figured out what causes them. They are annoying and painful but they normally heal on their own in a week or 10 days. If you have a canker sore that is very painful or large call your dentist to find out about over-the-counter products that can numb the area.

Cold sores are actually caused by a virus and are contagious. Medications are available, both over-the-counter and prescription antiviral drugs, that can reduce healing time and perhaps prevent future breakouts.

Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Stress isn’t the only reason that people grind their teeth — in fact most people that grind their teeth don’t even know they are doing it. Bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching) can cause damage to the teeth, wearing them down or causing cracks and breaks. Grinding also leads to painful problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ pain can manifest in many ways including headaches, facial pain, jaw pain, neck and back pain and muscle spasms.

Your dentist can’t make you stop grinding but further damage to the teeth and the jaw joint can be prevented by wearing a specially made orthotic device. This small bite splint will place your bite in a position that removes stress from the joint and muscles, allowing them to heal.

Stress can also lead to poor dietary choices and an increase in dental plaque. The best way to protect yourself from gum disease is remember to eat a balanced diet and brush and floss everyday.

Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-886-9439 to discover how we can help you protect your beautiful smile during stressful times.



Wear And Tear On Your Teeth

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Even our teeth experience the wear and tear of daily life. Teeth are tough but accidental injuries, grinding and bad habits can take their toll. Here are some of the biggest threats to teeth.

Bruxism (Grinding)

Our teeth are designed to chew and grind our food but many of us grind our teeth without knowing it. The constant grinding and clenching can damage chewing surfaces and in some cases, even wear down the teeth themselves. Bruxism is what dentist call this grinding. Many times it occurs during sleep and you never realize it is happening until a bed partner complains about the grinding noises or your dentist notices the damage to your teeth.

Tooth grinding can also cause headaches, muscle spasms and injury to the jaw joint. Your dentist can make a protective splint that will keep the grinding from doing further damage to your teeth and jaw joint. Tooth grinding has been linked to stress in some cases, and some believe that it may also be a subtle sign of certain sleep disorders. If you are grinding a visit to the dentist to protect your teeth and then a visit to your physician to talk about stress relief and to check for other medical issues may be in order.

Accidents Happen

Chipped, broken or fractured teeth are usually due to an accident. These can range from sports mishaps to biting on a popcorn kernel, but the effect is the same. A broken or cracked tooth. Teeth that have fillings or root canals are at higher risk for damage simply because their structure has been weakened by restorations. Protect your teeth (and your children’s teeth) during sports by wearing a mouthguard. Avoid chewing hard substances like hard candy and ice. Ice is especially bad for teeth because the extreme cold, combined with the hard crystalline structure of the ice can cause cracks and chips.

Avoiding Erosion

Another common factor in dental damage is erosion of the tooth enamel. This can be avoided but once the enamel is gone it can never be replaced. Teeth with solid enamel are white and healthy looking. Eroded enamel makes teeth appear yellow and dingy because the dentin layer of the tooth is showing. Avoid dental erosion by skipping the soft drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks — all contain high amounts of sugar and acids which are a bad combination for healthy dental enamel. Brushing too vigorously can also wear away enamel, remember to brush gently, using a soft bristle brush for 2 minutes.

Certain medical conditions can also lead to dental erosion. GERD, bulimia, morning sickness in pregnancy and chronic gastritis can all cause stomach acids into the mouth to erode teeth.

Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at706-886-9439 to schedule your next visit. We can help you protect your smile against the wear and tear!

Gum Chewing Teens and Migraine Headache

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Does your teen get migraine headaches? If your teen chews a lot of gum then stopping the gum chewing may help stop the headache pain.

Research was carried out at Tel Aviv University that looked at the connection between chronic headaches and teen gum chewing habits. 30 teens were grouped according to how much time, on average, they spent chewing gum each day. All of the groups were asked to stop chewing gum for one month. Researchers checked back with them after the month was up.

All of the groups reported changes in their headache symptoms when they stopped chewing gum. 26 of the individual teens reported improvement in their symptoms and 19 stopped experiencing headaches altogether.

When they started chewing gum again, 20 teens started experiencing the headaches once more. Researchers blame the headaches on stress to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) caused by the frequent gum chewing. Dr. Nathan Watemberg said “Every doctor knows that overuse of the TMJ will cause headaches. I believe this is what’s happening when children and teenagers chew gum excessively.”

Of course, the link between overuse of the jaw joint and painful symptoms is not limited to teenagers. Adults often experience the same thing.

Self Help For TMJ Pain

TMJ problems can cause headache (even migraine-like), facial pain, neck pain, jaw pain and even changes in hearing. If you are experiencing these symptoms a visit to a dentist who has training and experience in treating these issues is needed. Until you can see the dentist here are a few tips to help ease the discomfort:

  • Alternate hot and cold compresses to the jaw area.
  • Switch to a soft diet – avoid eating anything harder than cooked pasta. This especially means avoiding salad greens and raw vegetables of any kind.
  • Stifle your yawns, avoid opening your mouth wide.
  • Check your posture. Avoid holding a phone between shoulder and ear and women should stop carrying heavy shoulder bags.
  • Don’t rest your chin on your hand.
  • Over-the-counter medications like Motrin or Tylenol may help.

Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA for more information and to schedule a TMJ consultation appointment. We can be reached at 706-886-9439.

What is TMJ?

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

We’ve all heard of “TMJ,” and that it can severely impact the health of our mouth. But what exactly is TMJ?

TMJ is actually an abbreviation, which stands for “Temporomandibular Joint.” The TMJ is a small joint located where your skull and lower jaw meet. This joint moves whenever you chew, talk, or swallow, and is one of the most commonly used and complex joints in the body.

TMJ disorders are defined by pain in the jaw and muscles around the jaw. Some common symptoms include popping sounds in the jaw when eating, migraines, neck pain, and difficulty swallowing food. TMJ disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, including joint damage and genetics, and are divided into three categories:

  1. Internal Derangement of the Joint.  Internal Derangement of the Joint is usually caused by  a dislocated jaw or injury to the jaw. In addition, it is also sometimes caused by torn ligaments that hold the jaw in place.  Although the jaw will continue to function even when it is damaged, this condition is usually treated by reducing strain on the jaw, eating a diet of soft foods, or using a splint or bite guard to correct the condition. Your dentist may also describe anti-inflammatory drugs.
  2. Degenerative Joint Disease. This commonly occurs in adults, as a result of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Over time, even normal use of the joint can cause degeneration can occur to the TMJ, limiting its function. Most patients are treated for this condition by simply wearing plastic bite plates, which fit over the upper and lower teeth, reducing tension that comes from clenching and grinding teeth.
  3. Myofascial Pain Disorder. Myofascial Pain Disorders are degenerative conditions, which occur when there is discomfort in the muscles that surround the jaw. Like other forms of TMJ, this type of pain is usually treated non-surgically, with pain medication, and bite plate therapy. If a patient experiences joint damage with any of these disorders, surgery may be required.

TMJ Treatment Care in Toccoa

If you want to learn more about the dental care services we offer, contact us today at 706-886-9439 to schedule an appointment or ask a question. Wilbanks Smile Center is located in Toccoa, GA.


Cone-Beam CT Offers Advantages for TMJ Patients

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Using cone-beam CT offers advantages over traditional two dimensional x-rays for diagnosing temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) and facial pain according to a recently published paper.Cone beam CT can help diagnose TMJ pain in Toccoa, GA. A

lmost 50% of elderly people may experience pain in the head, neck or mouth and orofacial pain is also very common among teens and younger adults. It is often hard to diagnose the reason for this pain because it can be attributed to TMD, neuralgia, headache or dental problems. TMD, also called TMJ, is considered one of the primary causes of this type of pain.

Cone-beam CT and its ability to render a three-dimensional view makes it a unique tool for accurately evaluating the health of the structures of the face and jaw. The authors of this paper wrote, “Diagnostic imaging, when indicated, is an important part of the examination process for TMD and orofacial pain patients.”

Headaches are a common complaint among patients suffering from orofacial pain and are a strong indicator for using cone-beam CT as a diagnostic tool. Many “migraine” patients find that their headaches are resolved once the problem with their jaw is diagnosed and treated.

If you experience jaw pain or clicking, headache, facial pain, sore or stiff neck you may have a temporomandibular joint disorder. Many problems with the jaw joint are caused by grinding or clenching the teeth. Most people who grind or clench are not aware they are doing this and many only grind at night. Other TMD issues are caused by a poor bite or old dental work. A dentist who has been trained in caring for patients with TMD can evaluate, diagnose and treat this problem allowing you to live without headache or facial pain.

Find out more about diagnosing and treating TMD by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-886-9439.


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