Over dinner, my dad told me that he has noticed his teeth wearing over the last five years. He also mentioned that he makes loud grinding noises at night as he sleeps.
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a phenomenon that has eluded many dentists for years. Some studies claim that the problem is neuromuscular in nature, while others claim that grinding is a habit developed throughout childhood; misaligned teeth and stress have also been implicated. In any case, the end result of this issue is common--flattening of the biting surfaces of the teeth. According to literature, teeth should wear at a rate of 0.01 millimeters (mm) per year, thus requiring 100 years for one to wear through 1 mm of tooth structure. Most people that notice the wear patterns on their teeth have usually already lost more than 1 mm of tooth height. Treatment is highly dependent on the severity of the wear and the current status of the grinding. If one has noticed that their facial profile has shortened within the last five years, there is a likelihood that the bite may need to be re-established as close to the original height as possible. If the grinding has only been noticed recently, the best form of treatment is to provide protection for the dentition with a night guard. In addition, the patient should be consciously aware that teeth should only ever be touching when swallowing and occasionally when eating.
Over the weekend a good friend told us that a taste of ice cream has recently become a painful experience for her. Sometimes, even brushing and flossing has made her wince. She was concerned that her tooth may have a cavity and was even more concerned that a root canal may be needed. She mentioned, however, that the sensitivity she was having only takes place for a couple of seconds, and no more than a minute.
Sensitivity has been known to originate from teeth that have caries (cavities) or micro fractures. Depending on the lesion or crack, a simple restoration or a filling will alleviate the issue if the sensitivity is intermittent in nature. On occasion, an exposed root from excessive brushing can be the culprit. In this case, if the wear pattern is minor, topical fluoride can be placed on the affected area for relief. If, however, the depth of the wear pattern is large, a composite (tooth colored) filling, is best. This will act as a barrier to prevent intermittent sensitivity and will prevent continuation of wear taking place on the tooth. Think of it as a phone protector for your iPhone, instead of the phone being scratched the wear pattern is placed on the protector. Placing a filing in worn areas of a tooth will, in essence, be the protective layer to undergo the wear and tear that one would normally place on their teeth--this will prevent and decrease the chances of needing a root canal. For larger wear patterns, a filling is recommended in order to prevent excessive wear. In extreme cases, an area of unprotected wear can expose the nerve and blood supply of the tooth. If these vital tissues are involved and lingering pain is experienced, a root canal and a crown is now necessary.
Dr. Hyatt’s Dental Corner
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