Last week, I saw new patient, Maggie, for a toothache. Her tooth had cracked in half, right down the middle and required extraction. Maggie claimed that she has been grinding her teeth together for almost 30 years, a noise so distinctive that she also claimed that family members couldn’t sleep in the same room with her. Many of her teeth were flat on the chewing surface and the front ones looked shorter than normal. In dentistry, this is labelled “bruxism”. Though only 42 years old, Maggie looked at least 10 years older, with sagging cheeks and frown lines at each corner of her mouth. Essentially, the distance between the tip of her nose and the bottom of her chin was now almost a quarter of an inch shorter, when her mouth was closed, because her flattened molars allowed her lower jaw to move further up than it did 20 years earlier!
Working alongside other dental specialists to restore the proper function of her Temporal Mandibular Joint (TMJ), it is my hope that Maggie will be able to eventually have her natural teeth “built up” with crowns that restore her natural smile and original chewing surfaces. The wrinkles will soften, and she will swallow well-chewed bites.
Bruxism is often eliminated when family members take it seriously, rather than dismissing it as a “phase” or annoyance. Orthodontists are trained to study the teeth and muscles, then work with an interdisciplinary team to create healthy function. Another option might be a custom-made Night Guard, molded from acrylic, that is worn while sleeping so opposing teeth cannot grind together.
Contact Winterset Dental today to find out which treatment is right for you.