Stay at Home Teeth Survival Guide, Part II

Hello Everyone, I hope you are doing well considering our circumstances.

Last time I discussed how to help prevent tooth decay, but what about crack lines, tooth wear and recession? In other words, how do we prevent tooth damage that has nothing to do with cavities?

Crack lines in teeth, tooth wear and gum recession can all be caused by grinding your teeth or clenching them. These days, we are all much more stressed out than we were just 2 months ago. Simple things like grocery shopping have suddenly become stressful. Things we previously took for granted like going to work or simply going to a friend’s house are suddenly more difficult or out of the question all together. All of this increases our stress levels, which in turn makes some of us clamp down and have a good grind!

The result? Our teeth can develop cracks in them or wear down from all of this additional force over time. This damage isn’t limited to just your teeth. Clenching and grinding your teeth over time can cause gum recession and sore jaw muscles, as well as headaches. In severe cases, it can cause Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD).

This clenching and grinding may occur at night when you aren’t aware of it or it can happen during the day, perhaps also without you being aware. A good rule of thumb is to keep your: “Tongue relaxed, teeth apart, and lips together”. If we are grinding our teeth during the day without realizing it, being mindful can go a long way to stopping the behavior. Pick a personal item that you see all the time, perhaps your phone. Every time you look at this item, think “what are my teeth doing?” If your teeth are together, remember: “Tongue relaxed, teeth apart, lips together”. Night time grinding is more difficult to stop on your own. Often, if severe enough, a night guard is your best bet to limit damage to your teeth and gums. If you feel you are grinding your teeth at night, we would normally make a custom fit night guard for you. Under the current circumstances, you could order a night guard from a sporting goods store. It might not fit perfectly or be really comfortable but it may hold you over until we can make one for you.

Chewing on certain things such as almonds or ice can also cause fracture lines in your teeth over time. Ice is especially bad as it is hard and it’s also cold! The rapid temperature change can cause teeth to expand and contract in a similar way that a wooden house does in the summer vs. the winter.

Brushing your teeth too aggressively can also cause gum recession. One of the best ways to combat this is to use one of the more recent electric toothbrushes that has a “brake” on it. If you push too hard while brushing your teeth, the electric brake will slow down the toothbrush to alert you that you are pushing too hard.

Please continue to stay safe and I hope to see you all soon!

Michael King, DMD