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Do I Grind My Teeth and Other Hidden Dangers

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As a retired dentist, I love it when I get questions about our mouth and teeth. Do I grind my teeth is only one of the questions I’ve heard lately. So I thought it was time to put together another dental post and answer those burning dental questions.

Quote of the day: ” Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison

You may think that’s a strange quote for a blog post asking the question do I grind my teeth (among other issues), but our mouth does take work to make it healthy and happy.
I always told my patients who had dental fear, that the best thing they could do is to take care of their teeth at home so that they basically didn’t need me.

Hidden Dental Health Dangers
1-Do I grind my teeth?
2-Why is my mouth so dry?
3-Is mouthwash bad?
4-Biofilm

The reason I called these the hidden dangers is that most of these issues aren’t discussed much. We concentrate on brushing and flossing, and the questions I get the most are about toothpaste.

Yet I wish I heard do I grind my teeth or why is my mouth so dry more because those can be even more important than what kind of toothpaste to use.
That’s why I decided to tackle some of these issues in this post.

Do I Grind my Teeth?

The funny thing about asking the question of do I grind my teeth is that most people automatically assume they do not! Rarely do patients ask me do I grind my teeth? In fact, most times, I have to twist their arm to even consider the possibility.

And let me make a point. It really doesn’t matter if you grind your teeth at night or clench them. I consider both the same under this category.
The fact of the matter is that 65% of adults do this. It’s a neurological response and not a conscious act. Just like snoring, the person doing it has NO IDEA, that it’s going on.
FYI, clenching or grinding is also called bruxism.

Clues that you may be grinding (or clenching) your teeth:
1-You’ve chipped or broken teeth. This is especially true if you don’t know how they’ve chipped or they’ve come apart when eating something soft.
2- You wake up with headaches.
3-Teeth marks on the side of your tongue
4-Notice your teeth are much shorter than in your high school photos

What to do if you Suspect you Clench or Grind your Teeth

1-Ask your dentist if he/she sees signs of wear on your teeth
2-Buy an OTC mouthguard (found on Amazon) and use it for a month. BTW, this normally takes time to get used to having in your mouth. I always recommend trying to either wear it during the day for an hour to get used to it OR to cut off much of the back portion so it’s more comfortable. But trust me, it takes time!!

Insider tip: These OTC mouthguards are not recommended for the long term if you grind (as opposed to clench). I use them as a diagnostic tool only, because they aren’t well fitted for your teeth and could potentially cause some TMJ issues.

The gold standard for clenching or grinding is a custom-made nightguard. These are not inexpensive, however, they are worth it if you compare them to the damage that can happen.

BTW, if you do have front teeth that are chipped, most times your dentist can smooth them down or add tooth-colored filling material to make them whole.

This is the amount of toothpaste needed. VERY L.I.T.T.L.E

Why Is My Mouth So Dry?

Having a dry mouth is not only uncomfortable but it’s also not the correct environment for a healthy mouth.

Here are just a couple of the most common reasons people have a dry mouth:
1-Medications are the biggest culprit.
2-Using too much mouthwash (see the mouthwash section below) or too much toothpaste.
3-Sleeping with your mouth open.
4-Salivary gland issues.

What can I do for my dry mouth?

There isn’t always an easy fix for your dry mouth.
1-There are mouth rinses (found on Amazon or prescribed by your dentist) that are meant to help with a dry mouth. I will not say these are wonderful, but it’s good to try.
2-To make sure your teeth aren’t becoming more decay-prone, there are prescription strength fluoride gels that can help strengthen your teeth (found on Amazon or prescribed by your dentist). These don’t help relieve your dry mouth, but just make your teeth less cavity prone.
3-Talk to your medical doctor about your medications and side effects from them.
4-Of course staying hydrated is important for your entire body. Water, water, and more water are super important for our bodies.
5-Make sure your toothpaste doesn’t have SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) in it. Or use only a small amount of toothpaste as I’ve shown above.

The biggest point you DON’T want to use for a dry mouth is to suck on hard candies. Unfortunately, this is bathing your teeth in sugar which can cause cavities and other issues. Even if the candies are sugar-free, there is most likely some sort of sweetener in it.

Insider tip: The one sweetener that is somewhat okay is xylitol. I used to sell this gum at my dental office.

Mouthwash

Personally, I don’t believe in mouthwash. I think they became popular as an easy way to “clean” our mouth, but it’s really not the way to go.

Most “popular” mouthwashes have alcohol in them, and alcohol is very drying. The last thing you want for your mouth is for it to be dry. It’s meant to be a moist environment. While alcohol can be thought to sterilize germs, the fact is there is no way that by swishing any kind of liquid, you can get it under the gums which is where it needs to do its work.

Even if you find a mouthwash that doesn’t have alcohol, you are not going to benefit from it as much as you would from the water flosser that I talk about in the biofilm section below.
I consider using mouthwash a waste of time and money that could be better spent elsewhere.

If you think it camouflages bad breath, then think again. If you have bad breath, it’s much more important to figure out what is causing it and then treat that. These are the 3 issues that cause bad breath:
1-Gum disease
2-Sinus issues
3-Digestive issues

As for whitening mouthwash, that’s a waste of money too. One of the reasons that Whitestrips work (more about that in the related post section below) is because the whitening agent is sitting on the teeth in order to do its job.
You can’t expect a 2-minute swish to take off all of the stains that have built up from our daily habits.

Insider tip: Someone once commented that our tea and wine create the stain by gliding over our teeth, so why can’t a mouthwash take it off. I suppose if you swished as many times as you sip your tea and wine that it can. But in reality, people use a mouthwash once or twice a day only.

Biofilm

Now here’s a word you don’t hear much. You probably grew up knowing about plaque, and if you’ve been going to the dentist regularly, you’ve even heard calculus (and not the math type).

But biofilm is something that can be even more dangerous. It’s been verified that there is a community around each tooth. And if that community is overrun with bad bacteria, then it’s a tough place to raise a good tooth.

Insider tip: Think about biofilm in relation to slum areas vs suburbia. You want your teeth to hang out in a wonderful community that is safe and clean.

How do you fight this hidden danger?? The ONE MOST POWERFUL tool for disturbing biofilm (and that’s what you want to do) is the water flosser. We have used a couple of different brands and always go back to the Waterpik brand.

Insider tip: Don’t expect your water flosser to last years and years. We always feel lucky if they last a year. BUT they are still important to invest in.

So now that you know more than you ever wanted about the hidden dangers for good dental health, I wish you many years of happy teeth!!

This is not the first time I’ve discussed mouth issues on the blog since it’s near and dear to my heart.

1-I have worked with Smile Brilliant in the past. Years ago this kind of whitening for our teeth was the only kind I recommended. However, the Crest Whitestrips have come a long way, and that is what I use now to maintain the lightness.

2Dental advice on brushes, toothpaste, and such.

3-Tips about finding a dentist, bone grafting, and implants plus tips for the anxious patient.

Thank you

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