Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tongue Piercing: What you need to know!

Certain types of body piercing have existed continuously since ancient times. Today, in most cultures, body piercing has become more acceptable in the general population than ever before in history.
Tongue piercing is especially popular with teens and young adults. Tongues are typically pierced by running a needle through the front third of the tongue, from top to bottom. Mouth jewelry, in the form of a removable stud, hoop or barbell-shaped device is inserted through the hole. No systematic research has been done on the after effects of tongue art, so it's impossible to say how likely it is that there will be complications from a tongue piercing, however, the American Dental Association officially does not support piercing in or around the mouth because of the potential for serious side effects. Negative effects from the piercing process or from wearing the jewelry can include pain, post-placement swelling, prolonged bleeding, gum injury, permanent numbness, loss of taste and oral hygiene problems. More serious side effects include speech impediments, injury or shrinkage of gums, damage to teeth, fillings, and other dental work, difficulty chewing or swallowing, cysts and prolonged blood loss immediately after the procedure. Infection is always a possibility - after all, you're creating an open wound in your mouth! - and includes the risk of contracting hepatitis, HIV and AIDS.
Tongue piercing also can result in an allergic reaction if the metals used in the jewelry are not of the highest quality. And even if the highest quality metal is used, all metal jewelry can injure the one thing that cannot easily be replaced, the beautiful enamel of your teeth. In a study done by a prominent university, of young adults who had worn a barbell through their tongue for at least 4 years, 47% had chipped teeth. Some studies show that the repeated bumping of the jewelry against teeth and gums causes gums to recede, setting the stage for periodontal (gum) disease.
However, if despite the warnings, you're still planning on having your tongue pierced, make sure it is done as hygienically as possible. Make sure your piercer is experienced and licensed and works in a sterile environment with sterile, disposable instruments. Ask your dentist for advice on oral hygiene while the piercing is healing, including advice on brushing to avoid inflaming the tongue, and use of mouthwash to clean areas that your toothbrush cannot reach. If you have a heart defect or a health condition that requires that you take preventive antibiotics before dental work, DO NOT under any circumstances, have a piercing done without seeing your doctor or dentist first. The needle inserted through your tongue during the piercing process opens your bloodstream to bacteria, which can lead to a life-threatening infection in your heart. Also, be sure to get regular dental check-ups. Whether you have a tongue piercing or not, a thorough examination of your gums and teeth are needed to identify problem areas or potential long term dental health concerns.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bruxism: The Grinding Truth

Most people refer to bruxism as "grinding" the teeth. When you "brux", you tightly clamp your top and bottom teeth together, especially your back teeth. Many people who clench also grind their teeth at the same time. Grinding is when you slide your teeth over each other, generally in a sideways, back-and-forth movement. Many people clench and grind their teeth during the day, but the nighttime bruxing is of most concern, because it is harder to control and can lead to eventual jaw, tooth and gum damage.

Experts don't agree on what causes bruxism. Some researchers believe that it's caused by a bite that is not correctly aligned, while others believe it is a central nervous system disorder. Children frequently exhibit bruxism behaviors in response to pain and discomfort of illnesses such as colds, ear infections or allergies. An additional concern with children is their increased intake of acidic and carbonated drinks which can accelerate the damage caused on teeth.  In adults, excess intake of alcoholic beverages may affect their level of grinding and clenching, and stress is also a huge factor in bruxing.  Many experts believe it's a combination of these and other problems and that different people brux for different reasons.

Almost everyone "grinds their teeth." The problem is the degree of bruxing. Some people only grind their teeth a bit and show few symptoms, but for those who brux frequently and over a period of many years, the effects on teeth and the surrounding structures of gums and bone can be severe.

The pressure that you can apply to your teeth can range from 100 to 600 pounds per square inch! Severe bruxism can result in wearing or breaking of teeth, sensitive or loose teeth, receding gums, loss of supporting bone around the teeth, bony ridges in the gums, cheek irritation, sore muscles, headaches, earaches and TMJ (temporomandibular jaw) dysfunction.

If you or a family member shows signs or sounds of bruxism, ask us for an evaluation. An examination will rule out other disorders, that could be causing the symptoms. Once a diagnosis is made, the goals of treatment are to ease pain, prevent damage to teeth and surrounding areas, and reduce bruxism behavior as much as possible.

To prevent damage, we may recommend undergoing orthodontic treatment (braces). Aligning the teeth and placing them in their correct positions allow occlusal forces to be directed down the long axis of the teeth and distributed to surrounding tissues. This tends to relieve or reduce bruxism. Although this will reduce occlusal trauma, the reduction in bruxing may be temporary and may re-appear after treatment is finished.  Alternatively, we may prescribe an appliance, such as a splint, for you to wear at night. Appliances may protect teeth from the pressure of clenching and may even reduce clenching, however some patients find that it does not make their bruxism better and may even make it worse. There is no one cure-all for bruxism, so it may take a team effort between you, Dr. Luis and your dentist to find the cure for your problem.

Just remember that bruxism is not a dangerous disorder and that with conscious effort and professional help, you can prevent damage to your oral and overall health.