I heard this complaint a couple of weeks ago. I also heard yesterday “ I have a tooth ache on both the bottom and top. I can’t pick which tooth is hurting me.” And last and not least, “whenever I chew I get a pain up to my ear”. Believe it or not all of these statements are really related and are rooted in the same source. When I examined all of these patients, there was nothing that was obviously wrong either visibly or on an x-ray. Yes, all of these problems and issues stem from a biting problem or a misalignment of the teeth. Those who follow me regularly know my mantra when it comes to teeth and biting. You need to keep you teeth apart and your lips together when you are not eating. Teeth only are meant to come together when we eat, not at any other time. This is one reason why gum chewing is so bad for you. Your teeth clash in a meaningless action. Chewing food is meaningful, gum chewing is meaningless. In addition to gum chewing, grinding or clenching does not have any purpose. Your teeth meet and press on each other. These actions of clenching or grinding have far reaching consequences.
First of all those actions or habits, put continual pressure on your teeth. According to Dental Health Directory Library, the human jaw is capable of applying approximately about 68 lbs/sq inch of pressure on the back teeth. If you intentionally clench your teeth you may increase that force to about 150 lbs/sq inch. However, an individual who clenches and grinds their teeth subconsciously at night can place up 1200 lbs/sq inch of force. Teeth were never meant to have continual pressure. The act of chewing applies forces, then lets up, and then re-applies these pressure. These forces far exceed what a tooth is capable of withstanding. The result can be a fractured tooth, a loose tooth, or a tooth that requires a root canal as the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth are irreversibly damaged. Many of the crowns that I make for teeth are done on fractured teeth. These teeth fracture due to excessive forces. Oftentimes these harmful habits are the culprit.
In addition to the tremendous forces that are exerted on the teeth, there are forces that apply to the teeth, the jaw bone also is a recipient of these forces. The lower jaw transmits its trauma resulting from excessive forces to the muscles and ligaments that attach the lower jaw to the head. These delicate structures all come together right in front of the ear. This intersection of jaws and soft tissue is called the temperomandibular joint. We call it TMJ for short. Those three letters are mentioned a lot when people have non-descript jaw pain. It is not sinus, it is not tooth related, it is joint inflammation caused by inappropriate biting forces applied.
So what is the cause of these forces that wreak havoc in our mouths? Sometimes it is stress in our lives. This can be family or job related. Some people get ulcers, other people pull their nails, and others clench or grind. Let me take a moment to say that it doesn’t matter if you are a clencher or grinder or both. These actions are all bad for you. So one solution is too eliminate the stress in one’s life and the clenching, etc gets better. Many times that is easier said than done. Some of these oral actions become ingrained habits that are hard or difficult to break. This is where, the dentist steps in and makes a custom fitted mouth appliance to either help you break the habit or protect your teeth from the damage that will happen. There are many styles and shapes of these devices. A professional needs to assess you, make recommendations and fit you properly. As a patient told me last week, “ I was so skeptical of you grinding hypothesis. Now that I am wearing a device, I feel great and everything is comfortable. You have made a true believer out of me”. Our initial patient with the wrong root canal complaint, was actually grinding with a denture on her natural teeth. We see from this that although dentures can not create the same amount of forces as natural teeth, in the right situation, they can wreak havoc. So if you find that you have teeth breaking, fillings are always falling out, crowns are popping loose too frequently, or a toothache that you can’t pinpoint the tooth, give me a call at 440.951.7856. Together we can play detective and work on figuring out the problem. You only have one set of teeth, let’s do all that we can to take care of them.