How A Nail Biting Habit Affects The Teeth

dentist in park ridgeNAIL BITING IS A HABIT shared by between a quarter and a third of children and nearly half of teenagers. Compulsive behaviors don’t always have negative effects on a person’s physical health, but this one definitely does. In addition to leaving the nails torn and uneven and doing damage to the nail beds, nail biting can lead to a variety of oral health complications.

Nail Biting Versus Teeth And Gums

You might think that your teeth are much tougher than your fingernails, but over time, nail biting can cause significant damage to both teeth and gums. Here are some of the biggest ways this happens:

  • Erosion, chipping, and cracking: the grinding friction of teeth against nails can gradually wear the enamel away, or even cause teeth to chip or crack.
  • Malocclusion and gaps: biting nails doesn’t just damage the teeth, it can also cause them to move, leading to malocclusions (problems with the bite) and gaps.
  • Root resorption: possibly the scariest thing nail biting can do to teeth is cause the jaw bone to reabsorb the roots, weakening them and leaving them more vulnerable to falling out. This is an even greater risk for people with wire braces.
  • Gingivitis: a lot of dirt and germs get trapped under our fingernails, and when we chew on them, that all gets transferred to our mouths, which can result in gum disease.
  • Bruxism: a nail biting habit can increase a person’s risk of developing a chronic teeth-grinding habit, which comes with even more oral health problems, along with headaches and soreness.

Why Does Nail Biting Happen?

If nail biting has such unpleasant consequences, then why do so many people do it? It isn’t fully understood yet, but studies have indicated that it can be an effect of anxiety, boredom, or perfectionism. Similar repetitive behaviors include skin picking and hair pulling. Often, people may not even notice themselves doing it, and this can make it much harder to stop.

Tips To Help Break The Habit

Until more is known about nail biting and what causes it, it can be difficult to know the best things to do to break the habit, but here are a few strategies that can help:

  • Trim your nails regularly so you don’t have anything to bite.
  • Paint your nails with bitter-tasting polish so biting becomes associated with a nasty taste.
  • Get a manicure! If your nails are pretty, you’ll be more motivated to keep them that way.
  • Swap the nail biting habit with a more harmless way to fidget, like silly putty or a stress ball.
  • Figure out your triggers. When you know what sets off the nail biting, you can plan ahead and do something different.
  • Make stopping a gradual process. Choose one nail at a time to stop biting, and maybe cover it so you physically can’t bite it. Add more fingernails to the bite ban until there aren’t any left!

We’re Rooting For You!

The oral health of our patients is of course our highest priority, and that means we’re here to help you overcome habits that threaten your teeth and gums! If you need help kicking your habit, don’t hesitate to enlist ours!

We’re here to help you keep your oral health on track!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image by Flickr user Photo by Thomas used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Night Guards For Teeth Grinding

park ridge dentist night guardHAVE YOU EVER woken up with a sore jaw, tooth pain, or a headache? These are common symptoms of sleep bruxism, or teeth-grinding. The American Dental Association estimates that 10-15 percent of adults struggle with sleep bruxism, and children can experience it too. Because it happens during sleep, it can be difficult to control or stop. One way to protect the teeth from the damaging effects of grinding is to wear a night guard.

What Night Guards Are

Night guards come in hard, medium, and soft varieties, with the soft ones resembling mouth guards for sports and hard ones resembling clear plastic retainers, though they’re much sturdier and you usually only need one for the upper teeth. Wearing a night guard provides a cushioning effect so that the upper and lower teeth can’t wear away at each other. It will protect your teeth from external damage caused by grinding, such as chipping and erosion, but as long as the grinding still happens, other symptoms like jaw pain may not change.

What Night Guards Are Not

While hard night guards might look like retainersthey are not necessarily interchangeable. You should never use a normal retainer as a night guard, because it doesn’t have the necessary thickness to withstand the pressure. You should also be careful about using night guards as retainers. If you have a hard night guard that is properly fitted to your teeth, it can serve as a retainer, but a soft night guard won’t prevent your teeth from shifting.

Where To Get Yours

You can either buy your night guard over-the-counter or get a custom night guard from the dentist. A typical over-the-counter night guard requires you to shape it to your teeth by boiling it, allowing it a moment to cool, and then gently biting into it. If you obtain your night guard through your dentist, the added comfort and quality will be worth the greater price. These night guards are made in a laboratory from an impression of your teeth taken by dental professionals. At Davis & Engert Dentistry, we have capabilities to take 3D impressions. This means you will not need all the goopy stuff to get an impression taken of your teeth.

Cleaning And Storing Your Night Guard

If you don’t want to end up with a night guard that is smelly and gross, it’s important to clean and store it correctly. Always rinse your night guard after you take it out, then brush it with your toothbrush (but no toothpaste). In order to prevent bacterial growth, a night guard should never be stored wet, so give it time to air dry before placing it in its case, and it might be better to leave it on the nightstand instead of in the bathroom.

Ask Us About Your Night Guard

If you think you might have bruxism, don’t wait; come talk to us about it. We can get you your perfect night guard, and we can also help you with other methods of reducing the symptoms, such as discussing ways to reduce stress levels and recommending an orthodontist if misaligned teeth are contributing to the grinding.

Thank you for trusting us to take care of your dental needs!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original

The Daily Grind Of Bruxism

family dentist park ridgeMOST PEOPLE GRIND OR CLENCH their teeth briefly when annoyed or in a tense situation. That level of teeth-grinding isn’t really something to worry about. It’s when you do it far more frequently, often without even realizing it (you might even do it in your sleep!), that it can potentially become a serious problem. The medical term for this kind of teeth-grinding is bruxism.

Bruxism: What and Why

Sleep bruxism (or nocturnal bruxism) can happen as a side-effect of snoring and sleep apnea, and awake bruxism (or diurnal bruxism) can happen as a side-effect of stress in your daily life. However, not everyone with a sleep disorder or a stressful life has bruxism, and not everyone with bruxism has a sleep disorder or a ton of stress. Another possible cause is improperly aligned teeth.

Because there isn’t one clear cause, treatment can sometimes be tricky, and the focus is often on the symptoms and minimizing the damage more than curing the underlying condition. Even if you aren’t aware that you’re grinding your teeth, any of the following symptoms could point to bruxism:

  • Sore jaw (with sleep bruxism, your jaw will be most sore when you wake up, whereas with awake bruxism, it’ll be most sore before you go to bed)
  • Frequent headaches from all the strain
  • Hypertrophy in your jaw muscles (because you’re giving them quite the workout!)
  • Shifting teeth
  • Flattened chewing surfaces of teeth
  • Exposed dentin and increased tooth sensitivity
  • Chipped/cracked/split teeth
  • Tooth loss

Your Next Steps

Depending on which type of bruxism you have, there are a variety of treatments or approaches to either reduce the grinding or the damage it causes.

Behavioral Therapy

With behavioral therapy or habit-reversal techniques, you can become more aware of your clenching/grinding habits and consciously work to stop. This one works better when you have awake bruxism than sleep bruxism, because it’s obviously much harder to control your jaw muscles in your sleep.

Relaxation

Particularly for stress-related bruxism, relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing exercises, massages, warm baths, calming music, and a full night’s sleep can help you de-stress and stop grinding.

Wearing A Mouthguard

A mouthguard or splint serves as a pillow between your upper and lower teeth. It won’t stop the grinding, but it protects your teeth from damage.

Medication As Prescribed By Your Doctor

Muscle relaxant medication, as prescribed by your general practitioner, might help you unclench while you sleep. However, medicine is rarely used to treat bruxism, especially if other treatments are helping.

Check out this video for more information and a few other ideas on how to combat bruxism or minimize the damage:

 

 

We Can Help!

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, it may be due to bruxism and you should schedule an appointment so we can make a plan for how to address it. You don’t want to leave it untreated until it gets to the point where it’s damaging your teeth.

We love our patients!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image by Flickr user Sean_Wright used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.