While many people know they dream at night, they may not realize that they also grind their teeth as they sleep. Known technically as bruxism, this grinding of teeth, often accompanied by jaw clenching, can actually harm your oral health if left undetected and untreated.
Bruxism can develop for a number of reasons, including stress, aging, medical disorders, and dental issues such as an abnormal bite or crooked teeth. The good news is that it’s treatable, and your dentist can help you manage it while also addressing underlying dental issues.
7 Signs That You Grind Your Teeth at Night
Perhaps your partner notices your teeth grinding habit and tells you about it the next morning. If not, there are signs you can be on the lookout for, alerting you that this may indeed be occurring as you sleep.
If you’re wondering if you might be grinding your teeth at night, here are 7 signs that potentially point to yes.
1. Headaches Upon Awakening
Awakening with a dull, throbbing headache can be a telling sign that you are grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw at night.
These headaches often concentrate in the temple area and can feel like a dull earache as well, even though there is nothing wrong with your ear.
You may notice that the headache actually dissipates soon after waking, usually within a half-hour or so.
2. Facial or Neck Pain
If you wake up with odd pains in your face or neck with no apparent explainable cause, bruxism may be to blame. Such pains may be the result of a constant movement in muscles of the face or neck as you grind your teeth and clench your jaw.
3. Sudden Earaches
If you suddenly begin to develop earaches and feel them upon awakening, consider whether or not there is a cause, such as swimmer’s ear. If not, notice if any other symptoms on this list are occurring at the same time, alerting you that you might be grinding your teeth in your sleep.
Also, this ache in your ear may radiate into your mouth, making you wonder if you are also experiencing a toothache on that side of the face as well.
4. Soreness, Tightness, or a Clicking Sound in the TMJ and Jaw Muscles
Do you ever wake up experiencing a sore or stiff jaw? Does your jaw click at times when you yawn or open your mouth wide to eat? If so, bruxism may be to blame.
Your TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) and surrounding muscles work together to allow you to open and close your mouth and also to shift your jaw in a side-to-side motion. If you clench your jaw during the night, along with teeth grinding, this repetitive force can create irritation in the TMJ. As a result, you may experience pain, soreness, tightness, or clicking in this area.
5. On-going Sleep Disruptions
If sleep disruptions become more and more common, these can be a clue that you are experiencing bruxism at night. The noise you make while grinding your teeth may wake you several times. Pain in the jaw, ears, or neck can wake you as well.
Interrupted sleep can leave you feeling tired throughout the day and also cause you to become distracted and experience trouble concentrating.
While sleep disruptions can be a sign of other medical or stress-related issues, take a look at what other signs on this list fit with your situation to determine if bruxism is a potential cause.
6. Damage to Teeth
One of the most noticeable signs of bruxism is the different damages it can cause to your teeth. Stay on the lookout for the following dental-related signs of bruxism.
Chipped, cracked, or fractured teeth
Flattened teeth, indicating excessive wear and potential exposure of deeper tooth layers
Heightened tooth sensitivity (to hot or cold items)
Unexplainable tooth pain
If you notice any of these signs, make an appointment with your dentist right away. Your dentist will know what to look for and what to ask to determine if bruxism is occurring, then will help you find the right solution.
7. Soreness or Damage in Lip or Inner Cheek Tissues
The action of grinding your teeth as you sleep may extend to chewing the inner parts of your lips and cheeks. If you notice these areas are sore, tender, or sensitive, or contain new sores that fail to heal quickly, suspect bruxism. A jagged or chipped tooth may be scraping against these mouth tissues as you grind your teeth at night.
What To Do About Grinding Your Teeth at Night
Whether you are grinding your teeth due to stress and anxiety, existing dental issues, or another cause, there are things you can do to help.
Schedule a Dental Exam
Start by noting which signs above are most prevalent. Next, contact your dentist to schedule a consultation and exam to see if bruxism is indeed the cause and, if so, to go over your options for managing it.
During the dental exam, your dentist will know what to look for, including loose, cracked, or chipped teeth, or the excessive wearing down of tooth surface, exposing deeper layers.
In addition to attending to any dental issues found, your dentist may recommend you wear a night guard when you sleep. This device can help slow or lessen the grinding and protect both your upper and lower teeth. Other oral devices may also be recommended depending upon your particular needs.
Your dentist will also consider whether you suffer from sleep apnea or excessive snoring, which can also lead to you grinding your teeth at night. If found, a personalized treatment plan can be designed to help manage that sleep apnea or snoring and alleviate or manage the bruxism.
Make Lifestyle Changes
In addition to treating dental issues that arise as a result of grinding your teeth, you may also want to consider making some lifestyle changes.
If you suffer high levels of stress or anxiety, try incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine, such as yoga or meditation. You may also want to meet with your boss and see if your workload can be re-evaluated or consider other ways to manage your schedule.
As for your diet, try cutting back on food and beverages that contain caffeine, or avoid them altogether. These include coffee, tea, soft drinks, sports drinks, and chocolate. Also, limit or avoid alcohol consumption, which has a tendency to increase the intensity of teeth grinding and jaw clenching as you sleep.
If you notice any of the signs of bruxism and suspect you might be grinding your teeth at night, contact Lifetime Dental Health to schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Barry and his team. Dr. Barry will take the time to evaluate your oral health with a thorough dental exam and ask all the right questions. Call today.
When it comes to maintaining your smile and a healthy mouth overall, a missing tooth can interfere in more ways than one. Not only will it affect your look and potentially lower your confidence, causing you to smile less often, but it can also affect the surrounding teeth and their functionality.
Essentially, a missing tooth can lead to a weakening of the mouth structure, creating difficulties in the way you eat and speak. The remaining adjacent teeth often begin to shift overtime into the empty space, and this shifting can severely weaken your bite and leave you with aching jaws, headaches, and more.
There is a beneficial solution for these missing teeth, however, and it is in the form of a dental bridge. If you’re wondering what exactly a dental bridge is, and how many teeth it can replace, we answer these questions and more below.
What Exactly is a Dental Bridge?
A dental bridge is essentially a synthetic (artificial) tooth attached to the adjacent teeth. These adjacent teeth serve as support for the artificial tooth, securing it in place so you can return to smiling confidently and also prevent shifting and preserve your bite.
The artificial tooth itself can be made of different materials, such as ceramic or porcelain bonded to a metal alloy. The supporting teeth on each side can be your natural teeth but are often crowns themselves.
Your dentist will use a bonding element or cement to hold the dental bridge in place, bridging the gap between teeth. Then, once the dental bridge is secured, you can return to eating, speaking, and smiling with ease and confidence.
The benefits of a dental bridge, besides the filling in of an empty space and preventing teeth from shifting, are that it can re-adjust an already affected bite and help maintain the natural shape of your face. It can also limit the risk of developing temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
How Many Teeth Can a Dental Bridge Replace?
A dental bridge effectively restores a gap of one missing tooth but more commonly serves as a solution to replacing two, three, or four teeth in a row.
Any more than four teeth and the stability of the dental bridge is threatened, making it less efficient or dependable. One potential way around this is to first start with dental implants on the stabilizing teeth on each end. These implants are a good solution when a person’s natural teeth are not strong enough to hold the dental bridge in place.
To know what will work for you, however, start by consulting with your dentist to learn about the possibilities and what steps you’ll need to take to ensure a dental bridge will serve your best interests.
How Do You Take Care of a Dental Bridge?
A dental bridge doesn’t require removal for cleaning, and you need not worry about it slipping, which is often the case with dentures. It will, however, need replacing at some point, usually between 5-15 years, depending on your dental hygiene practices.
Meanwhile, taking care of your dental bridge is similar to taking care of your natural teeth. Once it is secured in place, you can keep it looking and functioning at its best by following these steps.
Brush twice per day using a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove tartar and plaque that can build up along the gum line and surrounding teeth.
Floss between your natural teeth, or crowns, each day, keeping them healthy so they can continue to support the dental bridge efficiently.
Regularly clean out the area underneath the dental bridge. Since the bridge does not connect all the way down into your gum, the resulting gap can trap food particles or other mouth debris. Try using dental picks or other recommended implements to ensure you can reach the area adequately.
Schedule bi-annual dental appointments so your dentist can examine the dental bridge and supporting teeth, and also conduct a thorough cleaning of the entire area.
Other precautions you can take to maintain the life of a dental bridge is to avoid biting down on or chewing hard objects, such as ice, candy, and nuts. While dental bridges consist of strong and durable materials, like natural teeth, they can still fracture under extreme pressure.
Contact Lifetime Dental Health Today to Find Out More About Dental Bridges
When it comes to choosing the best solutions for missing teeth, dental bridges are high up on the list. With them, you can not only restore a confident smile but also protect and improve the functionality of your bite and restore normal eating and speaking abilities.
The team at Lifetime Dental Health proudly offers dental bridges for our patients to restore missing teeth and help them get back to enjoying life. Contact our Columbus office today to learn more and find out how dental bridges can work for you.
Getting a good night’s rest is imperative to both the body and brain, and when too many nights go by without that quality sleep, it may be a sign of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a disorder where a patient experiences interrupted breathing several times during the night, usually due to some type of upper airway blockage. Common signs of this obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) include excessive snoring and various dental issues, such as bruxism (grinding of teeth) and tooth decay. You may also feel tired upon waking and experience fatigue and other symptoms throughout the day.
Medical and dental professionals recognize sleep apnea as a major health concern today, and if left untreated, it can lead to serious health issues in our patients.
Fortunately, though, there are now ways to treat that sleep apnea, and your dentist can evaluate and assist you in finding the right solution, starting with a fitted oral mouthpiece or appliance. In more complex cases, however, additional treatments may need considering, such as the use of PAP devices or even surgery.
Sleep Apnea treatment today may consist of the following options.
Oral Mouthpieces or Appliances
For mild to moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea, patients can work with their dentist to find a mouthpiece or oral appliance treatment option. These options are designed to keep a patient’s throat open as they sleep and help ensure breathing is continuous throughout the night.
Dentists will custom-fit these devices for patients, ensuring a proper fit that is comfortable as well as beneficial in treating the overall sleep apnea.
The types of mouthpieces available include:
MADs (Mandibular Advancement Devices): MADs work by maintaining the forward positioning of the lower jaw, so the upper airway is open and avoids constriction. These devices are often offered for the relief of chronic snoring and nightly teeth grinding (bruxism), which are also signs of sleep apnea.
TRDs (Tongue Retaining Devices): TRDs prevent the tongue from slipping backward in the mouth as a patient sleeps. Without it, the tongue can potentially block air flow and contribute to interrupted breathing as you sleep.
Once fitted by your dentist, you’ll need to schedule follow-up visits to ensure the fit remains suitable and to mention any new symptoms you are experiencing.
Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) devices are an important component for treating many patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea. These devices require the patient to wear a mask, and they deliver pressurized air continuously throughout the night.
Different types of PAP devices are available, but all require a prescription by your healthcare provider. The prescription itself is based on your particular breathing patterns, which define the necessary pressure settings. Your device arrives pre-set according to these prescribed pressure settings and can be adjusted if necessary.
Different types of PAP Devices include:
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): Perhaps the most common device is the CPAP, which pumps a steady, consistent flow of air through a hose and into your airway as you sleep. The air flow keeps your upper airway passages more open. With this, airway collapse is prevented, and it promotes normal breathing patterns and less sleep interruptions.
Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure (BPAP): The BPAP device differs from the CPAP in that it uses one particular air pressure level for inhalation and a different one for exhalation. In other words, you receive a higher pressure when you inhale and less as you exhale.
Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP): APAP devices provide a more individualized or customized approach, varying the air pressure levels as needed by the patient during his or her particular sleep cycle. The device will automatically adjust the air pressure as you sleep.
Advanced Devices: For those suffering with the more complex sleep apnea, newer treatments are arriving today, such as the Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV). The ASV learns your breathing rhythm and stores that information in its computer. As you sleep, it focuses on normalizing your breathing to match this stored information.
While these devices can be successful, patients often experience discomfort and trouble adjusting to the required mask while sleeping. As a result, many seek the oral mouthpiece or appliance option to treat their sleep apnea instead.
Rarely is any type of surgery recommended to initially treat a patient’s sleep apnea. However, when all else fails to deliver enough positive results, surgery may be recommended.
Surgical recommendations are often made for those patients with anatomical features which can constrict the airway and may require the removal of mouth tissue and even the tonsils and adenoids.
Other surgical options can include jaw repositioning, soft rod implantation, tissue shrinkage, nerve stimulation, or a tracheostomy.
Patients can also take measures on their own to help treat and alleviate sleep apnea. Try these suggested lifestyle changes alone or with your oral mouthpiece or PAP machine.
Lose Weight: Losing weight, even if only a little, can help limit your throat from constricting and blocking the airway when you sleep.
Exercise: Regular exercise is beneficial in easing obstructive sleep apnea symptoms in mild cases, so try to incorporate at least 30 minutes a day into your schedule.
Seek Allergy Treatment: Allergies, either seasonal or year-round, can cause sinuses to stop up and interrupt breathing as you sleep. Consider seeking allergy treatments to help with this.
Avoid or Limit Alcohol and Sedatives: These substances cause muscles in the back of the throat to abnormally relax, which can interfere with your breathing.
Don’t Sleep on Your Back: When lying on your back, the tongue and palate tend to slip back and rest against the throat, blocking your airway. Find ways to keep yourself on your stomach or side while you sleep, such as with a wedge or other device.
Seek the Help of Lifetime Dental Health in Columbus to Treat Your Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea dentistry is your first step in identifying and treating your sleep disorder and getting better rest. Dr. Richard Barry and his team at Lifetime Dental Health are here to help with this and will work with you to find your best solution. Contact our Columbus office today to schedule an appointment with our professional, compassionate team and find out how we can help.
Sleep apnea affects over 25 million adults in the US today, and if you’re one of these, you may already be receiving treatment. Many people, however, may not even know they suffer with the sleep disorder, and this can lead to dangerous health problems down the road if not diagnosed and treated.
Fortunately, dentists specialized in sleep apnea identification and treatment are more common today and are often the first to recognize the disorder in patients and provide treatment options. In other instances, a healthcare provider and dentist can work together to offer solutions and help patients finally get a better night’s rest and improve their health in the process.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Essentially, sleep apnea is the condition of experiencing repetitive breathing interruptions at night during the sleep cycle. This condition exists when something partially or temporarily blocks the upper airway, preventing oxygen from entering in and reaching the lungs as you sleep.
Many factors can cause this interrupted breathing and need addressing sooner rather than later so as to avoid dangerous health issues, including high blood pressure, heart strain, and dips in oxygen levels.
7 Common Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea
Even without a medically supervised sleep study, warning signs abound for those who experience sleep apnea. Here are seven, in particular, to be aware of for you and your loved ones.
1. Excessive Snoring
Excessive, loud snoring is notably the most obvious sign of sleep apnea. If you often wake yourself up at night with your snoring or a bed mate constantly complains about it, you may unknowingly suffer from sleep apnea.
Snoring can be a prime indication that the airway is constricting or being obstructed in some way as you sleep. Enlarged tissue or other factors can cause this.
2. Gasping for Air
You may also be experiencing the stopping and restarting of breath during the night and even struggle to gasp for air on occasion.
Each breathing interruption episode can last as little as a few seconds to several minutes long. During these episodes, you may struggle to breathe, gasping for air and making choking noises.
Once again, your bed mate will often be the one to discover this, or it may be recognized during a sleep study.
3. Grinding of Teeth or Clenching of Jaw During the Night
When an individual experiences sleep apnea and the airway is blocked, the natural physical reaction is the clenching of the jaws and grinding of teeth. This reaction is the natural response to oxygen deprivation in the brain and body and not something you choose to do voluntarily.
While you may not realize this clenching and grinding are occurring, you will show signs which are often identifiable by your dental team.
During a dental exam where broken, cracked, worn, or flat teeth or dental restorations appear, your dentist may suspect and diagnose bruxism, which is the chronic grinding of teeth and jaw clenching at night as you sleep.
Often jaw pain and frequent headaches accompany these dental issues, serving as more warning signs that sleep apnea is to blame. Patients often experience TMJ disorders as well.
If you know you are experiencing any of these, talk with your dentist and discuss potential causes and treatments.
4. Dry Mouth Upon Awakening
Sleep apnea will cause a patient to breathe more through the mouth instead of the nose, often leaving them with a dry mouth upon waking.
Talk with your dentist if you find yourself waking with a dry mouth most mornings. This dry mouth can lead to tooth decay, as well as gum inflammation, periodontal disease, and mouth sores.
If you always feel unrested upon waking in the mornings, you may not be getting a good night’s sleep, and this sleep disorder may be directly affecting you.
Also, finding yourself constantly feeling fatigued or sleepy throughout the day can be a warning sign of sleep apnea as well. While a few days of this is somewhat normal these days, due to various stressors, it shouldn’t be the case more often than not.
6. Concentration Difficulties
The inability or decrease in the ability to concentrate is often a side effect of sleep apnea. Your brain and body require adequate levels of oxygen to function and stay healthy. When this doesn’t happen, you may experience difficulty concentrating, be easily distracted, and feel as if in a haze of sorts throughout the day.
While you are still getting some sleep, it is not the quality of sleep your brain needs to keep you focused and productive.
The lack of adequate oxygen reaching your brain during the interrupted sleep can lead to increasing concentration difficulties, and this can lead to accidents and other stress-related problems.
7. Memory Issues
While temporarily experiencing forgetfulness can be troubling, when it occurs on a more frequent basis, it becomes a problem. The lack of quality sleep and adequate oxygen to the brain caused by sleep apnea may be the culprit behind it all.
When simple tasks become challenging, consider consulting with your dentist or health care professional and ask about the potential for experiencing sleep apnea, especially if you suffer from any of the other warning signs on this list.
How Dentists Can Help with Sleep Apnea
While your medical doctor is often the first to diagnose sleep apnea, today, dentists play an ever-increasing role in identifying and offering treatment options for those patients suffering with the disorder.
With the use of mouth and dental x-rays, and physical examinations of the throat and mouth, dental problems, tissues, or other blockages to the airway can be identified. From there, your dentist can recommend treatment options in the form of dental corrections, mouth pieces, or other appliances, and refer you to your medical provider for more information and options.
Sleep Apnea Dentistry in Columbus
Dr. Richard Barry and his team understand the complexities and problems surrounding sleep apnea and strive to help you or loved ones find the best solution possible. Whether you need dental corrections or mouth pieces to help relieve airway blockage, the team at Lifetime Dental Health is with you every step of the way. Call us today or contact us online at our website to schedule an appointment and start finding relief from your sleep apnea today.
Your teeth are composed of nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue, and enamel. When a tooth is damaged, either from bacteria (an untreated cavity), prior dental work or trauma, or decay, a tooth infection can form.
A tooth infection can happen to anyone. People who have weak immune systems, smoke, cannot keep up with regular dental hygiene, or have dry mouths are more likely to get tooth infections. Cavities, or holes in the teeth from decay, are very common and can easily be filled by any dentist. However, if cavities are left untreated, further damage can occur, leading to an infected tooth that needs more serious treatment.
What Is an Infected Tooth?
An infection occurs in the body when bacteria begins to invade and spread. For example, someone who has pneumonia has a bacterial infection of the lungs and needs treatment. A child who has an ear infection will usually be prescribed antibiotics to fight off bacteria. An infected tooth occurs when bacteria find entrance into damaged teeth. This bacteria then starts to spread, furthering the infection.
Teeth infections might present as abscesses, which cause intense pain secondary to pockets of pus in the teeth. Such infections can spread to the gums, surrounding teeth, bones, or blood and body. This is what makes treating an infected tooth extremely important.
Symptoms of an Infected Tooth
Below are some symptoms that might indicate a tooth infection or infected teeth. These symptoms are listed to help you identify possible manifestations of this issue at home. If you believe you have any of these symptoms, please contact our Lifetime Dental Health team to set up an appointment.
Tooth pain or toothache
Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods
Pain when eating or chewing
Disagreeable taste in your mouth
Fever or subjective fever at home
Neck swelling (lymph nodes will appear swollen)
Tenderness of the mouth, gums, or teeth
Loosening or loss of the tooth
Drainage of a sore in the mouth, especially near the tooth socket
Sometimes tooth pain can present as sharp, burning, gnawing, throbbing, aching, or dull. Any level of pain in the tooth could indicate infection or some other dental problem, so ensure that you follow up with a professional.
Effects of a Tooth Infection
Symptoms of a tooth infection, like pain or sensitivity while eating, can often be disruptive to your life. Unfortunately, in a tooth that is infected, these symptoms will not resolve on their own. The only way for these symptoms to resolve is with treatment.
Common treatments for a tooth infection include:
Incision and drainage: The team at Lifetime Dental Health cuts into the infected area, opening a small pocket that allows for bacteria-filled pus to drain. This removal of pus leads to healing.
Root canal: Our team drills into the center of the tooth, removing the pulp, which contains infected nerves and vessels. The tooth can survive without pulp if it is a mature adult tooth. Afterward, a crown is typically placed to protect the tooth.
Antibiotics: These are typically given supplementally to an incision and drainage or root canal procedure to fight off remaining bacteria.
Tooth extraction: if an infection is severe, the tooth might need to be removed from the socket to prevent the infection from spreading to other teeth or the body.
Even if you feel comfortable managing the symptoms of an infected tooth, you can experience surprising and unexpected complications that can arise from leaving an infected tooth untreated. Many people do not realize how interconnected dental health is to the health of the rest of the body, and that their teeth are connected to the vascular, or blood, system, and nervous system.
Surprisingly, an infected tooth can lead to three unique adverse effects: sepsis, meningitis, and Ludwig’s Angina.
Sepsis is a bacterial infection of the blood that is typically moderate or severe and must be treated with intravenous (IV) antibiotics in a hospital setting. People who are more at risk of getting sepsis are elderly adults, people with weakened immune systems, people with medical conditions, and children. However, anyone with an untreated infected tooth is at risk for sepsis.
High fever, swollen lymph nodes, rapid heart rate, entire body aches are emergent signs that sepsis has occurred. Someone with these signs should immediately seek emergency care.
Other signs of sepsis include shortness of breath and hyperventilation. The skin might appear to be pale or mottling, or an abnormal blue-ish tie-dye color of the skin. Sepsis is a serious complication. Early treatment of sepsis is crucial to knocking out the infection and protecting one’s body.
Another unknown possible effect of an untreated tooth infection is meningitis. Because bacteria have the ability to move from a tooth to the bloodstream, bacteria also have the ability to invade the nervous system. The nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
Once bacteria get into the nervous system, they can cause inflammation and damage to the brain and spinal cord. A severe manifestation of this inflammation is a bacterial disease called meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is another serious effect that can lead to prolonged hospitalization and be life-threatening.
Signs of meningitis include neck rigidity, difficulty moving the neck from side to side, pain in the neck, fever, prolonged and severe headaches, decreased level of consciousness, altered mental status, fatigue, and even seizures. It’s surprising that an infected tooth can lead to meningitis, and it is a risk that not many people know. Please seek emergency treatment if these symptoms develop.
Thirdly, a surprising effect of an infected tooth is the development of Ludwig’s Angina. This complication occurs when bacteria from the infected tooth spread to the throat. Throat pain, throat swelling, shortness of breath, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, difficulty eating, difficulty breathing, fever, neck pain, and ear pain can be common symptoms of Ludwig’s Angina.
If this adverse effect develops, it is typically treated with antibiotics. A person who feels shortness of breath or difficulty breathing should seek emergency care. Throat swelling can prevent you from getting the oxygen you need, and in some cases, leads to intubation, or stabilization of the airway with a tube. This is one of the most severe scenarios for Ludwig’s Angina.
These three surprising effects may be interesting and intimidating. However, now that you are knowledgeable about the causes and effects of an infected tooth, you are prepared to seek out treatment in a timely manner if suspicious of a tooth infection.
If you think you have an infected tooth and want to get your teeth assessed, contact us here at Lifetime Dental Health.
If you’re like many adults today, you have your share of cavities, most acquired during childhood. And, like many adults, you probably have some not-so-cherished memories of the drilling, and the stuffing, and the discomfort that can accompany getting a filling. Filling cavities in our teeth is important, but it can’t quite be called fun. And it’s not a sign of healthy teeth, either. Cavities signal tooth decay, but how can you keep that decay away? Call on dental sealants.
Do Dental Sealants Help Prevent Cavities?
Brushing your teeth and flossing daily removes most of the food and bacteria from your teeth. But not all of it. Especially on teeth in the back of your mouth — molars and premolars. These are the teeth that do most of the work, the grinding and chewing, when you eat. And the surface grooves and fissures —which all teeth have — are deeper on these teeth than on others, and harder to reach when you brush, especially for young children.
Dental sealants consist of a thin coating of liquid plastic that’s painted onto the chewing surface of molars and premolars. They serve as an extra barrier to help protect these hard-working teeth from decay. Sealants work much like the commercial packaging we find on perishable foods in a store. They keep food particles, bacteria, and plaque from settling into the hills and valleys of your tooth’s surface in the way that a package, be it a can or a bag, keeps dust and dirt out of the food on your grocer’s shelves.
Dental sealants are permanently bonded to a tooth’s surface. To apply a dental sealant, we first use an acidic solution to roughen the surface of the tooth so that the sealant solution will stick as well as possible. Once the acid is rinsed off, the sealant is carefully painted onto the surface of your tooth. As the sealant is applied, it flows into all the crevices in the tooth, some of which are thinner than a strand of human hair. The final step is hardening the sealant, called polymerizing, accomplished by shining a curing light on the tooth for a few minutes.
Their application takes little time — most often less than 45 minutes — and helps ensure that your tooth will be ready to keep out bacteria and food particles for years to come. And it’s usually painless, a plus for children who fear the dentist or people who have particularly sensitive teeth.
How Well Do Dental Sealants Do Their Job?
Keeping cavities out of teeth in order to avoid the need for a dental filling is one of the main jobs dental sealants are specifically designed to do. Although they are most often used on children’s teeth, sealants can work well for adults, too. The statistics are impressive:
According to the American Dental Association, sealants can not only prevent cavities, but they can also sometimes halt the progression of tooth decay that has not yet created a cavity.
Is The Cost of a Dental Sealant Worth It?
Typically, placing dental sealants will cost from $30 to $60 per tooth, depending on the teeth, your overall oral health, and the number of teeth to be sealed. Most dental insurance plans either don’t cover sealants at all, or offer minimal coverage. Nevertheless, even without dental insurance, sealants are likely to be less costly in the long run than handling tooth decay by putting in a filling.
The initial cost of filling a cavity is significantly more than the cost of a dental sealant. A filling can cost as much as $150 depending on the size of the filling needed and the type of filling desired. And cavities, and the need to fill them, are not uncommon. According to Zentist, a dental insurance website, on average:
42% of children age 2 to 11 have cavities in their primary teeth
59% of adolescents age 12 to 19 have cavities in their permanent teeth
92% of adults have at least one cavity
Even if cost isn’t an issue, time and inconvenience often are. At the least, like getting a dental sealant, filling a cavity means a visit to your dentist. But getting a filling takes longer, can be uncomfortable during the procedure, and may cause pain (from mild to severe) that keeps you from your normal activities for the rest of the day. Sealants can be applied rather quickly, compared to filling a cavity, and they usually cause no pain or discomfort. And, unlike replacing a filling, which requires re-drilling the tooth, if a seal is broken, for whatever reason, the sealant can easily be reapplied.
As with any oral health decision, the real first step to stopping cavities with dental sealants is to talk with your dentist. We at Lifetime Dental Health are here to help, right from the start. To talk to one of our dental professionals or to make your first appointment, contact us. We’ll be happy to help you stop cavities in their tracks, before they reach your pearly-whites.