Man grinding his teeth

You’ve probably heard about the Associated Press’s report about how flossing doesn’t have proven medical benefits. Many dentists were perplexed since their experiences showed otherwise. Now patients who could benefit from flossing may have another excuse not to.

Although unrelated to flossing, an article with a similar tone surfaced in November on Dr Bicuspid. In this article, dentists seem to be undermined again, since researchers claim that there aren’t good screening tools for tooth wear:

Tooth wear screening tools fall short, new study finds

Which tooth wear evaluation tool works best? None, according to a new study. Researchers found that the four most common systems to categorize erosion all fall short of the requirements needed to be universally used in dental practice and research.

A team of international researchers realized that no universally applicable evaluation tool exists. Therefore, they set out to determine whether one of the existing systems could be used universally or if dental researchers need to create a new tool.

“It was this study’s first aim to perform an in-depth analysis of the characteristics of four commonly used tooth wear evaluation systems to determine if … [these systems show] characteristics of a hypothetical, broadly applicable evaluation system,” wrote the study authors, led by Peter Wetselaar, DDS, an assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (BMC Oral Health, November 3, 2016) . . .

More people are aging with their natural dentition, and erosion is becoming an increasingly common problem seen in the dental office. However, while there are universal systems to diagnose and monitor caries and periodontal disease, a similar tool does not exist for tooth wear.

Read more here . . .

On further inspection, the research basically points out that screening tools do work together–there just hasn’t been a universal tool that can cover every need. So like the flossing issue, dentists shouldn’t have to defend their methods of preventative care–they know what they’re doing!

While everyone loses a bit of enamel as they age, bruxism can be seen on x-rays and with oral screenings, since teeth will be worn or even fractured or chipped! And if wear isn’t immediately apparent, dentists can often diagnose based on the patient’s symptoms, such as sensitive teeth, jaw pain, headaches, and so on. If you are concerned about bruxism, be sure to ask your dentist about it at your next teeth cleaning.

Although bruxism can be identified and stopped in its tracks with a mouthguard, some people can actually reduce their jaw clenching. For instance, one study shows that those who drink alcohol or use cigarettes may be at greater risk for teeth grinding:

Alcohol, cigarettes are risk factors for bruxism

December 14, 2016 — When patients report smoking cigarettes or frequently drinking alcohol, you probably automatically think of their increased risk for caries and periodontal disease. However, you may want to also check for bruxism during your exam.

A new study found those who smoke cigarettes and binge drink have an increased risk for sleep bruxism. The study authors hope dentists will use their findings to screen at-risk patients for the condition, which can lead to tooth wear and fractures, periodontal disease, and headaches.

“Because results of our [systematic review] indicated that there is some available evidence of the possible association between [sleep bruxism] and alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco, dentists should be aware of this possibility during the first dental appointment,” wrote lead study author Eduardo Bertazzo-Silveira, DDS, and colleagues (Journal of the American Dental Association, November 2016, Vol. 147:11, pp. 859-866).

Read more here . . .

So if you aren’t keen on wearing a mouthguard for a lengthy amount of time, you may want to consider your lifestyle habits. Also, bruxism can be caused by other conditions, such as sleep apnea, and by high amounts of stress. It’s best to come up with a plan with your dentist so that you can wean yourself off of the mouthguard if possible.

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