Bruxism Treatment

What Is Bruxism and How Is It Treated?

Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding, and it’s more common than you may think. The condition can be broken down into two separate disorders known as awake bruxism and sleep bruxism. As the names imply, one condition occurs when you knowingly clench or grind your teeth, while the other occurs subconsciously during your sleep. Below, we take a closer look at both conditions and explain how your dentist can help treat them.

Causes and Symptoms of Bruxism

Medical professionals don’t know exactly what causes bruxism and teeth grinding, but they believe it may be caused by a combination of physical and psychological factors. In awake bruxism, the condition is believed to be tied to things like anxiety, stress, frustration or other intense emotions, while the sleep variety can be caused by sleep disturbances and other arousals while sleeping.

Symptoms of the condition include:

  • Flattened, fractured or chipped teeth
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Increased tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Tired jaw muscles
  • Jaw and facial muscle soreness
  • Damage to the inside of your cheek
  • Dull headaches
  • Other sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or frequent waking

Bruxism Diagnosis and Treatment

While a mild form of the condition may only require monitoring, if the condition is affecting your teeth, jaw or face, you should seek out a diagnosis from a medical specialist or dentist. Aside from causing permanent damage to your teeth, the condition can also be costly, so uncovering the root cause and addressing it is important.

Your dentist can spot the signs of bruxism, so mention your concerns at your next appointment if you believe you may be consciously or unconsciously grinding your teeth. Your dentist will check for jaw soreness and damage to teeth, and they’ll also ask you questions about your lifestyle and sleeping habits to help determine a root cause. Since bruxism is oftentimes caused by psychological factors, common treatment options include finding ways to reduce stress, manage anxiety and safely manage emotions that can contribute to awake bruxism.

Contact a Bloomington MN Dentist

If your condition occurs while you’re sleeping, you may be referred to a sleep specialist. They’ll be able to look for reasons as to why you’re dealing with disturbances during your sleep, and they can help to develop a treatment strategy. Some common treatment options for sleep bruxism include making the sleep environment ideal for sleep (remove distractions, make it dark, go to bed at the same time each night), and healthy physical changes like avoiding caffeine or exercise right before bed. Your dentist or doctor may also prescribe sleep aids. Once the underlying cause is identified and treated, your dentist can perform necessary operations to restore the health of damaged teeth or mouth surfaces.

For more information, or to talk to a doctor about your teeth grinding, give Dr. Brooks’ office a call today.

Cavity Tips

10 Quick Tips For Reducing Your Cavity Risk

Nobody wants to deal with the time and cost associated with having a filling put in, but if you’re not careful about how you treat your mouth, you may be increasing your risk of cavities. While these methods won’t guarantee you’ll never have a cavity, if you practice all these tips, we’re confident you’ll greatly reduce your risk of needing a filling. Here are 10 quick tips for reducing your cavity risk.

How To Prevent The Need For Fillings

Here’s how you can quickly and easily reduce your cavity risk:

  1. Brush Your Teeth – Simply brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time can go a long way in reducing your cavity risk.
  2. Fluoride Toothpaste – When brushing, make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride, which helps to strengthen teeth. Look for a product with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance.
  3. Ditch Soda – Instead of cavity-causing soda, make water your drink of choice to protect your teeth.
  4. Regular Dental Checkups – Make sure you are seeing your dentist regularly for cleanings and other preventative care measures.
  5. Avoid Sticky Snacks – Raisins, gummies, and dried fruits can stick to your teeth, giving bacteria an increased ability to damage your teeth and cause cavities.
  6. Floss – Flossing once a day can help to remove plaque and other deposits that can eat away at your tooth enamel.
  7. Chew Sugar-Free Gum – Gum can curb cravings and increase saliva production, both of which help to keep the appropriate amount of bacteria in your mouth.
  8. Rinse After Acids – If you’re drinking a lot of juice or coffee, consider drinking some water shortly afterward. This can help to remove potentially damaging acids from the surface of your teeth.
  9. Mouth Rinses – Mouth rinses are just another way to kill germs and protect your teeth daily.
  10. Stop Small Problems – Finally, if a tooth begins to feel painful or something doesn’t feel right in your mouth, schedule a dentist appointment. Getting out ahead of small problems can help prevent more significant issues like cavities or the need for a root canal.

For more tips, or to set up an appointment with Dr. Brooks, contact our clinic today.

Vaping and Dental Health

How Vaping Affects Your Dental Health

Vaping has been marketed as a “safer” alternative to traditional tobacco use, but it’s not much better for your oral health than a standard cigarette. Kicking the habit will help to keep your smile white and protect it from issues like oral cancer and gum disease. Here’s a closer look at why vaping can be so detrimental to your oral health, and how to make healthier choices in the future.

Does Vaping Hurt Your Teeth

Although vaping doesn’t produce tobacco smoke, it’s still harmful to your health. Contrary to popular belief, the device doesn’t just lead to the production of water vapor, you’re actually exhaling an aerosol that contains fine particles. These particles are harmful to your health because they contain toxic chemicals that have been linked to all sorts of medical issues, like cancer, heart disease and respiratory issues.

But vaping doesn’t just affect your overall health, it also negatively impacts your dental health. The nicotine delivered to your system through these electronic cigarettes:

  • Restricts the amount of blood that can flow through your veins, depriving your mouth and gums of essential nutrients and oxygen.
  • Inhibits saliva production, which can contribute to dry mouth and tooth decay.
  • Can make other mouth conditions worse, like teeth grinding (bruxism). Left untreated, bruxism can lead to worn enamel, cracked teeth or jaw issues.
  • Increases your risk of developing gum disease or gum line recession.
  • Can lead to halitosis or bad breath.

At the end of the day, it’s just not worth it to smoke cigarettes or their “safer” alternative e-cigarettes. You’re still delivering unhealthy amounts of nicotine to your body, and you’re damaging the health of your teeth and your whole body. Your dentist is going to notice the signs, so don’t try to lie about it at your next visit. We’re not going to condemn you for smoking, but if you’re interested in quitting, we’d be happy to connect you with some resources to make it easier.

As we talked about in another post on smoking and your dental health, it’s never too late to kick the habit and work towards a healthier smile. The effects of cigarette and electronic cigarette use begin to reverse as soon as you stop smoking, and coupled with a coordinated dental hygiene plan with a dental professional, you can begin to turn back the clock on your dental health. For more information, or for resources to help quit tobacco and nicotine, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Same Day Dental Crowns

Same Day Dental Crowns & Bridges

Nobody likes to have a crown or bridge put in their mouth, but with the CEREC 3D system, we can have the hardware created and inserted on the same day. In the past, it would take days for the mouth to be scanned, the hardware to be created and the crown or bridge to be attached to the patient’s teeth, which meant multiple trips to the dentist’s office. But with the CEREC 3D system, we can speed this timeline up and have your hardware created and inserted all in one short visit!

The Benefits of the CEREC 3D System

The CEREC 3D system is a gamechanger for dentists and patients alike. CEREC stands for Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics, and the system uses precision scanning, detailed 3D modeling software and a unique milling device to create your new bridge or crown in hours compared to multiple weeks like it took in the past. No more return visits or crowns that aren’t the best fit for your mouth. This new modeling software can allow you to walk out the door with your new crown or bridge on the same day.

Another great benefit of the CEREC 3D system is that the precision scanning system and comprehensive design software means the hardware will be perfect fit for your tooth. In the past, dentists typically had to remove a portion of your tooth so that the crown or bridge would have a tight fit, but with the new system, much less of your existing tooth needs to be removed in order to create the perfect seal. Providing a better fitting product while preserving as much of your teeth as possible is a win-win.

Other benefits of the same day system include:

  • Better color matching to existing hardware or tooth color.
  • Removes imprecision from the equation.
  • Better sealing to the tooth surface.

So if you need a crown or a bridge, know that you can have one created and inserted all in one short visit at Smiles For Life. Dr. Brooks is so pleased with the system that it has become our favorite method for creating restorative hardware at our office. We love the system so much that we offer a free consultation so you can learn if the bridges or crowns we can create in no time are right for you. To set up that consultation, or to switch to a dental office who can offer you the convenience of same day dental hardware, reach out to Dr. Tim Brooks and the care team at Smiles for Life Dental in Bloomington.


My Employer Changed Dental Plans, Now What?

Nobody likes dealing with insurance companies, but employers are always looking to get a better deal on their insurance, so it’s not out of the ordinary for us to hear that someone’s employer changed their coverage options. So what should you do in the event your dental plan changes? We can help.

For starters, it’s our goal at Smile for Life Dental to help as many patients as we can, so we do as much as possible to accept as many different types of insurance plans as we can. We also try to keep our prices low, so that if you’re not offered dental protection or you choose not to carry dental insurance, paying your bill won’t be like pulling teeth.

Questions About Changing Dental Insurance

There are a couple of ways to learn more about your insurance coverage. For starters, calling the number on the back of your insurance card is probably the best bet, as they can share with you a list of providers or determine if a certain dentist is in your coverage network. Another great resource is your human resources department. Finally, we will do our best to answer any questions you might have, but we may not have all the answers. We can tell you what types of insurance we accept, but we won’t know the extent of your coverage.

If, during the open enrollment period, you find that your old dental care options are no longer available, you probably want to do some more research to determine which plan is best for you and your family. For reference, here’s a list of questions provided by the American Dental Association. Ask yourself these questions, and based on your answers, you may be able to determine which plan is best for you. Some sample questions include:

  • Does the dental plan allow you to pick your own dentist?
  • Will the plan allow you to stay with your current dental provider?
  • What type of routine and major dental care do you expect to need?
  • How are specialists covered under your new plan?
  • Is emergency treatment covered?
  • What is the max out-of-pocket limit?

Again, these questions just help to determine which necessities you’ll want to have, and which luxuries you can afford to skip. Importance will vary from family to family, but the majority of patients are most concerned about which providers are in network, and if they’ll be able to keep their dentist. If you have questions about whether a provider is in or out of network, look on the insurance company’s website to see if they list their providers, or contact them directly, as they’ll know exactly who is and who isn’t in network.

We never want to surprise you with a bill, so we’ll help as much as possible when it comes to dealing with your insurance company and figuring out your coverage. For more information, or to set up your next appointment, contact Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Smoking Teeth

Here’s Why Dentists Want You To Stop Smoking

Smoking obviously has negative consequences for your overall health, but it also takes a big toll on your teeth. Tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of death in the United States, and it’s also the leading cause of mouth cancer. But smoking also has a number of other potential side effects for your mouth, and as dentists, we really wish you’d give up the habit. Here’s a look at all the other problems smoking can cause for your mouth.

Smoking and Your Dental Health

Did you know that nearly 50 million Americans smoke cigarettes? That number seems preposterous considering all of the harmful side effects of tobacco. For your mouth alone, tobacco use has been linked to:

  • Bad breath
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Gum disease
  • Decreased bone density
  • Bone loss in the jaw
  • A number of different types of oral cancer
  • Decreased taste ability
  • Decreased ability to treat gum disease

And those are just the reasons that affect your mouth. When you add in things like an increased risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer’s, it’s easy to see why giving up tobacco can be the best thing you do for your body.

Another big reason why we want smokers to reevaluate their tobacco use is because smoking is linked to two other related dental issues. Smokers are less likely to visit a dentist, which means they aren’t getting treatment as often as they should, especially considering they are high risk for certain conditions. Smokers are also more likely to incorrectly believe that they’ve already done enough damage to their teeth, that there is little point to stopping at this point in their life. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

The effects of smoking begin to reverse themselves as soon as the smoker gives up the habit. That’s not to say that your teeth will revert back to pearly whites as soon as you go a week without smoking, but it’s never too late to invest your your dental health. We can help you develop a dental care plan that can reverse some of the damage caused by smoking and prevent future issues. For more information, or to speak to a team member about setting up your next appointment, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.


4 Weight Loss Tips That Can Also Help Your Teeth

A lot of people have weight loss on their list of New Year’s resolutions, but striving to lose weight can be beneficial for more than just your waistline. In fact, losing weight has some distinct benefits for your oral health. Below, we share four ways that a total weight loss plan can be beneficial for your teeth.

1. Healthier Food Choices

If you’re making healthier food choices for your waistline, odds are these choices are also good for your teeth. For example, if you’re ditching the high starch, high carbohydrate and high sugar foods, it also means these foods aren’t going to stick to the surface of your teeth and cause damage. Healthier food choices like vegetables, legumes and low-fat dairy can all help you lose weight and avoid exposing sugars and acids to your teeth at a higher rate than if you made poorer food choices.

2. Water is Your Best Friend

It’s amazing how much weight some people can lose when they just cut soda or juices from their diet. If you’re trying to lose weight, making water your primary drink of choice is a great way to avoid empty calories. Also, sodas and juices are loaded with sugars and acids that serve to break down tooth enamel, so by avoiding these liquids, you’ll be protecting your teeth. Water also contains fluoride, which is a compound that helps to strengthen tooth enamel. Ditching soda for water does right by your weight and your teeth.

3. Sugar-Free Snacking

When you were craving a snack in the past, you may have reached for chips of cookies. But if you’re trying to lose weight, you’re probably going to look for a healthier option. Aside from grabbing some fresh veggies or a banana, consider chewing more sugar-free gum. This will help with saliva production, which helps to keep a healthy balance of bacteria in your mouth, and it can help curb cravings.

4. Exercise Instead Of Eating

A lot of times we eat because we’re bored, and this can be harmful to both your waistline and your teeth. If you’re committing to your health this year, instead of walking to the kitchen cabinet when you’re bored, lace up your running shoes and get some exercise. Exercise can help to control our appetites, and if you’re not snacking, you’re not exposing your teeth to products that can break down tooth enamel. It’s a win-win!

So if you’re committing to a healthier self in the new year, you can also take pride in knowing that you’re also helping keep your teeth and gums healthy. For more ways to keep the weight off and protect your teeth at the same time, or to setup your semi-annual dentist appointment, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Teeth Sick

How To Care For Your Mouth When You’re Sick

It’s flu season, and whether you’re battling the common cold or trying to avoid the bug heading around the office, you’re trying to do what you can to make sure you stay healthy. If you do end up with a cold, you’ll probably focus on some of the time-tested remedies, like soup and remaining hydrated, but you’ll also want to care for your mouth. Below, we share some ways you should care for your mouth when you’re battling a cold.

Caring For Your Mouth When You’re Sick

Here are five ways to care for your mouth when you’re battling a cold or flu this season.

  • 1. Have Good Dental Hygiene – It goes without saying, but don’t share your toothbrush with anyone when your sick. It may also be a good idea to keep your brush away from everyone else’s while you’re recovering because if the bristles touch in storage, germs can spread. If you’ve had your toothbrush for months, consider swapping it out with a new one once you’re over your cold.
  • 2. Sugar-Free Cough Drops – Cough drops can help keep us from spreading germs, but if the drops you keep putting in your mouth are laced with sugar, they can cause plenty of damage to your teeth. As you suck on these drops, the sugars cling to our teeth and aid in bacteria growth, which speeds up tooth decay. Always make sure you’re using a sugar-free cough drop during the cold season.
  • 3. Wash Your Mouth After Puking – If your sickness makes you vomit, care for your mouth after the episode. Brushing your teeth after vomiting can spread stomach acid to other surfaces of your teeth, so instead of brushing, swirl plenty of water around your mouth and spit it out. Do this a couple of times, and it will help to remove and neutralize any stomach acid remaining in your mouth.
  • 4. Hydrate – Staying hydrated is essential for battling your cold, but it is also crucial for your mouth. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll begin to feel it in your mouth in the form of dry mouth. Our saliva plays a crucial role in neutralizing acids and keeping the correct levels of bacteria in our mouth, so if we can’t produce the right amount of saliva, problems can begin to develop in our mouth.
  • 5. Water Over Other Liquids – Finally, be sure that when you’re hydrating, you’re choosing water over sodas or sugary juices. These sugary drinks can expose your teeth to acids and sugars, all of which serve to break down your tooth enamel. Water not only avoids bringing these substances into your mouth, but tap water also contains fluoride, which helps to strengthen your teeth. Some Vitamin C is essential, but make sure most of your hydration is coming from water and not orange juice or other sweetened beverages.

Hopefully, you can avoid becoming sick this season, but if you do, keep these tips in mind. If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

DIY Dentists

What Do Dentists Think Of DIY Dental Products?

There are plenty of do it yourself dental products on the shelves that claim to whiten and protect your teeth, but are these products really effective, or could they actually be jeopardizing the health of your teeth? In today’s blog, we take a look at what dentists think about some of the more popular DIY dental products.

DIY Dental Products

Here’s a look at a number of different products and teeth cleaning methods, and what our dental team thinks of them:

  • Oil Pulling – Oil pulling is a fad that involves swishing coconut or sunflower oil around your mouth to help protect your teeth and brighten your smile. While it has been practiced in some circles for generations, there’s no evidence that it actually works to protect your teeth. You can skip this method.
  • DIY Charcoal – A couple years ago, a popular trend on social media involved DIY whitening products that contained charcoal, and unlike oil pulling that doesn’t really help or hurt your teeth, these charcoal products, when administered incorrectly, can actually damage your teeth. We back the statement put forth in September 2017 in the Journal of the American Dental Association, which states that there is no evidence dental products containing charcoal are safe or effective.
  • Teeth Whiteners – For the most part, over the counter DIY teeth whitening kits are safe to use, so long as you follow the directions on the packaging closely. If you’re going to choose a whitening kit, be sure to find one that has the American Dental Association’s seal of approval on the box. Better yet, ask your dentist for their recommendation when it comes to whitening products.
  • DIY Aligners – You should be a little wary about products that promise to straighten your teeth if they come from a box, because every mouth is different, and you deserve an individualized plan to fix your smile. Talk to your dentist about all your teeth straightening options, because odds are you can find a solution that safely works with your smile and won’t break the bank.
  • Mouthguards – This DIY dental product helps to protect your teeth instead of making your smile whiter or correcting your smile, but people often have questions about which mouthguard is best. As we explained in this blog, there are a few different types of mouthguards. A boil and bite is a better option than a stock mouthguard, but if you have dental hardware like braces, a custom mouthguard is your best bet. Again, it’s in your best interest to talk to your dentist about what mouthguard option may be best for your mouth before making a decision.

For more tips on DIY products, or to run an idea past your dentist, give Dr. Brooks and his team a call today.

Permanent Teeth

What You Should Know About Your Child’s Permanent Teeth

It can be an exciting time for both parent and child when the latter starts to lose their primary teeth, but you probably have some questions about the next stage in their development. Today, we help answer some questions and explain what every parent should know about their child’s permanent teeth.

Losing The Baby Teeth

The loss of your child’s baby teeth is a milestone, and it may provide you with some funny photo opportunities of goofy grins! Your child’s baby teeth are only in their mouth for a few years, but they play a crucial role in development. Aside from helping our young children chew their food, baby teeth help to hold space in the jaw for the large adult teeth to eventually come in. Most kids have 20 total primary teeth, with 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom, but they help to set up the alignment for the 32 permanent teeth that will develop later in life.

So when can you expect these permanent teeth to begin bursting through in your child’s mouth? In most cases, the bottom teeth develop slightly before the top teeth, and you usually begin losing teeth at the front of your mouth and work your way to the back. Although every child is different, it’s common for a child to lose their two lower central incisors (middle teeth) around the age of six or seven, followed by the two upper central incisors around the age of seven or eight. Lateral incisors, the next teeth over, usually come in around eight or nine years of age.

Canines and premolars, which make up the majority of the rest of your teeth, usually develop within the next four years. The only oddball in the development of your child’s permanent teeth is when their first molars arrive. The first molar is the sixth tooth in from the middle, and it usually begins to come in right around the same time as your child’s first central incisor develops, so around the age of six or seven. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the first molar to be the first tooth that breaks through your child’s gums.

Wisdom Teeth

Your child should have the majority of their permanent teeth by the age of 12 or 13, but they may still have more on the way. The third molars, oftentimes referred to as the wisdom teeth, tend to break through around the age of 17 to 21, although some kids may never have them develop. Those who do usually have them removed during wisdom teeth surgery, as their emergence can cause more problems than their presence in the mouth. Wisdom teeth surgery is a pretty common operation, as estimates suggest that about 85 percent of adults previously had their wisdom teeth removed.

Hopefully you helped to instill good brushing habits in your children when they had their baby teeth, because they are going to have their permanent teeth for the rest of their lives, so it’s imperative they keep them healthy and clean. If you weren’t the best about caring for your child’s baby teeth, consider this your second chance to get things right and likely save you a good portion of money over the years on dental bills! If you want to learn more about how you can best protect your child’s new permanent teeth, or you need to schedule their next cleaning, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.