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Are Athletes More Prone to Oral Health Problems ?

October 31, 2016

Filed under: Customer Service,Dental Health,Occlusion or Bite — Tags: , — Dr Gillis @ 6:13 pm

Are athletes more likely to have oral health problems?

Playing sports may affect an athletes oral health.  Here are some reasons why.

An athletes oral health may be more prone to problems than the general population. I think most people would assume that the answer to the above questions is a resounding No. Actually, the answer is Yes!  Athletes in general, are concerned with their physical health.  For peak performance they need to maintain muscle fitness, eat properly, and they want to look and feel good.

A recent article in “Decisions in Dentistry,” “Managing Oral Health Challenges in Athletes”, October 2016 noted that “The training required of both professional and recreational athletes is physically demanding.  While sore muscles and overuse injuries are common among athletes, oral health can also be adversely affected.”  The most prevalent athletes oral health problems are the following:

  • Tooth clenching that results in excessive and irreversible wear of teeth
  • Tooth grinding or bruxism which also results in excessive wear
  • Tooth erosion which is the loss of tooth structure due to acidic attack as seen in people who drink excessive amounts of soda.
  • Xerostomia or mouth dryness

How are athletes oral health  more affected you might wonder?  One of the major muscles that closes the mouth is called the masseter muscle.  Studies have shown that when large muscles in the legs, arms and back are activated, the masseter is also activated.  We have all seem the ‘grimace face’ of weightlifters and sprinters.  The masseters are contracting and the teeth are touching forcibly which, over time, causes wear of the hardest structure in the body, the tooth enamel.

Severe tooth abrasion has created cupped lesions in the teeth.

Severe tooth abrasion has created cupped lesions in the teeth.

The the same article noted a study linking clenching your teeth with improved body stability.  This may affect participants in several sports.  Our office tries to let our patients know that your teeth could only contact if you are chewing or swallowing. Can athletes maintain the desired stability without clenching?  I would hope so for the sake of their teeth! Chronic bruxism or clenching can also lead to problems with the TMJ or jaw joint, the muscles of the jaw that make all the things we like to do with our teeth and our mouthed possible or the bone supporting the teeth may be affected.  Teeth could become loose or bone may be irreversibly lost.  Teeth, crowns and fillings could fracture.

Tooth erosion depends on the erosive agent and the amount of time that the teeth are exposed.  Competitive swimmers may expose their teeth to slightly acidic water for hours at a time.  Many endurance sports encourage mouth breathing which, of course, leads to a dry mouth (xerostomia) which can lead to increased decay and gum disease.  Plaque forms easier and is more sticky and damaging on dry teeth and tissue leading to problems with an athletes oral health.

What can be done for athletes oral health?

  • Mouth guards may protect the teeth from some of the effects of clenching and grinding.
  • Teeth that have been eroded can be aesthetically and conservatively restored (Ask Dr. Gillis! She would be happy to discuss options with you!)
  • Topical Fluoride treatments help form a protective barrier on the surface of teeth.
  • Over-the-counter fluoride rinses i.e., Listerine with Fluoride can help
  • Chewing gum during exercise especially sugar-free boosts protective saliva production – but use lozenges and gum during sports with caution to avoid choking!

Keep on exercising but take care of your teeth, your mouth and yourself!

Yours for better dental health,

Julie Gillis DDS

Restoring Smiles/Restoring Health


Underbite Described by Dr. Julie Gillis

March 10, 2016

Filed under: Customer Service,Occlusion or Bite,Uncategorized — Tags: — Dr Gillis @ 4:36 pm

What is an Underbite?

There are many articles out there discussing the underbite.  If you ask around many people have heard this term but few know exactly what that means. It is important to note that an underbite is not necessarily a bad thing and may never need to be corrected.  Basically in dentistry, a ‘bite’ is how your upper and lower teeth fit together.  With an underbite, the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth when you bite down.  If you would like answers to questions related to your or a family member’s bite ask your dentist.  Our office would be happy to offer you recommendations and discuss treatment options.

There are many issues here! One of these is an underbite is present. Appearance with the teeth apart.

There are many issues here! One of these is an underbite is present. Appearance with the teeth apart.

There are many issues here! One of these is an underbite is present. Appearance with the teeth together.

There are many issues here! One of these is an underbite is present. Appearance with the teeth together.

Most poeple have some degree of an overbite.  This condition in which the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth is normal and somewhat protective.  The less contact of the incisal edges (the edges of your upper and lower front teeth) the less wear that is likely to occur over time.  An underbite is also called a Class III malocclusion or prognathism.  The lower jaw is often bigger than the upper jaw and/or the chin is farther forward in the face.  The classic underbite cartoon character for those who remember him is Dick Tracy.  An underbite may be visible or described as a ‘strong chin’ and the condition may be visible in a profile view due to the chin being too far forward.  Sometimes, people with this condition may hold their teeth apart as shown above and this may make the profile changes less noticeable.

What Causes an Underbite? 

  • Genetics – large lower jaw combined with small or normal – sized teeth
  • Genetics – small upper jaw combined with normal or large lower jaw
  • Habit – sometimes there really is not an overbite but instead a tendency to push the lower jaw forward.  Sometimes people with what we call an end-on-end bite will push the lower jaw forward to get more tooth surfaces together when they bite.

It is interesting to note that individuals of Asian descent have a higher liklihood of having the bite condition known as an underbite or mandibular prognathism than people of other ethnicities.

There are several complications – which may be largely cosmetic in nature – that may arise with having an underbite. Extreme cases can cause facial changes such as an overly pronounced chin, or difficulty chewing, swallowing and speaking. These bite problems can wear down the tooth’s enamel increasing a patient’s chances for developing tooth decay and other oral health issues.

The best way to treat an underbite is to catch it early. If you are concerned about your or your childs bite, it is important to consult with your dentist or an orthodontist to see if treatment can or should be completed to modify this condition.  It should be noted that not all underbites require treatment.

Yours for better dental health, Julie Gillis DDS

Restoring Smiles/Restoring Health