I had an appointment with the orthodontist my dentist recommended today, to get his opinion on whether or not I need braces.
I was very impressed with his professionalism. I am very happy to report, that he thought braces would be “an overkill,” for my situation. I was almost certain he would be trying to push them on me- more money for him-right?
He did agree with my dentist that I am grinding my teeth very hard in my sleep, and my teeth have moved, and a few of the teeth are loose. Evidently some of the top teeth are pushing the bottom teeth out of alignment. Over time he said, the contact between the teeth, will break down the ligaments and I will develop spaces and gaps between my teeth. He told me I had two options:
1. Do nothing orthodontically, and get a night guard, which actually will work as a great retainer, and keep my teeth where they are now. This should prevent any further damage for the time being.
2. Get aligners to reposition the top and bottom teeth that are out of alignment first, then get the nightguard. While aligners don’t move teeth like braces, they will move the teeth back some, but do nothing to lengthen the teeth. He pointed out that I have one canine tooth longer than the other. The only way to fix that would be to have braces. He also said the thinking has changed in that braces will help TMJ. He said braces will move the teeth, but it doesn’t do anything to help TMJ- patients still have TMJ after they are done wearing braces.
He told me if the position of my teeth don’t bother me now, then doing any work before having my dentist make a nightguard wasn’t necessary. However he said over time, the teeth that have moved out of position could keep shifting, since they can’t do anything to stop the grinding, and I could still be grinding during the day, unconsciously. He told me he sees way more women with grinding problems than men, and it is a nervous system issue in how stress is being dealt with (more on all this in a moment.) He stressed that if I didn’t like the position of my teeth, now would be the time to fix them, before a nightguard is made. The nightguard is made with the impressions of your teeth, and if I changed my mind, then I would have to buy a new nightguard.
So after taking all this in, and talking to Joe, I have decided to go ahead and do the aligners. They are like a plastic mold that fits over the teeth. They will also act as a guard at night, so I don’t undo their work if I keep grinding at night. They aren’t cheap, but are way less than braces, and I feel like it is a wise investment. I don’t like the way some of my teeth look now, after all this grinding, and I don’t want any more problems down the road. He told me I should only have to wear them for 3 or 4 months, and then I can get the nightguard made.
Interestingly, I made an appointment with my regular D.O doctor a few weeks back to get his thoughts, before I made a decision, and he said a lot of what the orthodontist told me today. He said braces would not do anything to address the grinding issue, and to him the most progress could be made if we figured out WHY I was grinding in the first place, and how to stop it.
I decided to try acupuncture with the M.D. who is also a licensed acupuncturist in his office. I had my second session today, right before the the ortho. appointment. What a difference! I can feel the muscles relaxing more in my jaw, and feel a lot less stressed overall. She told me after our first session, that sometimes the body gets “stuck” in a stress mode, and the energy has to be fixed, in order for it to let go of that stress. Having had a few stressful years, with babies, and car accidents, I think what she said really makes sense in my case. Initially she suggested six, once a week sessions. I felt so much better after the first session, that she suggested after today, I come back one more time next week, and then we could cut the sessions to once or twice a month.
Overall, I am still bummed I have this issue with my teeth, but I am trying to be proactive and try to stop the grinding as much as possible. I am also thankful this orthodontist turned out to be so honest and open. I feel like he really does have my best interests in mind, and isn’t just trying to “sell” me expensive braces that won’t end up helping me in the long run. I hope my acupuncture sessions will keep working as well, and maybe in a few months, I won’t be grinding anymore either. It doesn’t hurt to hope, right?!