When it comes to dental insurance, or insurance in general, many of us are quickly baffled. There are so many different types of plans & unfamiliar vocabulary that it often feels like trying to learn a new language. However, there is one important concept about your dental insurance that you should absolutely know, & it can save you money! Read more
When it comes to dental insurance, or insurance in general, many of us are quickly baffled. There are so many different types of plans & unfamiliar vocabulary that it often feels like trying to learn a new language. However, there is one important concept about your dental insurance that you should absolutely know, & it can save you money!
There are actually a few sweet spots on the calendar when it comes to getting dental treatments done, & one of them is the beginning of the year. Because your dental benefits don’t roll over from year to year, every New Year you’re granted with a fresh set of benefits. That means no matter how much dental work you had done the previous year, you have new benefits you can use right away this year.
If your dental insurance plan has a deductible (i.e. a total amount you must pay out-of-pocket before the insurance company starts covering your costs), getting treatments completed at the beginning of the year could mean reaching your deductible early. Once you’ve reached your deductible, any treatments you may need later in the year might be covered entirely by your insurance, meaning there will be no out-of-pocket cost for you. By contrast, if you started treatment at the end of the year before reaching your deductible & your follow-up appointments fell in the New Year, you’d be paying some out-of-pocket cost for all of it!
If your dental insurance plan has an out-of-pocket maximum, starting a treatment at the beginning of the year can help you reach that maximum sooner. Once your out-of-pocket maximum has been reached, that may mean that any follow-up appointments you have for your treatment, plus any other treatments or appointments, could be covered 100% by your dental insurance for the rest of year. Also, most dental plans cover your regular teeth cleanings at no cost to you (or a very small co-payment), often regardless of whether you’ve reached your deductible or out-of-pocket maximum. That means no matter what time of year it is, you’re entitled to teeth cleanings for free with your insurance.
Both of these examples demonstrate why the beginning of the year is a great time to get started on dental work that you may have been putting off. Plus, it may be a great way to get started on your new year’s resolution to be healthier!
Bruxism is what dentists call teeth clenching and teeth grinding. The symptoms of bruxism are fairly easy to spot, as are the complications that can result from it. The causes of bruxism, however, a more varied and mysterious.
Teeth grinding involves the moving of teeth back and forth across each other. Most teeth grinding is unconscious and happens during sleep. Grinding is more common in children and they usually grow out of it once they’ve finished losing their baby teeth. Most adults who grind their teeth are unaware of it until a partner tells them they can hear the grinding sound while they are sleeping or their dentist spots signs of wear on the teeth (more on this later).
Teeth clenching involves tightly pressing your top and bottom teeth together. While normal eating and chewing only exerts 20 to 40 pounds of force on your teeth, the clenching that occurs in bruxism can exert hundreds of pounds force on your teeth. Clenching is also unconscious, but it can occur both while someone is awake and while they’re asleep.
Most studies and indicators tie daytime bruxism to stress. As a result, daytime clenching can often be relieved with stress reduction techniques, massage or physical therapy. Sometimes just being made aware of the clenching problem helps sufferers change their habits.
Nighttime bruxism is trickier. Because it occurs while a person is asleep, it is impossible to treat with behavioral changes. As a result, nighttime bruxism is usually treated by your dentist, often with a dental appliance referred to as a splint or a mouthguard. This is usually a custom made rubber or plastic piece that fits over your top or bottom teeth to protect them from the forces of clenching and grinding.
In the past, bruxism was linked to misaligned teeth and was sometimes treated using orthodontics (braces). However, the link between bruxism and misaligned teeth (called malocclusion by dentists) has been somewhat disproven, so orthodontic treatment for the disorder has become more rare.
Recent studies have started to link bruxism to sleep apnea, and while more study is needed on this topic, it is possible that undergoing treatment for sleep apnea by your dentist (which often involves an oral appliance of some kind) could help alleviate nighttime bruxism.
As mentioned before, while the causes of bruxism aren’t totally clear, the symptoms are. Patients usually experience one or more of these symptoms:
- Headaches, especially in the morning
- Ear pain (because of the jaw joint’s proximity to the inner ear)
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Sore jaw or full-blown TMJ disorder
- Tooth sensitivity (to hot, cold or sweet)
- Anxiety & tension
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should start a discussion with your dentist about whether you have bruxism.
In addition to uncomfortable symptoms, bruxism can have consequences for the health of your teeth. Some people with bruxism don’t have any of the symptoms listed above. They are diagnosed instead by the pattern of wear that the dentist sees on their teeth during an examination. Teeth worn down from grinding or clenching can eventually crack. Bruxism can also wear away the protective outer enamel layer of the teeth, making the exposed softer dentin more susceptible to cavities. Damage or decay in your teeth could lead to pain or even tooth loss. This is why it’s important to get treated for your bruxism once you’ve been diagnosed.