Flat teeth are an indicator of untackled stress. Dental problems are not just a sign of neglected oral health. The problem is rooted much deeper — in stress levels, eating habits and even kidneys. Dentists say, reading these signs and tackling them at the earliest is key to maintaining not just your pearly whites but also a healthy body.
ROOT CAUSE: HIGH STRESS
Do you wake up with a pain in your jaw? Have the biting surfaces of your teeth become shorter? It’s possible that you suffer from bruxism, a disorder in which people grind their teeth, especially while sleeping. Dentist Dr Beenal Kuckian says, “People can clench and grind their teeth during the day and night without being aware of it. However, it is a bigger problem during the night because it’s difficult to control.” Long term grinding of teeth makes them flat, causing jaw tenderness, fatigue of cheek muscles, headaches and ear aches.
Stress is one of the major causes of bruxism. “People tend to clench their teeth when stressed. Clenching becomes more pronounced in people with high stress jobs and is common among policemen, body builders (who clench their teeth while lifting heavy weights), bank clerks, or those suffering from depression and anxiety disorders,” she adds. Kuckian says, most young professionals do not realise that they are under stress. “The problem surfaces when they come to us with broken or flat teeth,” she says. The cure is stress management. “We also recommend mouth guards to patients whose teeth are still in good condition. The plates cover the entire surface the teeth and prevent them from rubbing against each other.” However, she warns, severely damaged teeth can only be fixed with a root canal with caps or artificial implants.
ROOT CAUSE: ACID REFLUX AND HEARTBURN
The normal pH level of teeth is 5.5. When stomach acids — with a pH level of 2.2 — travel back to the mouth through the food pipe, they erode the enamel, increasing the teeth sensitivity. Those with sensitive teeth suffer a shooting pain when they eat something very hot or cold. “Those who suffer from frequent heartburns or acid reflux will invariably have eroded teeth enamel. Unhealthy eating habits such as eating large meals, lying down on the back right after a meal or snacking before bed time are some factors that cause the valve at the entrance of stomach to become loose and stomach acids to travel backwards,” says Dr Karishma Jaradi, an aesthetic dentist at Dentzz and brushing teeth gently will help.
ROOT CAUSE: KIDNEY DISEASE
“If you have persistent dryness in the mouth, it is probably a good idea to consult a nephrologist,” says Dr Dilip Deshpande, consulting prosthodontist and implantologist at Lilavati Hospital. The kidneys are responsible for forming and excreting urine, regulating fluid and electrolytes throughout the body, and excreting hormones into the blood stream. He says that a kidney infection causes an imbalance in the regulation of fluids and this shows up as a symptom in the mouth. Temporary dryness can be a sign of dehydration rather than a kidney disease.
ROOT CAUSE: BONE PROBLEM
Your teeth are held together by your bone quality.When that deteriorates, your teeth either become loose or fall. Conditions such as osteoporosis are one of the major causes of teeth loss. “The diseases can be detected early by identifying a receding alveolar process — the portion of the jaw bone which supports and anchors the teeth,” says Jaradi, adding that vitamin D deficiency, common among urban Indians, is also leading to tooth loss.
Pain in upper molars
ROOT CAUSE: SINUSITIS
Jaradi says, she often gets patients who complain of acute pain in their upper molars, but examinations show healthy gums and teeth. Jaradi explains,”The cause of pain in such cases is sinusitis.When the maxillary sinus — air cavities within the cheek bones, above the upper jaw — becomes inflamed due to infection, it exerts pressure on the upper jaw. The roots of the upper molars are in close proximity with the sinus, and on being pressed they mimic pain of dental origin.”
ROOT CAUSE: LOW HAEMOGLOBIN LEVELS
Pale gums accompanied by fatigue and an occasionally sore tongue are signs of haemoglobin deficiency. The haemoglobin is protein, which helps the blood carry oxygen to various parts of the body. Iron is essential for formation of haemoglobin in red blood cells. Sources of iron include egg yolks, leafy greens, dry fruits, beans, lentils, chick peas and soybeans.
Workout for happy teeth
In 2012, 32-year-old Abhishek Balar had to visit Kuckian and undergo root canal in his lower jaw. He was told that his habit of regularly grinding his teeth during his sleep had caused the dentin – calcified tissue underneath the enamel — to erode right up till the gum line. Balar, a old businessman working with a real estate agency would work 10 hours a day and travel frequently to constructions sites. He didn’t realise that the stress of dealing with clients and managing property matters with government officials was getting to him. “I didn’t know I was grinding my teeth unconsciously,” says Balar.