Medical Dental Problems

We are adding information about how your dental health affects your overall health. Below is a list of Medical Dental Problems that can be treated successfully at Whistler Dental. Dr. McKenzie has over 10 years of special training at diagnosing and treating more complex dental problems which are often not readily apparent as dental problems. Dr. McKenzie’s educational journey began with Neuromuscular Dentistry which led him to Optimal Dental Physiology. Dr. McKenzie views his continuing education as a life long journey. Technology is exploding many traditional myths in Dentistry.

Bruxism (Grinding/Clenching Teeth)

Bruxism is when you clench or grind your teeth at night. It usually occurs when reaching Level-4 sleep, also known as REM sleep. When a person reaches REM sleep, which is where you NEED to be to truly reap the benefits of sleep, some people start to clench and grind.

The term clenching means tightly clamping your top and bottom teeth together, especially the back teeth. The stressful force of clenching puts pressure on the muscles, bones, teeth, TMJ’s and other structures of the head and neck. This can lead to jaw joint disorders, jaw pain and soreness, headaches, earaches, dizzyness, vertigo, damaged teeth and other problems. These symptoms are often collectively referred to as “TMD” or temperomandibular joint disorder.

Why do people grind their teeth ?

Bruxism can be caused generally by:

1. An Airway Problem : Struggling to breathe through a compromised airway (sleep apnea ie cessation to breathing for 10 seconds or longer or other sleep disturbances)
2. Bite or occlusion :
3. Chronic Pain : (eg. could be painful nerve in the foot, compressed inflamed disc in the spine, or a painful osteoarthritic hip)
4. Stress/ Life’s anxieties : (divorce, job, relationships, etc)
5. Combination of two or more of the above.

Presentation to a dentist or a doctor will be with headaches, facial pain, limited opening of the jaws, jaw noises such as clicking or popping, bruxism, worn teeth, broken teeth, sleep disordered breathing such as sleep apnea, snoring, etc.

It is important to understand that the head and the face is the monitor of the health of the body. The chewing muscles are in balance with the muscles in front of the neck and the muscles in the back of the neck. These muscles have a particular amount of activity and tone which is based on the stimulation it gets from the brain and the spinal cord (Central Nervous System). People clench, grind or both because of increased stimulation from the brain or spinal cord which directly results from various amounts of pain, breathing dysfunction or anxiety leading to breakdown of the toughest joint in the body.

Migraines, cluster headaches, morning (tension) headaches in both adults and children are often related to sleep apnea and disturbed sleep.
People who grind their teeth use 3 times the force than people who do not. Your average person puts hundreds of pounds of force on their teeth. A person bruxing will put over 1000 pounds of force on their teeth.

Bruxism happens as a subconscious activity and therefore unawareness of the activity is common. People brux more when they are on their backs and they also suffer more sleep apnea in that position.


The basic outline of treatment is to initially treat the cause of bruxism. The need for treating chronic pain, breathing and sleep disorders and anxiety is necessary to stop a person from bruxing.

Special orthotics/splints that are designed to maximize function and ability to breathe properly, are worn during the day and/or night. The treatment generally lasts for about 3 to 6 months. This is generally called Phase 1 of treatment. Phase 1 of treatment is complete after reaching MMI. MMI stands for Maximum Medical Intervention. MMI is reached once a patient is pain-free and many of the initial underlying symptoms are gone. Sometimes due to the damage done to the TMJ’s that is irreversible, elimination of all symptoms may not be possible. Usually elimination of the pain and stabilization of the joints is possible. At this point the last Orthotic worn will be made permanent. After reaching MMI some patients will want to progress to a more permanent solution. This involves either orthodontics (braces/invisalign) or prosthodontic (crowns/veneers) rehabilitation.

Generally most people tend to improve dramatically after this treatment. If suffering from sleep disorders then the night orthotic may have to be worn for life so as to give you adequate, sound, refreshing sleeping.

If you would like to know more about bruxism, grinding or clenching, sleep disordered breathing, or TMJ, please contact Whistler Dental directly by calling us at 604-932-3677.

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