edical News Tips

Listed below are story ideas from the Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery's Guide to family Dental Care. To pursue any of these stories, call Carolyn Conway at 212-305-3900.


Part of your daily routine may include taking a shower, getting dressed, and grinding your teeth. Researchers estimate that approximately 96 percent of adults grind their teeth but only five percent to 20 percent are aware of it. Bruxism, or tooth grinding and clenching, can cause a number of dental problems that result in irreversible damage to jaw joints, muscles and teeth. The condition may be related to many factors including stress, sleep disorders, and even a possible genetic predisposition. "Although we are not entirely sure of the cause, we do know bruxism causes a number of dental problems such as inflammation of the gingiva, headaches, tenderness of facial muscles, and limited opening of the jaw," says Steven Syrop, D.D.S., associate professor of clinical dentistry at Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery. With appropriate treatment, the symptoms of bruxism can be treated, but the disorder usually cannot be cured, says Syrop. Treatment usually combines therapies that change the loading forces (e.g., bite plate, soft diet), reduce inflammation and spasms and maximize jaw mobility and muscle stretching.


As you age you may find that "morning breath" tends to stay with you the entire day. Bad breath or halitosis results from a breakdown of proteins by bacteria in an alkaline environment such as the mouth. Those who suffer from the condition often fear embarrassment and neglect in social situations. "As we age oral, conditions that usually contribute to halitosis become more frequent," says Irwin Mandel, D.D.S., professor emeritus of dentistry at Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery. "If you suffer from halitosis you should have a dental examination to diagnose the cause of the odor and find a treatment." Although there are many causes for halitosis, researchers recommend improving oral hygiene by removing plaque, including brushing the tongue and using mouth rinses. This may reduce the likelihood of developing any stressful long-term problems.


Children who "rehearse" their dental procedures may show less short- and long-term distress after the event, according to Martin Davis, D.S.S., professor, Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery and director of pediatric dentistry at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. When examining a child, dentists often demonstrate a procedure before doing it to reduce any anxiety involved. It is helpful, however, for parents to talk to children before the dental visit to ease the stress that may be associated with the experience. Davis offers parents some tips:

Be matter of fact about the visits. Do not offer more explanations than are necessary to answer the questions your child asks. Do not bring up the concept of pain or hurting. Explain that a dentist is a "doctor for the mouth" and the need to visit regularly "to keep our teeth and gums healthy." Do not bribe your child to get him or her to go to the dentist. Let your child form his or her own impressions. Do not tell about your own experiences with the dentist, especially if they have been difficult. Columbia University's School of Dental and Oral Surgery is the only Ivy league dental school in New York City. It runs a busy dental clinic which, together with Harlem Hospital, handles more than 100,000 patient visits a year. Together Harlem and Columbia have educated more minority dental specialists than any other program in the nation.


Carolyn Conway, Dental Care, Martin Davis, Steven Syrop