There is a muscle that attaches the corners of our mouth to the border of the lower jaw. It is called the “depressor anguli oris”. It is also called the “triangularis.” Triangularis is a muscle of facial expression. Specifically, it allows us to frown. It stands to reason if we frown a lot, we are likely to over-develop this muscle. The consequence is “jowl lines” that go at an angle from the corners of the mouth to the bottom of the lower jaw.
The bad news is that you don’t have to frown a lot to get jowl lines. You can get jowl lines just from unconsciously clenching and grinding your teeth. You would be doing something a lot of people do unconsciously during sleep, and even during the awake hours. This unconscious habit is called bruxism. According to the American Sleep Disorders Association, the prevalence of bruxism varies from 5 to 20 percent. The wide range is due to reporting something you are not, by definition, aware of. Your dentist can, with some confidence, diagnose you as having bruxism if you have obvious signs of excessive wear on your teeth that cannot be attributed to what you eat and chew. If you are told you have bruxism, don’t fight it. Excessive wear of your teeth is forensic evidence you are unconsciously doing it during the daytime, or you are doing it while you are in certain stages of sleep.
So, what do you do with habit? It needs to be changed. How? Your dentist can make you a specially-designed and calibrated oral appliance that gives you an ideal bite. This ideal bite will lessen the tendency to clench and grind. But to change the habit, you will need to wear this appliance 24 hours per day for at least 6 months, and often as long as two years. While you wear the appliance, you must remember to use it as a “biofeedback appliance” that will train your muscles not to clench and grind. Every time you bite into it, you will be able to tell you are doing so. After a period of time, the muscles will learn not to clench or grind. This is just like training your muscles to golf or play tennis. It takes practice.
The bite appliances are not obtrusive nor obviously visible, especially if your dentist makes it to fit over your lower teeth. The benefits would be that you won’t wear your teeth down and you won’t get “frown” or “jowl” lines in your face.
Seeing the dentist can give you good dental health, as well as save you from facelifts, botox injections or dermal fillers. Don’t forget your regular checkups.
If you would like more information about bruxism, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.
Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.