Protect Your Assets

Mouth guards save natural teeth and dental work from damage.

For some people, teaching classical ballet is less intimidating than being a nurse in medical administration, but not for a perfectionist like Eileen Connor Zielinski, who’s done both. The native of Erie, Pennsylvania has been with the Orlando Ballet for more than 20 years. Eileen pours her heart and soul into every class, but the effort has taken a toll on her oral health.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

Eileen puts her heart and soul into every ballet class she teaches.

“I have bruxism, which means I grind my teeth,” she explains. “I’m one of those people who does a lot of pre-work going into my classroom or when I’m choreographing. It’s stressful when I’m thinking and creating, and I tend to grind my teeth. It’s just part of my thought process. It’s how I’m wired.”
Eileen’s grinding left her with some dental issues, including teeth that were loosening and crowns that were breaking down. The first thing she did when she moved to Florida in 1993 was look for a skilled local dentist. She felt fortunate to discover Richard C. Montz, DDS, of River City Dentistry in DeBary.
“We’d just moved here when I found Dr. Montz,” recalls Eileen. “I liked him a lot, and I’ve stayed with him since 1993.”
Over the years, Dr. Montz provided various services to restore Eileen’s dental health. Many of the restorations he created for her were to repair damage done to her teeth and crowns by her grinding. He also addressed the grinding directly.
“I’ve had crowns replaced and bridges made, and the quality of Dr. Montz’s work is excellent. Everything has lasted a very long time,” states Eileen. “He is very persnickety about how my bridges and crowns fit. He readjusted them until he got them just right.
“Dr. Montz understood my grinding really well, so he made special mouth guards for me to wear. I have to wear them because my teeth shift if I don’t. He’s always been diligent about getting the guards to fit well and reminding me to wear them.”
Eileen has crowns on most of her molars, and the bridges are on her upper teeth on both sides. To protect this precious dental work from the damaging forces of her grinding, Dr. Montz created a double guard for her. A double guard consists of one appliance to cover her lower teeth and one for her upper teeth.

“Since I’ve been wearing the guards, I haven’t had a headache in the morning in a long time.” – Marcie

“With a double guard, there are two flat surfaces rubbing against each other when Eileen grinds her teeth,” describes Dr. Montz. “The cusps on the teeth are not able to do the damage they typically would with their sharp points. Nor are the direct forces placed on the teeth from the grinding; they are absorbed by the guards instead.
“Generally, when I put patients in mouth guards, or occlusal guards, I ask them to bring the guards in at each hygiene appointment. Most of the time, the guards look like the patients have taken a file to them.”
“I have one tooth especially on my upper right side that becomes loose and painful if I don’t wear my guards,” notes Eileen. “But as soon as I put them in so I can’t grind, that tooth is prevented from shifting. The guards protect my teeth and my dental work.”

Two-Guard Difference

Marcie Newton is a New York native who was raised in Indiana and moved to Florida 32 years ago. Marcie’s been a nurse for 35 years, and the work she does now comes with its own stresses.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

For Marcie, the mouth guards are
teeth saving and pain relieving.

“I triage patients before they see the doctor,” she recounts. “I take their vital signs and ask them questions to get basic information for the doctor. Then, I get them situated in a room before the doctor comes in and sees them.”
Like Eileen, Marcie battles an ongoing habit that causes damage to her teeth, but Marcie’s biggest problem is not grinding, it’s clenching.
“I clench my teeth at night when I sleep,” she clarifies, “and that causes my teeth to fracture. I knew I was clenching because I was waking up with headaches. I also have issues with my TMJ [temporomandibular joint], which contributed as well.”
As far as Marcie knows, she hasn’t always had a problem with clenching. She recalls the issue surfacing when she was about 30 years old. Fortunately, it was around that time when she found Dr. Montz.
“Dr. Montz was on my dental plan,” she remembers. “He was with another dentist at the time, but something clicked between us. We got along very well. He’s from Ohio, so maybe it’s the Ohio-Indiana thing; and he likes to fish, and I grew up fishing. I can’t tell you exactly when I started going to Dr. Montz, but it was in the Eighties.
“Dr. Montz told me right away that my teeth were fractured, and I told him about my clenching, so he made an upper mouth guard for me. After years with that type of guard, they came out with a new model he wanted me to try.”
Marcie’s first type of guard fits over all of her upper teeth. The new model fits on just the front teeth, but it holds her jaw apart at night as well. Now, Marcie alternates between the two guards, wearing the full guard one night and the anterior guard the next.
“The smaller anterior guard not only protects the teeth, it also supports the temporomandibular joint,” observes Dr. Montz. “It is very effective for people who have TMJ problems, like Marcie.
“Anterior guards also direct any weight onto the rear molars, which have multiple roots and can manage the forces. They keep the weight off of the teeth in the front of the mouth, which have single roots and cannot handle the force load as well.”
“I’ve got a lot of crowns on my teeth, and this is my only set of teeth,” remarks Marcie. “I take pride in my teeth, so I take care of them. And I don’t want to have to go through all that dental work again, even with dental insurance.”

Reasoned Dedication

Mouth guards are perfect for protecting teeth and dental work from the damaging forces of grinding and clenching. Eileen had another, personal reason for wanting her dental restorations to last.
“When I was younger, I had great fear of the dentist,” she relates. “When I was a kid, there was a dentist my parents took me to who hurt; he was very painful. But Dr. Montz explains everything to me. He’s very matter-of-fact, very straightforward, which I like.
“Over time, as Dr. Montz’s workmanship has lasted and I haven’t had any problems, I’ve become even more confident in him. I can be certain that when his work is done, it’s done. I won’t have to go back to the dentist a zillion times. Dr. Montz’s excellent work is really important to me, so I wear my guards about twelve hours a day.”
Marcie is dedicated to wearing her occlusal guards as well. Besides protecting her teeth and her crowns from damage, they have helped with the pain issues she was experiencing.

“Dr. Montz’s excellent work is really important to me, so I wear my guards
about twelve hours a day.” – Eileen

“Since I’ve been wearing the guards, I haven’t had a headache in the morning in a long time,” she reveals. “The same with my TMJ pain. I haven’t had it at all since I’ve been wearing the guards.
“I think anybody who clenches or grinds should be a candidate to get these guards because they will save them a lot on their dental investment. The guards are definitely worth it. Mine have paid for themselves by preventing me from fracturing any more teeth.”
“Dr. Montz has made me feel comfortable,” says Eileen. “I know when I go to River City Dentistry, they will get the job done with minimal discomfort, so I’m very happy. Now, I’m religious about having my teeth done. Now, I go to the dentist every six months.”
With modern techniques and materials, most precious dental work, such as crowns and bridges, is stronger and more durable than its older counterparts. That doesn’t mean there is no risk of damage and no need for occlusal guards if patients grind or clench.
“Some dentists say the crowns they have today cannot break,” acknowledges Dr. Montz. “Even if you can’t break the crown, you can break the tooth underneath or the roots. It’s still better to tear up an occlusal guard rather than a crown, or a tooth.”

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    • River City Dentistry

      River City Dentistry focuses on their patients' overall experience. They strive for excellence in every aspect of patient care. They do this by maintaining the latest technologies, working convenient hours, and by implementing a comfo... Read More

    • Richard C. Montz, DDS

      Richard C. Montz, DDS, completed his undergraduate studies at Bowling Green State University, OH, and earned his degree in dental surgery from Ohio State University. Dr. Montz served as a dental officer in the US NAVY DENTAL CORPS from 1985 u... Read More