Can You Hear Me? How Dental Work Can Help Relieve Hearing Loss

In a previous blog, we talked about tinnitus, a condition that causes a phantom ringing sound in the ears. While the condition is oftentimes easy to ignore, it can be debilitating in nature as in extreme cases, it can cause pain or even lead to hearing loss. Hearing Loss and Dental Health

While there are many factors that can cause tinnitus, we focused on how your dental health can trigger the condition. See, tinnitus can be caused by exposure to loud noises, such as those emitted by dental drills. In fact, we also talked about how dentists working with dental drills and other equipment that emit high frequency noises are at risk of getting tinnitus. However, do you think that’s enough of a reason to forego your dental health and to avoid going to the dentist?

The quick answer to that is “no.”

The importance of regular visits to the dentist

We’ve talked about this before—routine dental checkups give you fresher breath, a brighter smile, and keeps your dental health in tiptop shape. It enables your doctor to monitor your dental health and therefore anticipate your needs, as well as to see if there are any problems that would require dental intervention. Aside from this, the American Dental Association (ADA) urges people to have regular dental visits for their own sake.

ADA released a statement in 2013 that said, “the ADA wants to remind consumers that the frequency of their regular dental visits should be tailored by their dentists to accommodate for their current oral health status and health history.” Meaning to say this isn’t the usual cookie-cutter dental checkups we have grown fond off; you should go to the dentist when your dentist tells you to.

The organization went on to talk about a study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry that established “individual risk factors help to dictate the frequency of cleanings needed per year to help prevent periodontal disease.” The ADA said, “personalized oral care is a necessity for good dental health.” The organization concluded the statement with, “The ADA encourages people to work closely with their dentists to identify any potential risk factors that would determine the need for and frequency of follow up visits to enhance the outcomes of preventive care.”

So working alongside your dentist would help you in the long run. Unsurprisingly, really, considering that this is the nature of healthcare. However, did you know that they are compromising their health just to provide you with top-notch care?

Dentists have to protect themselves from hearing loss

Since we are talking about tinnitus and your dental health, let us bring up the fact that dentists are exposed to these devices every single day. If a short burst of a dental drill can cause tinnitus, then just imagine what would happen if someone is exposed to it on a daily basis!

On December 2015, the ADA released a blog that talked about how “dentists are exposed to the noise of handpieces and ultrasonic scalers, at levels of 60-99 decibels.” The organization warns that it can trigger sensorineural hearing loss, a completely preventable but irreversible condition. To avoid this, the organization urges dentists to do the following:

  • Wear ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones when using dental equipment
  • Consider noise level when selecting dental equipment
  • Have their hearing tested to establish a baseline, and to monitor their hearing on a regular basis to promote early diagnosis and intervention

Those are the steps taken by dentists to ensure that their hearing is protected while they address your dental concerns. This being said, let’s take a look at how dentists can help relieve the symptoms of hearing loss.

Conditions, dental procedures, and their relevance to tinnitus

As we mentioned on the previous blog, there are several conditions and situations that can cause tinnitus. Among them are:

  • Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle (TMJ) disorders – The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research labels TMJ disorders as “a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement.” You can feel the temporomandibular joint by putting your hand in front of your ears and opening your mouth. Over 10 million Americans are afflicted with this condition, and it appears more in women than in men.

While the pain attributed to TMJ is oftentimes temporary and occasional, in some cases it develops into a chronic condition. When you have a TMJ disorder and you have a dental problem such as a tooth infection or an impacted wisdom tooth, then the TMJ disorder can worsen, oftentimes to the point of triggering tinnitus.

When this happens, it is best to consult a dentist. The dentist would fit a mouth guard to align the lower jaw with the skull. Then, the dentist can treat or remove the impacted or infected tooth. Paired with other non-invasive therapies to relax the muscle tissues and to relieve the symptoms of a TMJ disorder, and then you’re usually good to go.

  • Bruxism Another condition which can result to tinnitus is bruxism or teeth grinding. It is defined by Mayo Clinic as “a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth.” Bruxism falls into two spectrums: awake bruxism or when you unconsciously gnash your teeth while you are awake and functioning normally; or sleep bruxism, or when you unconsciously grind your teeth while you are asleep.

While mild bruxism does not necessarily need treatment, in some cases it can cause jaw disorders, damage the teeth, and a host of other problems, including tinnitus. As a result, you may experience tension-type headaches, TMJ disorders, damage to your teeth, crowns, or teeth restorations, and even facial or jaw pain.

Upon diagnosis, a dentist can evaluate the extent of your bruxism by checking your mouth for dental abnormalities, damage to your teeth, and tenderness in your jaw muscles. Depending on the findings, the dentist can give you splints and mouth guards to minimize the damage to your teeth. Likewise, the dentist can also correct your dental problems, such as reshape your teeth or use crowns.

  • Dental Amalgam fillings – These fillings normally contain about 50% mercury and 25-35% silver. However, Mercury has the potential to cause tinnitus. Some patients who had tinnitus felt relief once they had their silver fillings removed and replaced with composite resin fillings.

Overall, these are just some of the things that can cause tinnitus. However, it is also very clear that dental intervention is imperative when it comes to addressing these issues, and nipping tinnitus at the bud once and for all.