Have you ever had your Plymouth, MN dentist complete a thorough head and neck exam and have them tell you that you have linea alba? Your first thought is “what is that?” You may have a chance to ask or there may be other things being discussed after the exam, and the question is forgotten. Linea alba is something dental providers see day and day out, so explaining what exactly it is to patients can sometimes be forgotten.
In dentistry, linea alba is defined as a white, horizontal line found on the inside of your cheek(s), level with the biting plane. What this tells your dentist is that you are likely clenching your teeth, resulting in the biting of your cheeks.
For the line itself, there is not much that can be done in the form of treatment for linea alba. However, solving the etiology of the problem is very important, for your teeth, your sleep and your muscles. For some, a nightguard or occlusal splint is needed. It may not stop you from clenching, but will prevent you from biting your cheeks, which in turn will eliminate the signs of linea alba. However, recent learning has told us half of all people who are given a splint, will have a reduction in their airway. A smaller airway makes it more difficult to get air in while sleeping with the splint in. In fact, the white line is very likely due to clenching the body does as a compensation. Clenching and grinding causes the muscles and jaw to move slightly, in order to open a compromised airway. Many people have failed at wearing splints because of a reduced airway when the jaw is propped open. Dentists blamed the problem on patient compliance. People may continue to clench or grind on their splint, sparing their teeth and reducing the white line inside their cheek, but the cause may not be solved. Ask your dentist to gather some sleep data on you with a recording device. Sleep diagnoses cannot be given, but the data can be interpreted to give more information on your airway, and if a splint is the right solution for you. Splints are custom made by dentists with the help of their labs, to specifically fit your needs. The type of splint that has been researched the most for obstructive sleep apnea is called a mandibular advancement device (MAD). Moving the jaw forward opens the airway while the splint is worn. Unfortunately, the improved airway is only while asleep, leaving the other hours of the day in question. Side effects of these types of splints include jaw pain and a change in your bite that may be significant and permanent. If your dentist doesn’t evaluate your airway, look for one who does on an airway health provider directory.