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October is National Dental Hygiene Month: A simple oral health routine for your busy lifestyle

October 5th, 2022

Adults are no strangers to feeling like there is never enough time in the day to get everything done. Your alarm clock rings and within minutes you ping pong around trying to spread peanut butter on sandwiches, answer your cell phone, remove the dog hair from your clothes, and make sure your child has completed his or her science fair project. Brushing your teeth can easily fall to the wayside. That is why our office promotes a simple, daily oral health regimen that you can easily incorporate into your busy lifestyle.

The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA), in partnership with the Wrigley Jr. Company, is celebrating National Dental Hygiene Month (NDHM) during October. The ADHA encourages people to "Brush. Floss. Rinse. Chew...Keep it Clean, Keep it Healthy!" and offers some great tips for a quick and effective home oral health routine, below:

Oral Health Routine at Home

  • Brushing your teeth twice daily is the most important thing you can do to diminish the accumulation of plaque and the potential for other oral problems such as cavities and gingivitis.
  • Flossing once daily removes plaque and food from beneath the gums and between teeth that brushing alone cannot remove. Tooth decay and gum disease often begin in these areas.
  • Rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial, non-alcohol based mouthwash kills plaque and gingivitis germs that brushing and flossing do not catch. We recommend using a mouthwash with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum helps produce saliva, which battles cavities. The gum also neutralizes plaque, strengthens enamel, and removes remaining food. It is especially important to chew gum after eating or drinking.

It's easy to put the toothbrush down in order to take care of matters you feel are more urgent, but remember, a good oral health routine at home is the best way to prevent periodontal disease. "Periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. An estimated 75 percent of Americans reportedly have some form of periodontal disease," said the ADHA. Periodontal disease also is linked to more serious illnesses such as diabetes and stroke.

Also, remember to keep regular visits with our office. Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan can help you learn more about proper care for your teeth and gums.

What exactly is a cavity?

September 28th, 2022

We all know how discouraging can be it to hear you have a dental cavity. Knowing how cavities form can help you prevent them from popping up in your mouth. If you want to avoid a trip to see Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan, pay attention to the measures you can take to prevent bothersome cavities.

Did you know that cavities are properly a symptom of a disease called caries? When you have caries, the number of bad bacteria in your mouth increases, which causes an acceleration in tooth decay. Caries are caused by a pH imbalance in your mouth that creates problems with the biofilm on the teeth.

When there are long periods of low pH balance in the mouth, this creates a breeding ground for bacteria. When you get caries, this type of bacteria thrives in an acidic environment.

Depending on which foods and beverages you consume, the biofilm pH in your mouth will vary. The lower the pH number, the higher the acidity. When your intake contains mostly acidic foods that sit on your teeth, cavities begin to form. Water has a neutral pH, which makes it a good tool to promote a healthy pH balance in your mouth.

A healthy pH balance in your mouth will prevent cavities from forming over time. Mouth breathing and specific medications may also be factors that contribute to the development of caries when saliva flow decreases. Without saliva flow to act as a buffer against acid, bacteria has a higher chance of growing.

Don’t forget: Getting cavities isn’t only about eating too many sweets. It’s also about managing the pH levels in your mouth and preventing bad bacteria from growing on your teeth.

If you think you might have a cavity forming in your mouth, schedule an appointment at our Kearney, Overton or Gibbon office. It’s worthwhile to treat cavities early and avoid extensive procedures such as root canals from becoming necessary.

Keep up with brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash so you can prevent cavities over time.

Can Your Dentist Tell If You’re Left-Handed?

September 21st, 2022

Sherlock Holmes, that most famous of fictional detectives, observed clues, analyzed them, and used his powers of deduction to arrive at the solution to his cases.

Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan and our team are skilled in deduction as well! By examining your teeth and gums during your regular checkup, important clues can be discovered about your dental health—and perhaps your overall health as well. What might be deduced when you come in for an exam?

  • You Haven’t Been Flossing

Even with some last-minute catchup flossing, it’s not hard to tell if you’ve been regularly skipping the flossing portion of your daily dental care. Plaque that your toothbrush just can’t reach on its own will be noticeable between your teeth and around the gum line. Your gums might be inflamed, swollen or bleeding—early signs of the gum disease plaque causes when it’s not removed with careful flossing.

These symptoms could arise because you’re neglecting to floss at least once a day, or it could be that your flossing skills could simply use some fine-tuning. A refresher in flossing technique takes no time at all. Or, you might discuss whether a water flosser would be a good investment for healthier teeth and gums if, for any reason, you have difficulty flossing effectively.

  • You Haven’t Been Sleeping Well

Even if your roommate or partner hasn’t told you that your teeth and jaws have been grinding away while you were not-so-soundly asleep, your dentist might be able to. Shorter, flattened teeth are a common symptom of bruxism, or tooth grinding. Your exam might reveal cracked enamel or broken cusps caused by the force you’re placing on them at night. This condition can also lead to larger jaw muscles and jaw pain.

Since these symptoms are also caused by sleep apnea, it’s a very good idea to find out what’s causing this dental stress. Treatments are available to make your sleep safer for your teeth and jaws—and more restful and healthier for you!

  • You Should Talk to Your Doctor

Conditions that seem to have nothing to do with your oral health can cause dental symptoms, alerting your dentist to a medical condition which you might not be aware of. Pale gums or a swollen tongue could be symptoms of anemia. Erosion on the inside of the teeth can be caused by GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to ulcers, loose teeth, and gum disease.

 If Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan and our team suggest that you make an appointment with your doctor to find the medical cause of your dental symptoms, it’s essential to follow up.

  • Are You Left-Handed?

So, getting back to our original question, can your dentist deduce that you’re left-handed?

Probably not! It’s been suggested that left-handed people brush their teeth more firmly on the left side, and right-handed people brush harder on the right. And it’s also been suggested that left-handers don’t brush the left side of the mouth as thoroughly, while right-handers neglect their dominant side.

But Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan can still tell you some important facts about your hand-brush coordination just by observing the state of your enamel. If you’re brushing too firmly, your tooth surfaces could show erosion and wear. A soft-bristled brush and a lighter hand will get your teeth just as clean without the abrasion.

If you’re having trouble reaching areas because of dexterity issues, Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan can point out the areas where plaque buildup reveals the spots you need to concentrate on. An electric toothbrush might be just the answer to making all the surfaces of your teeth equally accessible.

A dentist is an expert in observing, analyzing, and solving dental problems. When you keep to a regular schedule of exams and cleanings at our Kearney, Overton or Gibbon dental office, you’ll benefit from that expertise to discover oral health issues before they become more serious. That’s an easy and elegant solution to maintaining your dental health. In fact, it’s elementary!

Just What Is Plaque?

September 14th, 2022

From the time you were small, you’ve been warned about the dangers of plaque. Why? Because:

  • It’s an unappealing film that sticks to your teeth
  • It causes cavities
  • It causes gum disease

And really, do we need to know much more than this to motivate us to brush? But if you’re in a curious mood, you might be wondering just how this soft, fuzzy film accomplishes all that damage. Let’s take a closer look at the sticky problem of plaque.

How does plaque form?

We live with hundreds of species of oral bacteria, most of which are harmless, and some of which are actually beneficial. But when our oral ecosystem gets out of balance, problems can occur. For example, without regular and thorough brushing and flossing, we start to build up plaque.

Plaque starts forming within hours of your last brushing. And even though plaque fits the very definition of “seems to appear overnight,” this biofilm is actually a complex microbial community with several different stages of development.

  • It starts with saliva.

Saliva is vital to our oral health, because it keeps us hydrated, washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth, and provides minerals which keep our enamel strong. Saliva also contains proteins, which help form a healthy, protective film on the tooth surface. This film is called a pellicle.

  • Bacteria attach to the pellicle.

There are species of oral bacteria that are able to attach themselves to the pellicle film within hours of its formation. As they become more firmly attached, they begin to grow and divide to form colonies, and are known as the early colonizers of the plaque biofilm.

  • A complex biofilm forms.

If you’ve skipped brushing for a few days (please don’t!), you’ll notice a fuzzy, sometimes discolored film on your enamel—that’s a thriving plaque community, and it only takes a matter of days to go from invisible to unpleasant.

If you’re not removing plaque regularly, it can harden further and become tartar. And once you have tartar buildup, you’ll need the care of a dental professional to remove it.

  • What happens if we ignore plaque and tartar?

We get cavities and gum disease.

How does plaque cause cavities?

  • The bacteria in plaque, like all organisms, need nutrients.

Our normal oral environment and the food in our everyday diets provide the nutrients plaque needs. And, as we mentioned above, certain types of oral bacteria convert these nutrients into acids. Foods such as carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are most easily converted into acids, which is why we recommend that you enjoy them in moderation.

  • The biofilm promotes acid production.

Within the plaque film, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria which don’t use oxygen) convert sugars and starches into acids. As the plaque film becomes denser, it blocks acid-neutralizing saliva and oxygen from reaching these bacteria close to the tooth’s surface, creating an ideal environment for the bacteria to produce their acid waste products.

  • Acids attack enamel.

The sticky nature of plaque keeps these acids in contact with tooth enamel, where, over time, acids dissolve minerals in enamel, weakening the mineral structure of the tooth.

How does plaque cause gum disease?

  • Bacteria cause inflammation and gingivitis.

The bacteria in plaque irritate the delicate tissue of the gums, which causes an inflammation response which can leave your gums swollen, red, bleeding, or tender. This early form of gum disease is gingivitis. Fortunately, good dental care and careful brushing and flossing can usually prevent and even eliminate gingivitis.

  • Plaque and tartar can lead to periodontitis.

When plaque and tartar build up around and below the gumline, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect, leading to infection as well as inflammation. Infections and constant inflammation not only harm gum tissue, they can destroy the bone supporting the teeth. This serious gum condition is periodontitis, and should be treated immediately to avoid further infection and even tooth loss.

How do we fight plaque?

From the time you were small, you’ve learned how to fight plaque:

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and be sure to brush all of your tooth surfaces and around the gumline.
  • Floss to remove plaque from between the teeth and near the gumline.
  • Visit our Kearney, Overton or Gibbon office for a thorough professional cleaning.

Be proactive. If you have any questions, talk to Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan about the best way to keep plaque at bay. We can show you the most effective ways to brush and floss, recommend anti-plaque toothpastes and rinses, even suggest plaque-revealing tablets if you’re missing some trouble spots.

We’ve only brushed up on some plaque basics, because there is a lot more to discover about this complex biofilm. Happily, even with all there is to learn about plaque’s growth and development, it’s reassuring to know that getting rid of it is quite simple—with just a soft-bristled brush, some dental floss, and a few minutes of your time each day, you’re on the way to a healthy, happy, plaque-free smile.