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I can't stop grinding my teeth! How can a dentist help?

January 18th, 2023

Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan will tell you that while you are sleep, your mouth may be very active. If you find yourself waking up with headaches, facial pain, neck aches, or a sore jaw, you may have tooth grinding, a condition we also call bruxism.

We see many people who experience some extent of tooth grinding, but a very small percentage of the population actually experiences symptoms severe enough to warrant visiting a doctor. If you continually experience any of the symptoms listed above, we encourage you to give us a call at our Kearney, Overton or Gibbon office so that we may be able to diagnose and treat the problem.

The most common treatments include:

  • Reducing your stress level to help relax your jaw muscles and prevent grinding
  • A custom-made night guard to cushion your teeth and protect them from damage
  • Changing your eating habits. Coffee, tea, or alcohol before bed can increase your chance of nightly grinding
  • If your jaw or teeth are misaligned, Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan may also recommend a brace to decrease grinding.

Grinding your teeth can have serious consequences that, if left untreated, can lead to tooth fractures and damage to the TMJ (temporomandibular joint).

If you think your teeth may not be getting the rest they need at night, we encourage you to give us a call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan. Call us today!

HPV and Oral Cancer

January 18th, 2023

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. There are over 100 strains of HPV, and, while most of these infections leave our systems on their own with no long-term ill effects, some cancers have been linked to certain “high risk” strains of the virus. One of these strains, HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer.

HPV-related oral cancer most often appears in the oropharynx. This area of the mouth includes:

  • The base, or back, of the tongue
  • The soft palate
  • The tonsils
  • The back and sides of the throat

While HPV-related oral cancers can appear in other parts of the oral cavity, they most typically occur at the back of the throat and tongue and near the folds of the tonsils. Because of this location, oropharyngeal cancer can be difficult to detect. This is one more important reason to maintain a regular schedule of dental exams. Our examination doesn’t focus only on your teeth and gums. We are trained to look for cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions in the mouth, head, and neck to make sure you have the earliest treatment options should they be needed.

If you discover any potential symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer, call us for a check-up. These symptoms can include:

  • Trouble moving the tongue
  • Trouble swallowing, speaking, or chewing
  • Trouble opening the mouth completely
  • A red or white patch on the tongue or the lining of the mouth
  • A lump in the throat, neck, or tongue
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing up blood

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is always best to be proactive. HPV-related oral cancer is rare, but it is on the increase. While HPV-positive oral cancers generally have a better prognosis than HPV-negative oral cancers, early diagnosis and treatment are still essential for the best possible outcome.

Finally, if you are a young adult or have an adolescent child, talk to Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan and to your doctor about the HPV vaccine, which is effective before exposure to the virus occurs. Most HPV vaccines, while not designed specifically to prevent oral cancer, prevent the HPV16 strain from infecting the body—the very same strain that causes the majority of HPV-related oral cancers.  Although no studies have shown definitive proof yet, there is strong feeling in the scientific community that these immunizations might protect against HPV-positive oral cancer as well as cervical, vaginal, and other cancers. It’s a discussion worth having at your next visit to our Kearney, Overton or Gibbon office.

Plaque Attack? Let’s Fight Back!

January 11th, 2023

Plaque is a sticky subject! It sticks to the enamel of our teeth above and below the gum line, and it collects around fillings, braces, and other dental work. Plaque is one of the major causes of tooth decay and gum disease, and our teeth are under daily attack by this filmy menace.

What are the facts about plaque, and how can we fight back? Read on for some effective strategies!

What Is Plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film that builds up on our teeth, largely made up of millions of different types of oral bacteria. Plaque is a colorless biofilm at first, but as it collects, it takes on a white or yellow tint. If you haven’t brushed for a few days, that fuzziness you feel on your teeth is plaque build-up. Unless it’s removed, plaque hardens within a matter of days to become tartar.

  • Tip: You can remove plaque with careful brushing and flossing, but it takes a dental professional to remove tartar. Be proactive!

Why Does Plaque Cause Cavities?

Bacteria in plaque use our food as their food, especially sugars and carbs. They then transform these nutrients into acids, which attack our tooth enamel, weakening it and leaving it vulnerable to further erosion and eventual decay.

  • Tip: Cavities aren’t the only damage caused by accumulated plaque. Plaque also collects along and below the gum line. If tartar forms here, it irritates delicate gum tissue, leading to gingivitis and more serious gum disease. Make sure you don’t forget your gums when you brush and floss.

When Does Plaque Build Up?

The short answer? Plaque is always forming, because oral bacteria are a natural part of our biology. (In fact, there are even oral bacterial which are beneficial.) Plaque starts building up within minutes after eating, and during the night as we sleep.

That’s why we recommend brushing for two minutes at least twice a day, and flossing at least once a day. If you have braces or oral issues that make brushing more often advisable, ask us for suggestions for your best brushing schedule.

  • Tip: Just because plaque is unavoidable, that doesn’t mean we need to give the bacteria in plaque any additional encouragement. Every time you have a meal or a snack that’s heavy in carbs and sugars, you are providing more fuel for acid production. Cutting down on foods like sugary desserts and sodas is not only nutrition-healthy, it’s tooth-healthy!

Where Does Plaque Collect?

Plaque builds up all over tooth surfaces, at the gum line, and even below the gum line. It’s especially easy to miss in hard-to-reach places like the irregular surfaces of molars, between the teeth, behind our front teeth, and near the gum line.

  • Tip: One of the ways plaque avoids detection is its invisibility. Fortunately, if you’re having trouble brushing away all your plaque, there are plaque-disclosing toothpastes and chewable tablets available in the dental aisle which reveal the plaque hiding between, behind, or around your teeth by tinting it with a can’t-miss color. Just brush the color away, and you’ve brushed the plaque away as well.

How Do We Clean Away Plaque?

Use the Right Tools

Floss at least once a day. There are different materials, sizes, and coatings for floss, so you can find one that’s comfortable for you. Floss reaches those spots in between teeth and around the gum line that brushes miss.

Choose a soft toothbrush (soft bristles are better for your enamel) and change it every three to four months, or as soon as the bristles show wear. Make sure the head is the right size—too big, and it’s not only uncomfortable, but you won’t be able to reach all the surfaces you need to.

  • Tip: If you have trouble removing plaque with a manual toothbrush, consider an electric model. Several studies have shown a reduction in plaque with the use of an electric brush.

Use the Right Toothpaste

There are many toothpastes specifically formulated to fight plaque and tartar. And fluoride toothpastes not only fight cavities, they can strengthen your enamel.

  • Tip: Studies have shown that toothpastes with baking soda, in particular, are effective in reducing plaque. Ask us for a recommendation the next time you’re in for a cleaning.

Use the Right Technique

What not to do?  A forceful, horizontal sawing motion is awkward, hard on your enamel, and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. Technique is important—not for style points, but for cleaner teeth!

Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, especially at the gum line, to gently remove plaque from teeth and gums. Use short strokes or a circular motion to clean as much of the surface and between the teeth as possible. Brush the inside of your front teeth with careful vertical strokes—remember, that’s one place where plaque is easy to overlook. The same holds true for the tops of your molars, so thoroughly clean those uneven surfaces.

  • Tip: Do you floss before or after you brush? While both methods have benefits, many dentists and periodontists suggest flossing first. But really, if you are flossing daily, no matter what the order, you’re doing it right!

Who Can Help You Fight Plaque?

Even when you do your best at home, plaque can still be a sticky problem. That’s why we advise regular professional cleanings. We can not only remove any plaque that’s been overlooked, we can eliminate the tartar which can cause serious gum disease.  And, of course, we can give you all the information you need to keep your teeth their cleanest.

  • Final Tip: It’s important to schedule cleaning appointments at our Kearney, Overton or Gibbon office on a regular basis to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Ask us for phone, text, or email reminders when it’s time for your next cleaning.

True, you’re fighting plaque every day, but you have all the tools you need to make sure your teeth and gums stay healthy. You’re winning the battle with plaque every time you eat a nutritious meal, every time you brush and floss, every time you see Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan for a checkup and a cleaning. With that kind of strategy, plaque doesn’t stand a chance. And your bright smile and healthy teeth and gums? That’s a victory worth celebrating!

Mamelons

January 11th, 2023

Quick trivia question: define “mamelon.” Some kind of warm blooded animal? No, not a member of the mammal clan, but good guess. A fruit of the gourd family? Nope! There are watermelons, and honeydew melons, and even canary melons, but no ma-melons. Those little rounded bumps you notice on the edge of your child’s permanent incisors when they first emerge? We have a winning answer!

  • Why Do We Have Mamelons?

We have eight incisors, or biting teeth, in the front of our mouths—four on top and four on bottom. Mamelons are actually a clue as to how these incisors were formed. Even before a baby is born, the permanent teeth begin to take shape. Three different groups of cells develop to form the incisal edge of these front teeth. As they fuse together, they create three lobes of enamel on the erupting edge of the tooth. It’s these lobes, or bumps, that give the teeth a serrated appearance.

Whether your child’s mamelons are quite prominent or barely noticeable, if you are worried about them, relax! They are almost always a temporary part of your child’s smile, and disappear over time with chewing and normal wear. But what if the mamelons overstay their welcome?

  • Cosmetic Concerns

Because mamelons are composed of enamel, without the underlying dentin layer found in the body of the tooth, they can appear translucent or a bit different in color. They might wear away unevenly, leaving the tooth edges looking misaligned. Or, they might not wear away at all if your child’s tooth eruption is delayed. Talk to Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan if mamelons are a cosmetic concern for you or your child. You might discover that they are wearing away naturally, or we can discuss ways to polish or smooth them down if needed. This is a painless procedure that doesn’t require an anesthetic. Generally, however, this is a matter where time will resolve the issue for you.

  • Orthodontic Implications

Occasionally, mamelons might become a topic of discussion for orthodontic reasons. Sometimes, mamelons do not wear away over time because of a malocclusion (misaligned bite). Your orthodontist will let you know your child has a bite problem and can explain treatment options. Your orthodontist might also suggest smoothing away the mamelons to ensure that the edges of the incisors align correctly and symmetrically while the teeth are in the process of straightening. Again, this is not always considered a necessity, so weigh your options with your dental care provider.

So, if you notice that your child’s beautiful new teeth are bumpy or serrated as they erupt, don’t be concerned! If you have any questions about mamelons, talk to Dr. Herrmann, Dr. Jones, Dr. Kugler, Dr. Loschen, and Dr. McClenahan at your next visit to our Kearney, Overton or Gibbon office. This is a natural occurrence and most likely just a temporary “bump” in the road. Soon enough, mamelons will be a memory—and the answer to a pretty difficult trivia question.