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Weighing the Facts about DIY Scaling

July 10th, 2024

The dental section of your local drugstore or favorite online site offers more dental tools for home care than ever before. Little angled mirrors. Tongue scrapers. Gum stimulators. Interproximal brushes. Why, there are even curettes and scalers to help you remove tartar at home.

But should you try do-it-yourself scaling (the technical term for scraping tartar off enamel) at home? Let’s weigh the facts.

  • Tartar Buildup is Harmful

Plaque, a sticky biofilm composed of bacteria, food particles, saliva, and fluids, starts forming within hours after you brush. And within days, if it’s not brushed and flossed away, plaque starts to mineralize, becoming tartar, a hard, rough, yellow or brown deposit that you can’t simply brush away.

Tartar often develops in the places we where we don’t brush or floss effectively. If you run your tongue across the back of your front teeth and feel a rough surface, that might be tartar. If you check out the back of your mouth and discover yellow discoloration on your molars, that might be tartar. If you see brown staining between your teeth or at the gumline, that might be tartar.

Why worry about tartar, especially if it’s not visible? Several good reasons.

  • Tartar provides a rough surface which makes it easier for plaque to stick to teeth, and more plaque leads to more cavities.
  • Tartar irritates delicate gum tissue, which causes inflammation and gum disease. Not only can the gums themselves hurt, swell, or bleed, but they can begin to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets between tooth and gum. These deep pockets become home to harmful bacteria, making gums and the bone supporting your teeth more vulnerable to infection.
  • When gum tissue recedes, the parts of your roots normally protected by that gum tissue are now exposed to bacteria and plaque. Because roots are coated with cementum, which is weaker than enamel, they are more vulnerable to cavities.

For all these reasons, cleaning tartar from your teeth is an essential part of every professional dental cleaning at our Hiawatha, IA office.

  • Your Dental Professional Is an Expert in Tartar Removal

Your dental team has extensive academic and clinical training which enable them to discover and remove any plaque or tartar thoroughly and effectively. They are also experts in using specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar gently and safely, including:

  • Ultrasonic scalers, which use ultrasonic sound waves to break up tartar deposits.
  • These metal hand tools have small, curved hooks on one or both ends, with sharp side edges and a pointed tip to fit between the teeth. They’re used to scrape away tartar above the gumline, and come in several angled shapes to accommodate the shape of different tooth surfaces.
  • These tools look a lot like scalers and also come in a variety of shapes. The curette, though, can remove plaque above and below the gumline because its rounded tip and back are gentler around delicate root surfaces and gum pockets.

The scalers available at your drugstore certainly look a lot like these professional tools. But,

  • Should You Try This at Home?

There are many DIY home projects which are satisfying and well worth your time—but DIY dental scaling isn’t one of them. Let’s take a look at some of the dangers of home scaling.

  • Ineffective cleaning. Without removing tartar completely from around and under the gums, you’re more likely to suffer gum disease and cavities below the gumline.
  • Your enamel is hard, but it’s not indestructible! A bit too much force, and you can scratch and damage tooth surfaces. And, if you’ve ever flossed a little too vigorously, you know how delicate your gum tissue is. The sharp ends of scaling tools can cause gum injuries, mouth injuries, and tongue injuries. Which brings us to . . .
  • There’s not only the danger of infection due to cuts and lacerations, but you can accidentally push plaque and tartar into and under gum tissue, leading to irritation and infection.
  • Finally, imagine using a sharp tool to scrape tartar from the back of your teeth, around your delicate gum area, and in pockets below the gum surface, using a tiny backwards mirror image to guide you in the dark interior of your mouth. There’s no way to make this sound like a good idea!

So, on balance, should you do your own scaling? We think the answer is clear. Keep your teeth healthy and plaque-free at home with regular brushing and flossing, and see Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying when it’s time for a cleaning. When you need tartar removal that’s safe, precise, and thorough, the experience and skill of your dental team outweigh any potential DIY satisfaction!

Three Reasons We're Fans of Fluoride

July 3rd, 2024

Why all the fuss about fluoride? Your dentist recommends it, your toothpaste is formulated with it, most of our drinking water contains it. Just what is it about this mineral that makes dental professionals sing its praises? Read on for three good reasons why fluoride is a healthy choice for healthier teeth.

  1. Fluoride Works!

Fluoride is an attractive option for protecting your teeth—and we mean that literally. Fluoride protects the surface of your teeth by working on a molecular level to attract minerals which strengthen enamel and help prevent cavities.

Our tooth enamel is mostly made from calcium and phosphate ions. These elements combine to form hydroxyapatite, strong crystals which make up about 95% of our enamel. Hydroxyapatite is so strong, in fact, that tooth enamel is the hardest part of our bodies. What can go wrong?

Acids. Acids created by the bacteria in plaque and the acids in our diet strip away the calcium and phosphate ions in enamel, weakening the surface of the tooth. This process is called demineralization. Over time, weak spots become bigger as acids eat through enamel to the inner tooth, causing decay and cavities.

So, what can fluoride do?

First, fluoride helps remineralize tooth enamel. Fluoride is attracted to the tooth’s surface and bonds with its minerals. It also attracts the calcium and phosphate ions which are found in our saliva to restore any minerals which have been lost. This process helps repair any weak spots that might have begun to form.

But fluoride does more than restore and repair tooth strength—it improves it! Fluoride ions join with calcium and phosphate to form fluorapatite crystals, which are larger and stronger than hydroxyapatite crystals.

Want more? Fluoride may interfere with bacterial plaque’s ability to produce acids. Since plaque and its acids are a major cause of gum disease, brushing with a fluoride toothpaste is a great way to help prevent plaque buildup around and below the gum line—buildup that leads to irritated, inflamed, and infected gum tissue.

  1. Fluoride Is Doubly Effective

Fluoride works both externally and internally. We just looked at how fluoride helps keep teeth strong when applied to the outside of the teeth. This is called a topical application. Systemic benefits come the fluoride we consume in our diets.

Fluoride isn’t found in many foods, but it is found naturally in lakes, rivers, and other water sources. When the local water’s fluoride level is low, many communities add fluoride for its proven ability to prevent cavities. Water fluoridation is safe, has been studied for decades, and has been shown to reduce the risk of cavities by 25% or more for both children and adults.

Systemic fluoride is especially important for your child’s dental health. This is because fluoride incorporates with minerals in the adult teeth while they are growing and developing, creating stronger, more cavity-resistant teeth even before they erupt. Most adult teeth have finished forming around age eight, so, if your community doesn’t have fluoridated water, it’s a good idea to discuss other options with your child’s dentist.

And we grown-ups benefit, too! When you drink fluoridated water, you’re increasing the amount of fluoride in your saliva. Just like fluoride toothpaste, saliva bathes your teeth with fluoride ions, strengthening the tooth surface, and helping to neutralize the acids which damage teeth and gums.

  1. It’s Easy to Get Fluoride Protection

Most toothpastes are formulated with fluoride, so you’re getting the enamel-strengthening benefits of this mineral whenever you brush—at least twice each day. Since children can’t really grasp the “rinsing” and “spitting” steps of the brushing routine just yet, talk to Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying about how to introduce tiny amounts of fluoride toothpaste to your child’s dental routine. Baby steps!

Because so much of our drinking water is fluoridated, most of us really don’t have to think about how to get the recommended amount of fluoride each day. If your community’s water is low in fluoride, we can help you here as well. Prescription fluoride rinses, gels, supplements, and other treatments are available to make sure that your teeth are well-protected, wherever you may live. We will let you know which products are best for you and how often to use them during your next visit to our Hiawatha, IA dental office.

Fluoride isn’t, of course, the only way to look out for your dental health. Proper brushing and flossing are still essential for removing plaque. Check into sealants for both kids and adults for long-lasting protection for chewing surfaces. But when it comes to a proven cavity-fighter and plaque-reducer that is simple to use, effective, and easily available—is it any wonder we’re big fans of fluoride?

Three Signs You May Have Gingivitis

June 26th, 2024

Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is an early stage of gum disease. If you have gingivitis, it’s important to visit Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying to get proper treatment, since home care isn’t enough to get rid of the plaque that leads to tartar and eventually to gum disease. Monitor yourself to see if you have these signs of gingivitis, and get help as soon as you can to prevent the progression to periodontitis. Your vigilance could save your teeth.

1. You have one or more risk factors.

Having risk factors for gingivitis doesn’t mean that you have or will get the disease, but it does mean that you should be especially watchful. You’re more likely to get gum disease if you have the following risk factors:

  • You are a smoker.
  • You are a female going through puberty, pregnancy, or menopause.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have a compromised immune system, as is the case if you have HIV/AIDS.
  • You have a family history of gum disease.

2. You have inflammation in your gums.

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums, and that is a tell-tale sign of the condition. Gingivitis or periodontitis can involve a bacterial infection, and inflammation is your body’s response to an injury or infection. The four standard signs of inflammation are pain, redness, swelling, and a higher temperature than normal.

If you have inflammation around your teeth, your gum disease may have progressed to the more serious condition of periodontitis. Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying can evaluate your case using a scope, or small ruler. The ruler is used to measure the pockets around your teeth, with a depth of one to three millimeters being normal.

3. Your teeth seem to be moving around.

Loose teeth are a classic sign of periodontitis. You may also have them if you have gingivitis. They can occur when your gum line recedes, or as the result of having soft bone in your jaw.

You might also notice other signs of your teeth moving around. For example, they may seem to be oddly spaced, or they could be separating from each other. You might also notice that your partial dentures don’t fit properly anymore, even if they’re not that old.

Gingivitis is a very treatable condition, but you need the help of Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying to keep it in check. Contact our Hiawatha, IA office to schedule an exam today!

Is a Crown Necessary for My Child’s Baby Tooth?

June 13th, 2024

Part of the charm of your child’s smile is those delicate, diminutive baby teeth. We enjoy those smiles while we can, because soon enough, primary teeth make way for the adult teeth that will last your child a lifetime. So you might be surprised if Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying and our team recommend a crown for your child’s baby tooth. Is this procedure necessary when the tooth is going to fall out eventually anyway?

Yes, it really is. If a primary tooth is lost before its normal lifespan, several problems can arise.

  • Biting and chewing—a full set of baby teeth is best for proper chewing and digestion. And chewing also helps develop face and jaw muscles.
  • Speech development—primary teeth help guide speech production and pronunciation.
  • Spacing—a baby tooth serves as a place holder for the adult tooth waiting to replace it. If a primary tooth is lost too early, teeth may drift from their correct location and cause overcrowding or misalignment.

When is a Crown Necessary?

The enamel in a baby tooth is thinner than the enamel found in adult teeth, and a cavity can spread quickly throughout a tooth. Within a short period, the tooth’s structure might be too weak for a regular filling. Sometimes the pulp inside the tooth becomes injured or infected and an endodontic treatment is necessary to remove pulp tissue from inside the tooth. The interior will be filled, but the delicate enamel surrounding it will be fragile. Or an accident can leave a tooth fractured or broken, but still vital.

In each of these cases, a crown will protect the tooth from further decay or damage, and will allow the tooth to function normally until an adult tooth is ready to replace it.

What Types of Crowns are Available?

By far the most common choice for a primary tooth is a stainless steel crown. These crowns are prefabricated and can be fitted snugly to your child’s individual tooth. They are easy to place, less expensive than other crown alternatives, and will last until the tooth is ready to fall out in its proper time. If your child suffers from a metal allergy, or a more natural looking crown is necessary, talk to us about other possible options during your appointment at our Hiawatha, IA office.

Sure, preserving a baby tooth that was never designed to be permanent seems contradictory. But saving a tooth that helps your child develop proper eating habits, speech production, and correct adult tooth alignment? Those are benefits that will last a lifetime.

Kind
Words from Our Patients

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“They are so understanding and patient. They give you multiple options to make your care more individualized and work for you. I have never been happier with a dentist. 100% would recommend them to everyone.”- Amber L.

“Thank you for excellent patient care. I am grateful for such wonderful staff here at Blair Ridge Dental. You all should be commended for your dedication, excellence, and commitment.”– Kristina

“I’m so happy with the smile you have given me. When I look at my pictures I feel such an overwhelming feeling of joy. You’ve given me the smile that I’ve always wanted.”– Feryl

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