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Tooth Sensitivity

August 17th, 2022

Most of us know that unpleasant feeling. You’re happily enjoying an icy milkshake with lunch or having a piping hot cappuccino break, and suddenly an innocent binge turns to cringe—your tooth sensitivity has crossed another item off the menu. If heat, cold, even the act of brushing cause you tooth discomfort, we have solutions for you. Let’s look at some of the common reasons for tooth sensitivity and how to prevent it.

  • Bad Brushing Habits

There can be too much of a good thing! Aggressive brushing, especially with firm toothbrushes, can damage enamel. When the dentin underneath is exposed, heat and cold can reach the sensitive inner tooth and trigger discomfort.

Go easy on yourself: Switch to a soft bristled or electric toothbrush and brush thoroughly but gently. It’s often suggested that we massage rather than scrub. We can also recommend toothpastes that can help reduce sensitivity.

  • Gum Disease

As gum disease progresses, the gums start to pull away from the teeth and expose their roots. Even though the roots are protected by cementum, a covering a lot like enamel, they are more sensitive to heat and cold. And if you are an aggressive brusher, the cementum is more easily damaged than enamel, leaving the sensitive roots even less protected.

Prevention is the answer: Brushing and flossing help prevent gum disease, as do your regular exams and cleanings. If you are suffering from more advanced gum disease (periodontitis), Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying can suggest advanced treatment to protect your roots, such as deep cleanings and gum grafts. Don’t let periodontitis go untreated, as it can lead to infection and even tooth loss.

  • Your Diet

If your enamel is already compromised, sugary foods and acidic foods can cause tooth discomfort.

Be patient: Until your sensitivity problem is under control, avoiding these types of foods will help. On the other hand, sugary and acidic foods aren’t the ideal dental diet, so cutting back is not a bad idea.

  • Your Dental Products

Mouthwash, whitening toothpastes and home whitening products contain substances such as alcohol or bleaching agents that can cause sensitivity in some users.

Make some changes to your shopping list: Choose products without alcohol or whiteners. Talk to us about gentler alternatives for mouthwashes and whitening.

  • Tooth Injuries

If you have a cavity, a broken filling, a cracked tooth, or some other injury to the tooth, sensitivity can be a warning sign.

Take care of yourself: Call our Hiawatha, IA office immediately if you have prolonged sensitivity or any other painful symptom. Repairing and restoring your damaged tooth should eliminate this discomfort. And, while it is often common to experience some degree of sensitivity after dental work, if this doesn’t clear up within a short time, let us know.

  • Teeth Grinding

Because grinding also wears away enamel, tooth grinders often suffer from sensitive teeth.

Protect yourself: We can fit you for a custom nightguard that will eliminate the nightly stress on your enamel. It can also help the tooth and jaw pain caused by grinding.

Talk to us about any sensitivity you have been experiencing, especially if it has been going on for a while or is causing you real discomfort. We will explore the possible reasons for your tooth sensitivity and help you find solutions. After all, you should feel free to enjoy any item on the menu, in the very best of dental health.

Dental X-rays: The Inside Story

August 10th, 2022

We’re all friends here, so if you sometimes feel a bit nervous before your dental appointment, no judging! Ask us about any worries you might have. We are happy to explain procedures, equipment, and sedation options so you know just how safe and comfortable your experience can be. And if X-rays are a concern, we can put your mind at ease here as well.

What Exactly Are X-rays?

Sometimes patients feel reluctant about the process of imaging because X-rays are a kind of radiation. But the fact is, radiation is all around us. We are exposed to radiation naturally from our soil and water, sun and air, as well as from modern inventions such as cell phones, Wi-Fi, and air travel.

Why is radiation so common? Because matter throughout the universe constantly gives off energy, and the energy that is emitted is termed radiation. This radiation takes two forms—as particles (which we don’t need to consider!) and as traveling rays. This second type is known as electromagnetic radiation, created by photons traveling in regular waves at the speed of light.

We are exposed to electromagnetic radiation every day, because, whether we can see them or not, these different wavelengths and frequencies create various forms of light. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays are all part of the electromagnetic light spectrum.

Different types of radiation on this spectrum have different wavelengths and different frequencies, and produce different amounts of energy. Longer wavelengths mean lower frequencies and less energy. Because X-rays have shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies than, for example, radio waves and visible light, they have more energy.

How Do Dental X-rays Work?

An X-ray machine produces a very narrow beam of X-ray photons. This beam passes through the body and captures images of our teeth and jaws on special film or digital sensors inside the mouth (intraoral X-rays), or on film or sensors located outside the mouth (extraoral X-rays). These X-ray images are also known as radiographs.

Why are X-rays able to take pictures inside our bodies? Remember that higher energy we talked about earlier? This energy enables X-rays to pass through the softer, less dense parts of our bodies, which are seen as gray background in a radiograph. But some substances in our bodies absorb X-rays, such as the calcium found in our bones and teeth. This is why they show up as sharp white images in radiographs.  

There are different types of common dental X-rays which are used for a number of reasons:

  • Bitewing X-rays, which are used to check on the health of the back teeth.
  • Periapical X-rays, which allow us to look at one or two specific teeth from crown to root.
  • Occlusal X-rays, which show the entire arch of teeth in the upper or lower jaw.
  • Panoramic X-rays, which use a special machine to rotate around the head to create a complete two-dimensional picture of teeth and jaws.
  • Cone Beam Computed Tomography, an external device which uses digital images to create a three-dimensional picture of the teeth and jaws.

Why Do We Need X-rays?

If all of our dental conditions were visible on the surface, there would be no need for X-rays. But there are many conditions that can only be discovered with the use of imaging—infection, decay, a decrease in bone density, or injuries, for example, can show up as darker areas in the teeth or jaws. Among their many diagnostic uses, X-rays can help us find:

  • Cavities between teeth or under old fillings
  • Damage to the tooth’s pulp which might require root canal treatment
  • Injuries to teeth or roots after trauma
  • Abscesses, tumors, or other conditions that might be causing swelling or pain
  • Position and development of wisdom teeth
  • Ideal placement for implants
  • Health and density of the jaw and alveolar bone

X-rays can also serve an important preventative role, by discovering small problems before they become major ones.

How Do Dentists Make Sure Your X-rays Are As Safe As They Can Be?

First of all, the amount of radiation you are exposed to with a dental X-ray is very small. In fact, a set of bitewing X-rays exposes us to slightly less than the amount of radiation we are exposed to through our natural surroundings in just one day. Even so, Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying and our team are committed to making sure patients are exposed to as little radiation as possible.

Radiologists, the physicians who specialize in imaging procedures and diagnoses, recommend that all dentists and doctors follow the safety principal known as ALARA: “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” This means using the lowest X-ray exposure necessary to achieve precise diagnostic results for all dental and medical patients.

The guidelines recommended for X-rays and other imaging have been designed to make sure all patients have the safest experience possible whenever they visit the dentist or the doctor. We ensure that imaging is safe and effective in a number of ways:

  • We take X-rays only when they are necessary.
  • We provide protective gear, such as apron shields and thyroid collars, whenever needed.
  • We make use of modern X-ray equipment, for both traditional X-rays and digital X-rays, which exposes patients to a lower amount of radiation than ever before.
  • When treating children, we set exposure times based on each child’s size and age.

And now that we’ve talked about some things you might like to know,

Please Let Us Know If . . .

  • You’re a new patient, with previous X-rays taken during regular exams or for specific procedures. Ask to have your older X-rays sent to our office. With digital X-ray technology, this transfer can be accomplished with e-mail! Having your dental history available lets us notice any changes that have taken place.
  • You’re pregnant, or think you might be pregnant. Even though radiation exposure is very low with dental radiographs, unless there is a dental emergency, dentists and doctors recommend against X-rays for pregnant patients.

X-rays play an important part in helping us make sure your teeth stay their healthiest. If you have any concerns, contact our Hiawatha, IA office. When it comes to making sure you’re comfortable with all of our procedures, including any X-rays that might be necessary, we’re happy to give you all the inside information!

Hot Day? Three Drinks to Leave Home When You’re Packing the Cooler

August 3rd, 2022

Whew! It’s a hot one! And whenever the temperature soars, you need to stay hydrated, especially when you’re outside or exercising. But all cold drinks aren’t equal when it comes to healthy hydration. Which beverages shouldn’t have a prime spot in your cooler when you’re wearing braces or aligners?

  • Soft Drinks

You’re probably not surprised to find soft drinks at the top of the list. After all, sugar is a) a big part of what makes soda so popular, and b) not a healthy choice for your teeth.

Sugar is a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that make up plaque. These bacteria convert sugar into acids, and these acids attack the surface of your tooth enamel. Over time, the minerals which keep enamel strong begin to erode, and weakened, eroded enamel is a lot more susceptible to cavities.

So, what about sugar-free drinks? Does this make soft drinks a better choice? Unfortunately, you can take the sugar out of many sodas, but you can’t take the acids out. Most soft drinks are very acidic, even without sugar, and will cause enamel erosion just like the acids created by bacteria will.

  • Fruit Drinks

Fruit juice provides us with vitamins, which is great, but it’s also full of natural sugars and acids. And blended fruit drinks and fruit punches often contain added sugars and added citric acids. Best to choose 100% fruit content and check the labels before you buy. (And you can always get refreshing fruit flavor by adding a slice of fruit to a glass of water.)

  • Sports Drinks

You might be surprised to see these on the list—after all, they promise healthy hydration while you’re working out. And hydration is healthy—but sugars and acids aren’t. Even when the label tells you there’s no added sugar, that same label will often reveal high amounts of citric acid. In fact, some sports drinks are more acidic than sodas.

We’ll make an exception, though, for thirsty people who participate in sports or activities that require a lot of physical exercise and produce a lot of sweat. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, those ionized minerals which help regulate many vital bodily functions. Talk to Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying about which sports drinks are best for you if you need to replenish your electrolytes when working out.

So, what’s your best hydration choice on a hot day? Water! It not only hydrates you, it cleans your teeth, it helps you produce saliva, and it often contains tooth-strengthening fluoride. But if you only have sports drinks in the cooler, or if you just want to enjoy a soft drink or a bottle of juice from time to time, no need to go thirsty. We have some ways to make sure your teeth are safer, even with this tricky trio:

  • Rinse with water after you drink a sugary or acidic drink. And remember to brush when you get home.
  • Be choosy. Check labels for added sugars and acids.
  • Don’t sip your drinks all day long. Saliva actually helps neutralize acids in the mouth, but sipping acidic beverages throughout the day doesn’t give saliva a chance to work.
  • Use a straw to avoid washing your enamel in sugars and acids.

You need to keep hydrated when it’s hot. When you’re packing your cooler, choose drinks that are healthy for your entire body, including your teeth and gums. Ask our Hiawatha, IA team for the best choices in cold drinks to make sure you’re getting the hydration you need—without the sugar and acids you don’t!

Balancing Act

July 27th, 2022

We’re all trying to find a healthy balance in our lives. Balancing work and home life. Eating a well-balanced diet. Balancing our budgets. Maintaining the right pH balance in our mouths for better dental health. Wait, what was that last one?

You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your pH levels, but if your oral pH is out of balance it can affect the health of your teeth.

What do we mean by pH levels? In biology and chemistry, the pH scale is a tool used to measure the concentration of hydrogen (H⁺) ions and hydroxide (OH⁻) ions in a solution.  

The higher the concentration of hydrogen atoms, the more acidic a solution. The higher the concentration of hydroxide ions, the more alkaline. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, with the most acidic reading possible rating a 0, and the most alkaline, a 14.

You don’t have to be a biochemist to use the information provided by pH samples. We use pH readings to discover the ideal acid/alkaline conditions in many everyday applications. Azaleas grow best in very acidic soil. Swimming pools should be just a bit alkaline. Brewers test pH throughout the beer-making process for optimal fermentation—and taste.

When it comes to saliva, a neutral pH range of around 6.2 to 7.6 is generally considered normal. High alkalinity in saliva is rare. High acidity levels? Unfortunately, much more common. And an acidic environment has real-world consequences for teeth.

Plaque contains bacteria, which produce acids. Calcium and phosphate, the minerals that help make enamel the strongest substance in the body, are leached out by these acids. The weak spots left behind make enamel vulnerable to further erosion and, eventually, decay. When saliva has a normal, neutral pH, it helps neutralize plaque acids to reduce the risk of cavities.

But it’s not just bacteria that expose our teeth to acidic conditions—we do it ourselves with our choice of food and drink.

Acidic foods can directly lower the pH level in saliva. Lemon juice, for example, has a pH between 2 and 3. Red wine has a pH between 3 and 4. Blueberries? Around a 3.2. When the pH level in saliva becomes 5.5 or lower, the minerals in our teeth start to “demineralize,” or lose the minerals which keep enamel strong and intact—just the way enamel is demineralized by acids from plaque. This process is known as acid erosion.

Many of our favorite foods are acidic to some degree. Citrus and other fruits, pickled foods, vinegar, wine, coffee, tea—all of them can lower the optimal pH level of saliva. And sports drinks, energy drinks, and sodas? Check the labels and you’ll often find citric acid, phosphoric acid, and/or carbonation, all of which combine to create extremely erosive conditions.

So, no more soda? Or fruit? No. You don’t have to give up acidic foods altogether for healthy teeth. True, you won’t give up much eliminating soda from your diet. But fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, and meats are the source of essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins, and many of these healthy food choices have an acidic pH. How to eat nutritiously while protecting your enamel? Again, it’s a balancing act.

  • Enjoy acidic foods sparingly, or as part of a meal. Saliva can neutralize acids more effectively when they aren’t washing over your teeth all through the day.
  • Use a straw when you drink something with a low pH to reduce your enamel’s exposure to acids.
  • Balance high-acid foods with low-acid choices to help neutralize the acids in your diet. Add a banana to your blueberry smoothie. Pair your wine with some cheese.
  • Rinse with water after eating or drinking. When it comes to balanced pH, pure water is a 7.0 on the scale, a perfect neutral.
  • Chew sugarless gum to increase saliva production.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste—it not only helps prevent cavities, it helps remineralize teeth.

Even with your best efforts, acid erosion can be a problem. You might be experiencing enamel damage if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Tooth pain or sensitivity.
  • Teeth that appear discolored. This happens as the whiter enamel thins, revealing the yellowish dentin underneath.
  • Changes in the shape of your enamel—your teeth become rounded or have little dents or pits, known as cupping.
  • White spots on your teeth, which could be a sign of demineralization.

If you think you could be suffering from enamel erosion, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying when you visit our Hiawatha, IA office. We can diagnose conditions causing acid erosion, treat you if enamel damage has occurred, and offer suggestions for diet and eating habits to make sure your oral pH—and your dental health—is always in balance.

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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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