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Team Dark Chocolate

February 12th, 2020

Valentine’s Day is the holiday to celebrate all the treasured relationships in your life. It’s a time to honor love in all shapes and forms with cards, social gatherings, and sometimes even binge eating of sweets.

It's hard to look the other way when grocery stores and pharmacies are invaded with goodies connected to the Valentine’s Day theme, and especially if you’re on the receiving end of some of these sweets. We get it. In fact, we’re all for it!

However, we also support a cavity-free smile. So in the interest of your dental and general health, and because we think it’s genuinely tasty, Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying recommends an alternative to the Valentine treats you may be accustomed to: dark chocolate. 

Yes, Healthy Chocolate Exists

Studies have shown that dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, an ingredient found in the cocoa beans used to make chocolate. Flavonoids can help protect the body against toxins, reduce blood pressure, and improve blood flow to the heart and brain.

By opting for dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, you get to reap these benefits! Pretty sweet, right? Just make sure to stick to high-quality dark chocolates that have undergone minimal processing.

Dark Chocolate, AKA Protector of Teeth

Not only does dark chocolate provide some nice benefits for your overall health, it also helps protect your teeth against cavities! According to the Texas A&M Health Science Center, dark chocolate contains high amounts of tannins, another ingredient present in cocoa beans.

Tannins can actually help prevent cavities by interfering with the bacteria that causes them. Think of them as scarecrows for bacteria. They don’t always prevail, but isn’t it nice to have them there?

Smooth Never Sticky

Unlike many popular candies, dark chocolate is less likely to stick in the crevices of your teeth. Chewy, gooey sweets are more likely to hang around in your mouth for longer periods of time, which means they raise the odds of your harboring cavity-creating bacteria.

While some dark chocolates have additives like caramel or marshmallow, it’s best to opt for the plain varieties, which are just as delicious. If you’re feeling festive, though, a dark chocolate with caramel is still better than a milk chocolate with caramel, so that’s the way to go!

While dark chocolate has some pretty sweet benefits, the most important thing to remember (whether you go the dark chocolate route or not), is that moderation is key. That being said, we hope you have fun satisfying your sweet tooth and shopping for treats for your friends and loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Blair Ridge Dental!

The Truth about TMJ

February 5th, 2020

TMJ is the quick way of referring to your Temporomandibular Joint. Pardon the pun, but that’s quite a mouthful! What is this joint, what does it do, and, if your Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying and our team have told you that you have a TMJ disorder, what can we do to help?

The Temporomandibular Joint

Your two temporomandibular joints are amazing works of anatomical design. These are the joints where the temporal bone in the skull meets the mandible bone of the jaw, and allow our mouths to open and close, move back and forth, and slide from side to side. Muscle, bone, and cartilage work together to provide easy movement and to cushion the joint. But sometimes, the joint doesn’t work as smoothly as it should, and this can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD.

When Should You Suspect You Have TMD?

You might have TMD if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Painful chewing
  • Pain around your TMJ, or in your face or neck
  • Earaches
  • Changes in your bite
  • Jaws that are limited in movement or lock open or shut
  • Clicking, popping or grating noises when you open and shut your jaw

There are many conditions linked to TMD. If you grind your teeth at night, have arthritis in the jaw, have suffered an injury or infection in the area, or have problems with your bite, for example, you might be more likely to have TMJ problems. If you suspect you have TMD, or suffer from any of the symptoms listed above for an extended period, give us a call.

Treating TMD

During your visit to our Hiawatha, IA office, we will check your medical history, and examine your head and neck. We can take an X-ray or scan if needed for further examination of the joint. Because there is no real scientific agreement yet about the best way to treat TMJ disorders, a conservative treatment plan is often best. If you do show signs of TMD, we might first suggest relaxation techniques, over-the-counter pain relievers, or the use of ice packs or moist heat compresses. A change to a softer diet can help, and you should stop chewing gum and making any exaggerated jaw movements.

If these self-care practices aren’t effective, we might suggest a nightguard. This appliance is a comfortable and flexible mouthguard custom fitted for you, and will bring relief from teeth grinding when worn at night. If this treatment is not effective, talk to us about other options.

Luckily, most cases of TMD are temporary and don’t become worse over time. But any persistent discomfort is a good reason to visit us. Whether you have TMD, or any other problem causing you pain in the head or jaw, we want to help.

What exactly is a root canal?

January 29th, 2020

Hearing that you need a root canal can be highly intimidating. What is a root canal? It is the removal of the nerve supply from the tooth. Here, Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying will describe the parts of a tooth and explain the reasons for a root canal and how it is done when you visit us in our Hiawatha, IA office.

Your tooth is made up of many layers. The outside layer is called enamel and is made of minerals. The middle layer is dentin, which is also a calcified tissue, but less dense. The center of the tooth is called the pulp, and that hosts the nerves and blood vessels. A root canal is the removal and replacement of this center with a sterile filling.

A root canal is needed when an infection spreads to the center of the tooth. This can be from trauma (recent or previous), a cavity, a severe crack, or other compromise that causes nerve damage. An X-ray and examination are required to see if a root canal is needed. Symptoms may include but are not limited to pain, swelling, change in tooth color, and over-reaction to temperature change or pressure.

When it is time to begin, you’ll receive local anesthesia (via injection) to make you most comfortable. A rubber dam is used to isolate the tooth, while other equipment determines the nerve location and maintains a sterile working environment. All of the infected area is removed including the nerve tissue and blood vessels. Then, medicines are used to sterilize and alleviate any pain. Next is the placement of a filling material in the spot where the nerve used to be.

When your nerve and blood supply are taken away, the tooth is non-vital, or dead, and can become weak and fragile. If your tooth is badly decayed, a large portion of it will have to be removed. It is recommended to place a crown on the tooth to keep the enamel from breaking or falling apart. If you do not get a crown, you could eventually lose the tooth to more decay or infection. The tooth could also break off completely and you would have to have an extraction. The crown fits over the top of the tooth and secures it from breaking down.

A root canal saves the life of a tooth that would otherwise succumb to further infection and eventually extraction. Infection is the cause of most-needed root canals. If you are ever unsure what is happening at your appointment, don’t be afraid to ask questions so you understand the procedure completely.

What Are Dental Sealants?

January 22nd, 2020

You’re constantly playing defense. Your child spends two minutes in the morning and two minutes at night carefully brushing and flossing with a fluoride toothpaste. You make sure sugary and acidic foods are not a major part of your diets. Your child visits our Hiawatha, IA office for regular exams and cleanings. Really, how can a cavity get past all that?

But even with the best defensive practices, you don’t have a level playing field—literally. The tops of our molars and premolars don’t have the smooth, easy-to-clean surfaces that our other teeth have. If you look at the chewing surfaces, you will notice deep grooves which toothbrush bristles have a much harder time reaching.  

Plaque and food particles can become trapped in these grooves (known as pits and fissures), providing perfect conditions for a cavity to develop. That is why cavities are so common in newly erupted molars. Dental sealants protect these teeth from cavities by providing a barrier which smooths out the surface of the tooth and prevents food and bacteria from reaching the molar’s crevices.

Most sealants are invisible plastic resin coatings which we apply in our Hiawatha, IA office. Usually the procedure is so quick and easy that no dental anesthetic is required. Each tooth will be examined first. If we find any signs of early decay, we will gently treat that area before beginning.

When the tooth is ready, it will be cleaned and dried. An etching solution will be brushed on to the dry surface to roughen the area a bit so that the sealant will hold to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a curing light. And that’s it!

Once teeth are sealed, they should be cleaned and flossed just as carefully as before. Regular exams and cleanings are still very important, and we can monitor the condition of the sealant and the sealed teeth. Properly applied, sealants can last from three to five years, or even longer.

Who should consider sealants? Sealants are typically recommended when the permanent molars first erupt. Children’s enamel takes a while to become its strongest, and so these just-erupted teeth are more at risk for cavities. Sometimes Dr. Sardzinski, Dr. Wilken, Dr. Stanley, Dr. Hanson and Dr. Heying will recommend sealants for primary (baby) teeth if needed. But even adults can benefit—talk to us if you are interested and we will let you know if sealants might be right for you.

Sealants are a simple, safe, and minimally invasive way to prevent cavities. Studies of sealed molars and premolars show a dramatic reduction in cavities compared to untreated teeth. Sealants are one of the most effective ways to defend your teeth or your children’s teeth from tooth decay. And as we’ve all heard—defense wins championships!

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