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Teeth, Bones—What’s the Difference?

September 22nd, 2021

They’re often mentioned together, and that’s understandable. After all, they’re the strongest parts of the body, they’re made of many of the same elements, they both require a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, a pirate flag wouldn’t be the same without them–so, what makes teeth and bones different? Glad you asked!

It’s Elementary

Teeth and bones are so strong because of their mineral composition. They have the highest concentration of calcium and phosphorus in the body, and these minerals combine to create sturdy structures which support our bodies, protect our organs, and help break down and digest our food. And they work well together—healthy teeth maintain jawbone density, and healthy jaws hold our teeth firmly in place.

But there are important differences in the anatomy of teeth and bones as well. Bones contain living cells, blood vessels, and nerves. They grow larger as we grow. As we age, old bone tissue breaks down and is constantly replaced with new bone tissue. This process enables our bones to stay strong throughout our lives. And bones heal.

When you break a bone, your body begins working right away to protect and heal the damaged area. Blood cells help with clotting around the break. After a few days, collagen proteins work to replace the clotted cells and form a soft callus. Within weeks, calcium phosphate deposits strengthen the collagen framework. Over time, the bone hardens and reshapes.

And while tooth enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies—harder even than bone—it is not indestructible. Our enamel is basically composed of minerals rather than living tissue, so it can’t regenerate. The enamel covering our teeth doesn’t replace cells as they age, and it can’t create new tooth cells if a tooth is injured through damage or decay. This means that a cracked or broken tooth can’t knit itself together, and enamel lost to decay won’t grow back.

Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk can restore your smile with fillings, or crowns, or even implants if necessary, but preventing injury to your teeth is always best.

Protecting Teeth and Bones

You can make sure your teeth and bones are their safest and strongest by being proactive.

External bone injuries can be avoided with the use of proper safety equipment. Helmets, padding, work boots—if your work or play recommends protective gear, use it! Fortunately, there’s also protective gear for teeth.

  • Helmets

Helmets not only protect against brain injury and concussion, they are often designed to protect the face, mouth, and jaw as well.

  • Mouthguards

Mouthguards protect the teeth, lips, tongue, and jaw from damages caused by physical contact and falls. They’re available over-the-counter, or ask Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk to fabricate a custom guard for the most comfortable and secure fit. A custom guard is an excellent option for people with braces, bridgework, or other dental appliances.

  • Night Guards

Grinding and clenching the teeth at night can lead to loose and cracked teeth, headaches, jaw pain, and other unhappy consequences. Protect your teeth from the damage caused by bruxism (tooth grinding) by wearing a night guard.

Finally, one big difference between tooth and bone design: bones are safely hidden away inside the body, while our teeth are exposed to harmful plaque, bacteria, sugars, and acidic foods every day. Give your teeth the preventive care they deserve with twice-daily brushing, flossing, and regular visits to our Middleton, WI office. After all, your beautiful, healthy smile was never designed to be hidden!

Flossing Fixes

September 15th, 2021

A length of floss plus your teeth is about as low-tech as it gets. But, as with so many other “simple” skills, it helps to learn just the right technique to avoid common mistakes and to make your flossing as effective as it can possibly be.

  • Choose the Right Floss for You

You’re getting ready to go out, and your floss keeps getting stuck, shredding, or snagging. You might try waxed flosses or flosses treated to glide easily through the teeth if this is a difficulty. (But do call us if it happens a lot—it could be a problem with a restoration, or a cavity, or some other condition we should address.) If you have the opposite problem, too wide a space between teeth for effective flossing, there are dental tape flosses that work with wider spacings. Braces? There are even specially designed dental flosses that thread between brackets and wires to access hard-to-reach plaque and food particles. If you’re unsure which product will work best for you, we have recommendations.

  • Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Did you know dental floss is a handy kitchen tool? You can use (unflavored) floss to cut cakes into even layers, slice cheese, or divide a log of cookie dough into perfect rounds. Just pull the floss taut and saw away. But let’s not use this technique on delicate gum tissue! Gums can be injured by a vigorous, sawing motion. Instead, gently guide the floss between the teeth to the gums, and, when you reach the gum line, gently ease the floss up and down the tooth surface. But do remember, sometimes the gums are sore and sensitive because of too little flossing, not too much. Proper cleaning will help keep your gums both healthy and pain-free.

  • Technique Counts!

We often use floss to remove food particles from between the teeth, which provides instant dental gratification. But you are flossing for the long term as well. Proper flossing removes the plaque that leads to cavities from places your brush just can’t reach. Make sure you floss between each tooth, and don’t forget the back of those teeth on the end. The next time you visit our Middleton, WI office for a cleaning, let us demonstrate the most effective techniques for gently removing plaque from beneath the gum area and on the tooth’s surface.

  • It’s All in the Timing

How much time should you spend flossing? That answer will depend on your individual needs. For some people, thorough and careful flossing once a day will be sufficient. For others, flossing more often might be advisable. We can help you decide how often and how long to floss.

It might take some time and practice to learn to floss effectively, but you will find your technique gets better and your flossing is accomplished more quickly once you have the basics down. If Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk can offer any suggestions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Treatment Options for TMD

September 8th, 2021

Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) refers to a diverse range of disorders that relate to muscular function in the jaw and face — the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). That could mean difficulty opening your mouth, pain in the jaw or face, or any sort of problem with the jaw joint.

TMD can be difficult to diagnose because of the varied causes. Whatever the case, an accurate diagnosis from Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk helps make treatment as successful as possible.

Most often, jaw problems will resolve themselves within several weeks or months. Surgeries like arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery should be a last resort. More conservative and reversible treatments should come first and are in fact the most critical step in the treatment of TMD.

Less invasive treatments like acupuncture and splints can be helpful, but that will depend on your particular case. It’s worth your while to speak with Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk at our Middleton, WI office to learn about solutions that could work for you.

A combination of treatments will most often produce the greatest relief for TMJ patients. It’s a good idea to avoid activities that overuse the jaws, such as chewing gum or clenching your jaws.

You can be proactive in finding relief for TMD by trying the following remedies at home:

  • Eat soft food: When you eat soft and/or blended food, your jaw gets an opportunity to rest. Avoid chewy and crunchy food, and food that requires you to open your mouth wide, like apples or corn on the cob.
  • Apply moist heat: A hot water bottle wrapped in a moist towel can help reduce symptoms.
  • Apply ice: Applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth or towel for no longer than 15 minutes may also reduce pain and promote healing.
  • Do jaw exercises: A physical therapist can help identify the exercises that will work for you. Jaw exercises have been shown to be an effective treatment method that can be performed at home.
  • Relaxation: Actively try to relax the muscles of the face and lips, and let your teeth come apart. Many find meditation, yoga, and slow, deep breathing to be helpful for reducing stress and tension.
  • Avoid wide yawns: Keep your fist under your jaw when you feel a yawn coming on, to keep your jaw from opening too widely.

Back to School? Remember Your Dental Homework!

September 1st, 2021

It’s a busy time of year. Book lists! Supplies! New clothes! (How did they outgrow those shoes already?) And while you’re preparing your family’s list of back-to-school necessities, here are a few essential reminders to help your child begin the school year with a healthy smile.

  • Review

It never hurts to review the basics before the start of the school year, and that holds true for dental care as well! Make sure your child is brushing two minutes twice a day, and using floss or another interdental tool to clean between the teeth. If his toothbrush has been in use since the end of the last school year, it’s probably time to replace it. Bristles are at their best for about three months—after that, they become frayed and worn, and can’t remove plaque as effectively.

  • School Supplies for Braces Wearers

If your child is going to school with braces for the first time, send her off with the tools she needs. A travel-sized toothbrush and tube of toothpaste are perfect for a quick brushing after lunch, while dental floss and a threader or dental picks will take care of any after-lunch particles lurking in brackets and wires. Orthodontic wax is a great product to have on hand if a wire or bracket is causing irritation. If your child uses clear aligners or a retainer, make sure a protective case is always close by, ready to use every time the appliance is removed. And it’s a good idea to include the number of your dentist and orthodontist in her contacts in case of emergency.

  • Exams

If your school requires a dental exam before the start of classes, be sure to make your appointment at our Middleton, WI office now! Regular checkups with Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk are vital for preventing small problems from becoming bigger ones, and a professional cleaning will remove the plaque even careful brushing can miss.

A positive, confident start can set the tone for the academic year, so your homework might include monitoring summer reading, providing required supplies, and making sure your child is well-rested and ready to go. You can also help your child to a positive, confident start by monitoring brushing habits, providing the necessary tools for appliance-wearers, and making sure your child is up-to-date with dental exams and cleanings. Because entering the classroom with a beaming, healthy smile—that’s an A+ way to begin the school year!

1001 N Gammon Rd #2
Middleton, WI 53562
(608) 836-5600