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Forget Something? It’s on the Tip of Your Tongue!

September 21st, 2022

Let’s see…

Toothbrush? Check.

Fluoride toothpaste? Check.

Floss? Check.

Two minutes of thorough brushing? Check.

Careful cleaning around your brackets and wires? Check.

Wait… there’s something else… it’s right on the tip of your…

Ah! Your tongue! Whenever you brush, morning, evening, or any time in between, if you want the freshest breath and cleanest teeth, don’t forget your tongue.

Why your tongue? Because the tongue is one of the most common sources of bad breath. Let’s examine just why this occurs.

The tongue is made up of a group of muscles that help us speak and chew and swallow. But there’s more to this remarkable organ than mere muscle. The surface of the tongue is covered with mucous membrane, like the smooth tissue which lines our mouths. But the tongue isn’t completely smooth—it’s textured with thousands of tiny bumps called papillae.

These little elevated surfaces have several shapes and functions. Some make the tongue’s surface a bit rough, which helps move food through your mouth. Some are temperature sensitive, letting you know that your slice of pizza is much too hot. And some are covered with thousands of the taste buds, which make eating that pizza so enjoyable.

All of these papillae with their various functions combine to create a textured surface, filled with miniscule nooks and crannies. And if there’s a nook or a cranny where bacteria can collect, no matter how miniscule, it’s a good bet that they will, and the surface of the tongue is no exception. But bacteria aren’t alone—the tongue’s surface can also hide food particles and dead cells.

How does this unappealing accumulation affect you? These elements work together to cause bad breath, especially the bacteria that break down food particles and cell debris to produce volatile sulfur compounds—compounds which create a particularly unpleasant odor. Including your tongue in your brushing routine helps remove one of the main causes of bad breath.

And that’s not the only benefit! Cleaning the tongue helps eliminate the white coating caused by bacterial film, and might even improve the sense of taste. Most important, studies show that regular cleaning noticeably lowers the levels of decay-causing plaque throughout the mouth.

So, how to get rid of that unwanted, unpleasant, and unhealthy debris?

  • When you’re done brushing your teeth, use your toothbrush to brush your tongue.

Clean your tongue by brushing gently front to back and then side to side. Rinse your mouth when you’re through. Simple as that! And just like a soft-bristled toothbrush helps protect tooth enamel and gum tissue, we also recommend soft bristles when you brush your tongue. Firm bristles can be too hard on tongue tissue.

  • Use a tongue scraper.

Some people find tongue scrapers more effective than brushing. Available in different shapes and materials, these tools are used to gently scrape the surface of the tongue clean of bacteria and debris. Always apply this tool from back to front, and rinse the scraper clean after every stroke. Wash and dry it when you’re through.

  • Add a mouthwash or rinse.

As part of your oral hygiene routine, antibacterial mouthwashes and rinses can assist in preventing bad breath. Ask Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk for a recommendation.

  • Don’t brush or scrape too vigorously.

Your tongue is a sturdy, hard-working organ, but tongue tissue is still delicate enough to be injured with over-vigorous cleaning.

Taking a few extra seconds to clean your tongue helps eliminate the bacteria and food particles which contribute to bad breath and plaque formation. Make this practice part of your daily brushing routine—it’s a healthy habit well worth remembering!

Symptoms That Could Mean You Need a Root Canal

September 14th, 2022

Every tooth packs a lot of layers in a very small area. The outer, visible part of our tooth, the crown, is covered in protective enamel, and the lower root area is protected by a similar substance called cementum. Inside these very hard layers is dentin, a hard but more porous tissue which surrounds the pulp. In this central pulp chamber, we have the blood vessels which nourish the tooth and the nerves which send our bodies signals from the tooth. And if one of those signals is persistent tooth pain, you may need a procedure called a root canal.

There are a number of reasons that a tooth may cause you pain, including:

  • Fracture—a cracked or broken tooth can allow bacteria to enter the pulp chamber and cause inflammation and infection
  • Cavity—an untreated cavity can leave an opening where bacteria can reach the pulp of the tooth, and again lead to infection
  • Gum Disease—bacteria can attack from the root area of the tooth if gum disease has become serious
  • Injury—an accident or injury to a tooth can damage the nerve or the blood supply which nourishes the pulp
  • Abscess—if infection is left untreated, an abscess may form under the root

While a damaged tooth may sometimes be symptom-free, usually there are signs that the pulp has been injured or infected. What symptoms should lead you to give Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk a call?

  • Persistent pain in the tooth
  • Long-lasting sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Gum tissue adjacent to the tooth that is sore, red or swollen
  • A cracked, broke, darkened or discolored tooth
  • A bump on your gums that persists or keeps recurring—this might indicate an abscess

A root canal is performed by a trained dentist or endodontist. After an anesthetic is used to numb the area, the damaged tissue, including pulp, blood vessels and nerves, is removed from the pulp chamber and each root. The inside of the tooth is then cleaned and shaped, and filled and sealed with a temporary filling. The tooth is filled again permanently, usually on a second visit, and might require a crown in order to protect it from further damage.

The most painful part of a root canal is far more often the time spent suffering before the procedure than the procedure itself. Delaying action when a root canal is necessary can lead to infection, abscess, and even tooth loss. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, please give our Middleton, WI office a call!

 

Five Things You Didn't Know About Cavities

August 31st, 2022

Most people know when they have a cavity—they can either see it on their tooth or... ouch! They can feel it! But there are certain things that many of our patients don't know about cavities that could save them a trip to our Middleton, WI office!

1. Not all sugars are created equal

It's quite well known that eating dietary sugars in excess along with poor oral hygiene leads to dental decay such as cavities. This is due to the fact that the bacteria in your mouth feed on these sugars and excrete acids as a byproduct of that process, thus causing decay. But xylitol, a sugar alcohol derived from birch or corn, actually prevents the bacteria from converting sugars into acids.

Xylitol is available in the form of gum, mints, toothpaste, and even in a granulated form much like regular cane sugar. You might consider trying some xylitol products between meals to keep your mouth clean and fresh.

2. It's not always what you eat but HOW you eat

Are you a grazer, always snacking between meals and never satisfied? We now know that this kind of eating can contribute to cavities and other oral health problems.

Every time you eat anything with carbohydrates in it, you're feeding the bacteria in your mouth, which in turn produce acids. If you're constantly eating, it doesn't allow your saliva time to bring the pH of your mouth back into a more alkaline, neutral state. It takes your saliva about 20 minutes to neutralize the acids in your mouth after eating.

It's especially easy to harm your teeth in this way with soft drinks, sipping all day long. So, it's best to avoid sugary drinks and junk food, and if you need a snack opt for healthy vegetables or what are known as "detergent foods." If you do decide to drink a soft drink or eat something sugary, have it all at once and not over the course of the day.

3. Flossing is one of the most important oral hygiene techniques

Although most of our patients are aware that they need to brush, sometimes they can get lackadaisical when it comes to flossing. And that's a big mistake. Flossing is one of the most important (and we daresay, easiest) things someone can do to help prevent cavities and tooth decay.

You see, as we've already mentioned, the bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities feed on the food you eat. So if you've got pieces of that food stuck between your teeth all day and night, every day, that's asking for a problem.

Flossing clears that bacteria-feeding food out from between your teeth. Floss daily and whenever you decide to do it, morning or night, just do it!

4. A dry mouth can lead to cavities and tooth decay

Your teeth's best defense against cavities and tooth decay is actually your saliva! We've already talked about the pH neutralizing effect saliva has. So if you find you have a dry mouth often, make sure to have some water to sip on. Or why not try some xylitol mints or gum to get your saliva production kicked into action?

5. Over-brushing can damage your enamel

If you brush like a construction worker with a jackhammer, you should ease up! Brushing too hard can scrape away at your teeth's enamel, which leaves them more susceptible to cavities and decay. Brush lightly, with your brush angled at the gum line for two minutes, twice a day. That's all that is required!

What exactly is tinnitus?

August 24th, 2022

It’s estimated that about one in every five people is affected by tinnitus, which is a ringing or noise in the ears. But tinnitus isn’t a condition in itself; it’s actually the symptom of an underlying condition. Some of these underlying conditions could be hearing loss, injury to the ear, or some sort of circulatory disorder.

Another common cause if tinnitus is a dental injury or dental issue, whether it involves the jaw or the temporomandibular joint, better known as the TMJ. “Somatic tinnitus” is the term given to the version that is attributable to injuries to the head or neck area. Symptoms of somatic tinnitus may include noticeable fluctuations in sound volume, intermittency, headaches, memory loss or increased forgetfulness, and an increased likelihood of being depressed or sad.

Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk will tell you tinnitus usually isn’t serious and is more common in older populations. For that reason, many people won’t even seek an answer to what’s causing it. But people can also experience more severe cases of tinnitus that can affect a person’s ability to complete everyday activities, which has a larger impact on their lives. For people facing these more severe cases of tinnitus, treatment may be necessary to increase their quality of life. It’s also worth noting that tinnitus seems to worsen with age, so while symptoms might not be a problem one year, they may be more significant and distracting the next.

If you have tinnitus that is caused by the misalignment of the TMJ or an injury to the mouth, that’s a condition that can be corrected by Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk and our team at hartstone dental. We will work to relieve your symptoms by realigning the jaw or adjusting your bite with routine dental care. Sometimes we won’t even have to go this far, because an oral infection or gum infection may be causing your problem. We might also recommend other life changes, such as dietary adjustments and medication.

If you're experiencing tinnitus-like symptoms and have ruled out various other reasons for it, contact our Middleton, WI office today. Dr. Joel Hartjes and Dr. Jon Szewczyk and our team will carefully analyze your situation and put you on a treatment course so that you can kick the symptoms for good.

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