Back to Basics

Back to Basics:

As dentists, our job is to properly communicate various dental issues and recommendations with our patients.  To improve our communication, it helps you to know some of the terms we use in describing some of the anatomy of the oral cavity, the problems that candevelop, and the steps you need to take to fix them.

Dr. Aanenson

The Anatomy of a Tooth:

 

  • Enamel – Enamel is the hardest structure in the human body, and it covers the external surface of each tooth.

  • Dentin – Dentin is the structure that lies between the enamel and the pulp. It forms the core substance of the tooth. It is softer than enamel and darker yellow in color. Dentin is responsible for giving teeth their color, and every person’s is different.

  • Pulp – Pulp is the collection of blood vessels and nerves inside the hollow chamber of a tooth.

  • Crown – The crown is the portion of the tooth that protrudes out of the gums. You could also describe the crown by stating that it is the part of the tooth that you can see. Enamel is only found on the crown of a tooth.

  • RootThe root of the tooth is the portion anchored into the jawbone. Each tooth has a different shaped root. Molars have multiple roots, and the shape of the root is important in the tooth’s stability in the bone.

 

Dr. Aanenson

Other Dental Terms Defined:

What is a cavity?  A cavity, or tooth decay, is the destruction of enamel and dentin by bacteria in your mouth.  The bacteria in your mouth eat sugar and produce acid as a by-product.  When the acid is allowed to stay in contact with the tooth surface for an extended period of time, it begins to eat its way through the enamel.  Once it passes through the enamel layer, it begins to spread through the dentin.  If the decay isn’t stopped, it will extend all the way to the pulp.  Once it reaches the pulp, the nerves and blood vessels become infected.

What is a filling?  When a cavity is removed from a tooth, the dentist ensures that he has removed all unhealthy enamel and dentist, leaving only solid, healthy enamel and dentin.  This cavity removal process creates a hole in the tooth.  The dentist repairs this hole by filling it with a dental restorative material to restore the normal shape, size and contour of a tooth.  This allows you to use the tooth for normal function again.

What is a composite?  Composite is a type of dental filling material.  It is a resin polymer that forms a bond to the tooth structure.  Composite requires a blue light to “cure” it (harden it after it has been formed to the proper shape).

What is plaque?  Plaque is a soft material that accumulates on the teeth every single day.  Plaque is made up of food particles, bacteria, and minerals present in your saliva.  Plaque is easily removed with a SOFT toothbrush and floss, and it is attracted to rough surfaces.

What is tartar?  Tartar, also called calculus, is a hard material that forms on the teeth from plaque that is not adequately removed.  When plaque stays on a tooth surface for more than 24 hours, it begins to calcify or harden.  This hardened substance is impossible to remove with a toothbrush or floss.  It can only be removed by being scraped off by a dental hygienist or dentist.  Tartar that is not removed causes periodontal disease.

What is gingivitis?  Gingivitis, also called gum disease, is an inflammation of the gums, and it is almost always caused by plaque and/or tartar buildup at the gumline of the teeth.  Gingivitis is characterized by swollen, red, painful or bleeding gums. 

Dr. Aanenson

  What is periodontal disease?Periodontal disease, if left untreated, will cause you to lose your teeth.  When tartar accumulates on the teeth, it irritates the gum tissue and bone that help hold the tooth in place.  This irritation, over time, causes destruction of the bone, which results in a lack of stability for the tooth.  If periodontal disease is caught in its early stages, it can usually be easily treated in your dentist’s office.  More advanced stages may need to be treated by a specialist called a periodontist.  Periodontal disease can be “silent”, not causing any pain or discomfort, so it is important to see your dentist regularly. 

What is bruxism?  Bruxism is the term dentists use to describe the habit of clenching or grinding your teeth.  It can occur at night or during the daytime, and it leaves noticeable signs inside your mouth.  Your dentist can tell if you have this habit.

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

Spring has sprung!  This time of year is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts.  Trees are budding, and flowers are in bloom.  Most people are familiar with the concept of spring-cleaning.  We clean out our closets and our flowerbeds.  We throw out things we do not use anymore. 

Obviously, spring-cleaning carries with it the idea of cleaning up the things to keep.  It also implies cleaning out things that are past their usefulness. 

When you spring-clean, you strive for a clean slate, bringing things back to a state that is more easily maintained so that they stay cleaner for longer.

As your dentists, of course we want you to apply this concept to your mouth!

Spring Cleaning for Your Mouth

Cleaning Up the Things to Keep

We want you to keep your teeth.  Forever.  We want your teeth to outlast you!  In order to keep your teeth for the rest of your life, they must have healthy gums and supporting bone.  They also need to stay cavity free.

The key to keeping teeth free of decay with healthy gums and bones is keeping them as clean as possible.  There are two essential steps you must take to keep your mouth clean.

Professional Teeth Cleanings – To achieve a perfectly healthy mouth, it is absolutely necessary for you to have professional teeth cleanings on a consistent basis.  Our wonderful dental hygienists are masters at removing every trace of bacteria from your teeth and gums.  No matter how diligent you are, you can never clean every bit of plaque and tartar on your own at home.  Professional teeth cleanings are a must for a clean mouth.

  • Interval of Teeth Cleanings – All men are not created equally when it comes to plaque and tartar buildup. We are all unique, with specific risks and needs. For this reason, some people need to have professional teeth cleanings at different intervals than the average of six months. Ask your dentist and dental hygienist which interval will give you the healthiest outcome!

Great Home Care – As amazing as our hygienists are, they cannot do all of the work for you.  Their job stops when you walk out of our doors, and the ball is then in your court.  They leave you with a clean slate and all the information you need to keep it clean.  If you have a particularly difficult area to clean on your own, ask your dental hygienist.  They each have customized ways of teaching you how to clean your teeth to the best of your ability.  Follow this regimen for great home care.

  • Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste after breakfast and before bedtime. If possible, use an electric toothbrush, which is proven to remove more plaque buildup than a manual toothbrush.

  • Floss every night before bed. Brushing alone does not get the job done. Flossing is the only way to remove plaque and food debris from between the teeth.

  • Add a mouthwash to your daily routine. There are so many different types of mouthwash available today, and they have different purposes. Ask your hygienist which type is best for your specific needs.

 

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 Cleaning Out Useless or Obsolete Things

Okay, this may seem like a strange concept when applying it to your oral health.  We have two ways that you should “clean out” things related to your mouth.

  1. Throw Out Your Toothbrush – Toothbrushes are wonderful tools that have greatly improved dental healthcare. But they do not last forever. If yours is frayed or splayed or otherwise “worn out”, toss it. For electric toothbrush users, buy the replacement heads, and throw this one out. Old toothbrushes can harbor bacteria and even grow mold. Once the bristles are worn out, they may not even touch the tooth surface as they should.

  2. Take a Tip from Marie Kondo – The bestselling author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has a unique tactic for cleaning out your closet. Hold up an item and think about how it makes you feel. If it does not bring you joy, get rid of it. If we were to apply that tactic to your mouth, what would you get rid of? Is there an old discolored filling that you hate? Do you have a tooth that you try to hide when you smile? If there is something in your smile that does not bring you joy, please schedule a consultation with Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex or Dr. Serena to discuss how we can change that for you.

 

Maintaining a Clean Mouth

Have you noticed the phenomenon that it is much easier to keep something clean once it is clean?  The fact that the countertops are free of clutter makes you want to keep any clutter from building up. 

The same is true for your teeth.  The feeling of a perfectly clean mouth just after your professional teeth cleaning is so good that you are more motivated to follow a great home care regimen.  Don’t let that momentum fizzle out.  Commit to keeping up that great home care routine so that your “spring clean” lasts all year!

Do You Need a “Spring Cleaning”?

It is time for a fresh start!  Call our offices at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) today to schedule your professional teeth cleaning with our fabulous hygienists or a consultation with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell.

Sparkling water

Sparkling Water: A Surprising Cause of Cavities

 

Most people know that foods and drinks high in sugar can cause cavities.  It is common knowledge that sodas and candy are bad for your teeth. What many people are unaware of is that sparkling water can also damage the teeth.

Due to an increase in its popularity in recent years, we are frequently asked about sparkling water (carbonated water) and whether it can damage your teeth.  Although most sparkling water contains nothing more than carbonated water (perhaps with a few minerals) and natural flavors, most people do not expect it to be as acidic as soda, which typically contains phosphoric acid. Unfortunately, sparkling water is very acidic due to the carbonation process, which forms carbonic acid.

Yes, Sparkling Water Can Harm Your Teeth!

A group of researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom wanted to find out if sparkling water could cause enamel erosion.

First, they measured the pH of various sparkling waters and found a pH of around three (ranging from 2.7-3.4). This pH level is just as low as most sodas!

This research group took some extracted teeth and placed them in glasses filled with different types of flavored carbonated waters. They found that the sparkling water does erode away tooth enamel.  In fact, they found that flavored sparkling water has as much or more of an erosive effect on teeth as orange juice, which is known to be very damaging to teeth.

The following is what this group of researchers concluded:

"Flavored sparkling waters should be considered as potentially erosive, and preventive advice on their consumption should recognize them as potentially acidic drinks rather than water with flavoring."

In other words, sparkling water can erode your tooth enamel and should not be considered “water” at all. Rather, it is more appropriately classified as an “acidic drink”. 

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 What does this mean for your teeth?

Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body.  It is a protective coating over the core nerves and blood vessels in our teeth.  The purpose of our teeth is to chew food; the enamel serves to withstand the mechanical and chemical forces that teeth are subjected to as they do that job.  Anything that softens, erodes, or breaks enamel is bad because it weakens the tooth.  Enamel erosion makes it easier for the bacteria in our mouths to cause cavities and can cause major breakdown of your teeth, which causes the need for more dental work in your future.

A healthy mouth has a pH level slightly above neutral (7.0).  Anything below neutral is an acid.  Enamel begins to soften or demineralize at a pH of 5.5 or below.  Many of the things we eat and drink are lower than 5.5 pH.  In a normal, healthy mouth, saliva can act as a buffer and bring the pH back up to neutral once the acid is gone (i.e. once you have stopped eating or drinking).

What should you do?

 

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  • Be aware of the sparkling water that you consume. Some sparkling waters are flavored with citrus flavorings such as lemon, lime, orange, etc…, which add citric acid on top of the carbonic acid. 
  • Pay attention to the amount of sparkling water that you consume.  You should never be drinking more sparkling water than regular water.
  • Do not slowly sip on acidic drinks throughout the day. This makes it more difficult for your saliva to keep your mouth at a neutral pH.  Drink it quickly.
  • After drinking a sparkling water, rinse your mouth with water to help quickly return it to a neutral pH.
  • Chew sugar-free gum after drinking something acidic.  This helps to stimulate good saliva flow and return the pH to neutral.

 


Special Considerations:

If you have a high risk for cavities, you should stay away from all acidic drinks.  If you do not know your cavity risk, ask Dr. Aanenson at your next dental visit.

If you have a dry mouth, you do not have the proper amount of saliva to counteract the acid in these drinks, so you should stay away from all acidic drinks.

Would you like more information about how acidic drinks like sparkling water can affect your teeth? 

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell! They will assess your cavity risk and describe how sparkling water could be specifically harming your teeth.

Dental Trauma

Dental Trauma: What to Do When Your Child Suffers an Injury to the Teeth

Spring is almost here, and children’s sports are going to be in full swing!  This means an increased risk for injuries to your child’s teeth.

As children grow and learn new things, the risk of injury is relatively high.  Toddlers fall down when they are learning to walk.  Children have accidents when learning to ride a bicycle.  Adolescents suffer trauma when learning to play sports.

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Accidents and injuries happen.  In children, often these accidents involve injuries to the mouth and teeth.  This blog highlights what you need to know about trauma to the teeth.

Different Types of Trauma to the Teeth

Baby Teeth vs. Permanent Teeth

All of these types of trauma can happen to both baby teeth and permanent teeth.  The consequences of trauma to baby teeth are usually less severe than those for permanent teeth, simply because baby teeth fall out. 

The only serious consequence of trauma to a baby tooth occurs when the trauma affects the underlying permanent tooth as it is developing.  The crown (or visible part) of the permanent tooth forms underneath the roots of the baby tooth.  If an injury occurs which forces the baby tooth or its roots into the developing permanent tooth during this formation stage, the permanent tooth can be deformed.

The majority of injuries to teeth occur on the front of the face and affect front teeth.  It is possible for a back tooth to be injured if a child is hit from the side, for instance with a baseball.  The recommendations below apply to both front teeth and back teeth.

Injuries that Move a Tooth

When force from an injury moves a tooth, it needs to be addressed quickly. 

What You Will See:

The tooth looks whole, but it is in a different position.  It could be pushed up into the gums, hanging down out of the gums, or protruding at an unusual angle.  It is very common to have bleeding in the gums around a tooth that has been moved.

Baby Teeth vs. Permanent Teeth

In general, the treatment for this type of injury is the same for baby teeth and permanent teeth.  In severe cases, the baby tooth may be extracted.

What You Should Do:

Call your dentist immediately and start heading toward the office.  Attempt to move the tooth back to its normal position using light finger pressure only.  Whether you are able to reposition it or not, go to the dentist for an x-ray of the tooth to evaluate the health of the root, and the bone around the tooth.

Follow-Up Care:

Your child will need a soft diet for a period of a few days up to two weeks.  The goal is no additional pressure on the injured tooth as it is healing.  You may need to give your child over-the-counter pain reliever such as Children’s Advil or Children’s Motrin as needed for pain.

Follow-up with your dentist in 3 months.  He will x-ray the tooth to confirm healing and the health of the tooth and its surrounding structures.

Possible Long-Term Consequences:

When a tooth moves, it is possible that the nerve supply to the tooth has been broken where it enters at the tip of the root.  In many cases, the nerve supply can reattach, and the tooth heals.  In other cases, the nerve does not reattach, and the tissue inside the tooth dies.  A dead nerve must be removed, and the tooth needs a root canal.

The injury to the surrounding structures may also damage the connection between the tooth and the jaw bone.  A condition called ankylosis often develops, in which the tooth becomes fused to the bone and is unable to move.  This is a major concern in orthodontic treatment, when you desire to move that tooth.

Injuries that Chip or Break a Tooth

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If an injury to a tooth causes a portion of the tooth to chip or break off, the consequences are usually a little milder than a tooth that is moved or knocked out.  In minor cases, the small chip can be filled in to return the tooth to its natural shape.  In severe cases, the chip extends into the nerve of the tooth, and a root canal is needed.

What You Will See:

The tooth looks broken or jagged on the edge.  Look specifically for any pink or red spots in the center of the tooth.  This is the nerve inside the tooth, and large breaks may extend this far. 

Baby Teeth vs. Permanent Teeth

In general, the treatment for this type of injury is the same for baby teeth and permanent teeth.  Minor cases will be restored with filling material. In severe cases, a permanent tooth will need a root canal, and the baby tooth may be extracted.

What You Should Do:

Call your dentist immediately and start heading toward the office.  Try to locate any fragments of the tooth, and bring them with you.  Whether you are able to find it or not, go to the dentist for an x-ray of the tooth to evaluate the health of the root, and the bone around the tooth.  The dentist will evaluate the depth of the chip and determine whether or not the nerve is affected. 

Follow-Up Care:

If you have the tooth fragment, your dentist can reattach it to the tooth.  If not, he can rebuild the tooth back to its normal shape and size. 

Your child will need a soft diet for a period of a few days.  You may need to give your child over-the-counter pain reliever such as Children’s Advil or Children’s Motrin as needed for pain.

Follow-up with your dentist in 3 months.  He will x-ray the tooth to confirm healing and the health of the tooth and its surrounding structures.

Possible Long-Term Consequences:

The force to the tooth, which chipped it, could also have disrupted the nerve supply, as noted above.  Your dentist will monitor the tooth closely for any signs of a dead nerve.  If a root canal become necessary, your dentist will guide you in the steps involved in treatment.  It is important to know that the nerve inside a tooth could die at any point in the future, even decades later.

The tooth could also become ankylosed

The dental treatment, which restores the broken tooth, may need replacement at any point in the future.  Be careful not to use that tooth for anything besides chewing and speaking (i.e. holding hair pins or cutting fishing line).

Injuries that Knock Out a Tooth

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A tooth that is completely knocked out needs immediate action!  The longer you wait, the less chance the tooth has of surviving.

What You Will See:

The tooth is completely gone from the mouth.  Evaluation of the tooth should show the crown (visible part) of the tooth, as well as the root.

Baby Teeth vs. Permanent Teeth

There is no treatment for knocked out baby teeth.  The child will have a space in that tooth’s site until the permanent tooth comes in.

For a permanent tooth, we make every attempt to save and reattach the natural tooth.

What You Should Do:

Call your dentist immediately and start heading toward the office.  Hold the tooth by the crown ONLY.  Do not touch the root.  If you can, put the tooth back into the socket after very gently rinsing off any dirt or debris.  If you are unable to put the tooth back into the child’s mouth, place it in a cup with milk or saliva.  That’s right: fill up a cup with enough spit to cover the tooth.  Saliva is the best thing to keep the cells and fibers on the knocked-out tooth alive until it can be reimplanted into the mouth.

Whether you are able to reinsert it or not, go immediately to the dentist.  The dentist will clean and reinsert the tooth, using anesthetic if the child is in pain.  The sooner the tooth is reimplanted, the better the chances of its full healing.

Follow-Up Care:

Follow the recommendations for a soft diet and OTC pain relievers noted above.  The dentist will follow-up with you more frequently to confirm healing and reattachment of the tooth.

Possible Long-Term Consequences:

The consequences noted above, a dead nerve and ankylosis, are both highly likely when a tooth is completely knocked out.  Another possible consequence is failure of the tooth to reattach.  In this case, it is necessary to extract the tooth and replace it with a dental implant. 

Adhering to your dentist’s prescribed follow-up schedule will keep you informed of any of these consequences as they occur.

Be Prepared for Injuries to Your Child’s Teeth

As you can see from the instructions listed above, getting in to see your dentist as soon as possible is very important!  Save our number in your phone, and call us at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) as soon as an injury happens.  Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell will treat your child’s emergency and give you all the information you need for the right follow-up care. 

Sugar and Its Effects on Teeth

Sugar and Its Effects on Teeth

It is commonly known and well supported by scientific research that sugar is bad for teeth.  When dentists say “sugar”, most people think of soft drinks and candy.  There are many other sources of sugar that are damaging to teeth, which often get overlooked.  This blog will address why sugar is bad for teeth, which specific sugars are especially dangerous, and how you can fight sugar’s effects on your child’s teeth.

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Why is Sugar Bad for Teeth?

Our mouths are full of bacteria.  Some bacteria are good, and some are bad.  The bad bacteria are those which feed on sugar to produce dangerous acids. (Some people have higher levels of bad bacteria, which gives them a higher risk for cavities!)

Bad Bacteria + Sugar = Acid --> Enamel Damage --> Cavities

Which Specific Sugars are Bad for Teeth?

If you have taken part in any low-carb or no-carb diets, you probably know the important differences between simple and complex carbohydrates.  Nutrition experts emphasize the way these carbs are digested and how they affect your metabolism.

The distinction between simple and complex carbohydrates is also important for your teeth. 

Simple carbohydrates are short-chain sugars that bad bacteria in the mouth quickly and easily break down.  Complex carbohydrates are long, complex chains of sugar molecules that are more difficult for bacteria to break down.

Simple carbohydrates make it easy for bacteria to cause cavities.  Complex carbs are also a sugar source for bacteria, but they take longer to digest, slowing the cavity process down enough for you to intervene and stop them. 

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Examples of simple carbs include the sugar in soft drinks, candy, cookies and other baked sweets, cereal, fruit juices and milk.  Complex carbohydrates include whole grains, starchy vegetables (like potatoes), green vegetables, and beans/peas.

Complex carbs are better for your teeth than simple carbs, but there is still a risk for cavities.  Often, complex carbs are sticky and become stuck in or between the teeth.  If they are not quickly cleaned from the teeth, the bacteria have more time to break them down into simple sugars and cause cavities.

How You Can Fight Sugar’s Effects on Teeth

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1. Limit intake of simple carbohydrates – Cutting simple sugars from your or your child’s diet is a sure way to lower cavity risk.  Sodas have zero nutritional value, so eliminate them completely.  Instead of sticky candies, switch to chocolate.  Chocolate’s fat content gives it a lower risk of causing cavities.

2. Stimulate saliva – Saliva is our body’s best defense against cavities!  Saliva has a slightly basic pH, which neutralizes the acid produced by bad bacteria.  There are two great ways to stimulate saliva to fight sugar:

  • Limit simple sugars to mealtime only! When you eat a meal, saliva production increases. A soda with lunch is less likely to cause a cavity than a soda sipped throughout the afternoon.

  • Chew sugar-free gum. By chewing gum after eating or drinking sugar, you stimulate saliva. Ice Cubes is our favorite cavity-fighting gum. Give a piece to your child after any sugary snack to lower cavity risk.

 

3. Practice great oral hygiene.  Do not let any sugars stay on the teeth.  You can greatly reduce cavity risk by removing any sugary food debris from your tooth surfaces. 

  • Brush after sticky and/or sugary snacks.

  • Floss, if possible, after snacking. If not, floss every night before bed.

  • Use a fluoride containing mouthrinse after brushing and flossing.

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

Teaching Your Children to Take Care of Their Teeth

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Teaching Your Children to Take Care of Their Teeth

One of the most important aspects of parenting is teaching your children how to take care of themselves. You teach them to make good choices so that they can be healthy.  In the beginning, you do a task for them until they can do it themselves.  Then you supervise their efforts until you trust that they are competent and consistent in accomplishing the task.  At that point, you can give them the independence to take care of themselves without your intervention.

As with all issues in child development, every child grows and matures at his or her own unique pace.  Rather than looking for your child to perform certain tasks at a certain age, use milestones to tell you when it is time to move from demonstration to supervision and from supervision to delegation of independence.

In dentistry, our most common example of using a milestone is this: your child should not brush his teeth alone until he can easily tie his own shoes.

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Start Early

In order to set the right expectations for your child and oral hygiene, start early. 

How early?  As soon as the first tooth appears in your baby’s mouth!

Begin brushing each tooth with an infant toothbrush or a soft washcloth.  Cleaning your child’s teeth is something he or she should expect as part of your daily routine.  The earlier you start, the easier it is for the child to accept.  The earlier you begin brushing and flossing your child’s teeth, the less likely they are to fight you and resist the process.

Easy Oral Hygiene Techniques:

One of the easiest ways to brush and floss a child’s teeth is to sit cross-legged on the floor and have the child lay down with his head in your lap.  You should be able to look straight down into the child’s open mouth.  Using a very small amount of fluoride-containing toothpaste and NO water, gently brush every exposed surface of his teeth. 

An alternative technique is to have your child stand on a small stool so that their head is just above your waist.  With both of you facing the bathroom mirror, stand behind the child and have her look up and rest her head against your stomach.  Again, you should be able to look straight down into the child’s mouth and visualize all of the teeth.

Use either of these positions to floss any of your child’s teeth that touch each other.  Teeth with small gaps do not have to be flossed. 

Make It Fun

While you are brushing or flossing, it helps to count or sing a song to entertain and/or distract the child.  The American Dental Association has several fun tooth brushing songs here.

If you have multiple children, you can make the oral hygiene routine your special one-on-one time with each child. 

With multiple children, games or competitions can make it fun.  Use plaque disclosing tablets to have a contest of who does the best job brushing.

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Set a Good Example

Brush and floss your own teeth in front of your children as often as possible.  Show them that it is a normal part of your bedtime routine.  Kids are much better at following examples than strictly doing as they are told. 

It is important to teach your children to have an overall attitude toward oral hygiene that is positive and healthy.  One of the best and easiest ways to train this attitude is to model it in your actions and attitudes toward your own oral hygiene.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.  If your children see that you do not value your own oral hygiene, they will not believe that it is important for them either.

Don’t Make It Optional

Make every effort to never miss brushing and flossing your child’s teeth.  It is not optional.  Do not ever give your child the impression that they have a choice on whether or not to brush before bedtime. 

The problems that occur from improper oral hygiene in a child can be serious. They can also be prevented with good oral hygiene and good food and drink choices.

Need Help?

Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or 605-928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule a consultation with one of our fabulous dental hygienists.  She will show you tips and techniques on brushing and flossing your child's teeth as easily as possible.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

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Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Also known as bottle rot or early childhood caries, baby bottle tooth decay is a condition in which very young children experience moderate to severe cavities in their baby teeth.  As the name implies, this condition is caused by an improper use of baby bottles.

How Does a Baby Get Cavities?

Cavities are caused by bacteria.  Most children acquire cavity-causing bacteria from their parents.  Bacteria are transmitted from the parents’ mouths to the child’s by sharing a spoon and kissing.

The real danger occurs when these bacteria are exposed to sugar.  Baby bottle tooth decay arises when the baby drinks a bottle of any liquid which contains sugar.  The most common culprits are fruit juices and milk.  Even milk contains sugar.

As the teeth are exposed to sugar-containing liquids, the bacteria ingest the sugar and create a by-product that is very acidic.  The acid by-product weakens and softens baby teeth enamel.  The enamel on baby teeth is much thinner than that on permanent teeth.  This allows cavities to spread much more quickly on a baby tooth than on a permanent tooth. 

There are two important factors in the cavity process: 1) the amount of sugar the teeth are exposed to, and2) the amount of time the teeth are exposed to sugar

  1. Amount of Sugar - Fruit juice contains the highest quantity of sugar (besides sodas) and is very damaging to baby teeth.  Soft drinks and sodas should NEVER be given to a child.  Milk contains small amounts of sugar, too.  If left in contact with the teeth long enough, even plain milk will cause tooth decay.
  2. Amount of Time - Even a small amount of sugar can cause a cavity if it stays in contact with the teeth for a prolonged period of time.  Any sugar-containing drink to which the child has continuous access (such as an overnight bottle) creates a higher risk for cavities.  

 

Upper front teeth are at the highest risk for baby bottle tooth decay because they are continually bathed in the liquid as the child drinks.  Other teeth may be affected as well.  The cavities initially appear as dark spots, small holes, or chips in the teeth. 

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How Do I Prevent Cavities for My Baby?

  • Limit bottle time - A bottle’s purpose is to provide nutrition for your baby.  It is not a pacifier or soothing device.  
  • It should never be used to put a baby to sleep.  If a baby falls asleep while drinking from a bottle, remove the bottle and replace it with a pacifier.
  • Limit bottle contents – Baby bottles should contain onlybaby formula, breast milk, or water.  A baby bottle should NEVER be filled with fruit juice, soda, sugar water, or milk.  Not only do they all contain sugar; they do not provide the baby with any proper nutrition.
  • Water only overnight – If a bottle is given to the child overnight, water is the only liquid that will not increase the risk for cavities.  Water is the only thing that contains zero sugar and zero acid.  This rule goes for sippy cups, too.  Toddlers should never go to bed with anything except water!
  • Oral hygiene – Even babies need oral hygiene.  As soon as a tooth is visible, you should clean it with an extra-soft baby toothbrush or a washcloth.  Brush your baby’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice.  The brushing routine teaches your child good oral hygiene practices as they learn and grow.  The fluoride strengthens their baby teeth to resist cavities.

 

 

    What if My Baby Already Has Cavities?

    Baby teeth have many important functions.  If they get cavities, they need to be treated so that your child can chew and speak properly.  Cavities in baby teeth, if not treated, will progress to abscesses, which are serious dental infections that can spread.  These infections can put your baby’s life in danger!

    If you see cavities in your baby’s teeth, the first step is to schedule a dental appointment.  Your dentist will evaluate the teeth and prescribe the appropriate treatment.  Most small children with extensive decay are treated by pediatric dentists with the use of sedation. 

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    The most important part of this dental visit is the tips and instructions you, as the parent, will receive to help prevent any future cavities from developing.

    More Questions about Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell! They can answer all of your questions about cavities in young children and advise you on how to proceed.

    Is Flossing Really That Important

    Is Flossing Really That Important?

    Let’s talk about flossing.

    We know.  No one wants to floss.  Recent statistics show that Americans can be roughly divided into thirds when it comes to flossing habits.  Just under 1/3 of the population floss every day.  Just over 1/3 of the population floss sometimes.  And the rest admit to never flossing.  Never.  That hurts our dentist-hearts.

    Many of our patients have shared that they feel guilty when we ask about flossing.  We do not ever want to make anyone feel guilty.  We simply want to know where you stand on the flossing issue so that we can point you in the right direction.  Our goal is to encourage you to have great oral hygiene habits so that your visits to see us consist of maintenance only, not repair.

    What does flossing accomplish?

    A toothbrush mechanically removes soft buildup on the exposed surfaces of teeth.  The bristles have to touch the tooth to be effective.  Many areas of tooth structure are not accessible with a toothbrush, namely in between the teeth.  A toothbrush can effectively clean the cheek side, the tongue side, and the biting surface of teeth.  It simply cannot reach the side of a tooth that faces an adjacent tooth (called the interproximal surface). 

    Flossing removes plaque and food debris that your toothbrush leaves behind.  By physically touching the interproximal surfaces of the teeth, floss does the job that a toothbrush cannot.

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    Benefits:

    Increased life expectancy – Some studies claim an increase of 6.4 years for people who floss daily over those who do not.  This is likely an assumed benefit based on the reduced risk of other diseases, which itself is another benefit of flossing.

    Reduces risk of heart disease, cavities, gum disease – It is no surprise that flossing reduces the risk of dental disease.  Anything that keeps the teeth and gums free from harmful bacteria will lower the risk of cavities and gum disease.

    Over the last 20 years, new research has shown a significant link between oral health and systemic health.  Patients with periodontal disease are more likely to have cardiovascular disease.  People who suffer from severe dental disease are more likely to develop oral cancer.  There is a proven connection between diabetes and gum disease.  All of these associations make it clear that keeping your mouth healthy is beneficial for the whole body.

    Improves bad breath – Bad breath is the product of bacteria and food debris that is left in the warm, moist environment of the mouth.  A good, but gross, analogy is that the mouth is like a kitchen trash can.  Flossing is like taking out the trash.  When you neglect it, it starts to stink.

    Gives gums healthy pink appearance – A beautiful smile involves more than just the teeth.  Straight, white teeth surrounded by swollen, red, or receding gums cannot be considered beautiful or healthy.  Flossing removes the source of gum inflammation (called gingivitis), which keeps them healthy.  Healthy gum tissue is light pink in color, flat (not swollen, bulbous, or rounded), and does not bleed when brushed or flossed. 

    Proper technique:

    Not just any old flossing will do.  In order for the floss to actually remove buildup from the teeth, it must touch the teeth.  Simply snapping floss in between each tooth contact and hitting the gums can miss a large portion of the tooth.  For effective flossing, envision the following diagram with a triangle between each tooth.

     

    1. Holding an end of the floss in each hand, first press back with both hands to wrap the floss around the rear tooth.  Using an up and down motion, rub the floss against the side of the tooth labeled on the diagram as side #1 of the yellow triangle.
    2. Then pull forward with both hands to wrap it around the forward tooth.  Using the same up and down motion, clean side #2 of the yellow triangle.
    3. Before pulling the floss out, use a gentle sweeping motion along the bottom of the triangle (side #3 on the yellow triangle) if there is any open space between the teeth to remove large pieces of debris that may have become lodged there.  This step is necessary when the gum tissue does not completely fill in the triangular area.  If you do not have gum recession or areas between the teeth called black triangles (described below), you may omit this step.

     

    Adjuncts:

    In some cases of overlapped teeth or teeth with large gaps, it is necessary to use additional tools to properly clean between the teeth. 

    Waterpik – A Waterpik is a tool that uses water or mouthwash at high pressure to flush out the areas between the teeth.  This is a great tool for patients with braces, large areas of “black triangles”, or problems with handling floss (such as arthritis).  Black triangles develop when the gums no longer completely fill the space between two teeth, as shown in the diagram.  This open space allows food and bacteria to collect and presents an additional cleaning challenge.  A Waterpik creates a power wash for these hard-to-clean areas.  It is not a replacement for flossing.

    Interproximal brushes – Another great tool for black triangles is a small angled brush called an interproximal brush.  Brand names include Proxabrush, Go-Betweens, and Interdental brushes.  They look like tiny pipe cleaners or bottle brushes and are made to fit between the teeth and gently scrub the side of each tooth.  Please use caution with these tools.  Aggressive use of an interproximal brush could create black triangles and gum recession.  Only a light, gentle touch is necessary to remove plaque and food debris from between the teeth.

    Do you have more questions about flossing?

    If you have questions this blog did not answer or would like an in-person demonstration of the proper flossing technique, please call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell and our dental hygienists.  They will create a customized hygiene plan for you to keep your teeth as clean as possible.

     

    Energy Drinks

    Energy Drinks

    Are Energy Drinks Bad For Your Teeth?

    Red Bull gives you wings, but it may also give you cavities.  Energy drinks are defined as “any of various types of beverage that are considered a source of energy, especially a soft drink containing a high percentage of sugar and/or caffeine or other stimulant”.  The most common brands of energy drinks sold in the U.S. are Red Bull, Monster, and RockStar.  In 2015, Red Bull had $4.55 billion in sales.  While the soda industry is noticing a slow, steady decline in sales, the energy drink industry is steadily climbing.  

    What is in an Energy Drink?

     

    • Caffeine – Energy drinks contain a varying amount of caffeine, some as high as 160mg, which is equivalent to a Starbucks coffee. If you would not let your child drinks a strong coffee at Starbucks, you should not let them drink energy drinks.

    • Taurine – Taurine is an amino acid, present in most energy drinks, that shows no actual evidence of providing any energy at all.

    • Guarana – A plant native to the Amazon region, guarana berries contain a very high concentration of caffeine. Guarana is an ingredient in both Monster and Rockstar energy drinks. If you see both caffeine and guarana listed as ingredients in your energy drink, it’s a double whammy, and you should proceed with caution.

    • Lots and lots of sugar - An 8-oz serving of Monster energy drink contains 27g of sugar, which is the exact amount of sugar in an 8-oz serving of CocaCola. The important thing to remember is that most people buy both energy drinks and sodas in 16-oz bottles or cans. If you drink a 16-oz energy drink, the amount of sugar is doubled to 54g, which is far higher than anyone’s recommended daily allowance.

     

    How Do Energy Drinks Cause Cavities?

    Energy drinks cause cavities in the same way sodas cause cavities: high sugar content, and very acidic pH.  It is important for both parents and children to understand that energy drinks offer no health advantages over sodas; in fact, they are more harmful due to the high levels of caffeine they provide.

    1. Sugar – The bacteria which is naturally present in mouths ingests (eats) sugar, and the by-product is an acid. When this acid stays in contact with the enamel surface, it begins to etch or weaken the outer layer of enamel. This process is the beginning of a cavity. The more sugar you drink, the more you are feeding the bacteria in your mouth, enabling them to cause damage to your enamel.

    2. pH – All energy drinks, even the sugar-free versions, have a very low pH. Rockstar Sugar Free has a pH of 3.15, Red Bull Sugar Free is 3.39, and Monster Low Carb is 3.60. These pH measurements are well below (more acidic than) the threshold of 5.5, at which enamel begins to soften and become susceptible to decay. Consistently drinking very acidic drinks predisposes you to a high risk for cavities.

     

     

    What if I Can’t Give Up My Energy Drink?

    As with sodas and sparkling waters, you can minimize the damage to your teeth by high sugar, acidic drinks if youlimit them to mealtime only.  Drink them quickly and while you are eating.  The saliva stimulated by your chewing and tasting food will counteract the acid in the energy drink. 

    If you have a dry mouth, you are at a much higher risk for developing cavities from energy drinks.  Please ask Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena how you can address your dry mouth issues and still enjoy an energy drink from time to time.

    After having your energy drink, chew sugar-free, xylitol gum for 20 minutes.  Chewing gum stimulates saliva production and can bring the pH in your mouth back up to neutral more quickly than it can without chewing gum.

    Know your cavity risk.  Unfortunately, some people are much more prone to cavities than others.  You should know your risk and take the necessary steps to lower that risk as much as possible.  If you do not know your level of cavity risk, call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

    New Year, New Smile

    New Year, New Smile

     

    It is that time of year when people around the world are resolving to make changes for the better.  A common theme in many New Year’s resolutions is improved health.  One of the great perks of improving your health is that it usually involves improving your appearance, too!  If you are exercising to enhance your health, you may also be losing weight or toning muscles.  If you resolve to get more sleep, you will lose those dark circles under your eyes.

    The same applies to taking care of your teeth.  The steps you take to make your mouth healthier will make your smile prettier.  Here are a few ways you can improve the health and appearance of your smile.

    Brush Up on Your Oral Hygiene Regimen

     

    Keeping your teeth free from plaque reduces your risk of unsightly cavities and gum disease.  Here is the most effective way to keep your pearly whites pearly and white.

    Brush twice a day, preferably after breakfast and before bed.  Make sure you are using a soft-bristled toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to the edge of the gums.  Make sure you touch every surface of every tooth.  This should include the cheek side, tongue side, and biting surface.  The most commonly missed area is the inside (tongue side) of the lower teeth.  Do not go to bed without brushing!

    Floss nightly!  Brushing alone is not enough to ensure proper plaque removal.  The toothbrush bristles cannot reach in between the teeth; therefore, they leave harmful plaque, bacteria, and food debris on the teeth.  Flossing is absolutely mandatory to keep your teeth and gums healthy and beautiful.

    Use a mouthwash.  Swishing mouthwash is a great way to flush out unhealthy bacteria from the various nooks and crannies of the oral cavity.  If you are cavity prone, use a mouthwash containing fluoride to strengthen your enamel and fight cavities.  If you have a dry mouth, stay away from mouthrinses containing alcohol.  For someone with red, swollen gums, a whitening mouthwash containing hydrogen peroxide is a great tool for reducing gum inflammation.

    Treat Yourself to Teeth Whitening

    There are many ways to improving your smile.  Whitening your teeth is one of the quickest ways to give your smile a boost.  At the dental centers in Freeman, Viborg and Parkston, we are proud to offer KöR professional teeth whitening.  With both in-office and at-home whitening products, we can help you find the type of whitening that most easily and quickly meets your needs. 

    Another way you can achieve a brighter smile is by using an electric toothbrush and whitening toothpaste.  This works to polish off surface stains accumulated by years of drinking coffee or tea and using tobacco products.  Ask our dental hygienists about the other benefits of an electric toothbrush.  Most patients find that once they begin using an electric toothbrush, they cannot return to a manual toothbrush.  Electric toothbrushes truly give a cleaner, smoother, shinier appearance to the teeth.

    Straight Teeth are Healthy Teeth

    Many people consider crooked teeth to be a cosmetic issue.  In addition to an improved appearance, straightening your teeth actually creates a healthier oral environment.  A research experiment was conducted in which plaque was collected from both patients with straight teeth and those with crowded teeth.  This study concluded that not only do crooked and crowded teeth harbor a greater quantity of plaque; they actually harbor more dangerous bacteria than straight teeth.

    Closing gaps between the teeth helps prevent food impaction, which leads to cavities and periodontal disease.  Aligning crooked teeth makes brushing flossing easier to accomplish.  Ask us how Invisalign® can make your mouth healthier!

    Full Smile Makeover

    Perhaps you have always wanted a full smile makeover, and 2018 is your year.  Missing teeth can be replaced with dental implants.  Broken teeth can be restored crowns.  Cavities can be repaired with cosmetic tooth-colored fillings.  

    You can even get a beautiful, straight, white smile with veneers.  A veneer is a covering of at least one full surface of the tooth.  Veneers are made from porcelain or composite (an in-office dental restoration).  They can be contact lens thin for minor corrections and refinements.  Or they can be several millimeters thick to correct misalignments and dark discolorations.

    The possibilities are almost endless!  To get started on your full smile makeover, schedule a consultation with Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena.  They will evaluate your current situation and discuss the treatment options available to meet your cosmetic goals.

    Happy New Year!

    Whether 2018 is the year for minor improvements or major life changes for you, there are two things that will always be a great idea: 1) Make healthy choices.  2) Smile! 

    If you’d like help improving that smile, we are here for you. Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

    Can A Sinus Infection Make My Teeth Hurt?

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    Can a sinus infection make my teeth hurt?

    Winter is here.  And with it come colds, sinus infections, and the flu.  It is very common for dentists to see an increase in “toothaches” during this season.  We put “toothaches” in quotes because while the tooth definitely aches, it is not a tooth problem.  Many patients will call us with a toothache and come in for an evaluation, only to be told that the tooth is perfectly fine. 

    Why does sinus pressure make my teeth hurt?

    The natural anatomy of our upper teeth, jawbones and sinus cavities predisposes us to this problem.  The maxillary sinus cavities are large, air-filled spaces located just inside our cheekbones.  They extend inward toward the nose and downward toward the upper teeth.  Often the jawbone separating our upper teeth from the above sinus cavity is extremely thin. 

    The sinus cavities are supposed to be empty.  These air-filled spaces allow for the passage of air as we breathe and lighten the weight of our skull so that we can hold our heads up.  Anyone who has ever experienced sinus congestion knows that it can be hard to breathe and make your head feel heavy.

    When the sinuses are filled instead of empty, pressure is created in that bone-encased space.  Many people feel this pressure inside their cheekbones or under their eyes.  Many also feel this pressure on their upper molars and premolars.  The nerves that supply sensation and feeling to our teeth enter the tooth at the very tip of its root.  Many upper molars’ roots protrude up into the sinus cavity.  When there is an increase in pressure in the sinus, it can cause sensitivity, soreness or just a plain old toothache.

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    What symptoms are commonly associated with sinus pressure toothaches?

     

    • Because the toothaches associated with sinus cavities are caused by an increase in pressure, anything that changes the pressure would change the pain in the tooth.  Things like the impact of running or jumping and tossing your head upside down to blow-dry your hair will affect the pain of a toothache caused by sinus pressure. 
    • Because of the pressure on the tooth’s nerves, the teeth may be more sensitive to cold air or liquids. 
    • The increase in pressure on the roots of the teeth also causes a soreness or tenderness when chewing, grinding, or tapping on the side of the tooth. 

     

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    What can I do about it?

    First of all, you should rule out any problems with your teeth.  If you haven’t seen a dentist in a while, you should schedule a visit to have the tooth or teeth evaluated. 

    If you have been seen regularly by your dentist and know that you have no cavities or other problems with your teeth, you may want to begin by treating your sinus pressure.  Take over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines.  If these do not help, you should see your medical doctor to treat your sinus condition, allergies, cold or flu. 

    Many patients have experienced this multiple times and are able to recognize it as a sinus problem and not a tooth problem.  If you’re not sure, come see us anyway.  When in doubt, rule a real toothache out!

    Have a toothache that could be from sinus pressure?

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!. They will do a thorough evaluation of the area that is bothering you and distinguish between a tooth problem and a sinus problem.

    Is Your Mouth Making You Sick?

    Is your mouth making you sick?

    How Oral Health Impacts Systemic Health

    At our Dental Centers in Freeman, Parkston and Viborg, we take healthcare seriously.  While we are specifically concerned with our patients’ oral health, we acknowledge its role in a person’s overall health.  Unfortunately, the mouth has always been treated by a realm of healthcare (dentistry), which has historically been kept separate from general medicine.  For this reason, some people are under the impression that the mouth is therefore independent and unrelated to the rest of the body. 

    This is a dangerous myth!

    What systemic issues are connected with the mouth?

    In 2000, the surgeon general released a report called “Oral Health in America”.  The purpose of this report was to inform and educate the nation about oral health, its prevalence in our nation, and how it affects a person’s overall health.  This report was based on a review of published scientific literature and is still considered the authority on the link between oral health and systemic health.

    There are many links between the mouth and the rest of the body.  In this article, we will limit the discussion to the most harmful health conditions that are affected by the health of your mouth.

    • Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis is a condition of decreased bone density and often brings to mind a picture of a frail old lady whose bones break easily.  Osteoporosis can affect any bone in the body, even the jawbones.  This is especially important in patients who have lost teeth and wear dentures.  The jawbones in a patient with osteoporosis will diminish much more rapidly than in a patient with healthy bones, causing the denture to become loose and uncomfortable.  
    • In a patient with all of their teeth, osteoporosis causes an increased risk for periodontal bone loss.  It has even been suggested that bone loss around the teeth could be a warning sign of osteoporosis.
    • Immunosuppression – There are many different diseases, disorders, and conditions that suppress the immune system, including HIV, autoimmune diseases, organ transplants and cancer treatments.  A suppressed immune system makes any type of infection worse because your body cannot fight it naturally.  This puts a person at higher risk for periodontal disease and dental abscesses.  Because these infections also affect other areas of the body, the impact on the overall health is much greater in an immunocompromised patient.  
    • Anyone who has a problem with their immune system should keep to a strict oral hygiene routine and continuing care schedule with their  dentist.
    • Some people with a weakened immune system will suffer from persistent mouth sores and ulcers that do not heal.  Often a dentist is the first  person to catch these signs of a suppressed immune system.
    • Pulmonary Disease – Because the bacteria in the mouth have a quick pathway to the lungs, there is a link between oral disease and pulmonary disease.  COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is associated with poor oral health, and patients with periodontal disease are at a higher risk of developing bacterial pneumonia.
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    • Diabetes – The link between periodontal disease and diabetes is considered a two-way connection: meaning diabetes makes periodontal disease worse, and periodontal disease makes diabetes worse.  Diabetes worsens periodontal disease through its affect on blood flow, inflammation and healing ability.  Periodontal disease worsens diabetes by contributing to hyperglycemia and complicated metabolic controls.  This association is thought to be true of diabetes with any chronic infection in the body
    • Heart Disease – The bacteria present in the mouth of a patient with periodontal disease can contribute to heart disease through a few different mechanisms of action: 1) small localized infections of blood vessel walls, which leads to plaque formation, atherosclerosis, and in severe cases, a heart attack,  2) an influence on platelets causing them to aggregate and form clots in the bloodstream, which could block a coronary artery, leading to heart attack.  People with periodontal disease have a 25% higher risk of heart disease than people with healthy gums.

     

    • Stroke – The increased risk of a stroke in patients with periodontal disease is based on the same mechanism of action noted above: increased risk for clot formation, which can travel to the brain and occlude a cerebral artery, blocking blood flow to brain tissues.
    • Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes – There is a correlation between periodontal disease and low birth weight infants.  The mechanism is in need of more scientific research.  At this time, it is thought to arise from two possible consequences of periodontal disease:  1) The bacteria present in periodontal disease produce toxins that could enter the blood stream, cross the placenta, and cause damage to the fetus.  2) The maternal inflammatory response to these toxins could interfere with fetal growth.

     

    How do I reduce my risk of health problems?

    All people should be aware of the health risks associated with dental diseases.  Because most oral health problems are preventable, you can be instrumental in lowering your risk for systemic health problems.

     

    1. See your dentist and dental hygienist at their recommended intervals for cleanings and oral evaluations.
    2. Practice good oral home care with regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing with the proper mouthwash.
    3. Treat dental problems as they arise.  Do not wait until something hurts!  Periodontal disease is often called a “silent” disease because it rarely causes pain.
    4. See your medical doctor to be as preventive as possible with conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

     

    I am concerned that my mouth is affecting my overall health.  What now?

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!They will discuss your medical history with you and outline how it can affect your oral health and vice versa.  

    Pediatric Sleep Apnea

    Pediatric Sleep Apnea

    Why Is My Dentist Asking If My Child Snores?

    Some of you may have noticed that when you bring your child in for their professional cleaning and periodic evaluation, Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex or Dr. Serena asks questions about your child’s sleep patterns.  “Does your child snore?  Does he grind his teeth?  Does she wake up with a raspy voice or a sour stomach?”  We treat adults who have obstructive sleep apnea with an oral appliance.  After much study and continuing education on the subject, it was only natural that we continue our learning with research into pediatric sleep apnea.  Because we have a chance to look inside their mouths (and inevitably, down their throats) a few times a year, we are in a perfect position to evaluate their airway on a regular basis. 

    Refresher: What is Sleep Apnea?

    An apnea occurs when breathing stops for a period of time.  It is generally caused by an obstruction or blockage in the airway, which causes a disruption of normal breathing.  Snoring is an important warning sign because it indicates that there are excess tissues vibrating in the airway.  These same excess tissues can collapse and block the airway, causing apneas to occur.

    Why Is Pediatric Sleep Apnea an Important Issue?

    According to a 2002 study, children with obstructive sleep apnea consume 226% more health care services than children without.  According to a 2007 study, these children have 40% more visits to the hospital than children without OSA, as well as higher consumption of anti-infective and respiratory system drugs.  The risks of undiagnosed sleep apnea include problems with behavior, learning and development, and in severe cases, failure to grow, heart problems and high blood pressure.

     What Causes Pediatric Sleep Apnea?

    Obstructive sleep apnea can be caused by anything that makes the opening of the airway (through either the nose or the mouth) smaller than it should be.  Some children have very large tonsils or an enlarged tongue that blocks the opening at the back of the throat.  Some may have a jaw that is smaller than normal or a palate (roof of the mouth) that is very long and hangs down into the back of the throat.  Even a deviated nasal septum or an enlarged turbinate can cause a decreased amount of airflow.  The shape of the upper and lower jaws are important in shaping the airway.  Certain growth patterns make some children more susceptible to airway problems than others. 

    What Warning Signs Should I Look For?

    • Snoring, snorting, gasping or squeaking sounds during sleep

    • Restless sleep, nightmares, sleep walking or bedwetting

    • Sleeping in abnormal positions with the head in unusual positions

    • Heavy, irregular breathing or mouth breathing

    • Grinding teeth

    • Difficulty waking up in the morning

     

    Where Do We Go From Here?

    If your child exhibits several of the warning signs and has any narrow airway risk factors, Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex or Dr. Serena will discuss the next step in diagnosis of sleep apnea.  It may involve treatment in our office as well as referral to several different doctors, including a sleep physician, an ENT, an orthodontist, an allergist and possibly 3D imaging to visualize the child’s airway.  In certain cases, your child may be treated with an oral appliance that opens and shapes the airway as the child sleeps.  A sleep physician conducts a sleep study to gather all the data needed to diagnose or rule out a sleep-disordered breathing problem.  If your child is diagnosed with pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, it is possible that an adenotonsillectomy (surgery to remove the adenoids and tonsils) could be recommended, and you would be referred to an ENT for that procedure.  Because the shape of the jaws can affect the breathing space, orthodontic treatment may be necessary to change the shape of the jaws, thereby increasing the airway space.  An allergist can be helpful in decreasing the size of inflamed tissues through allergy therapy.

     Do you think your child may have sleep apnea?

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell! They will discuss the risk factors your child exhibits and the various treatment options available.

    Caring for Your Teeth While in Braces

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    Caring for Your Teeth While in Braces

    Best Day Ever

    The day you get your braces off should be the best day ever. After months, maybe even years, of hiding your metal mouth and constantly digging food out of the brackets and wires, you will feel a newfound sense of freedom and won’t be able to pass a mirror without smiling at yourself. The end result of orthodontics is always worth the time, money, and effort you put into it. Not only are straight teeth beautiful; they are actually healthier than crooked teeth.

    There are two reasons straight teeth are healthy teeth: 1) Many people understand that crowded and crooked teeth allow more plaque accumulation because of the various nooks and crannies created by overlapping and rotated teeth. 2) Research studies have shown that the types of bacteria collecting on crooked teeth are different than the bacteria typically found on straight teeth. They are more periodontopathogenic - more likely to cause periodontal disease!

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    How the Best Day can become the Worst Day

    If the braces come off, and instead of exposing a beautiful, straight smile, a mouth full of discolored and decayed teeth is revealed, the Best Day has now become the Worst Day. Braces create a dental hygiene challenge that many people, especially preteens and teenagers are not aware of or prepared for. The extra apparatuses on the teeth are havens for plaque, bacteria, and food debris, causing a person’s risk for gum disease and cavities to sky-rocket.  The most common problem we see after braces is a phenomenon called "white spot lesions" that outline where the bracket was.  The white spots are areas of demineralization or weakening of the surface enamel where plaque was allowed to linger for too long and damaged the tooth structure surrounding the bracket.

     

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    How to Lower Your Risk for Cavities & Gingivitis

    • Don’t miss a single dental visit! While you are busy seeing your orthodontist every 4-6 weeks, it is easy to forget your need for dental cleanings and checkups while in braces. Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena will be able to reassess your risk for both gum disease and cavities and make recommendations to help you lower your risk. This may include more frequent dental cleanings, a prescription toothpaste, a professional fluoride application, and adjunctive oral hygiene tools for you to use at home.

    • Additional oral hygiene tools - Braces take cleaning your teeth to a whole new dimension. A manual toothbrush usually will not adequately do the job, and traditional floss is virtually impossible to use alone.

      • Brushing - An electric toothbrush is a must because it can remove more plaque and bacteria around the brackets more effectively than a manual toothbrush.

      • Flossing - Using traditional floss requires the addition of something called a floss-threader, which is like a large plastic needle that can be inserted underneath the wire in order to floss between the teeth. An alternative to this is using small pre-threaded floss picks that will fit underneath the wires, called Platypus flossers.

      • Waterpik - Some people choose to add a Waterpik tool to their oral hygiene regimen. It is an effective way to remove food debris from underneath the orthodontic wires.

    • Additional oral hygiene products - The specific type of oral hygiene products you use matters when you have orthodontic appliances. There are many products available that can strengthen enamel and make it more resistant to damage from plaque and bacteria.

    • A prescription fluoride toothpaste or gel - Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena will give you recommendations based on your specific risk levels. If they determine that you are high risk for cavities, you may be given a prescription for a special toothpaste or gel to use on your teeth. Make sure to carefully follow the instructions and store any of these products out of the reach of small children.

    • Mouthwash - A mouthwash is a great way to flush out food debris from around the brackets and wires before you begin the flossing and brushing process. Any alcohol-free mouthwash is appropriate for pre-brush rinsing. Before bed and after brushing and flossing, you should swish with a fluoride-containing mouthwash. Do not rinse your mouth after using this one because the fluoride should stay in contact with your teeth for as long as possible. Our favorite fluoride mouthwash for patients in braces is Phos-Flur.

    Questions about Your Risk (or Your Child’s Risk) While in Braces?

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell! They will assess your risk for gingivitis and cavities while in braces and make the appropriate recommendations for your specific risk.

    Is Morning Sickness Ruining Your Teeth?

    Is Morning Sickness Ruining Your Teeth?

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    What is Morning Sickness?

    Morning sickness is a commonly used term to describe the nausea and vomiting that affects many women during pregnancy.  It’s a bit of a misnomer, as most women who experience this phenomenon say it actually happens throughout the entire day and not just in the mornings.  Morning sickness affects between 70-85 percent of pregnant women!  While most women experience morning sickness in the first 16-20 weeks of pregnancy, some of the unlucky ones have symptoms throughout the entire pregnancy. 

    Morning sickness affects a person’s ability to work, perform necessary tasks around the home, and/or care for children or other dependents in the household.  Many women state that morning sickness forced them to reveal their pregnancy earlier than they would have preferred. 

    How Does Morning Sickness Affect My Teeth?

    The reason morning sickness is damaging to teeth is that the nausea and vomiting brings acid from the stomach up into the mouth.  Healthy stomachs are filled with acid, which breaks down food as an important part of the digestion process.  However, that acid is supposed to stay in the stomach.  Stomach acid has a pH of 1.5-3.5. 

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    In contrast, a healthy mouth has a pH that is slightly above neutral, in the range of 7.1-7.5.  Teeth can stay strong at this pH.  The enamel covering our teeth begins to weaken when the pH drops to 5.5 or below.

     

    When someone vomits, the acid in the stomach is pulled up the esophagus and into the mouth.  This stomach acid is far below the pH threshold for enamel damage.  When the mouth is subjected to this strong acid with such a low pH repeatedly, the enamel is weakened and may begin to erode. 

    Enamel erosion is the gradual degradation of the enamel surface of teeth caused by exposure to acids.  This includes any acid, like sodas, lemon juice, and any carbonated drink.  Because stomach acid is more acidic than these things, it can cause more damage in a shorter amount of time.  The photos below show examples of severe enamel erosion.  The enamel becomes thinner and is even missing in some areas.  On front teeth, this can cause the teeth to appear translucent or “see-through”.  On back teeth, the enamel can erode away from a filling, leaving the filling taller than the tooth surface. 

    Because enamel is a tooth’s defense against decay, anything that weakens enamel makes a tooth more likely to get a cavity.  Loss of enamel also causes tooth sensitivity. 

      

    How Do I Protect My Teeth From Morning Sickness?

    There are several steps you can take to protect your teeth if you are suffering from morning sickness.

     

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    1. After vomiting, do not immediately brush your teeth. Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water, wait 30 minutes and then brush.

    2. Use an over-the-counter mouthrinse that contains fluoride before bed each night. Fluoride can strengthen the enamel and protect it against acid.

    3. Chew sugar-free gum throughout the day. This stimulates your natural saliva production, which raises the pH in your mouth.

    4. See your dentist. If you are suffering from morning sickness, let Dr. Aanenson and Dr. Kuiper know. They can assess your risk for enamel erosion and make specific recommendations for you.

     

    What Else Can Cause Acid Erosion of Teeth?

    GERD – Severe acid reflux can keep the pH in the mouth much lower than normal.

    Bulimia – As with morning sickness, consistent vomiting causes enamel erosion.

    Lemon juice cleanses – Lemon juice is as acidic as stomach acid and should never touch the teeth.

    Are You Suffering With Morning Sickness?

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell! They can help you manage the risks associated with morning sickness and help you protect your teeth.

    Dental Insurance: Are You Throwing Away Money?

    Dental Insurance: Are You Throwing Away Money?

    Some of the most common questions we answer in our dental offices are about dental insurance.  Dental insurance plans and the benefits they provide can be very confusing.  There are thousands of different plans, and many of them even share the same name.   So just knowing that you have Blue Cross Blue Shield won’t get you very far when it comes to figuring out your dental benefits.

    The front office staffs in each of our locations have been working with our patients for decades to help them get the most out of their dental insurance.  We have  noticed some trends in recent years that may affect your dental care.  While insurance premiums have stayed the same or increased, the provided benefits have actually decreased.  This means that even though you or your company may be paying the same amount or more, you are receiving a lower dollar amount of dental benefits. 

    How Do Dental Insurance Benefits Work?

    Dental insurance is not like medical insurance at all.  If required, dental insurance deductibles are usually under $100, and are collected at your first dental visit of the insurance plan year.  Most insurance plans follow a calendar year; some use a different fiscal year, like August-to-August, which is important to know.   This matters when it comes to maximizing your benefits.

    Dental insurance plans always have a “maximum”.  These range from $1000-2500.  There are a few great plans that offer higher maximums, but they are rare.  Dental insurance benefits pay up to their stated maximum, and then the patient is responsible for 100% of any fees that accrue past that. 

    The important thing to understand about a benefit maximum is that any benefits you do not use during the plan’s year are not carried over to the following year.  They are simply lost.

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    How Can I Maximize My Benefits?

    Do not wait until the end of the year!  Many people forget about their dental insurance until December and then attempt to get all of their dental work done in a short amount of time.  In order you get the most out of your insurance plan, we need to see you as soon as possible.  Our experts will help you with the following things:

    Know your plan’s benefit calendar.  If your benefits renew in August instead of January, that may change the timing of your treatment. 
    Know your maximum.  If your plan offers $2000 in dental benefits, and you are in need of treatment, you should proceed with treatment before the end of the plan’s calendar.  Otherwise, those benefits are lost.

     

    Your care at our dental centers is always based on what is best for your health, and our doctors will treat you with excellence and compassion regardless of the presence or absence of dental insurance benefits.  In all cases, Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena create a customized treatment plan for each person’s specific dental needs.  Only then will our insurance experts help you prioritize the timing and financing of each prescribed procedure so you get the most out of your dental insurance. 

    How Can I Find Out What Benefits I Have?

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to speak with one of our insurance experts about your specific plan.  They can answer all of your questions and set you up to see Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

    Don't Get Tricked by Halloween Treats

    Don’t Get Tricked by Halloween Treats

    Halloween: Making Good Decisions for Your Teeth

    Halloween is almost synonymous with candy, and most people know that candy can cause cavities.  What many people do not know is that some candy is worse and more likely to cause cavities than other types of candy.  As dentists, it is easy to be a killjoy on Halloween.  Since we know kids are going to load up on candy at Halloween, we are not going to tell you not to eat it.  We’re going to give you information that will help you make better decisions about Halloween candy.

    All Candy is Not Created Equal

    The cavity risk associated with candy is based on two factors: 1) the amount of sugar in the candy, and 2) the amount of time the sugar from the candy is exposed to the teeth.  This blog will give you tips to help address both of these factors so that your risk of a Halloween cavity is minimal.

    Moderation and Timing is Key

    In order the address the amount of sugar in Halloween candy, it is important to exercise moderation.  Try not to binge on Halloween candy, and don’t let your kids do it, either.  Eating large amounts of candy fuels the cavity-causing bacteria in our mouths with unlimited sugar.  Limiting your candy intake to “dessert” (with a meal) also reduces cavity risk by counteracting the high amount of sugar with a high volume of healthy, cavity-fighting saliva.

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    Make Good Choices

     

    • 1.  Sort through all your Halloween candy.  Make three piles: 1) Sticky, gooey candy like caramels, Starburst, any kind of taffy, anything “gummy”.  2)  Hard candies or anything that is held in the mouth for a long period of time like a jawbreaker or any kind of sucker (lollipop).  Even mints fall into this category.  3) Chocolates or candy bars containing fat, anything that would be eaten quickly.
    • 2.  Now throw away piles 1 and 2.  These sticky and hard candies have a high risk for causing cavities because they expose the teeth to sugar for a long period of time.  The sugar in sticky candies will adhere to the tooth, especially in deep grooves, and provide fuel for bacteria for as long as the candy is stuck to the tooth.  You also fuel those bacteria by sucking on a piece of candy for an extended length of time.
    • 3.  Eat your chocolates and candy bars in moderation as explained above.

     

     

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    Feel Bad Throwing Candy Away?

    We want to make Halloween as fun as possible while still encouraging good habits.  Consider offering your child a trade-in for his or her Halloween candy.  You can “buy” the candy back at $1 per pound, and then allow then to purchase a non-candy treat with the money, like a Hot Wheels car or sheet of stickers.  You can also use the Halloween candy as an opportunity to teach your child about sharing and giving to others.  Many local shelters and food pantries accept donations of any kind, and they would be happy to receive sweet treats at this time of year.  

     

     

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

    Pizza Burns, Popcorn Shrapnel, and Tortilla Chip Daggers: Soft Tissue Injuries in Your Mouth

    Pizza Burns, Popcorn Shrapnel, and Tortilla Chip Daggers: Soft Tissue Injuries in Your Mouth

    Have you ever been so excited for your pizza that you just could not wait for it to cool down?  You are starving.   You cannot wait one more second.   So you take a big bite of piping hot pizza, only to feel the searing pain of a tomato sauce burn on the roof of your mouth instead of the simple gustatory satisfaction of bread, tomatoes, cheese and {insert your favorite topping here}. 

    Maybe Mexican food is your weakness.  The chips and salsa start calling your name as soon as you walk in the door.  You toss the whole chip with its twists and turns into your mouth, but when you bite down, a shard stabs into your gums. 

    At the movie theater, you eat hot, buttery popcorn by the giant handful.  When one shell of a kernel finds its way between your teeth, you spend the entire movie contorting your tongue to try to work it out and curse yourself for not carrying floss with you at all times.

    Most everyone can relate to these slightly over-dramatized examples.  In some cases, the damage is very minor and only bothers you for an hour or two.  In other cases, the injury leads to a painful ulceration or a localized gum infection if not handled correctly.  Here is what you need to know about reducing your risk for these types of injuries and how to handle them when they inevitably happen.

     

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    How to Reduce the Risk of Injury

    Slow down!  Many of these injuries happen because someone is eating too quickly, not allowing food to cool properly, or taking bites that are too large.  In order to lower your risk of these types of injuries, always wait for your food to cool to a manageable temperature.  Only take bites that are appropriate for your mouth, and chew slowly.  When teeth are aligned properly and chewing is performed at a normal rate, the anatomy of the mouth provides protection for the gum tissues, lips, cheeks and tongue as you chew.

    How to Handle a Soft Tissue Injury

    Keep your mouth as clean as possible!  The initial injury, whether it is a burn, laceration, or impacted food, can quickly progress to an inflammation or infection if not cleaned properly.  Our mouths are full of bacteria, and it is imperative to keep sores clean until they heal.  Gentle swishing of warm salt water or over-the-counter Peroxyl® mouthrinse can keep the injured site clean and promote rapid healing.

    Use mild oral care products.  The injured site can be very tender and overly sensitive.  If you find that your normal mouthrinse and toothpaste cause a stinging or burning sensation to the injured area, you should switch to mild, hypoallergenic products like those made by Biotene.

    Alter your diet.  Areas of ulceration or inflammation are easily irritated by very hot temperatures, very spicy foods, and acidic foods and beverages.  In order to keep the injured site as soothed as possible, you should avoid drinking hot coffee or tea.  Do not eat food that is extremely hot; allow it to cool down before taking a bite.  During the healing period, eat a mild diet that is not spicy or acidic.  Steer clear of foods high in tomato or citrus content until the area has resolved.

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    Avoid toothpicks.  If you feel that a popcorn kernel or other food debris is lodged between your teeth and gums, do not use a traditional wooden toothpick to attempt retrieval.  Ironically, we have removed more fragments of wooden toothpicks from patient’s gum tissues than popcorn kernels.  Only use dental floss or small interdental brushes (like a Proxabrush) to remove the embedded food particles.

    Be careful when flossing.  It is possible to floss too aggressively and cause damage to your gum tissue.  When you floss with the intent to remove a popcorn kernel or other food particle, it is important to be gentle and monitor your progress.  Ideally, you want the floss to reach under the foreign body and pull it out.  If you feel that your flossing is actually pushing the material further into the gum tissue, stop immediately! 

    Come see us.  If you are unable to remove a piece of food or debris, it is important to see your dentist sooner rather than later.  The longer the irritant stays in place, the more likely it is to cause inflammation and can lead to infection.  If you have a painful burn or ulceration, we can prescribe a prescription mouthrinse and/or topical ointment to alleviate the painful symptoms and promote healing.

    Have You Injured Yourself?

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

    Oral Cancer

    Oral Cancer

    Cancer is a disease caused by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in a part of the body.  Oral cancer is a type of cancer in which these abnormal cells originate in the mouth.  Cancer is classified by the original site of abnormal cells.  Oral cancer kills approximately one person every hour in the United States.  About 50,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. 

    What are the different types of oral cancer?

    The most common type of oral cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, and it occurs in the tissues lining the inside of the mouth or on the lips.  Squamous cell carcinoma makes up over 90% of all oral cancer.  A much smaller percentage of oral cancers develop in other types of tissue in the mouth, like the salivary glands causing adenocarcinoma, the lymph nodes or lymph tissue like tonsils causing lymphoma, or in pigmented tissue causing melanoma.

    What are the risk factors for oral cancer?

    The risk factors most closely associated with oral cancer are:

    • Tobacco use of any kind

    • Alcohol consumption

    • Infection with human papilloma virus (HPV)

    • Chronic oral infections

    • Persistent trauma to oral tissues

    • Poor oral hygiene, lack of dental care

    • Poor nutrition

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    Who is most likely to get oral cancer?

    • People who work outdoors and have a large amount of sun exposure on their lips are at a high risk for developing cancer on their lips.

    • People who smoke, use smokeless tobacco and/or drink alcohol have a high risk for oral cancer inside the mouth. Tobacco use combined with alcohol consumption creates a risk level that is higher than either one alone because they act synergistically together.

    • People infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV) have a higher risk for developing oral cancers at the back of the throat and base of the tongue. Certain strains of the virus have a higher risk than others. HPV is the newest known cause of oral cancers and accounts for the changing demographics of oral cancer. Historically, oral cancer was a disease of old men who smoked and drank alcohol a lot. The average age of oral cancer has dropped in the last two decades, and it now affects more women than in the past.

    • People with chronic infections and persistent trauma in their mouths have an increased risk for developing oral cancers.

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    What can I do to lower my risk for oral cancer?

    • Limit sun exposure and use SPF chapstick!

    • Stop ALL tobacco use, both smoking and smokeless tobacco!

    • Limit alcohol consumption.

    • Practice good oral hygiene. Treat any persistent infections in the oral cavity including cavities and periodontal disease.

    • If you have an area of your mouth that is prone to trauma (cheek biting, a sharp tooth cutting your tongue), see your dentist to discuss treatment options to reduce the occurrence of this trauma.

    • See your dentist for regular oral cancer screenings. At the Dental Centers in Freeman, Parkston, and Viborg, this is included in every comprehensive and periodic oral evaluation you have with Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena. In its initial stages, oral cancer is typically painless and easily goes unnoticed without a visual evaluation. This is why consistent oral cancer screenings are so important. Early detection is key!

    • Perform a self-screening exam once every month.

     

    What should I look for in my mouth?

    Any ulcer, sore, blister, lump or abnormal tissue that does not heal within 14 days needs professional evaluation by a dentist.  A very common presentation for oral cancer is an overgrowth of white tissue on the sides of the tongue or the floor of the mouth.  Cancerous lesions can also be bright red in color.  As you are screening yourself, simply search for anything that does not blend in with the surrounding tissue both by look and by feel.  Because of some locations in your mouth being difficult to see, you may be able to feel something unusual without seeing it.  Remember, oral cancer rarely causes any discomfort or pain in its early stages, so you have to be looking on a consistent basis to catch it early.

    What do I do when I find something in my mouth that could be oral cancer?

    Monitor it closely, noting what date you first saw or noticed the lesion.  Take photos of it, if possible.  Any sore, ulcer, or bump that does not heal within 14 days needs professional evaluation by a dentist.  Make an appointment with Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena for an evaluation as soon as possible.

    What is the treatment for oral cancer?

    Treatment for oral cancer depends on the stage of cancer diagnosed.  Early detection is the most important factor in beating oral cancer!  The first step is always a biopsy of the abnormal tissue.  Depending on the location of the tissue, this will be done either by a periodontist (gum specialist), oral and maxillofacial surgeon, or an ENT (for lesions on the tonsils or throat).  Once biopsy results confirm a diagnosis of cancer, treatment will commence with the surgeon working in coordination with an oncologist and can include surgical removal of cancerous tissue, chemotherapy and radiation.  Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena will work in cooperation with your doctors to ensure that the rest of your mouth stays as healthy as possible throughout treatment.

    More information on oral cancer can be found online at The Oral Cancer Foundation and the

     

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!

    Hormone-Induced Gingivitis

    Hormone-Induced Gingivitis

    What is hormone-induced gingivitis?

    Hormone-induced gingivitis is a type of gingivitis that occurs specifically during changes in hormonal levels .  It is a very common condition that we see frequently in our office.  Hormone-induced gingivitis causes a patient to have gums that are swollen, red, tender, and bleed easily.   The tenderness and bleeding often make oral hygiene routines uncomfortable, and patients sometimes avoid proper brushing and flossing techniques because it hurts.  Healthy, natural gum tissues are light pink, relatively flat and tightly adhered to the teeth.  The appearance of bright red, puffy gums is unsightly, giving a diseased look to the mouth, and may cause embarrassment. 

    What causes hormone-induced gingivitis?  

    The name says it all: it is induced by hormones.  Rapid swings in hormone levels (most notably estrogen, progesterone, and chorionic gonadotropin) can have a profound effect on gum tissues.  Research has shown that these hormone levels cause two important changes to occur:

    1. Hormone changes affect the tiny blood vessels in the gum tissue, increasing the blood flow in this area (which can cause swelling) and changing the permeability of the blood vessels (which makes the tissue bleed more easily).

    2. Hormone changes also affect the types of bacteria present in gum tissues. Research shows that gum tissues in patients with hormone changes such as pregnancy or taking birth control pills have more dangerous bacteria than patients without hormone changes. By “more dangerous”, we mean stronger and more likely to cause gum disease.


    Who is at risk for hormone-induced gingivitis?  

    Hormone-induced gingivitis is common in children going through puberty, both girls and boys.  It is also prevalent in women at various stages of hormone changes, including menstrual cycles, the use of birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause.  This higher risk for gum disease makes oral hygiene even more important than it already is.  People with poor oral hygiene are more likely to experience hormone-induced gingivitis than those with good plaque control and consistent oral hygiene habits.  People who have infrequent and inconsistent dental cleanings are also at an increased risk.

     

    What can you do about hormone-induced gingivitis?

     

    • Practice perfect oral hygiene. Do not miss a single day of flossing! Use an electric toothbrush; they are shown to effectively remove more plaque than a manual toothbrush.

    • Add a mouthwash to your oral hygiene routine, and use it twice daily. In addition to an over-the-counter alcohol-free mouthwash, you can swish with warm salt water throughout the day. Some patients require a prescription mouthwash to get the inflammation under control.

    • Stay on schedule with professional dental cleanings. Your dental hygienist is able to remove bacterial buildup from areas you might be missing, even with good oral hygiene.

    • Consider increasing the frequency of professional dental cleanings. Many of our patients with severe gingivitis during puberty or pregnancy have their teeth cleaned every 3 months, instead of every 6 months. This reduces the severity of gingivitis by reducing the amount of bacterial buildup accumulated between cleanings.

    • Talk to Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex or Dr. Serena about other recommendations they may have to improve your gingivitis. There are many additional oral hygiene products available to help reduce gum inflammation. They will determine which one will be most beneficial for your unique situation.

     

    Think you or your child may have hormone-induced gingivitis?

    Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell!