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Your Tongue - Facts and Tips to Keep it Healthy

December 13, 2022

As dentists, we focus on your teeth and gums. However, another essential part of your oral health is your tongue. Besides a couple of seconds that it may take to run your brush over it while brushing your teeth, or when you accidentally bite it while chewing, how much thought do you give to your tongue? 

Well, we are here to give some much-needed attention to this often overlooked organ. 

What Makes up Your Tongue? 

The bumps you see on your tongue are not actually taste buds! The bumps you see are called papillae, which house your taste buds. Papillae are all over the tongue and may hold 2,000 to 10,000 taste buds. 

Charts typically show separate parts of your tongue that are divided into different areas. These areas are shown to separately taste sweet, sour, salty, savory, and bitter. This chart is made for simplicity. In actuality, every part of the tongue is capable of detecting every type of taste! Taste buds die off every couple of weeks and are replaced by new ones. 

 

 

Now that we have talked about taste buds and papillae, let's dive into more anatomy. As the taste buds allow us to sense the taste of things, microscopic hairs, called microvilli, send the brain messages about the taste of something. Saliva is also a huge component in taste and digestion. Your sublingual caruncles are the major salivary glands that secrete this saliva into the mouth and are seen as bilateral bumps on each side of the frenulum, or the thin membranous tissues that attach your tongue to the bottom of your mouth. 

Contrary to popular belief, the tongue is not the strongest muscle in the body. The tongue is actually made up of eight muscles. Since these eight muscles are not attached to a bone, it is one of the most flexible muscle groups. Additionally, these are the only muscles in the human body that move independently of the skeleton. 

Fun Fact: Your tongue print is as unique as your fingerprint! 

Functions of your Tongue  

Besides tasting, the tongue moves food around the mouth when chewing. Then it moves the chewed food into the esophagus and down to our stomachs for digestion. 

The tip of your tongue is also the most sensitive part of the body. This gives you the magnifying effect that helps you notice any unwanted items in your food.

Additionally, the tongue even helps with our speech. It moves to translate sounds into understandable words. Talking would be impossible without it. 

 

 

Fun Fact: Do you think your kid is a picky eater? This could be because children experience taste more intensely than adults. Children have smaller tongues but the same amount of taste buds as adults, resulting in them having denser taste receptor cells. This is why it is said that our taste changes as we get older! 

Health Indicator

The color of your tongue is an indication of your overall health. A healthy tongue is pink. A pink tongue may turn red when allergies, infections, or nutritional deficiencies are present.  

A blistered tongue may indicate an underlying infection, injury, or negative reaction to certain medications. A patchy white tongue may imply fungal infections.

The texture of your tongue can also tell you about your health. If it is too smooth, it may suggest that you are deficient in essential minerals such as folic acid, iron, and vitamin B12. 

Cleaning 

As you now know, the tongue is significant. Yet, it is often neglected and many forget to clean it when it comes to daily oral hygiene. On average, the tongue harbors over 300 strains of bacteria, which creates a thin film that coats its surface. Additionally, food and beverages may alter this color. 

If your tongue is not cleaned, these bacteria cause bad breath and inflammation. Not taking care of it may also interfere with your ability to speak or taste things correctly.

 

 

We suggest using a tongue scraper or cleaner for the most efficient and effective cleaning. These work better for the tongue's bumpy surface. Cleaning the tongue is proven to help prevent heart attacks, pneumonia, and diabetes. 

Our Role

During dental appointments, we will look for signs and symptoms of health including color, texture, sores, or cuts on the tongue. If you notice any changes or concerns with your tongue, please reach out to us so we can assess and figure out what may be happening, then decide on any treatment plan to get you back to your healthiest. Call or text us at 218-722-1070 to schedule an appointment.

 


What is a Dental Implant and How Can They Help Your Smile?

November 1, 2022

If you have lost a tooth, there is no longer the need to worry about a gap in your smile. Anxiety about the rest of your teeth moving with the extra room, rapid bone loss, discomfort, change in chewing patterns, and cosmetic concerns can be calmed with a dental implant. 

In general terms, dental implants are an artificial tooth root surgically implanted into the jaw to provide support for a crown. While a crown is often recommended, implants can also create a root for bridges or dentures. 

Made from biocompatible titanium, the implants integrate into the bone preventing bone loss and gum recession, and help to stabilize the tissues that surround and support your teeth. A replacement false tooth is then added on top of the implant to complete your full smile. We will describe a more detailed timeline later in this blog. 

Dental implants are the closest option for natural teeth, are aesthetic, and don’t cause greater stress to the mouth by involving dental work on adjacent teeth like a bridge would. They are also a more comfortable option to having to wear a removable appliance. If the replacement tooth wears out over time, a new one can simply be replaced on the implant. 

At Port City Dental, Dr. Wendy Peterson offers the option of dental implants without needing a referral to an oral surgeon or specialist in many cases. With experience including studying implant dentistry at the University of Kentucky and acquiring advanced training at Implant Pathways, which provides comprehensive and in-depth training for general dentists, Dr. Peterson will complete a comprehensive oral evaluation to determine if a dental implant is the right option for you. 

The use of our 3-Dimensional Cone Beam Imaging is done to evaluate bone levels and density, and determines the location of the sinus and other vital anatomy to minimize complications with the implant process. 

Our Computer-Aided Design and Manufacturing technology is used to make your final abutment support and crown, which eliminates the need for any messy impressions. 

The timeline for dental implants look like: 

  1. Patient examination and images taken.

  2. Extraction and bone graft if necessary. 

  3. Four months later the titanium shaft implant will be placed into the jawbone and allowed to set. During this time the bone grows around the implant, forming a tight connection. This additionally slows or stops the bone loss that occurs when the root of a tooth is missing. 

  4. After an additional four months, the typical time for the implant to firmly set in the mouth, the crown (new replacement tooth) is attached onto the top of the shaft. 

 

 

Dental implants can significantly improve your health and your quality of life. Once done, you will find no discomfort when eating, speaking is normal, and the implants can be cleaned by regular brushing - plus no one will be able to tell it is a false tooth! 

If you would like to schedule a consultation, please reach out at 218-728-5095 to schedule an appointment. Learn more about Dr. Wendy Peterson here.


12 Common Dental Health Myths Debunked

August 24, 2022

When it comes to oral health, there are a ton of myths out there regarding how to gain a shining smile, tips and tricks to keeping your teeth clean, and excuses as to why to put off your next dental appointment. We have seen them all and are here to debunk some of the biggest myths we’ve come across.

1. Brushing Harder Means You’re Cleaning Better

When you brush harder or more aggressively, you are actually putting more trauma on tooth enamel and gum tissue. This can lead to issues such as gum recession, meaning the tissue surrounding the teeth wears away exposing more of the tooth or even the tooth’s root. Brushing gently for two minutes, twice a day with a soft-bristled brush will do the trick just fine! Electric toothbrushes also often come with a sensor that changes to a gentler setting if it notices too hard of pressure being used. 

2. Flossing Isn’t Necessary

By now, you should know that flossing once a day is 100% necessary, but since we know it can seem like a mundane and easily skippable task, we are adding in the reminder. Floss removes up to 80% of plaque! And since plaque promotes tooth decay, we want you to do all you can to remove any potential damaging agents. 

3. It’s Normal For Gums To Bleed

When your gums bleed while flossing or brushing, this is often due to inflammation. This inflammation can be caused by excessive plaque buildup, gingivitis, gum disease, and other causes. Ask your dentist if you have concerns regarding gum bleeding. 

4. Chewing Gum Works The Same As Brushing

While there are ADA approved chewing gums that can help promote cleaner teeth and better breath, this does not mean they are a replacement for brushing. Gum simply does not reach the level of care or removal of plaque and bacteria that brushing your teeth accomplishes. 

5. Baby Teeth Are Not As Important to Brush

Great oral health starts young - as soon as teeth break through to be exact. Tooth decay in children can lead to health concerns long after baby teeth are gone, so start the habit of brushing twice a day early for a lifelong healthy smile.

6. Charcoal Toothpaste Is Superior

While charcoal toothpaste is marketed to whiten your smile, it often offers little protection for your teeth. It can also be counterproductive by absorbing protective agents meant to keep your teeth strong and healthy. 

7. If Teeth Are White, It Means They Are Healthy

This is not always the case, especially if you use whitening products that cover up staining or damage and may leave underlying causes of discoloration unaddressed. Instead of a bright white smile, we look for other indicators of a healthy mouth like fresh breath and lack of cavities.  

8. Eating Sugar Causes Cavities

Sugar is actually not the main problem, but the bacteria that eats the sugar. Sticky food attracts bacteria to the teeth and allows this bacteria to thrive, producing an acid compound that promotes tooth decay. How long this bacteria and acid stays in your mouth and is allowed to eat away at your tooth enamel is the main cause of cavities. 

This is why it’s important to rinse and brush after meals, sugary snacks, or drinks to reduce acid and plaque buildup. However, we also recommend waiting 30 minutes before brushing to allow saliva to naturally offset the acids in food so that you are not brushing them straight into the tooth enamel. 

9. Enamel Loss Is The Only Cause For Sensitivity

There are a variety of reasons why you may be experiencing tooth sensitivity. While enamel loss is often to blame, other factors like tooth grinding or an abrasive toothpaste could be the culprit. Make sure to ask your dentist if you are feeling sensitivity so we can figure out the cause and how to help.

10. Gum Disease Only Affects Your Mouth

The bacteria present in gum disease doesn’t always stay in the mouth, but can also spread to other parts of the body creating whole-body concerns including things such as heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. 

11. Pregnant Women Should Avoid the Dentist

It is important for pregnant mothers to keep regular checkups due to hormone levels rising, causing gums to swell or bleed. While you may have heard that X-rays while pregnant are dangerous, those done at the dentist pose very low risk. If there is no cause for concern, we may wait until your next appointment for them, but if they need to be taken due to suspicion of infection there is no need to worry. Same goes for procedures in pregnancy. Often it is safer to take care of the issue to limit infection instead of waiting until after delivery. 

We recommend the best time for an appointment while pregnant is in the second trimester. Typically this is the time when most women are past the morning sickness stage, but not starting to feel uncomfortable yet with their growing baby bump.

12. Oral Health Declines with Age

If you take care of your teeth throughout childhood and adulthood, there is no reason that your teeth will not still be healthy throughout your senior years. It is all about maintaining a healthy dental routine. We see young people who rely on dentures and bridges due to dental neglect, going to show that oral hygiene is important at every age. 

Do you have questions about other dental facts or tips you’ve heard? Reach out to our office or ask during your next appointment! 


Signs You Might Need A Bite Adjustment

July 21, 2022

Are you a victim of frequent headaches and migraines? Neck and head pain? Clicking and popping in your jaw? Sleep apnea or snoring? A ringing in your ears? While these symptoms can be due to a number of causes, one that we often see overlooked, is your bite.

It’s possible you may be experiencing temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD.

The joint, which is located where the head and jaw meet, is one of the most complex joints in the entire body, working as the hinge responsible for moving your jaw every which way, allowing you to talk, chew, and yawn. TMD occurs when that hinge stops working properly.
 

 

 

We know the next question you must be wondering is “What causes TMD?”

Oftentimes the main cause is excessive strain on the joints and muscle groups that control the area, which – when you think about how much we use our jaws to talk, chew and yawn – isn’t that farfetched to think it could happen to any of us. The strain may also be the result of habitual clenching or grinding of your teeth. Or, even a trauma to the jaw, neck, or head. Medical conditions including arthritis, fibromyalgia, or irritable bowel syndrome can often worsen the pain of TMD. And people may also find themselves at higher risk if they suffer from clinical, psychological, sensory, genetic, or nervous system factors.

While the root cause may not always be clear, TMD can be diagnosed through testing your bite and looking for signs within your facial muscles, and if needed by taking x-rays. This can be done during a routine checkup/cleaning visit or by scheduling an appointment specifically to see if you may have TMD.

In many instances a minor adjustment can be just the trick. And can often be taken care of during your visit. We may also recommend the use of an orthotic, or night guard, that is worn over the teeth. The orthotic is an acrylic device made custom for you, typically worn on the lower teeth to reposition the jaw to the correct position. Symptoms start to gradually disappear once the orthotic is in use, with most symptoms relieved and the orthotic no longer needed.

 

 

So, if you have been putting off a visit with the hopes that any pain, discomfort, or irritation might magically go away on its own, this may be a sign to make the call so we can get your bite back into alignment. Simply call 218-727-5041 to schedule an appointment.


Dental Office Approved Ways to Whiten Your Teeth

June 6, 2022

People yearn for a whiter smile for various reasons. Some have a wedding or special occasion coming up. Others want an extra boost of confidence for an interview. Then there are those who would simply like a more youthful smile with a brightened set of teeth. Whatever the reason, we understand that a smile makes a lasting impression - so if you’re in the market, we are happy to help! 

Why do teeth become discolored?  

Discoloration of the enamel (outer layer of the tooth) and the dentin (layer underneath the enamel which is naturally darker in color and makes up the bulk of the tooth) occurs for various reasons. Enamel often becomes discolored over time due to what we consume, including coffee, tea, red wine, and tobacco. Stains can also occur if you have poor brushing habits, tooth trauma, or if grinding leads to cracks. As we all age, enamel also thins which causes more dentin to show through - making the appearance of the tooth darker.  

Whitening: How does it work? 

Teeth whitening treatments work by removing stains and whitening your smile. Most common options people tend to use are chemical treatments, light and laser treatments, DIY hacks found online, activated charcoal, whitening toothpastes, and more. Some of these work better than others (some don’t work at all). Through this blog we will explain the two treatment options we stand behind and offer in our offices. 

There are various over-the-counter teeth whitening options. However, while these may seem more convenient and less expensive to begin with, ultimately they may end up costing you more money in the long run. 

Our in-office and take-home professional treatments have the potential to give you a dramatically whiter smile as well as the resources and recommendations to keep your teeth whiter and, more importantly, healthier longer. With both our whitening options, all patients begin with an exam and dental cleaning for assessment before scheduling treatment. 

Option 1: Opalescence 

 

Opalescence Boost Whitening is ideal for those who want to level up their smile for a special event where brighter teeth would add to confidence and memories. We offer Opalescence as an in-office treatment, which consists of three rounds of applied treatment within a 2-hour appointment.

The gel contains potassium nitrate and fluoride, which helps to maintain the health of your enamel and reduces sensitivity throughout your whitening process. The active ingredients in the gel pass into your teeth to oxidize the discolored molecules deep within each tooth, removing the stains and overall whitening your smile. 

The treatment is favorable since no hot, uncomfortable light is needed - which can be the case in other options. The formula was created for patient comfort. The cost for this treatment at Port City Dental is $550. 

Option 2: Whitening Trays

 

Another whitening system we offer are custom bleaching trays. These are an easy, convenient way to obtain a smile you love from the comfort of your own home. They are also a less expensive option, costing $250 for treatment.

During this process, we will first meet with you for a primary examination where we will take impressions of your teeth and create a plaster model. Using the model, we form a thin, flexible plastic tray that is tightly adapted to your teeth. This tray keeps the bleaching agent on your teeth and away from any sensitive areas of the mouth while being used. The tray also keeps the agent from being diluted by saliva. Once the tray is finished, you take the tray and bleaching gel home to complete the treatment.  

The amount of time needed to wear the tray depends on the particular whitening gel you are given as well as your individual schedule and preferences. Your dentist will talk to you about how long to wear your trays according to your goals. Once finished, we recommend keeping your trays and doing a brief touch-up once a year to remove any new stains. 

We don’t want anyone to feel like they need to hide their smile from the world. So, if you feel like brighter teeth would give you the confidence to show off that grin, teeth whitening may be a great option for you! 

Are you interested in talking to one of our dentists about our teeth whitening treatments? Schedule a consultation by calling 218-727-5041 or by filling out the form at https://portcitydentists.com/contact.php and lets get started. 

 


Calming Dental Anxiety

May 16, 2022

Did you know that dental anxiety is estimated to affect 13% to 24% of people globally? So, if your nerves get a little high when thinking about coming into our office - know that you are not alone. With this in mind, our team at Port City Dental is committed to providing a comfortable and easy experience during every oral care visit - whether you come in for a routine cleaning or to fill a cavity. 

Here are some tips to help calm dental anxiety before your next appointment. 

Let us Know

If you’re feeling uneasy about an upcoming appointment or procedure, let your dentist know so we can walk you through the process, answer any questions, and make sure you are confident and comfortable beforehand. This also makes us aware that we need to communicate more often with you during your appointment, regularly touching base on your physical and emotional comfort level. 

Also, ask us about creating a “stop” signal, telling us when you need a break from any work being done. This places you in control of your appointment and care. 

Check your Calendar

Make sure you’re as relaxed as possible on appointment day by checking your schedule before booking - allowing you to schedule on a day where you are not busy with other errands or appointments. This will ease the stress of feeling like you need to be somewhere important following your exam or procedure. It can also be helpful to schedule your appointment during a time of the day that you know you are most relaxed - many people find morning is the best time so they do not build up stress throughout the day. 

Know what’s Coming 

Some of our patients find that watching dental procedures on YouTube helps to relieve anxiety by removing the fear of the unknown. Watching the videos allows them to envision the exact dental work about to be performed, letting them know what to expect and feel more in control. 

Plan your Diet for the Day

Foods high in sugars or caffeine often make people more jittery and increase nerves, worsening any dental anxiety. Before your appointment, stay away from these foods or beverages and instead add something calming into your routine, like a relaxing cup of caffeine-free tea. Food scientists have also found that foods containing protein like seeds, nuts, and fish can help soothe the mind. 

Breathe

Practice deep breathing - this can help you stay relaxed during your appointment and might even take your mind off of being in our chair. Try inhaling for four seconds, holding that breath for at least four seconds, and then exhale for another four seconds.  

Strategize your Arrival Time

Arriving on time, but not so early that the wait time allows stress to build, can also make your experience feel more relaxed. To distract yourself from overthinking during your wait, bring calming music to listen to or a magazine or book to read.

Schedule Regular Appointments

Routine tends to put everyone more at ease. When you schedule regular appointments, there are fewer unknowns - plus it is less likely that any issues have occurred during the time in between visits.  

Treatment Options

In extreme cases of dental anxiety, we offer a few options of sedation dentistry and medications that reduce nervousness, allowing patients to relax. Talk to your dentist about additional options if you deal with extreme dental anxiety. 

Remember We’re Here for YOU

If you’re feeling self-conscious about your teeth or are worried that you haven't been flossing or brushing enough, remember that we are not here to judge you or your smile. Our job is to help you maintain healthy habits to prevent future oral health issues and to diagnose and treat any problems that do arise with expert dental care. We are on your team! 

Dental anxiety should not dim your bright smile. We are happy to work with you to make your experience stress free and comfortable, with the hope that over time you can overcome your anxiety. 

 


Selecting the Best Toothbrush for your Dental Care

April 25, 2022

When was the last time you replaced your toothbrush? If it has been over three months, a new brush is overdue. 

Over the course of three months of use, your toothbrush’s bristles get worn down and stop cleaning as well. These bristles also have lost their smooth shape, which can cause damage to your gums. On top of that, germs accumulate on your brush, which introduces new bacteria into your mouth instead of getting rid of bad bacteria. This is also why we suggest replacing your toothbrush after an illness. 

 

So, now that you are on a mission to select a new toothbrush, how do you know which will work best for your oral health when there are so many options?

Size 

It is easier to reach all areas and surfaces of the mouth, including hard-to-reach back molars, when using a brush with a smaller head. The correct brush head size often depends on the size of your mouth and what feels comfortable, however for most adults a half-inch wide by one-inch tall head is typically easiest to use and most effective. 

Soft-Bristle vs. Hard-Bristle 

The American Dental Association recommends the use of soft-bristle toothbrushes. Medium- or hard-bristles can be abrasive to your teeth’s enamel, gums, and root surfaces and cause more harm than good. Soft-bristles are also typically the most comfortable to use.

There are alternative types of bristles available as well. Often brushes come with nylon bristles, however silicone toothbrushes are also an option. Some prefer silicone due to their gentler feel, especially if your teeth are sensitive. If you are a fan of natural products, silicone can also be more environmentally sustainable.

Hand Ergonomics

Brushes are made to fit everyone’s ergonomic preference with handles ranging from straight, curved, angled, and contoured with soft grips to make them easier to use. Our suggestion is simple - the best grip for you is the one that is most comfortable to you.  

Electric Toothbrushes

Studies have shown that the difference between manual and electric toothbrushes’ ability to clean our teeth and gums is insignificant. However, electric or power toothbrushes with heads that rotate in both directions can be more effective than manual brushing. Most electric toothbrushes also have a pressure sensor feature, limiting teeth abrasion if you use too much pressure while brushing. For those who do use electric toothbrushes, remember that it’s just as important to follow good dental hygiene protocols - brushing for two minutes, two times a day. 

Overall, we believe that if you follow a good oral health routine, you will have a healthier mouth with limited tooth decay - regardless of the type or model of brush you use. So, it is truly up to your preference. However, we do suggest that when shopping for a toothbrush, look for one that has earned the American Dental Association Seal of approval. This seal ensures that the brush has gone through safety testing and proven trials. 

If you have any questions regarding which toothbrush may be the best fit for you, reach out to your dentist or ask for a more specific recommendation during your next appointment. 


Benefits of Fluoride – Building a Foundation for Healthy Teeth

November 8, 2021

Your teeth are constantly going through a state of demineralization as the foods you eat turn into acids and attack the enamel – making your teeth more susceptible to cavities. Luckily, your teeth are also able to constantly go through remineralization.  

What’s to thank for the rebuilding of our enamel and tooth health? Fluoride.  

Fluoride is a natural mineral which helps prevent tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth. Fluoride also has the ability to reverse early decay AND can reduce tooth sensitivity. You can see why it is important to make sure you are getting enough fluoride. 

Where can I get fluoride? 

Fluoride can be found naturally in water and foods – which is a great start for healthy enamel and oral health!  

It can also be found in toothpastes and mouth rinses.  

In order to ensure your teeth are seeing more remineralization than demineralization, we also very much suggest professional fluoride treatments which are done at our office during your routine cleanings.  

Why Professional Fluoride Treatments? 

Having a professional fluoride treatment – applied as a gel, foam, or varnish – is a  preventative therapy that helps you naturally fight cavities before they even start. It saves your teeth and saves you money, as the treatment is a fraction of the cost of  repairing tooth decay. 

Who can benefit from a professional fluoride treatment? 

Everyone!  

You may have only heard about the importance of fluoride treatments for children, but people of all ages are prone to cavities. Fluoride treatments are safe for the entire family. Supported by scientific studies, the dosage of fluoride in a treatment is proven to be safe and effective.  

We look forward to your next visit!