Spring Lake Dental Group

The Benefits of A Nightguard

Author: Dr. Alison Vitelli, DMD

We often get asked what an occlusal guard or “nightguard” is, what is it used for and who may benefit from it. A nightguard is a very simple U-shaped appliance that goes in between your top and bottom teeth. It is meant to provide protection against trauma caused by clenching or grinding of the teeth. These conditions are referred to as parafunctional habits, and not only the teeth, but the muscles involved in chewing are affected too.  

Some of the signs and symptoms associated with parafunctional habits we see in the teeth are wear at the neck and/or chewing surface of the tooth, fractures of fillings or tooth structures, acute sensitivity, and tenderness or pain upon chewing. The chewing movement of the jaw is a very well orchestrated movement of several muscles. The forces created by clenching or grinding the teeth can be very high, often leading to muscular spams showed in limited opening of the jaw, headaches and pain during normal jaw movements. 

Wearing a nightguard will create a physical barrier between upper and lower teeth, this helps to decrease the wear and fracturing on the teeth. This also decreases stress in the muscles by erasing the memory in the muscle fibers, thus protecting and decreasing the probability for spams and pain during function. 

Now, you can find several options for nightguards available over-the-counter in the dental aisles of most stores.  These are a generic and inexpensive option that you mold yourself at home. Because these are not as stable, I usually recommend these if you want to see if you would tolerate an appliance in your mouth during the night.  At Spring Lake Dental Group, we have the ability to create a custom made nightguard just for you. I recommend this option. We do this by taking an accurate impression of your teeth, which makes it more stable and easier to wear throughout the night. Please do not hesitate to share with us if you think you suffer from any of these symptoms and if you are interested in a nightguard. 

Lessons Learned

AGD Impact, the Academy of General Dentistry’s monthly newsmagazine, published an article by a dentist and AGD Fellow who details his experience with oral cancer. He relays the hard lessons he learned after the loss of his loved one from the disease. The information I give you is not intended to scare you but to inform and to take any changes you see in your oral cavity seriously. The lessons he learned was that oral cancer is a killer, treatments can be devastating-and the side-effects long-term, it takes an emotional toll on everyone involved with the patient, including the dental team, it has no respect of age, and dentists have a unique opportunity to save lives by routinely performing thorough head and neck exams (Wes Blackeslee, DMD, FAGD). Dr. Blackeslee reports that it has been his experience that oral cancer is typically asymptomatic, unrecognized and diagnosed too late. The care of the cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation which can be disfiguring and can cause eating difficulties, inability to swallow, and dry mouth can linger.  Concerning age, Dr. Blackeslee discloses the journey of a 33 year old woman with oral cancer. Unfortunately, she lost the battle. As dentists we have a responsibility to perform thorough exams and inform our patients accordingly. According to the article, there is now a belief that HPV (Human Papillomavirus) begins early in life, remains dormant and then activates to initiate tumor formation years later.     

An article in the January 2021 issue of Cancer reported that HPV has replaced alcohol and tobacco as the major risk factor for oral cancer and presented three new perspectives: age, threshold and intensity. Dr. Blackeslee closed his article with a call for action…“If we actively commit to educating the public about the benefits of vaccinating against HPV prior to puberty and couple that with thorough screenings, we will decrease the number of oral cancer cases and deaths dramatically”. We can.

Oropharyngeal Cancer by the Numbers

Author: Dr. David Dickerhoff, DDS, MAGD, FOCOI

+53,260 estimated new cases in 2020

+10,750 estimated deaths in 2020

+2.9% of all new cancer cases

+1.8% of all cancer deaths

Men are twice as likely as women to be diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer.  63 is the median age at diagnosis. 68 is the median age at death.  The five year relative survival rate is 66.2%.

We at Spring Lake Dental Group, do an oral cancer screening with each examination.  But you can assist us in arriving at a discovery diagnosis by thinking about each of these screening questions.

  • Do you have any red or white patches on your tongue or tonsils that have been there for more than two weeks?
  • Do you have excessive phlegm buildup, or are you consistently clearing your throat?
  • Do you have persistent coughing?
  • Have you noticed your voice changing? Have you had bouts of coughing?
  • Do you have a persistent sore throat or have a feeling that something is caught in your throat?
  • Do you have difficulty swallowing of chewing?
  • Do you have difficulty moving your jaw or tongue?
  • Do you have numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth?
  • Do you have a lump in the neck?
  • Are your cervical lymph glands sore or tender?
  • Do you have unexplained weight loss or persistent bad breath?

Answering any of these questions in the affirmative does not mean that you have oral cancer, but may be the information that your health care provider needs to arrive at a better diagnosis. Keep the conversation going with your dentist.  Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to a good prognosis.

Spotlight: Shannon Sutton, RDH

Author: Shannon Sutton, RDH

To celebrate National Dental Hygienist Week, I want to share with you why I love what I do. I have been a dental hygienist for about 13 years now and truly enjoy it every day. My profession has many rewards that drive me to genuinely love this career. Learning about my patients lifestyles and health so that I can direct them to what will work for them is so rewarding to me. Seeing a patient come back after my home-care advice and seeing improved oral health is so satisfying. I truly love hearing about my patients families and what is going on in their lives. I love the relationships I have gained with my patients over the years, I cherish each and every one!

Happy National Dental Hygienist Week!

Not Alone

Author: Kimberly N. Powell, DDS, MS

Dentistry is not a solo profession. There is an irreplaceable auxiliary and clinical staff that is necessary for the successful practice of dentistry. This staff includes front desk personnel, financial and marketing staff, dental hygienist, dental assistants, sterilization technician, sanitation team, compliance officers, and others. Each member provides a service that ensures the patient is greeted properly, informed of recommended treatment and cost of service, and treated and dismissed in a timely manner. Yes, the dentist performs the restorative treatment, extractions, implant placements, etc, but he or she can not do that alone. Capable and smart dental assistants transfer instruments, ensure a sterilized field is maintained when needed, and correctly dispose of biohazard material and disinfect the operatory between each patient. Our goal is to always put patients first, to treat them as a family member, and that propels every member in the dental practice to be aware of their responsibilities and execute these positions daily.

Thank You to Our Dental Assistants!

Author: Dr. Alison Vitelli, DMD

Last week, we proudly celebrated Dental Assistants Week! And I wanted to dedicate this blog to thank all our dental assistants. Many of you may know how much we depend on our assistants and how hard they work to provide our patients the best care possible. Dental assistants are multitaskers, professionals, and diversely trained healthcare providers. At Spring Lake Dental Group, we task our assistants to understand the importance of knowing and understanding our patient’s medical and dental history, as well as the dental procedure to be performed. Every patient is unique and they are challenged to manage them as such. Studying and training is hard and often stressful, mostly because of the quality of care we strive to provide. This is specially why our dental assistants are a crucial part of our team. The relationship between the dentist and the dental assistant is one of major commitment, respect and trust. Every day I honestly and truly say, “I could not have done it without their help.” Thank you all and congratulations on your week!

The Little Ones

We care for the pediatric population.  At Spring Lake Dental Group, we do our best to make sure all children are treated properly.  We take our time, tell-show-do, provide distractions and entertainment with overhead monitors for viewing TV shows and movies, provide laughing gas to help with anxiety, allow parents to remain in the room during care to help the child feel more secure.  Sometimes all of this is not enough.  There are some noisy, fast-moving and ominous looking instruments we use.  Adults get scared too, and children can be more sensitive to that.  If we cannot manage the child, we will refer to a pediatric dentist for care to be performed under oral sedation, “happy juice!”  The goal is for treatment to be done while preventing untoward incidents that can happen if the child moves suddenly, for the child to have a pleasant experience, and to maximize care in as few visits as possible.  When we know that we cannot effectively and safely treat your little ones, we will refer with the best interest of the child at heart.

Oral Trauma

Author: Dr. Alison Vitelli, DMD

Our mouths are designed to resist changes in force, temperature and texture, but they are still not invincible. The human body has tremendous ability to restore damage in the cells and tissue. However, we do recommend keeping any trauma to the tissue to a minimum to decrease the risk of malignancies. So what would be considered an insult to the mucosal lining of our mouths? These will include concentrated exposure to high temperatures and chemicals and habits, among others. Smoking is one of the most common habits that expose the tissue to high temperature, as well as chemical exposure. We see changes in the appearance and anatomy of the minor salivary glands that are present on the palate (roof of the mouth). Also, the keratin layer of the mucosal lining thickens up in order to protect the tissue from the direct contact of the elevated temperature of the smoke. Other areas of the mouth also get impacted by contact with the nicotine and other chemicals such as aspirin, acid reflux, and smokeless tobacco, etc. Each one of these chemicals create a very distinct lesion on the soft tissue of the mouth. Habits such as biting of the cheek and lip can cause bumps and thickening of the mucosa. The body always attempts to react to any unusual exposures. Extended and repeated exposure can lead to a malfunction of tissue repair, leading to the development of suspicious lesion, all of which are to be closely treated and followed upon. Here at Spring Lake Dental Group, is our priority to educate and advise our patients of the importance of a routine check and oral cancer screening.

The Decisions You Make

Author: Dr. David Dickerhoff, DDS, MAGD, FOCOI

I continue to watch the battle our nation is fighting in trying to deal with this pandemic. I do not know if I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, but I remain optimistic. In preparation for the Super Bowl a few weeks ago, I was mesmerized by watching a special on ESPN about our nation’s battle with Saddam Hussein in January of 1991.  The National Football League decided to conduct the Super Bowl that winter even though the operations of Desert Storm were being kicked off earlier that week.  The nation braced itself for the ramifications of war and hoped (and prayed) for the best.  But the game was preceded by a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner sung by a young Whitney Houston.  As I watched commentators reflect on her performance that day with tears in their eyes, it led me to reflect on some of the decisions that I have made in my life.  I couldn’t view that Super Bowl or that dynamic performance sung by Ms. Houston as I was situated somewhere in the desert of Saudi Arabia at a hospital named King Khalid Military Center.  I had volunteered out of my European Dentac to deploy as a fifteen dentist HA team to support our efforts in liberating Kuwait.  I knew my country was trying to keep things as normal as possible during this tumultuous time and playing the football game would help them to cope with the other great events that were happening halfway across the world.  The fact that this young African-American singer would stir our emotions so greatly has now attracted my attention as I reflect on how America is dealing with this current crisis.

I reflect on so many issues that affect our nation; vaccinations, the economy, the new administration, the impeachment trial, virtual learning, as well as the health and safety of our loved ones.  Our practice recently lost one of our dear patients and now her husband has contracted the Covid virus and is in dire trouble.  But as I watched the Super Bowl, I took solace in the fact that this is a great nation built by all of us pulling on a rope in the same direction.  As Americans, we celebrate this month by honoring Black history, President’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Children’s Dental Health Month.  A chance to take stock in all the decisions that we have made that have led us up to this situation we are in right now.

I make critical decisions about your health each and every day as well as decisions concerning the direction the practice will take in navigating this health crisis.  My confidence in the future of this nation and the future of this practice is anchored in reflecting on what we did back in January of 1991.  We dealt well with it then, and we, as a nation, will get back to being the world leader by the decisions we make each day.  Let us pray for guidance that those decisions will be wise, proper and His will.  

Geriatric Population

Author: Kimberly N. Powell, DDS, MS, FAGD

Poor oral health and poor general health coincide. A compromised oral cavity can negatively affect diabetes control and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. As the population ages, there is an increase in the prevalence of certain health conditions and oral maladies. Oral disease can significantly impact the quality of life for older adults, including pain, difficulty with mastication affecting the diet, and reduced socialization as a result of an altered appearance (Colgate Oral Health Network). To help prevent tooth loss, caries, periodontal disease, and the associated discomfort in the geriatric population, we must be aggressive in our care. Whether at home alone, with a caregiver, or in assisted living, it is necessary that proper oral hygiene procedures (i.e.brushing, flossing, rinsing) are being performed by the patient or caregiver, that routine appointments with dental professionals are attended, that it’s identified whether a manual or electric toothbrush is best due to patient’s dexterity, that caries and non-restorable teeth are being treated, that if needed prosthetics are fabricated to aid in maintaining proper nutrition, that caregivers are attentive to changes in the mouth. Prevention is important, but when the condition presents itself, intervention is imperative.