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Cedar Rapids, IA 52402
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Recovering from Oral Surgery

May 27th, 2020

If you need oral surgery, Dr. Kristin Morris and our team will use our expertise and training to ensure that you have the best possible surgical outcome. And we want to make sure you have the best possible outcome for your recovery as well. Here are a few of the most common aftercare suggestions for making your healing as comfortable and rapid as possible.

  • Reduce Swelling

Ice packs or cold compresses can reduce swelling. We’ll instruct you how to use them if needed, and when to call our Cedar Rapids, IA office if swelling persists.

  • Reduce Bleeding

Some amount of bleeding is normal after many types of oral surgery. We might give you gauze pads to apply to the area, with instructions on how much pressure to apply and how long to apply it. We will also let you know what to do if the bleeding continues longer than expected.

  • Reduce Pain or Discomfort

If you have some pain after surgery, over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen might be all that you need. We can recommend those which are best for you. If you need a prescription for pain medication, be sure to take it as directed and always let us know in advance if you have any allergies or other reactions to medications.

  • Recovery-friendly Diet

Take it easy for the first few days after oral surgery. Liquids and soft foods are best for several days following surgery. We will let you know what type of diet is indicated and how long you should follow it depending on your particular procedure. We might, for example, recommend that you avoid alcohol and tobacco, spicy, crunchy, and chewy foods, and hot foods or beverages for several days or several weeks.

  • Take Antibiotics If Needed

If you have been prescribed an antibiotic, be sure to take it as directed. If you have any allergies to antibiotics, let us know in advance.

  • Protect the Wound

Do NOT use straws, smoke, or suck on foods. Avoid spitting.  Part of the healing process can involve the formation of a clot over the surgical site which protects the wound. If the clot is dislodged by suction or spitting, it can prolong your recovery time, or even lead to a potentially serious condition called “dry socket.”

  • Maintain Oral Hygiene

Depending on your surgery, we might recommend that you avoid rinsing your mouth for 24 hours, use salt water rinses when appropriate, and keep away from the surgical site when brushing. It’s important to keep your mouth clean, carefully and gently.

  • Take it Easy!

Rest the day of your surgery and keep your activities light in the days following.

These are general guidelines for recovery. If you have oral surgery scheduled, we will supply you with instructions for your specific procedure, and can tailor your aftercare to fit any individual needs. Our goal is to make sure that both your surgery and your recovery are as comfortable as possible.

How to Prevent Dry Socket

May 20th, 2020

When you have a tooth extracted, your body immediately sets to work to help protect the affected area. The blood that collects at the site of the extraction clots to cover and protect the wound. This is a normal response, and protects the nerves and bone that have been exposed with the removal of your tooth. Normally, the gum tissue will close over the area within a few weeks.

But sometimes the clot becomes dislodged or moved before you have a chance to heal. The result is that the nerves and bone in the extraction site are exposed to air and outside substances. Bacteria can contaminate the wound and lead to pain, infection, and further damage. This condition is known as dry socket.

There are certain activities that should definitely be avoided so you are not at risk for dry socket.

  • Straws and suction: The action of using a straw causes suction that can dislodge the clot. You can still enjoy the soothing coolness of a milkshake, but use a spoon.
  • Spitting: You might be tempted to rinse and spit immediately to clean your mouth, but spitting can also dislodge the clot. We will let you know how to clean your mouth and teeth for the next few days.
  • Smoking: Not only does smoking provide a suction effect that can remove the clot, but smoking and chewing tobacco can slow healing as well.

There are also steps you can take to aid the healing process.

  • Caring for your extraction site

Dr. Kristin Morris will give you instructions on caring for your mouth and teeth for the next few days. Gentle care for the extraction site is vital. And treat yourself gently as well. Rest if you need to, and avoid activities that might impact your wound.

  • Think about your diet

Stick to soft foods for the first day or so and chew on the side opposite your extraction site. Carbonated and caffeinated beverages should be avoided, as well as food like peanuts or popcorn that lodge in the teeth.

  • Watch for symptoms of dry socket

How do you know if you have a dry socket? Monitor your pain and the appearance of the site after the extraction. For the first few days, you might feel some pain in the immediate area. Pain that intensifies after three or four days is usually not a result of the extraction. An unpleasant odor or taste in your mouth could be a sign of dry socket. You might look in the mirror and notice that the clot is no longer there, or appears to have been dislodged. If any of these symptoms occur, call our Cedar Rapids, IA office at once. If you are experiencing dry socket, the extraction site needs to be cleaned and protected from further injury, and we can prescribe antibiotics if needed.

Dry socket is a rare occurrence, but if you have any symptoms that concern you, we want to hear about them. We will work with you to make your extraction go as smoothly as possible. Talk to us about your concerns before any procedure, and we will provide detailed information for the healing process. Keep us in the loop as you recuperate, and we will work together to make your recovery a speedy one.

Need Another Reason to Stop Biting Your Nails?

May 13th, 2020

Painful nails and cuticles, ruined manicures, reluctance to shake hands—there are so many good reasons to overcome the nail biting habit. But did you know that biting your nails is also bad for your dental health? Let’s look at a few more reasons to give our nails a break.

  • Bacteria Bonanza

It’s a vicious—and unhealthy—circle. Nail biting leads to injuries to the nails, cuticles, and skin surrounding the nails. These broken, jagged nails can now cause injury to delicate gum tissue. And to make things worse, fingernails harbor a lot of germs and bacteria, leading to the risk of illness and oral infections.  At the same time, bacteria from our mouths can get into the area around the injured nail, potentially leading to painful infections in the fingers.

  • Bruxism

Studies have indicated that nail biters have a greater risk of bruxism. Bruxism, better known as tooth grinding, can lead to a number of serious problems over time. Grinding and even clenching teeth on a regular basis can cause chronic headaches, worn enamel, fractured teeth, broken dental restorations, receding and inflamed gums, and loose teeth.

  • Breakage & Bad Bites

Your nails suffer obvious breakage, clearly, but your teeth are also at risk. The constant pressure of nail biting can lead to cracking, chipping, and erosion in the front teeth. Further, the pressure put on your teeth can even move them out of alignment, leading to bite problems. As you can imagine, nail biting has an even greater impact if you are wearing braces, because those teeth are already under pressure.

Why do we bite? Nail biting, or onychophagia, is a habit often started in childhood. Some people quit on their own as they reach adulthood, but for others, it can be a lifelong and painful habit. The explanations for nail biting are many: some researchers regard the habit as a form of compulsive behavior, others believe it to be a grooming impulse gone haywire, still others think it’s a way that we respond to anxiety or other stresses.

Whatever the cause, if you want to break the habit, you have options. There are over the counter polishes that use an unpleasant taste to deter biting. Learning to recognize triggers such as stress or boredom can help you choose a different response, such as snapping a rubber band around your wrist or gripping a stress ball. Dr. Kristin Morris can recommend some techniques for modifying this behavior. And finally, we can offer you suggestions for quitting, or even customize a mouthguard at our Cedar Rapids, IA office to discourage nail biting and prevent the problems that come with bruxism.

It’s never too late to quit. If nail biting has become more than a cosmetic problem, let’s work on a solution. Healthy, attractive nails are a great goal to work toward, but nothing beats a beautiful, healthy smile!

Carbs and Cavities

May 6th, 2020

The Good News

Carbohydrates are one of the body’s essential macronutrients (along with protein and fat). We use carbs to convert the food we eat into energy. How does this work? It’s a sophisticated process:

  • Carbs break down into sugars as we digest them
  • Sugars are absorbed into our bloodstream
  • The pancreas releases insulin when blood sugar levels rise
  • Insulin enables sugars to move from our blood to our cells
  • Cells throughout the body use this sugar for energy.

Without the necessary amount of carbohydrates, our bodies lose a vital source of energy. So, why are carbs a dental concern?

The Bad News

Some foods immediately begin breaking down into sugars in the mouth. Sugars are a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that form plaque. They use this sugar to produce the acids that weaken our enamel and lead to cavities. And the more often we eat these foods, and the longer they remain in the mouth, the more damage our enamel suffers.

But there’s a silver lining! We can be healthier physically and get a jump on preventing damage from sugary treats by becoming more discriminating in our choice of carbs and timing our indulgences wisely.

Good Carb/Bad Carb

Unprocessed, complex carbohydrates are found in foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, and vegetables. They contain the vitamins, minerals, and fibers which are lost when foods are refined. They are composed of larger, more complex molecules, and so they break down gradually for sustained energy.

Some simple carbohydrates break down into sugars more quickly, but also offer important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fruits and dairy products, for example, are an important part of a balanced diet.

But some carbs are not pulling their nutritional weight. Refined sugars (think candies, desserts, and sodas) and refined starches (white bread and rice, potato chips, pastries) break down quickly into sugar in the mouth. Worse, many of these foods tend to stick around. Sticky sugars and sticky starches cling to our enamel and hide between the teeth and in the crevices of our molars. Not only do these treats provide a sugary feast for acid-producing bacteria, they take their time doing it!

So, What to Do?

If you have a diet filled with healthy carbs (whole grains, fruit and vegetables, legumes, dairy products), you’re already on the right track. Kudos! But does this mean no desserts? Ever?

No! We all need a cookie sometimes. But you can decrease the chance of enamel damage by interrupting the carbs to cavities cycle.

First, if you are indulging in a rich dessert or some salty chips, better to do it as part of a meal. When you eat a full meal, your body produces more saliva. Saliva not only helps wash away food particles, it also helps neutralize the acids that damage enamel.

Secondly, if you eat simple carbs and sugars all day, your mouth and teeth are being treated to acids all day. If you are going for a snack, there are many great options that don’t use refined sugars and starches. Think fruit smoothies (with a big dollop of vegetables) or whole-grain crackers with hard cheese instead of a can of soda and a bag of pretzels.

Carbs aren’t really bad, they’re just misunderstood. Talk to Dr. Kristin Morris at your next checkup at our Cedar Rapids, IA office for ideas for the best carbohydrate choices for healthy metabolisms and healthy smiles!

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