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Curing the Nail-Biting Habit

August 22nd, 2017

Do you ever find yourself gnawing at your nails? Nail-biting is a very common and difficult to break habit which usually has its beginnings in childhood. It can leave your fingers and nail beds red and swollen. But if you think that your nails are the only ones getting roughed up by nail-biting you'd be mistaken—so are your teeth!

According to a study by the Academy of General Dentistry, those who bite their nails, clench their teeth, or chew on pencils are at much higher risk to develop bruxism (unintentional grinding of the teeth). Bruxism can lead to tooth sensitivity, tooth loss, receding gums, headaches, and general facial pain.

Those are some nasty sounding side effects from chewing on your nails. Most nail-biting is a sign of stress or anxiety and its something you should deal with. So what steps can you take if you have a nail-biting habit?

There are several things you can do to ease up on nail-biting:

  • Trim your nails shorter and/or get regular manicures – Trimming your nails shorter is an effective remedy. In so doing, they'll be less tempting and more difficult to bite on. If you also get regular manicures, you’ll be less likely to ruin the investment you’ve made in your hands and fingernails!
  • Find a different kind of stress reduction – Try meditation, deep breathing, practicing qigong or yoga, or doing something that will keep your hands occupied like squeezing a stress ball or playing with a yo-yo.
  • Wear a bitter-tasting nail polish – When your nails taste awful, you won't bite them! Clear or colored, it doesn't matter. This is also a helpful technique for helping children get over the habit.
  • Figure out what triggers your nail-biting – Sometimes it's triggered by stress or anxiety and other times it can be a physical stressor, like having hang nails. Knowing what situations cause you to bite your nails will help you to avoid them and break the habit.
  • Wear gloves or bandages on your fingers – If you've tried the steps above and they aren't working, this technique can prove effective since your fingernails won't be accessible to bite.

If you're still having trouble with nail-biting after trying these self-help steps, it's best to consult your doctor, dermatologist, or Dr. Jennifer Splitt. For some, it may also be the sign of a deeper psychological or emotional problem.

Whatever the cause, nail-biting is a habit you need to break for your physical and emotional well-being. If you have any questions about the effects it can have on your oral health, please don't hesitate to ask Dr. Jennifer Splitt during your next visit to our Lemont, IL office.

How Smoking Increases the Risk of Oral Cancer

August 15th, 2017

Cigarette smoke contains more than 6,000 chemicals, and at least 200 of those chemicals are known to be harmful to your health. When smoke is inhaled, moist oral tissues are saturated with excessive amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and a host of other known carcinogens. Most oral cancers originate in abnormal squamous cell activity, which are cells found on the lips, inside the mouth, and in the throat.

How Oral Cancer Begins

Cells exposed to consistently high levels of cigarette smoke may eventually suffer abnormal mutations within their DNA. Since deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is responsible for providing cells with instructions about growth, reproduction, and death, these instructions become distorted, which causes the cells to reproduce uncontrollably.

Essentially, that is what cancer is: rapid, unchecked growth of genetically mutated cells that encourages the development of malignant tumors. Unfortunately, the chemicals in cigarette smoke are strongly associated with oral cancer.

Signs of Oral Cancer

Early-stage oral cancer is often asymptomatic, which means symptoms appear only after the cancer intensifies and spreads. Possible signs of oral cancer include:

  • Ulcers inside the mouth or on the lips that do not heal
  • White or dark red patches inside the mouth
  • Lumps inside or around the mouth (a lump could appear on your neck)
  • Bleeding, numbness, and soreness in the mouth
  • Chronic halitosis
  • Loose teeth in the absence of tooth decay

Diagnosis and Treatment of Oral Cancer

Squamous cell oral cancer is the most common type diagnosed in smokers. Dr. Jennifer Splitt and our staff often discover squamous cell carcinoma lesions during dental examinations or cancer screenings. Depending on the stage of the oral cancer, treatment may begin with a biopsy or an exfoliative cytology procedure that involves collecting cells from the oral cavity using a scraper.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, oral cancer patients may need surgery, radiation therapy, a combination of surgery and radiation therapy, or chemotherapy to eradicate oral cancer.

Smoking, Cancer, and Tooth Decay

Not only is smoking the number-one cause of cancer but it is also detrimental to the overall health of your teeth and gums. Yellow teeth, bad breath, dry mouth, and expedited tooth decay are all caused by smoking, not to mention the damage smoke does to the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

In other words, don’t smoke!

Are you at risk for sleep apnea?

August 8th, 2017

If you are one of the more than 12 million North Americans who suffers from sleep apnea, Dr. Jennifer Splitt and our team want you to know we can help. Sleep apnea, a disorder that causes frequent disruption to your body’s sleep patterns, is also potentially dangerous, as it causes abnormal pauses in breathing or very shallow breathing during the night.

For those who suffer from sleep apnea, it may seem impossible to wake up feeling rested and energized. You may, for example, sleep for eight hours, but your body might have only received three or four hours of quality sleep.

Besides losing a good night’s sleep, the risk of heart attack and stroke have been linked to sleep apnea. Other conditions associated with sleep apnea include depression, irritability, high blood pressure, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction.

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax to the point of inhibiting natural breathing. The muscles used to support the soft palate relax and the airway closes, causing breathing to stop for anywhere from ten to 20 seconds, which is dangerous because it lowers the oxygen level in the brain.

Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, and CPAP devices (continuous positive airway pressure), among other treatments, are often prescribed for sleep apnea treatment. Another treatment option is an oral sleep apnea appliance, which positions your mouth in a way that brings your lower jaw forward and opens up your airway for unobstructed breathing.

At Lemont Family Dental, we truly care about the health and well-being of our patients. In fact, we regularly screen our patients for sleep disorders during their regular checkups, and we will refer you to a sleep apnea specialist if an issue is detected. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call at our Lemont, IL office if you think you have sleep apnea or if you have any questions or concerns!

Headaches, TMJ, and Dentistry

August 1st, 2017

That ache in your head may stem from your jaw. If your jaw falls out of alignment, you could have temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD.

It's not clear what causes TMD. Obesity may factor in. Stress and pressure on the jaw may also contribute. A misaligned bite (that is, where your upper and lower teeth don't fit together when you close your mouth) may cause TMD symptoms, too.

TMD can affect your life and your health by making it painful to eat and hard to sleep. Some people find the nagging pain difficult to bear.

Symptoms of TMD include:

  • Recurring headaches with no other cause
  • Pain along and behind your ears
  • Pain in your cheeks or lower face
  • Clicking noises when you talk or chew
  • Tired or sore jaw muscles after eating
  • Limited jaw movement

If you experience the symptoms listed here, make an appointment with our office. We’ll take an X-ray to look at your bite, and determine if TMD could be the culprit. If you have TMD we can offer a number of treatments, including:

  • Relaxation and stress reduction techniques
  • Pain reduction recommendations, which might involve visualization or medication
  • Jaw joint exercises that can help reduce stress and improve your alignment

Left untreated, TMD headaches and other symptoms can become quite severe. If you suffer the symptoms of TMD, you do not have to live in pain. Make an appointment at our Lemont, IL office to learn how we can reduce your pain and restore comfort to your life.

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