Nora Dental Blog

Nail Biters Anonymous

It’s the beginning of a New Year and as the saying goes, “New Year, New You.”  This is the most opportune time to resolve to kicking your pesky nail biting habit.  Your motivation may be to have longer, prettier nails but ditching the nail biting can also greatly benefit your dental health.  This bad habit also originates in childhood with an estimated 60% of kids and 45% of teenagers being consistent nail biters.  The habit is less common as adulthood approaches but it is still estimated that 30% of adults continue to bite their nails.  

Regular nail biting can lead to cracked, chipped, or worn down front teeth from the stress caused by biting.  Another risk that comes with compulsive nail biting is sore or damaged gum tissue (caused by the rough, jagged nails) which furthers the spread of bacteria from other body parts to the mouth.  A new study also concluded that nail biters are at a much higher risk for bruxism which is the unconscious clenching or grinding of teeth.  This can lead to flat looking tips of teeth, tooth enamel that is worn off, extreme sensitivity, and even indentations of the tongue.  Extreme nail biting cases can even lead to TMJ which includes pain in the muscles and ligaments that are used to chew.  

Despite all of the negative effects that nail biting can have on your teeth (not to mention your nails and nail beds) there are ways to help combat this compulsive habit.  

  • Paint nails with a bitter tasting polish that is specifically designed to help nail biters break the habit
  • Regularly manicure your nails and keep them as short as possible to help eliminate the possibility of chomping away
  • If stress is the trigger to your nail biting, try meditation or yoga to calm your nerves
  • Spend your hard earned money on professional manicures.  Knowing you’re financially invested in your nails will help motivate you to not ruin them
  • Take note of when you usually bite your nails (driving, high stress times, bored, hungry, angry, etc).  Once you can narrow down the instigator you can focus on avoiding nail biting during that time
  • Keep your mouth and hands busy.  Chew gum so your mouth is preoccupied.  Get a stress ball to squeeze or even a fidget spinner to keep your hands busy.  
  • Start small: Vow to not bite the nails on your right hand or even smaller by vowing to not bite your pinky fingers.  Every couple of days add another finger to not bite and eventually you will be nail bite free!  
Potential Signs and Symptoms of HPV-Related Head and Neck Cancer

Here at Nora Dental Associates, P.C. we perform oral cancer screenings at every single preventive visit.  If you are concerned about a symptom you are having contact us today for an appointment.  (317.575.2888) 

Potential Symptoms:

  • A sore, or soreness or irritation that doesn’t go away
  • Red or white patches, or pain, tenderness, or numbness in mouth or lips
  • Lumps, thickening tissues, rough spots, crusty or eroded areas
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your jaw or tongue
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Feeling like something is caught in your throat for an extended period of time
  • Hoarseness, a change in voice
  • Persistent earaches
  • Pain when swallowing 
  • Unexplained weight loss 

Contact a medical professional if you’ve had any of these for 2 or more weeks.

HPV-Related Oral Cancer in Men

Science had long believed that HPV (Human Papillomavirus) was a female specific disease that presented few symptoms and that men were only potential carriers of the virus.  The lack of prevalent & instant symptoms is primarily why there was no real focus on protecting men from getting HPV. All of that is now changing with more research and statistics that prove that HPV can be detrimental to men, especially HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers, also referred to as head and neck cancers.

About HPV

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can be transmitted disease that current estimates suggest 79 million individuals currently have.  This number only seems to be growing with an estimated 14 million new cases each year. There are more than 40 different types of HPV and many of them fought off easily by the body's’ immune system without causing any health problems.  There are certain high-risk strains of HPV that can remain dormant for years, even decades. These previously dormant strains can cause anything from gential warts to cancers.

Oropharyngeal Cancer and Men

With HPV cases constantly on the rise and it’s ability to cause cancer it is no wonder that head and neck cancers are increasing.  What is curious though is the rate at which men are suffering from these head and neck cancers compared to women. Men are in fact,  3-5 times more vulnerable to oropharyngeal cancer than women. HPV is associated with 9,000 cases of head and neck cancers in the U.S. each year.  

(Click HERE to see potential symptoms of HPV-related Head and Neck Cancer)

Why Men and What Can Be Done?

There are a number of possibilities to explain the vast discrepancy between men and women who develop HPV-related head and neck cancer.  One explanation is that men may take longer than women to develop protective antibodies to HPV. There is also no annual screening test for men to determine if they have contracted the HPV virus.  Women, on the other hand, are told to get annual pap smears to help detect HPV and pre-cancerous cells that could have been caused by the HPV-virus. “We’re at a huge disadvantage,” said Sikora, who,treats patients at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston. “The pap smear, in terms of global health impact, is probably one of the best, most cost-effective things ever invented in terms of just the sheer number of women who have not had cancers because of it. We have nothing like that for men.”  Anatomy is to blame as well. While the cervix is easily sampled the tonsils, throat, or back of the tongue are a bit more tricky and scientists have not yet developed a reliable technique for retrieving a representative sample of cells.

Another reason for the influx of men developing head and neck cancer compared to women is the late start men and young boys are getting to the HPV vaccine.  In 2007 when the vaccine Gardasil hit the market it was intended primarily to prevent HPV in females (and therefore cervical cancer caused by HPV). Now we know that men can be infected with HPV as well and develop cancer because of it, doctors have started recommending that both young women (up to age 26) and young men (up to age 21) receive the 2-part vaccine.  There is much more research to date about the HPV vaccine preventing cervical cancer and very little research about its effectiveness in preventing oropharyngeal cancers. The data that does currently exist suggests that the vaccines will be a very effective intervention.

While there are still generations of men that have been exposed to HPV without the option of having the HPV vaccine who still need to be aware of potential signs and symptoms of head and neck cancer, we highly suggest that parents get their children (both male and female) vaccinated against this potentially catastrophic virus.  

For more information about HPV or to get an oral cancer screening, contact our office, Noral Dental Associates, P.C. at 317.575.2888.  

E-Cigs Vs. Teeth

Unless you’ve been blissfully ignorant this past year about the potential health risks involved with e-cigarettes (vaping) you know that they are not good for you.  Not only do many of them contain the highly addictive nicotine but the side effects of “vaping” are extensive. Some of those side effects include: nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, eye irritation, high blood pressure, seizures, and even coma.  Additionally, the FDA reported that it has discovered cancer-causing substances called nitrosamines. What you may not have known though is that e-cigarettes may very well increase your cavity risk.  

E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid that contains a plethora of chemicals as well as sweet flavors that contain saccharides and/or acids.  These sugars and acids interact with the tooth enamel in a similar fashion as hard candies. There is prolonged exposure of the teeth to these saccharides and acids which work to erode the enamel.  E-cigarettes are now the most used tobacco product amongst middle and high schoolers in the U.S.  

Unfortunately, this is the same population segment that eats the most amount of high sucrose foods as well as the same segment that has the lowest oral hygiene upkeep.  The combination of all of these risk factors is a recipe for a cavity filled disaster.

The Halloween Candy Pro's and Con's

I think it’s a safe assumption that most people realize candy is not good for your teeth.  Not only can sticky candy remove caps/crowns, fillings, and harm braces, but there is bacteria in your mouth that feeds on the sugar and creates acid that erodes tooth enamel.  But I also realize that a Halloween without candy is really no Halloween at all so we are going to help determine the best and worst candies for your dental health! 

Candies to avoid:  

  • Chewy Candy (Airheads, Twizzlers, Taffy, etc) : Besides the obvious sugar aspect, these candies linger longer in your mouth which gives them additional time to cause tooth decay.
  • Sour or Citrus Flavored Candy (Sour Patch Kids, Lemonheads, etc): In addition to being sugary and often times chewy, they contain a high level of acid that eats away at your enamel.
  • Hard Candies (Suckers, Jolly Ranchers, Gobstoppers, etc):  The entire purpose of these candies are to be long-lasting but unfortunately that is exactly why they have made our candies to avoid list.  The longer these candies are allowed to marinate in your mouth the more damage they can do. Our best advice is that if you or your kids indulge in one of these hard candies to brush your teeth immediately following finishing the candy.

Your Best Bet:

  • Chocolate:  Not only are chocolate bars among the nutritionally healthier of candies but they are your best choice for dental health as well.  Chocolate tends to wash off of the teeth quicker and easier with your saliva than that of other types of candies which greatly shortens the amount of time the sugars are exposed to your teeth.  If you really want to go the extra mile for your teeth and overall health, choose a dark chocolate that contains less sugar or a chocolate covered fruit or nut for additional nutritional health.

With all things, the key to dental health (and overall physical health) lies in the key of moderation.  We hope you have a fun & healthy Halloween!