New Year’s Resolutions for Better Oral Health

Laying out goals for the New Year is a great way to inspire yourself to make positive changes that can improve your health. For example, many habits—both good and bad—affect the health of your teeth and gums. Here’s a list of risky habits to kick, and mouth-healthy habits to adopt:

Habits That Risk Oral Health

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Smoking. As if oral cancer weren’t enough to worry about, smoking also promotes gum disease and tooth loss. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, smokers have double the risk of gum disease compared to nonsmokers. And according to the Academy of General Dentistry, Smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth as nonsmokers. For help quitting, visit smokefree.gov.

Snacking. Nibbling all day can create the perfect conditions for tooth decay—especially if your snacks contain sugar and other carbohydrates. Sticky snacks like cookies, crackers, chips and candy bars that cling to teeth tend to remain in the mouth and attract decay-causing oral bacteria. The acid these bacteria produce can penetrate the enamel of your teeth, causing cavities.

Soft Drinks. Speaking of tooth-eroding acid, soft drinks have plenty of it. And this includes both regular and diet varieties of soda, sweetened iced tea, sports drinks and so-called energy drinks. The healthiest drink for your teeth is water!

Mouth-Healthy Habits

Brushing. You probably brush your teeth every day already, but are you doing it correctly? To get the most benefit from this healthy habit, brush twice each day for a full two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with toothpaste that contains fluoride, and don’t scrub too harshly!

Flossing. Yes, it’s worth the effort! If you don’t floss, you’ll miss cleaning about 40% of your tooth surfaces. A toothbrush just can’t reach in between teeth, where decay-causing dental plaque can hide. If you find dental floss difficult to work with, try using disposable floss holders.

Regular Dental Checkups. Keep up a regular schedule of professional teeth cleanings and exams! This allows us to remove any hardened dental plaque (tartar) that has built up on your teeth, screen you for oral cancer, and treat minor dental problems before they become major ones. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to review your at-home oral hygiene.

If you have any questions about how to improve your oral health, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “10 Tips for Daily Oral Care at Home.”

What is Sedation Dentistry?

There are many reasons why someone may be fearful to visit the dentist. For a lot of people, this fear and anxiety leads to avoiding the dentist entirely. Unfortunately, when pain or swelling gets to the point of a dental emergency it can be a very difficult appointment! Dentists certainly recommend a consistent visit, to the dentist, at least twice a year, to catch any cavities while they’re small, but for those with a dental phobia those regular visits become next to impossible.

There are several levels of sedation available to aid in calming anxiety related to dental care.  They include:

  • Nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”
  • Oral medication
  • IV medication
  • Deep sedation

The most common is the use of nitrous oxide or ‘laughing gas’. Since it’s a gas that’s inhaled through the nose it’s very fast-acting. You’re still aware of your surroundings but you don’t care as much! This method helps with relieving mild fear and anxiety. Since it’s a gas, it is flushed out of your system before you leave your appointment. The use of Xanax can be helpful in reducing overall anxiety and its symptoms of high blood pressure and rapid heartbeat that a lot of patient’s experience coming to the dentist. It acts relatively quickly and helps to curb your fear and let you get through an appointment.

A higher level of sedation is the use of oral medication to make you feel sleepy and forgetful. This is called oral conscious sedation (OCS). You’re very sleepy but still conscious with the use of these medications, and you won’t remember much of your time at the dental office! You’ll be monitored the entire time by Dr. Reiser and trained professionals. She’ll also make sure you’re a good candidate by checking your medical history and ensuring all questions are answered prior to your OCS appointment. This lasts a LONG time and is helpful, so we can get a lot of work done, however this is also the downfall as someone will have to stay with you at home and help you for 12-24 hours!

The next level after OCS is the use of medication that goes directly into your bloodstream through an IV. This is commonly used in oral surgeon offices and has a fast onset, and relatively fast recovery when compared to oral sedation. Although you are still conscious and can breathe on your own, you are less likely to be moving around during treatment when some unpleasant stimuli occur. For some people this can mean the sound or smells won’t be bothersome at all!

The highest level of sedation involves the use of the hospital operating room and is a deep sedation where no level of consciousness is maintained. This means that you need to have a tube to help you breathe, and a highly specialized team to provide the dental care.  This sedation is typically to help those that are mentally compromised.

How might dental visits be better for those that are afraid to keep up with dental care and regular visits? Sedation dentistry may be something to consider with Dr. Elizabeth Reiser-Loeber, General Dentist and is offered in our Plainfield, IL office,  Anew Dental and Orthodontic, LLC. Dr. Reiser offers Xanax and oral conscious sedation to adults over 18.  Please request a consultation appointment with Dr. Reiser by calling 815-577-9900 to find out what option is best for you.  She is looking forward to making your next visit to the dentist a relaxing one.

 

Give Yourself the Gift of a New Smile

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The holidays are a season for giving. At this time of year, lots of us spend hours rushing around, looking for the perfect gifts for people we care about. But sometimes, amidst all the hustle and bustle, it doesn’t hurt to step back and think about yourself a little. If a better-looking smile has been on your list but you haven’t taken the first steps, the holiday season might be the right time to give yourself a gift.

Many smile problems, like discolored, chipped or uneven teeth, can be resolved with veneers—wafer-thin porcelain shells that cover the front surfaces of teeth. Veneers are custom-made just for you: They can have a pearly luster to match your existing teeth, or be Hollywood-white for a dazzling red-carpet smile. In just a few visits to the dental office, you can have the smile you’ve always wanted—and a whole new look for the New Year.

If damaged or missing teeth are what’s bothering you, you’ll be happy to know that there are lots of good options for replacing them. If the tooth’s roots are still in good shape, a crown or cap could be the answer. This is a sturdy replacement for the entire visible part of the tooth that not only looks great, but also functions well in your bite—and can last for years to come.

If teeth are missing or can’t be saved, we offer several options for replacement, including fixed (non-removable) bridgework and dental implants. A tried-and-true method for replacing one or more missing teeth, bridges are firmly supported by healthy teeth next to the gap in your smile. These teeth must be prepared to receive the bridge by having some of the tooth’s surface removed.

Dental implants are today’s premier option for tooth replacement. In this high-tech system, a root-like titanium insert, placed directly into the bone beneath the gum, forms a solid anchorage for the visible part of the replacement tooth. Implants look and feel completely natural, and can last for many years. Plus, they don’t require any work to be done on nearby teeth.

What kind of smile makeover is right for you? Just ask us by calling (815) 741-1700! We will be happy to take a look at your smile and recommend a treatment plan. And in this season of generosity, there’s no better gift you can give yourself than a bright new smile.

You can learn more about smile makeovers by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Beautiful Smiles by Design.”

Stephen Colbert Shares Throwback Braces Photo for a Good Cause

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When we look at those glamorous faces on TV, it’s easy to forget that celebrities—like the rest of us—often went through an awkward stage in adolescence.  But once in a while, something comes along to remind us that flawless Hollywood smiles didn’t always start out that way. Right now, that something is the hashtag #PuberMe: an invitation from late-night TV host Stephen Colbert for fellow celebs to post awkward photos from their youth.

In exchange for posting the embarrassing images, Colbert’s charity is donating to the hurricane relief effort for Puerto Rico; so far about $1 million has been raised. Also raised: many eyebrows, by the adorably dorky pictures—such as the one of Colbert himself, with a smile full of metal braces!

Like many kids, Colbert had teeth that didn’t align properly in his bite. The picture shows that several of his top teeth are in less-than-perfect positions, with noticeable gaps in between. Yet to look at that same smile today, you’d never suspect there had been a problem. That’s the magic of orthodontics.

Time-tested and effective, metal braces like the ones in Colbert’s picture remain among the most widely used appliances today. But orthodontics has come a long way since the late 1970’s, and now there are several other methods for correcting misaligned teeth, including ceramic braces, clear plastic aligners, and invisible lingual braces. The main advantage of the newer methods is that are they are harder to notice (and maybe a bit less awkward).

Ceramic braces, for example, have brackets that match the color of the teeth; with only the thin archwire visible, they’re much more unobtrusive. Clear aligners are transparent plastic trays that completely cover the teeth. Almost impossible to spot, they are worn 22 hours per day, but may be removed for eating or important events. Lingual braces are literally invisible, since they are placed on the tongue side of teeth rather than the lip side. In many situations, they are at least as effective as traditional braces.

Which appliance is best for you? It depends on each person’s individual situation—but many orthodontic patients now have choices that weren’t available in the past. And that goes for both kids and adults, who often appreciate a more “grown-up” image while improving their smiles with orthodontic treatment.

If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Clear Aligners for Teenagers” and “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”

Chronic Dry Mouth Could be Increasing Your Risk of Dental Disease

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Perhaps you haven’t thought of it quite this way, but saliva is one of the true wonders of the human body. This unassuming fluid performs a variety of tasks to aid digestion and help protect your mouth from disease. And you hardly notice it — except when it’s not there.

That’s the case for millions of people in America who have a chronic condition called xerostomia or “dry mouth.” This happens when the salivary glands don’t secrete enough saliva, normally two to four pints daily.

Of course, we can experience mouth dryness when we first wake up (saliva flow ebbs while we sleep), feel stressed, use tobacco, or consume alcohol and certain foods like onions or spices. It becomes a problem, though, when periods of low saliva become chronic. Without its preventive capabilities, you’ll be at much higher risk for dental diseases like tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease.

Chronic dry mouth can occur for various reasons: systemic diseases like cancer or autoimmune deficiencies can cause it, as well as radiation or chemotherapy treatments. One of the most common causes, though, is medication, both over-the-counter and prescription. The surgeon general identifies over 500 known drugs that may inhibit saliva production, including some antihistamines, diuretics and antidepressants. It’s often why older people who take more medications than younger people suffer more as a population from dry mouth.

Because of its long-term health effects, it’s important to try to boost saliva flow. If your mouth is consistently dry, try to drink more fluids during the day. If you suspect your medication, see if your physician can prescribe a different drug. It also helps to drink a little water before and after taking oral medication.

We may also recommend medication or other substances that stimulate saliva or temporarily substitute for it. Xylitol, a natural alcohol sugar that also inhibits bacterial growth, can help relieve dryness. You’ll often find it in gums or mints.

Chronic dry mouth is more than a minor irritation — it can lead to more serious conditions. In addition to these tips, be sure to also keep up your regular dental visits and maintain a daily schedule of oral hygiene to prevent dental disease.

If you would like more information on overcoming dry mouth, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dry Mouth: Learn about the Causes and Treatment of this Common Problem.”

Help Your Kids Have a Healthier Halloween

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Halloween means loads of fun for kids everywhere: a chance to put on fanciful costumes and have some safe, spooky enjoyment. But the reward for all that trick-or-treating — bags full of sugary candy — can create monstrous problems for young smiles, in the form of tooth decay. Short of taking all those treats away, are there any ways to lessen the impact on your children’s teeth?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the answer is: Yes!

As long as kids are brushing twice and flossing once a day, it’s okay for them to enjoy a few sweet treats on Halloween. But starting that same night, or the next day, you can help protect them from cavities. Here’s how:

Sort It Out:
Some treats are potentially more damaging to teeth than others. For example, candy that’s sticky and clings to teeth — like gummy bears and taffy — takes longer to get cleared away by saliva. Lengthier contact with the teeth increases the risk of tooth decay. The same is true for sweets that stay in the mouth for a long time, like hard candy. Sour candy is often acidic, and that acid can weaken the hard enamel coating of teeth, making them more prone to decay. But there’s some good news: Chocolate, a favorite treat, washes off the teeth relatively quickly — and dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate.

Give It Away:
You can always give away some or all of your candy stash to people who will appreciate it: first responders or troops serving overseas, for example. Some organizations sponsor donation (or even buyback) programs. Try searching the web for programs like “Operation Gratitude,” among others.

Timing Is Everything:
If you do allow candy, limit it to mealtimes. That’s when saliva production is at its peak — and saliva helps neutralize acids and wash away food residue that can cause cavities. Whatever you do, don’t let kids snack on sweet treats from the candy dish throughout the day: This never gives your mouth a chance to bounce back from the sugary saturation.

Get Healthy Hydration:
For quenching thirst, water is the best choice. It helps your body stay properly hydrated and is needed for healthful saliva production. Sugary or acidic beverages like sodas (regular or diet), so-called “sports” or “energy” drinks, and even fruit juices can harm teeth. Fluoridated water (like most municipal tap water) has been shown to help prevent tooth decay. If you drink bottled water, look for a fluoridated variety.

Following these tips — and making sure your kids maintain good oral health with brushing, flossing, and routine dental office visits — will help keep them safe from cavities, not only at Halloween but all year long. If you have questions about cavity prevention or oral hygiene, please contact our office or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay — How to Assess Your Risk” and “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”

Your New Implants Need Proper Hygiene Just as Much as your Other Teeth

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So, you’ve just acquired an attractive restoration with dental implants. You may be thinking at least with these teeth you won’t have to worry about dental disease.

Think again. While the implants and their porcelain crowns are impervious to decay the surrounding gums and bone are still vulnerable to infection. In fact, you could be at risk for a specific type of periodontal (gum) disease called peri-implantitis (inflammation around the implant).

Bacterial plaque, the thin bio-film most responsible for gum disease, can build up on implant crowns just as it does on natural tooth surfaces. If it isn’t removed with daily brushing and flossing and regular dental cleanings the bacteria can trigger an infection in the gums.

Besides weakening gum tissues, gum disease can also cause bone loss, of critical importance to dental implants. An implant depends on the bone they’re inserted in to hold them in place. If the bone around an implant becomes infected it could begin to be lost or dissolve (resorb), which could lead to loss of the implant.

That’s why it’s critical to keep the natural tissue structures supporting your implants infection-free. Not only is daily hygiene a must, but your implants and any remaining natural teeth should undergo professional cleaning at least twice a year or more if your dentist recommends it.

Cleanings involving implants will also be a bit different from natural teeth. While the dental materials used in the crown and implant post are quite durable, regular cleaning instruments can scratch them. Although tiny, these scratches can become hiding places for bacteria and increase your risk of infection.

To avoid this, your hygienist will use instruments (known as scalers and curettes) usually made of plastics or resins rather than metal. The hygienist may still use metal instruments on your remaining natural teeth because their enamel can tolerate metal without becoming scratched creating a smoother surface.

While keeping implants clean can sometimes be a challenge, it’s not impossible. Implants on average have a long-term success rate above 95%. With both you and your dentist caring and maintaining these state-of-the-art restorations, you may be able to enjoy them for decades.

If you would like more information on caring for dental implants, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implant Maintenance: Implant Teeth must be Cleaned Differently.”

Toothbrushing Tips

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October is National Dental Hygiene Month. It’s a great time to talk about your first line of dental defense: your toothbrush.

Are you getting the most out of your tooth-brushing routine at home? Your toothbrush is the primary tool to maintain oral health on a daily basis, so here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Brush gently twice a day, every day, for two minutes each time using a soft toothbrush. Scrubbing with too much force or with hard bristles can damage gums and tooth enamel.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride is a mineral that builds tooth enamel to prevent tooth decay.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months or when the bristles start to look frayed, curled, or worn.
  • Rinse out your mouth thoroughly after brushing to get rid of bacteria and food debris that you worked loose from your teeth.
  • Also rinse your toothbrush well after each use to wash away the debris and bacteria you just brushed from your teeth.
  • Let your toothbrush dry out between uses. A toothbrush that is stored in a closed container can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Keep your toothbrush to yourself. Sharing toothbrushes is a way to share disease-causing germs as well.

Follow these pointers and come in for regular dental visits to help ensure healthy teeth and a bright smile. If you have any questions about your dental hygiene routine, be sure to ask us by calling (815) 741-1700.

To learn more, read these informative articles in Dear Doctor magazine: “Manual vs. Powered Toothbrushes” and “10 Tips For Daily Oral Care at Home.”

Think You Have Sleep Apnea? Find Out for Sure to Get the Right Treatment

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Fatigue, irritability and family complaints about snoring — all tell-tale signs you may have sleep apnea. There’s more to this condition than being grouchy the next day — the long-term effect could increase your risks for life-threatening diseases.

But how do you know if you actually have sleep apnea? And if you do, what can you do about it?

Undergo an exam by a physician trained in “sleep medicine.” Sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes blocked while you sleep, dropping the body’s oxygen levels; your body awakens to re-open the airway. The event may only last a few seconds, but it can occur several times a night. Even so, sleep apnea is one potential cause among others for snoring or fatigue. To know for sure if you have sleep apnea you’ll need to undergo an examination by a physician trained to diagnose this condition. He or she may then refer you to a dentist to make a sleep appliance if you have mild to moderate apnea.

Determine the level of your apnea’s intensity. Not all cases of sleep apnea are equal — they can range in cause and intensity from mild to advanced, the latter a reason for concern and focused intervention. Your physician may use different methods for determining the intensity of your case: review of your medical history, examining the structures within your mouth or having your sleep observed directly at a sleep lab. Getting the full picture about your sleep apnea will make it easier to develop a treatment plan.

Match the appropriate treatment to your level of sleep apnea. If you have moderate to advanced apnea, you may benefit from continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, an electrical pump that delivers pressurized air through a mask worn while you sleep that gently forces the airway open. It’s quite effective, but uncomfortable to wear for some people. Advanced cases may also require surgery to alter or remove soft tissue obstructions. If, you have mild to slightly moderate apnea, though, your dentist may have the solution: a custom-fitted mouth guard that moves the tongue, the most common airway obstruction, down and away from the back of the throat.

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, see a trained physician for an examination. It’s your first step to a good night’s sleep and better overall health.

If you would like more information on sleep apnea treatments, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation.

September is National Gum Care Month

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It’s National Gum Care Month. Let’s a moment to talk about why it’s so important to take care of your gums.

Gum disease affects almost half of adults over age 30 and approximately 70 percent of adults over age 65. The first stage of gum disease is called gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums. With gingivitis, gums can be red and puffy, and bleed easily when brushing or flossing. If gingivitis is not treated, it can progress to periodontitis, where the structures supporting the teeth, including the bone, begin to break down and be lost. Advanced stages of gum disease can lead to tooth loss and general health problems.

The good news is that gum disease is treatable — and early gum disease is even reversible. So what can you do to take care of your gums?

  • Be diligent about your oral hygiene routine at home: Your first line of defense is your oral hygiene routine at home. Brush your teeth gently morning and night, using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Brushing too vigorously can harm your gums and cause them to recede. It is also important to floss every day to dislodge plaque that can build up between the teeth and around the gum line.
  • Come in for professional dental cleanings and exams: Schedule regular professional cleanings to remove the plaque that is hard to reach. If plaque is not removed, it can harden to form tartar (or “calculus”). Only professional cleanings with special dental tools can remove tartar. When plaque and tartar form below the gum line, your bone that supports the teeth may be at risk. We can examine your mouth above and below the gum line to detect and monitor any signs of gum disease and recommend appropriate treatments.

We are always happy to talk with you about how to maintain the health of your gums. Remember that early gum disease is very treatable, so take care of your gums, and they’ll take care of you!

If you would like more information about gum health, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation.