Author Archives: admin

Chronic Dry Mouth Could be Increasing Your Risk of Dental Disease

dry mouth.

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

halloween.

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

implants.

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

toothbrush.

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

sleep apnea.

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

gum care.

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.

You’ll Experience Little to No Discomfort During and After Implant Surgery

implant surgery.

You’ve decided to obtain dental implants for your missing teeth. It’s a good choice — they provide the closest restoration to the function and appearance of natural teeth. You will, however, need to undergo a surgical procedure to imbed the implants’ threaded titanium posts into supporting bone.

It’s understandable if you’re a little apprehensive about undergoing surgery. We’re here, though, to set your mind at ease: implantation is a relatively minor procedure carefully planned in advance. Most patients experience no discomfort during the procedure and very little afterward.

We begin by completely numbing the surgical site with a local anesthetic. If you have a high level of anxiety, we can also administer a sedative or similar medication to help you relax. We then access the underlying bone through a series of incisions that create a flap in the gum tissue that we’ll later suture closed.

It’s quite common to have prepared a surgical guide or template beforehand. The template placed in the mouth marks the exact site for a small channel (or hole) we create in the bone. We then incrementally increase the size of the hole by drilling until it matches precisely the implant’s size and shape. This takes time to avoid overheating and damaging the bone.

We then remove the implant from its sterile packaging and insert it into the opening. We’ll also take x-rays to ensure correct positioning, which is critical for achieving an attractive result. We then suture the gum flap in place using stitches that will eventually dissolve. The implant will then integrate with the bone for a few weeks to create a strong, durable hold before we continue with the restoration.

Most patients can manage any post-surgical discomfort with mild anti-inflammatory pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, although we can prescribe something stronger if you need it. We may also prescribe a mouthrinse with an anti-bacterial agent like chlorhexidine for you to use while the gums are healing to reduce the risk of infection.

Implant surgery is part of a long process that will eventually result in regaining the function of your lost teeth. What’s more, undergoing this minor procedure will also help you regain something just as important — a beautiful smile.

If you would like more information on dental implant restoration, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implant Surgery.”

A Smile Makeover Depends on Balancing Technique with Beauty

makeover.

“Redesigning” a smile is a lot like remodeling a house: the technicalities of construction must blend seamlessly with what is perceived as elegant and beautiful. The first aspect — the proper materials and techniques to achieve a sound restoration — is absolutely crucial. But the aesthetic is just as important for assuring the final restoration evokes beauty and style.

Balancing these two aspects of a smile makeover requires thoughtful intent and planning. What may be pleasing aesthetically may not be technically feasible; but what may be technically sound may not have that sought-after “curb appeal.”

You and your dentist must work together to achieve the successful blending of these two aspects. That’s why it’s important for you to have full confidence in your dentist: that he or she is both technically skilled and experienced in cosmetic procedures and artistically aware of what will look best aesthetically.

The first step in your makeover is a thorough dental examination to determine the overall state of your oral health. With this “bigger picture,” your dentist will have a better understanding of what’s possible and practical for you and your situation. The exam may also reveal problems that should be treated first before any cosmetic work.

From there, you must communicate clearly to your dentist what you perceive as wrong with your smile and what you would like to have changed. While there are general principles of beauty best followed, your dental work could hypothetically take different paths depending on your desires and expectations. You might prefer a more “sexy” look or one that’s “sophisticated.” Or perhaps you only want subtle changes that still retain features expressing your individuality.

Ultimately, though, your expectations must line up with reality. Much like your house contractor, your dentist will advise you on what’s both practical and possible. And with their experience in smile enhancement, they can also help you determine what will look most attractive given your facial structure and features.

With this preliminary planning, you can be confident as the work proceeds that the end of the project will be both exciting and satisfying. And just as with your newly renovated home, you’ll be more than happy to share your smile with others.

If you would like more information on enhancing your smile through cosmetic dentistry, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cosmetic Dentistry.”

Benefits of Seeing a Prosthodontist

prosthodontists.

What do architects and prosthodontists have in common? An architect designs buildings with both function and aesthetics in mind; a prosthodontist designs tooth restorations for optimal function and aesthetic appeal. In fact, prosthodontists are sometimes called “smile architects,” and are able to restore damaged or missing tooth and jaw structures with dentures, crowns, bridges, veneers, and other techniques.

Prosthodontics is one of the nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.  This specialty focuses on using oral prosthetics (artificial teeth, for example) to restore your smile in the most aesthetically pleasing way. The benefits of seeing a prosthodontist include:

Extensive training
After graduating from dental school, prosthodontists complete an additional 3-year program that provides in-depth training and clinical practice. Their training includes cosmetic dental procedures; diagnosis and treatment of TMJ/TMD (jaw-joint disorders) and sleep disorders; and facial reconstruction due to oral cancer, an accident or a deformity from birth.

Large-scale experience
Prosthodontists limit their practice to the restoration of teeth, gums and associated oral structures, and have extensive clinical experience in this area. Like other specialists, a prosthodontist is more likely to be familiar with state-of-the-art techniques and technology in this rapidly advancing field. Further, prosthodontists are in close communication with dental laboratory technicians to coordinate the best custom restoration for each patient.

Team leadership
Some oral health problems require multi-step procedures carried out by a team of dental professionals, including oral surgeons, periodontists, general dentists, laboratory technicians and dental hygienists. A prosthodontist is often the point person who devises an overall treatment plan and coordinates the sequence of procedures with the various health professionals.

Attention to aesthetics
In prosthodontics, oral function and cosmetic dentistry go hand in hand. Prosthodontists have a deep understanding of what goes into a beautiful, functional smile—and their clinical training and experience can help you get the best results from dental treatment.

Prosthodontists have special expertise in the treatment of missing or damaged teeth, complex problems that require full-mouth reconstruction, and many other restorative dental procedures. If you have any questions about the specialty, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation.

Consider Bone Health When Deciding Between Implants and Dentures

bone.

Losing permanent teeth is never good — unlike primary teeth, no natural replacements wait in the wings. But the good news is you have a number of options for replacing them with life-like prosthetic (false) teeth.

Today’s premier choice is dental implants, preferred by dentists and patients alike for their durability and life-likeness. But because of their cost when replacing multiple teeth, many people opt for traditional dentures. And now dentures are easier to wear and maintain thanks to new, advanced materials and designs.

Still, there’s one major area where implants have the definite edge over dentures — long-term bone health. Older bone cells die and dissolve (resorb), replaced then by newly formed cells. Teeth help perpetuate this cycle through the forces generated when we chew that travel through the roots to stimulate the formation of new bone.

But because this stimulation through a tooth ends when it’s lost, new bone beneath the empty socket may not keep up with the resorption rate of older bone. As a result, you could lose as much as a quarter of normal bone width in just the first year after losing a tooth.

This bone loss will continue to accumulate even if you wear dentures, which can’t replicate the bone growth stimulation of natural teeth. What’s more, the constant pressure on the bony ridge of the gums can accelerate bone loss. Eventually, the firm, comfortable fit you first had with your dentures will become looser and less comfortable with the shrinking bone volume.

Implants, on the other hand, can stop bone loss and may even reverse it. This is because the titanium metal of an implant has a special affinity with bone cells that readily grow and adhere to it. This creates the anchorage responsible for the implant’s durability, but it’s also healthy for the bone.

Of course, this doesn’t have to be a binary choice between the two restorations thanks to a new hybrid advancement that combines implants with dentures. We can install as few as two implants to support a removable denture. You’ll enjoy greater stability, fit and durability with your dentures, while also improving bone health through the implants.

So before you decide on a dental restoration, be sure to discuss with us your implant options. Your oral health and appearance could benefit immensely.

If you would like more information on dental restoration, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”