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Our Dental FAQ in Chicago, Illinois

Here you’ll find answers to some of the most common oral health and overall dental FAQ that patients in the area have had. If your question is not answered here, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!

How frequently should I brush and floss?

Dental disease is caused by bacterial build up and that can be controlled with brushing and flossing.

The bacteria in plaque (a thin, filmy substance that sticks to teeth) can turn into acid in the mouth, which causes tooth decay. It only takes 24 hours for plaque to turn to calculus (tartar) if it isn’t removed. Periodontal disease is caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar.

Brushing: Brush your teeth twice a day (especially before you go to bed at night) with toothpaste and a soft bristle toothbrush approved by the ADA. The following are guidelines for proper brushing:

  • Place the brush at a 45-degree angle and softly brush, using a circular motion. Make sure you always feel the brush on your gums.
  • Make sure to brush all surfaces of the tooth: outer, inner and biting.
  • To clean the inside of your front teeth, use the tip of your toothbrush.
  • Brush your tongue to eliminate bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • We recommend electric toothbrushes because they are easy to use and quickly remove plaque and bacteria. Just place the brush on each tooth at a time and allow it to do its job.

Flossing is essential for cleaning the gum line and in between the teeth. Daily flossing helps to clean these hard-to-reach spaces, and it also prevents plaque colonies from building up and causing damage to teeth, gums and bones.

Take about 12–16 inches (30–40 cm) of floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving approximately 2 inches between your fingers.

Gently slide the floss between your teeth with a sawing motion. Use your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss.

Make the shape of a “C” with the floss and guide it around each tooth. Work the floss gently under the gum line by moving it up and down.

For those with large hands or difficulty holding floss, floss holders are recommended.

Rinsing is a habit that should not be overlooked. Rinse your mouth with water after brushing your teeth, or if you are unable to brush after a meal. If you are using a mouthwash, ask your dentist about a product that fits your needs.

Make sure to use all dental aids prescribed by your dentist or dental hygienist. This includes Interdental brushes, medicated rinses, rubber tip stimulators, tongue cleaners, irrigation devices and fluoride. Proper home care leads to less time in the dental chair.

Are amalgam (silver) fillings safe?

Amalgam is a mixture of copper, tin, zinc and silver that is bound by elemental mercury. For over a century, this mixture has been used to fill teeth. Over time, concern has arisen about the safety of these materials. Health issues caused by exposure to minute particles and vapor from the mercury have been a topic of controversy.

The American Dental Association (ADA) reports at 76 percent of dentists use mercury-infused silver to fill teeth. According to the ADA, silver fillings are safe, and this is the general consensus among medical researchers as well. Studies have not shown any connection between silver and mercury and any medical condition or illness. Also in support of the position are the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the United States Public Health Service and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Silver fillings are considered cost-effective and free of any health threats.

Of course, patients with allergies to any of the metals used are not good candidates for amalgam fillings. Out of the countless millions of patients with silver fillings, only a few hundred allergy incidents have been reported.

Despite studies showing no significant health risks for patients with amalgam fillings, we recognize that mercury can be toxic at high levels of exposure. You may have read studies warning consumers of fish that contain high mercury levels. In the case of amalgam fillings, the ADA maintains that the other metals and components of the filling render the mercury inactive, and thus safe.

If mercury is a still a concern, we encourage you to discuss other filling options (such as gold, porcelain and composite) with your dentist. We want you to feel comfortable and make an informed decision.

I think I might have gingivitis or periodontal disease. How can I tell?

Gingivitis, the beginning stages of periodontal disease, is characterized by bleeding of the gums, and tender, inflamed skin due to bacteria and toxins.

Your dental checkup should always include a periodontal examination. Your dentist or dental hygienist will perform this exam by using a small tool called a periodontal probe. This tool measures the spaces or pockets between your teeth (sulcus). A depth of 3mm or less and no bleeding is an indication of a healthy sulcus. The spaces usually increase as periodontal disease increases.

Because periodontal disease is virtually painless in the early stages, most people don’t even realize they have it! In fact, four out of five adults have the disease and don’t know it.

What are some of the causes of periodontal disease?

  • Smoking and tobacco contribute to bacteria and tartar buildup.
  • Poorly fitting appliances or other conditions: crowded teeth, older bridges, fillings and other restorations.
  • Medications: cancer therapy medications, oral contraceptives, steroids, and blood pressure drugs can often contribute to loss of saliva. When the mouth is dry, bacteria can breed.
  • Hormonal changes: changes brought on by pregnancy, puberty and oral contraceptives can make gum tissues more susceptible to infection.
  • Systemic illnesses: HIV/AIDS, diabetes, blood cell disorders.
  • Genetics: If your family has a history of gum disease, you may be at a greater risk.

Periodontal disease does not heal itself. If you smoke, you’re at a much greater risk. Research has also shown links to stroke, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and increased risk during pregnancy. It is also the number one reason for tooth loss. Researchers are currently trying to determine if these afflictions are triggered or aided by the inflammation and bacteria from periodontal disease.

You can keep periodontal disease at bay with a balanced diet, limited sweet snacks, regular brushing and flossing and dental appointments.

What are the symptoms of periodontal disease?

  • Bleeding gums. Gums should never bleed, even when you brush forcefully or use dental floss.
  • Loose teeth. Also caused by bone loss or deteriorated periodontal fibers (fibers that connect the tooth to the bone).
  • Tenderness or discomfort caused by irritation from plaque, tartar and bacteria.
  • New spacing between teeth.
  • Pus around the teeth and gums – a sure sign of infection.
  • Receding gums.
  • Red, swollen gums.
  • Chronic bad breath.

With a balanced diet, good oral hygiene habits, and regular dental visits, you can keep periodontal disease at bay.

I have bad breath. What can I do?

Bad breath or halitosis is something everyone experiences from time to time (especially in the morning). It can be an uncomfortable and unpleasant condition, but there are ways to prevent it.

Microbial deposits on the tongue are the number one cause of bad breath in healthy people. In many cases, simply brushing the tongue can provide significant relief.

What are the reasons for bad breath?

Slowed saliva flow at night. Saliva cleanses the mouth. While you sleep, saliva flows stops almost completely and this causes halitosis causing bacteria to form. Particular foods. When you eat onions, garlic or other strong-smelling foods, the odor compounds enter your bloodstream and are exhaled through the lungs.

Sub-standard oral hygiene. Forgetting to brush or floss results in bacterial build up from food residue in the mouth.

Periodontal disease. Inflamed gums and colonies of bacteria contribute to halitosis.

Poorly fitted fillings or cavities may also contribute to chronic bad breath.

Xerostomia or dry mouth. Certain medications may result in continuous mouth breathing or issues with salivary glands.

Smoking or tobacco use contribute to dry mouth and bad breath.

Weight loss programs and diets. When the body burns fat, certain chemicals called keotenes are released in the breath. Dehydration from hunger and missed meals can also be a factor.

Illnesses and medical issues. Bad breath may be an additional symptom of liver and kidney problems, chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and diabetes.

Review what you eat (try keeping a food diary) and make sure your dentist knows your medical history — including recent surgeries, medications and illnesses.

How can I avoid bad breath?

Increase your oral hygiene. Brush twice daily with an ADA-approved toothbrush. Brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper to reach the back. Floss daily to remove food particles from between your teeth. If you have dentures, thoroughly clean them every night, and replace your toothbrush every 2-3 months.

Get regular dental check-ups. See your dentist at least two times a year; more often if you have periodontal disease.

Quit tobacco. Ask your dentist for resources.

Drink more water. Water washes away bacteria and keeps the mouth hydrated.

Use mouthwash or rinses. Antiseptic rinses are best for chronic bad breath because they kill the germs that cause it. Ask your dentist for recommendations.

If you still have bad breath after working with your dentist diligently to correct the problem, see your physician. It may be a sign of a larger issue.

Why is flossing important?

Brushing is essential for the removal of food debris, plaque and bacteria, but toothbrushes cannot reach the place where we are most prone to infection — between our teeth.

Daily flossing helps to clean these hard-to-reach spaces, and it also prevents plaque colonies from building up and causing damage to teeth, gums and bones. A mixture of live bacteria, food and saliva, plaque is a sticky, nearly invisible film that forms on the teeth. Without proper care, gums can become inflamed by bacteria, increasing your risk for periodontal disease.

What is the proper way to use dental floss?

Take about 12-16 inches (30-40 cm) of floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving approximately 2 inches between your fingers.

Gently slide the floss between your teeth with a sawing motion. Use your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss.

Make the shape of a “C” with the floss and guide it around each tooth. Work the floss gently under the gum line by moving it up and down.

For those with large hands or difficulty holding floss, floss holders are recommended.

Rinsing is a habit that should not be overlooked. Rinse your mouth with water after flossing, or if you are unable to brush after a meal. If you are using a mouthwash, ask your dentist about a product that fits your needs. Together, we’ll help you keep that beautiful smile for life.

How can I enhance my smile with cosmetic dentistry?

A brilliant, confident smile can make a world of difference in your self-esteem and appearance. If there is something that is bothering you about your smile, dental cosmetic treatments can help.

Modern technology and advances in the dental profession have made cosmetic dentistry more popular than ever. Because individuals are becoming more concerned about preventative health care, there has been an increase in education about good oral hygiene and the brilliant, healthy smile that goes along with it.

From enhancing the appearance of one tooth to your entire mouth, there are many different cosmetic dental procedures available. If you have a question or would like more information, contact us for an appointment. We would love to hear from you.

Popular cosmetic procedures include:

  • Teeth whitening: Lightens stains caused by smoking, age, food and drink. Stains caused by medication may also be lightened, but results will vary.
  • Composite fillings: Tooth-colored fillings that can replace silver fillings, chipped, discolored or broken teeth. They may also be used to fill gaps created by receding gums.
  • Porcelain veneers: Thin, tooth-colored shells that are adhered to the front of teeth to create a beautiful smile. Veneers are a less-invasive procedure than crowns or caps and can transform poorly shaped, crooked or stained teeth.
  • Porcelain crowns (caps): Crowns are custom-made to fit over the entire surface of the tooth. They can restore the original shape and size of the tooth as well as strengthen and protect them from further damage. Decayed, fractured or broken teeth will benefit from crowns.
  • Dental implants: In cases of one or more missing teeth, dental implants can be a good alternative to bridges or dentures. Artificial roots are surgically attached to the jawbone, and dental implants are attached, restoring your smile and confidence.
  • Orthodontics: braces have come a long way since the traditional silver variety. Less visible and more effective, modern orthodontics can include customized clear brackets that are virtually undetectable and result in straight, beautiful teeth.

We’d love to help make your smile brilliant. Please call our office with any questions.

How often should I see the dentist for an exam and cleaning?

We recommend having your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year. If you have periodontal disease, you may require more frequent appointments. Dental exams are essential for providing preventative care and detecting problems in the early stages.

How can porcelain veneers enhance my smile?

Veneers are great for reshaping your teeth and restoring your smile. They are a good alternative to crowns and can correct a variety of dental issues.

Made of thin pieces of strong, tooth-shaped porcelain, veneers are made in a dental laboratory to the exact shape and size of your teeth. As the name suggests, they are bonded to your front teeth to create an attractive smile.

What can porcelain veneers correct?

  • Crooked or misshapen teeth
  • Unwanted or uneven spaces
  • Damaged or chipped teeth
  • Teeth that are too small or large
  • Severely discolored or stained teeth

A porcelain veneer procedure can be done with little to no anesthesia. First, your dentist will gently buff and shape the teeth to allow for the thickness of the veneer. With your dentist’s advice, you will choose the shade that best suits you, and an impression (mold) will be taken. Bonding cement is applied between the veneer surface and the tooth. Finally, the bond is then hardened and set.

With proper brushing, flossing and regular dentist visits, veneers will last for many years and give you a naturally radiant smile.

What can I do about my stained, discolored teeth?

Our teeth darken over time. The outer layer of enamel wears away as we age, revealing the darker color underneath. Smoking, drinking coffee, red wine and tea can accelerate tooth staining as well. Certain medications such as tetracycline and too much fluoride can also make teeth yellow, dull or discolored.

When it comes to patients’ aesthetic concerns, teeth whitening is the number one issue. There are many different products on the market that can help brighten your smile.

Professional teeth whitening is a simple, non-invasive procedure that can change the color of your tooth enamel, enhancing your smile. Over-the-counter products are widely available, but they may not be approved by the ADA, and the results provided by dental professionals will be much more significant.

If you are considering teeth whitening, talk to your dentist about your options. Sometimes, excessive staining due to medications and fluorosis may be difficult to bleach. In those cases, veneers and crowns may be a better option. It is also important to note that bleaching agents only work on natural tooth enamel, so fillings and other restorations will not be affected. After the bleaching is complete, your dentist can replace your fillings to match.

The most popular types of teeth whitening methods are:

At-home teeth whitening: These products usually include a gel that is placed in a custom-fitted plastic tray that has been created from a mold of your teeth. The tray may be worn overnight or for 30-minute intervals twice a day. This type of whitening usually takes several weeks, depending on the level of staining.

In-office teeth whitening: You will see immediate results with this treatment. It requires one or more visits to your dental office and takes 30-60 minutes each time. Your gums are protected and a bleaching agent is applied to your teeth. The bleaching solution may be enhanced by the use of a special light.

Teeth whitening is not permanent, so periodic touch-ups may be required. Some sensitivity is normal and usually disappears within a few days. With proper maintenance, teeth whitening is a wonderful investment in your smile!