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Dr. Anthony LaVacca

Importance of Flossing

Is Flossing Your Teeth Really That Important?

By Blog

You probably know the cardinal rule of good oral health: brush and floss your teeth every day. But we get it. Flossing can feel daunting on top of brushing twice daily. It’s a lot of cleaning for a full set of teeth! And this is the exact reason that many patients skip out on their flossing routine until a problem, such as tooth decay or gingivitis, occurs. 

Wondering why it is important to floss your teeth? The team at our Naperville general dentistry and specialty practice is covering everything you need to know about dental floss — why to use it, how to use it and the health consequences that may arise if you don’t.

Why floss your teeth?  

Every tooth has five surfaces, and the average toothbrush (no matter how skilled you are at wielding it) can only adequately reach three of those surfaces. Unfortunately, the space in between the teeth where a toothbrush can’t fit is where food tends to get stuck.

When food is left in these crevices, it creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. This, in turn, creates plaque, which is a sticky bacterial film. As plaque accumulates between the teeth and under the gumline, irritation and infection can occur. Flossing is essential to your oral health toolkit since it fits into these problem areas to banish plaque and prevent infection.

The benefits of flossing your teeth 

Daily flossing has a number of benefits to your breath, oral health and overall well-being. Some of the most significant benefits of flossing your teeth include:

  • Preventing gingivitis, which, when left untreated, can progress into advanced gum disease, called periodontitis;
  • Removing the food particles and bacteria that brushing can’t reach;
  • Preventing bad breath;
  • Reducing the frequency of sore, puffy or tender gums;
  • Removing plaque from beneath the gum line that can erode enamel;
  • Reducing the risk of developing cavities.

How often should you floss your teeth?

It is recommended that you floss at least once a day to remove food debris, prevent plaque build-up and ward off tooth decay and gum disease. Using a water flosser is a beneficial extra step in your oral hygiene routine, but it doesn’t replace regular flossing, and you’ll still need to floss once per day with dental floss. 

It’s important to keep in mind that plaque constantly forms and, therefore, it must constantly be removed. It’s not enough to floss here and there. It’s something you should commit to daily for life to maximize the health of your teeth and gums.

How to floss your teeth

A big benefit of routine dental cleanings is they provide you with the opportunity to learn how to floss your teeth properly. If you are not flossing correctly, you may not get the most out of your dental routine! 

Here’s how to floss so you can avoid gum disease and maintain the healthiest mouth possible:

  1. Use enough floss.

There’s nothing more annoying than breaking off a too-small string of dental floss and having to get your hands in your mouth. Cut off about 18 inches of floss and wrap it around one of your middle fingers (or whichever finger feels most comfortable). Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the opposite hand. This finger will guide the floss through your teeth.

  1. Keep it tight!

Hold the floss taught between your fingers — a saggy string of floss isn’t going to do much and it will give you less control.

  1. Be gentle.

Guide the floss between your teeth in a gentle seesaw motion. Make sure you never snap the floss up into your gums.

  1. Use a C shape.

Once the floss reaches your gum line, use your two fingers to curve it into a C shape against one tooth. Slide the floss up and down against the side of the tooth, getting under the gumline. Then, repeat the process on the other tooth. 

  1. Move on to the next pair of teeth.

Use the same gentle seesaw motion to remove the floss from in between the teeth and work it in between the next pair of teeth. Use a clean section of floss for each area. 

  1. Don’t forget any teeth!

Be sure to floss the outside of the back molars too. Even though this side of the molar doesn’t come into contact with another tooth, food and bacteria can still get stuck around the gumline.

What’s the best dental floss to use?

The best dental floss is any one that you’re able to use effectively on a daily basis. A string floss tends to slide in between teeth more easily. Listerine® Ultraclean® floss, formerly called Reach floss, is a great option that has some texture to it that helps remove more debris. Or if you have sensitive teeth and gums or tight spaces, a product like Oral-B Glide® floss is a gentle choice.

For those with orthodontic braces or a dental bridge, a floss threader will allow you to maneuver string floss under your appliance or restoration. Some patients prefer SuperFloss™, however, as it has a built-in threader, eliminating the extra step. 

If you have mobility issues that make flossing with traditional floss tough, floss picks may be helpful. The floss is already attached to the disposable pick and doesn’t need to be wrapped around your fingers. 

Looking for an all-natural dental floss? Cocofloss and Boka floss are two fan favorites that don’t contain PFAs or parabens.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an infection of the gum tissue caused by plaque bacteria. Plaque that is not removed with daily brushing and flossing can eventually harden into calculus, or tartar. When tartar build-up spreads below the gum line, it is nearly impossible to clean your teeth properly. At this stage, only a dental professional can remove the tartar. 

Poor oral hygiene often leads to gum disease, however, some people are more prone to this condition than others, even with brushing and flossing. 

The breakdown of your gum tissues happens gradually. Most people don’t experience pain in the early stages of gum disease, which is called gingivitis. This really highlights the importance of regular dental exams and cleanings. 

Some of the warning signs and symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Gum soreness;
  • Darker gums (reddish/purplish in color);
  • Unpleasant taste in your mouth;
  • Bleeding gums;
  • Discomfort or pain when chewing;
  • Loose teeth;
  • Bad breath (halitosis);
  • Gum recession (gums that start to pull away from your teeth).

What are the consequences of gum disease?

Gum disease can destroy the tooth-supporting tissue and bone, causing the teeth to loosen and, in severe cases, fall out

In fact, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss. The CDC reports that almost half of all adults in the United States (47.2%) have some form of periodontal disease.

But our oral health affects everything in our body. This is because inflammation and infection in the mouth, like that caused by periodontal disease, doesn’t always stay in the mouth. Studies have also shown a link between gum disease and other systemic diseases. Research suggests that gum disease may contribute to the progression of diseases such as: 


This chronic health condition has the strongest two-way link with gum disease. Research shows that people with type 2 diabetes have a three-fold greater risk of developing gum disease than those without. Periodontitis worsens the diabetic body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. 

Heart Disease

Gum disease has been linked to increasing the risk of heart disease and exacerbating existing heart conditions. 


When gum disease is aggressive and left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. Tooth loss is a largely overlooked risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline. 


Countless studies have linked various cancers to periodontal disease. Research found that men who suffer from gum disease were 30% more likely to develop blood cancers, 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer and 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

Additionally, gum disease in pregnant people is tied to premature birth and low birth weight. 

Diligent oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups with your Naperville dentist can help you prevent gum disease or ensure it’s caught in its earliest stages. When gum disease is detected and treated at this point, it’s still reversible. 

Once gum disease turns into periodontitis, it can’t be cured. However, with professional treatment, it can be controlled to stop the infection and keep further tissue and bone loss at bay.

Connect with a dentist in Naperville

Now that you know why it is important to floss your teeth, are you ready to level up your oral health and keep your teeth and gums in top-notch shape? At Naperville Dental Specialists, our team is happy to educate our patients on the best way to care for their oral health and offer personalized guidance. 

Whether you need an exam and cleaning or treatment for periodontal disease, get your healthiest smile by scheduling an appointment with a Naperville dentist today!


Spring Clean Your Oral Hygiene Routine

4 Ways to Spring Clean Your Oral Hygiene Routine

By Blog

Spring is the time for new beginnings, sunnier days and, of course, cleaning. Before you pull out your vacuum and start mopping your floors, don’t forget to spring clean your oral hygiene routine. 

Few things feel as fresh as a healthy smile. Get your oral health routine back on track with new floss, mouthwash, toothbrushes, a dental checkup, and a teeth whitening session. These four easy steps are the perfect spring cleaning routine to prepare your smile for the new season!

Steps to Spring Clean your Dental Routine:


1. Replace your toothbrush

How often should you change your toothbrush? Many of the patients at Naperville Dental Specialists are surprised when we tell them to replace their toothbrushes every three to four months. If you’ve been sick or the toothbrush bristles have frayed, we recommend changing them sooner.  

When you buy a new toothbrush, choose one with soft bristles so you don’t injure your gums while brushing. Frequently swapping your toothbrush will improve your oral hygiene and prevent the spread of germs during cold and flu season.

2. Stock up on your oral hygiene products



Wondering how long your mouthwash lasts? Generally, your mouthwash will be effective for two years after its manufacture date. Check the expiration date to ensure it’s still working for you. Expired mouthwash will not be able to fight gum disease, prevent plaque buildup or stave off bad breath.


Most people don’t realize that toothpaste can expire. Your toothpaste will typically expire two years from its manufacturing date. When shopping for a new toothpaste, ensure it includes fluoride and has the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval. 


If you’re unfamiliar, Waterpik® is a popular brand of water flosser that some people use in their oral hygiene routine. If this is part of your regimen, your Waterpik tip should be replaced every six months to minimize mineral deposits. 


Regular flossing is incredibly important. Stock up on fresh floss or floss picks this spring so you can floss daily and keep your gums and teeth healthy. 

Dental Guard

It is advised that you visit your dentist twice a year to check your night guard. Dental guards lose their effectiveness when they lose their thickness. Less material means less ability to absorb the shock from your teeth and more space for bacteria to creep in. Your dental guard should be replaced if it is thinning, frayed or deformed. 

3. Book your bi-annual dental checkup and cleaning


One of the best ways to spring clean your smile is to book a dental exam and cleaning with your Naperville general dentist. Even if you don’t have any noticeable concerns, checkups and cleanings are essential for preventing and catching oral problems before they become a larger concern. 

Plus, the clean you get from a professional is impossible to match at home. Our skilled hygienists use special tools to gently remove hardened plaque and surface stains, reducing your risk of tooth decay and gum disease and leaving your enamel nice and shiny.

4. Brighten your smile


Are your teeth looking dull or discolored after a winter of enjoying comfort foods and beverages? While a revamped oral hygiene routine can be helpful, brushing and flossing can’t eliminate those deeper-set stains. You will see significantly whiter teeth without damage with just one professional teeth whitening session

Spring into action and visit your Naperville dentist!

As you work through your spring cleaning to-do list, make sure to schedule your dental cleaning in Naperville. Our Naperville general dentists and specialists look forward to helping get your oral hygiene routine back on track!

Chocolate is Smile-Friendly

7 Smile-Related Excuses to Eat Chocolate This Valentine’s Day

By Blog, Valentine's Day

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it’s pretty much impossible to miss the chocolate-filled displays in stores everywhere. If you’ve been having a hard time resisting the allure, we have good news for you: eating dark chocolate in moderation may actually improve your oral and overall health. 

The team at Naperville Dental Specialists is sharing some compelling dental benefits of everyone’s favorite treat. Consider this your excuse to indulge!

But first, let’s talk phytochemicals:

Chocolate is truly a marvel of chemistry, and it’s one of the most complex foods around. Aside from being delicious, it’s also full of powerhouse nutrients and compounds, including:

  • Polyphenols

One of the main health benefits of dark chocolate is its antioxidant capacity. This is thanks to the high levels of organic compounds called polyphenols it contains. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals that would otherwise harm the cells in your body and increase your risk of disease, including those that affect your mouth.

You might have heard that polyphenol-rich tea and red wine are good for you. But one study determined that cocoa is even more beneficial than green tea, black tea and red wine in terms of antioxidant properties. 

  • Tannins

The cocoa beans in chocolate are rich in tannins, a subcategory of polyphenols. These compounds are what give dark chocolate its intense color and slightly bitter taste. 

Does chocolate stain teeth if it has tannins? It’s true, in large quantities tannins can stain your teeth, but you’d have to eat a ton of chocolate, so it’s not likely. 

  • Flavonoids

Flavonoids are another group of polyphenols found in large quantities in cocoa beans. The health-promoting antioxidants keep everyday toxins away. 

Here’s Why Chocolate is Smile-Friendly

Dark chocolate is dentist approved because it:

1. Inhibits Some Enamel-Destroying Acids

Cocoa polyphenols have been found to reduce the amount of acids produced when the bacteria in your mouth feed on certain types of sugars. Less acid means less enamel erosion and risk of tooth decay. 

2. May Zap Cavity-Causing Bacteria

Studies suggest tannins and flavonoids inhibit some strains of cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, promoting a healthy oral biome and making it harder for tooth decay to occur. 

3. Boosts Periodontal (Gum) Health

Polyphenols, including tannins and flavonoids, have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. This can reduce the risk of gum disease and slow the progression of existing periodontitis (severe gum disease). 

4. Discourages Plaque Formation 

Tannins bind to oral bacteria, preventing it from sticking to the teeth and forming plaque. Flavonoids have been shown to reduce plaque formation too. 

5. Fights Inflammation

The anti-inflammatory powers of tannins and flavonoids promote healing, whether from mouth injuries, sores or infections like gum disease. 

6. Is Less Likely to Cause Cavities Than Other Treats

Acids are the byproduct of oral bacteria breaking down sugars and starches in the food you eat. These acid attacks erode tooth enamel and can eventually cause cavities.

Foods that stick in the teeth are the biggest offenders, because the longer the food is in your mouth, the more prolonged the acid attacks are. Surprisingly, this means things like crackers or even raisins are worse for the teeth than chocolate. 

Dark chocolate doesn’t have a ton of sugar, it melts in your mouth and is easy to rinse away, so it won’t hang around on your teeth for too long. Plus, the fat it contains slows down the bacteria’s feeding frenzy.

7. Makes You Smile

The feel-good effects might not be one of the reasons chocolate is good for your teeth but, hey, there’s nothing we love more than a happy smile. Chocolate contains mood-boosting anandamide, stimulating theobromine and the aphrodisiac effects of phenylethylamine, leaving you feeling happier.

What Type of Chocolate is Healthy?

The cavity-fighting compounds and health benefits of chocolate come from the cocoa beans. Additives like sugar and cream might make white chocolate, milk chocolate and pretty much every candy bar taste amazing, but they don’t do anything for your smile. 

In fact, when a patient asks, “Why do my teeth hurt when I eat chocolate?,” it’s almost always because they’re eating white or milk chocolate and the sugar leads to acid attacks that irritate sensitive areas of their teeth

So, if you’re looking for healthy chocolate that is good for your teeth, go for dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa. The fewer additives and grams of sugar it contains the better. 

Ready to Get a Smile You Love?

Of course, dark chocolate alone isn’t enough to achieve a healthy smile. But when combined with excellent oral hygiene and regular dental exams and cleanings, eating foods that are good for your teeth, including dark chocolate, will boost your oral health. 

Our Naperville general dentists and specialists are here to help! We offer high-tech preventive, restorative, implant and cosmetic dentistry in one convenient location. Schedule a visit today to find out how we can give you a smile you love!

Sedation Dentistry

Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?

By Sedation Dentistry

Thankfully, sedation dentistry is a solution that can help alleviate anxiety and make dental procedures more relaxing and comfortable. If you’re hesitant about exploring the option and are wondering if sedation is safe, the answer is, yes, sedation is safe when administered by an experienced provider. 

What is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry helps patients relax and feel at ease, so they can get dental care in a way that’s stress-free and painless. Often, sedation is mild to moderate and you’re awake during the procedure and able to answer questions and respond to commands. 

For certain situations, deep sedation is an option too. What is deep sedation dentistry? It’s where general anesthesia is administered through an IV and you’re asleep throughout the entire dental procedure.

Sedation dentistry can be a good choice for patients with:

  • Dental anxiety or a dental phobia
  • A very sensitive gag reflex 
  • Apprehension about a specific treatment 
  • Special healthcare needs (cognitive, physical or behavioral) that are aggravated by stress or make it difficult to safely undergo dental procedures
  • Significant dental concerns requiring extensive, lengthy treatment
  • A decreased response to local anesthesia

What are the Different Types of Sedation?

The type of sedation we recommend depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The type of dental procedure being performed
  • How long the dental procedure will last
  • Your anxiety levels
  • Your overall health and the medications you take

While the specific sedatives used and the offerings can vary by practice, these are the ones we offer at our office:

  • Nitrous Oxide 

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, has been used in dentistry for over 100 years and is the most common type of sedation for kids, though it can be used for adults as well. The laughing gas is administered through a mask that covers your nose. You’ll breathe in a mixture of nitrous and oxygen and within a few minutes, you’ll feel calm and euphoric. 

Your Naperville dentist controls the amount of nitrous oxide you get, so they can deliver mild or even moderate effects, depending on your needs. Nitrous oxide is a form of conscious sedation, meaning you’ll be awake during your treatment, though your senses will be dulled. 

When the procedure is over, your dentist will have you breathe in pure oxygen to flush out the nitrous oxide. Laughing gas wears off just as quickly as it kicks in and has very few side effects, so you’ll be able to go back to school, work or daily activities after your appointment. 

  • Oral Conscious Sedation

If you choose oral sedation dentistry, your dentist will prescribe you an oral medication for reducing anxiety. Depending on the dosage, sedation can range from minimal to moderate. You’ll take the medication about an hour before your scheduled appointment. 

During your dental procedure, as the name suggests, you’ll be conscious and able to follow instructions. However, you’ll feel comfortable and relaxed. In fact, it’s common for patients to fall asleep during their visit. 

While side effects are generally minimal, you might feel sleepy after your appointment. And, because sedatives can impact your reaction time, you will need someone to drive you to and home from your visit. 

  • General Anesthesia / IV Sedation

For patients with severe dental anxiety or people undergoing oral surgical procedures, general anesthesia could be recommended. With this type of sedation, anesthesia is delivered through an IV and your vital signs are monitored throughout. 

You’ll be unconscious and have no memory of the procedure when you wake up. After your procedure, you’ll recover for several hours at the office before leaving. You will need to have a responsible adult drive you home.

Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?

How Safe is Sedation Dentistry?

Nitrous oxide and oral conscious sedation both have very good safety profiles. Most patients experience little-to-no side effects. When you visit our practice for sedation dentistry in Naperville, we’ll perform a comprehensive exam and take a detailed health and medication history to ensure you’re a good candidate and there are no contraindications. 

Our general dentists and specialists are licensed and trained in providing in-office sedation. And our state-of-the-art office is equipped with the latest technology and tools, so we’re able to carefully monitor your vitals throughout your procedure. 

How safe is IV sedation for dental work? This type of sedation is also safe but it’s essential that the dental practice has the necessary monitoring equipment, trained personnel and an anesthesiologist on-hand. The facility should also be licensed to offer it. 

At Naperville Dental Specialists, we always consider general anesthesia on a case-by-case basis. Again, we take a complete medical and medication history to ensure it will be safe for you. We also provide you with pre- and post-operative instructions to minimize the chance of complications. 

Our team follows all safety guidelines, and we have cutting-edge monitoring in place. And our board-certified professionals, including our prosthodontist and oral surgeon, have received advanced training in safe sedation. We also have a highly trained, American board-certified anesthesiologist on our team. Our anesthesiologist administers the general anesthesia.

Which Type of Dental Sedation is the Safest?

In general, conscious sedation has fewer risks than general anesthesia, but people respond differently to different types of sedation, so the form that’s safest for one person might not be ideal for you. It really depends on your medical history, the medications you are taking, your overall health and other individual factors. An experienced dentist can help you decide on the best form of sedation for your circumstances.

Weighing the Risks vs. the Benefits

As with any medical procedure, sedation dentistry involves weighing the risks vs. the benefits. If you’re not able to get the dental care you need due to anxiety, a medical condition or other circumstances, your untreated dental problems will pose a bigger risk to your oral and overall health than conscious or IV sedation dentistry.

Issues, such as tooth decay and tooth loss aren’t just painful, they also impact your ability to bite and chew, which, in turn, impacts your diet and nutrition. Oral infections, like dental abscesses, can spread to other parts of the body and, in rare cases, even be life threatening. 

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, has been tied to a number of health conditions. The inflammation of the gums and supporting bone causes jawbone loss and, eventually, tooth loss if not treated. Periodontitis, the most severe form of gum disease, is tied to adverse pregnancy outcomes, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other systemic illnesses

How Do I Prepare for Dental Sedation?

For nitrous oxide sedation and oral conscious sedation, you don’t need to do much to prepare. However, you should:

  • Have a light meal or snack and avoid eating anything heavy prior to your appointment. 
  • Call our office and let us know if you experience any changes in your health or medications.
  • Arrange to have a responsible adult accompany you to your appointment and drive you home if you are taking an oral sedation medication. 

If you’ll be undergoing IV sedation dentistry, following your pre-op instructions will help you have a safe, effective experience. While we’ll give you specific instructions for your situation, here are some general guidelines to adhere to:

  • Let our team know if you experience any changes in your health.
  • Your stomach should be empty during your anesthesia appointment. 
  • Do not eat or drink anything for at least 6 hours before your surgery.
  • Inform our team of any medications you take on a daily basis, including supplements and herbal remedies. If we give you the go-ahead to take your medication on the day of your procedure, take it with only a small sip of water.
  • Wear loose-fitting, comfortable, short-sleeved clothing and flat, comfortable shoes.
  • Do not wear jewelry, makeup or nail polish to your appointment. 
  • Take your contact lenses out before your procedure. 
  • Arrange to have a responsible adult come with you to your procedure, drive you home and stay with you while you recover afterwards. 

Where Can I Find Sedation Dentistry Near Me?

If you’re not in Illinois, we’d recommend doing some research on local sedation dentists to find someone licensed and experienced in administering the type of sedation you’re looking for. 

If you live in the Chicagoland area, we offer sedation dentistry in Naperville at our high-tech, comfortable office. With American board-certified specialists on our team, including an anesthesiologist, and modern equipment and tools, we can help you safely get the care you need. Schedule an appointment with us today!

Why Do I Have a Bump on My Gums?

Why Do I Have a Bump on My Gums?

By Blog

It can be alarming when you notice a bump on your gums, especially if it’s painful. While any time you experience changes in the soft tissues of your mouth or have oral pain, you should visit your dentist, not every bump is a sign of a serious issue. In this post, we’ll cover the causes and what to do to get relief. 

Why Is There a Bump on My Gums?

Here are a few common reasons why you might have a bump:

  • An Abscess – An extremely sensitive, painful bump on your gums that looks like a pimple is likely an abscess. An abscess is due to a bacterial infection and occurs as pus collects under the gum, forming a bump or boil. 

There are different types of abscesses, including a periodontal abscess, which is usually caused by periodontitis (advanced gum disease), and a periapical abscess, which is an infection at the tip of your tooth’s root from tooth decay or an injury. A periapical abscess usually presents as a bump on the gums above or below the affected tooth.

If you do have an abscess, it will often be accompanied by other symptoms including:

  • Swollen gums
  • Bad breath
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Fever
  • Discharge
  • Fatigue
  • Facial swelling
  • Persistent pain that may spread to the ear, jaw and neck

It’s important to have an abscess evaluated and treated. It won’t go away on its own. While it can drain and provide temporary relief, the infection will still be present and can spread to the jaw and supporting tissues. In rare cases, a dental infection can reach the brain and cause serious health complications. 

Treatment for an abscess will involve treating the infection, whether through periodontal care or a root canal, and, sometimes, antibiotics. We might also drain the abscess to give you immediate relief. 

  • A Canker Sore – We’ve had patients at our Naperville dental practice visit worried they had an abscess and it turned out they had a canker sore, or aphthous ulcer. Even though canker sores are benign and don’t cause serious issues, they can be extremely painful.

A canker sore usually looks like a flattish, yellow or white bump or blister on the gums surrounded by a red border. The sores can appear in a cluster and they make talking and eating difficult. 

Canker sores are not contagious and no one knows exactly what causes them, though it’s thought that the following can play a role:

  • Stress
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Food allergies
  • Genetics
  • illness
  • Mouth injuries
  • Certain medications 

The mouth ulcers don’t usually require treatment and tend to resolve on their own within two weeks. 

  • Cyst – A cyst will look like a small, liquid-filled bubble, or bump, on the gums. Dental cysts tend to pop up around the root of diseased, malpositioned or impacted teeth. Many times, cysts are painless. However, they can grow larger and put pressure on the teeth and jaw or become infected, both of which will cause pain. 

While you should have a cyst looked at by your Naperville general dentist, whether it requires treatment or not will depend on its cause and size. Most cysts resolve on their own, however, some need to be removed surgically. 

  • Oral Fibroma – An oral fibroma appears as a smooth, hard bump on the gums. A fibroma is a tumor-like mass of connective tissue that’s almost always benign. Fibromas develop when an area of the mouth is constantly irritated or traumatized, such as from a habit like biting the inside of your cheek or from ill-fitting dentures or another oral appliance.

Treatment will depend on the size, location, type and cause of the fibroma. You may need to have your dentures or oral appliance re-fitted so that it stops irritating your mouth. 

Though fibromas aren’t usually painful, if they get larger, they can become easily irritated, leading to discomfort. In those cases, surgical removal could be recommended. 

  • Bony Growth – A bony, round, hard bump on the gums is known as a dental torus (or tori plural). It’s a bony protrusion that grows on top of existing bone. The bumps are usually smooth and covered completely in gum tissue. 

The different types of dental tori are classified by their location. For example, a torus mandibularis is located on the inside of the lower jaw on the side nearest the tongue. A torus palatinus is a protrusion from the roof of the mouth, or palate. 

Dental tori don’t usually interfere with function or cause pain. Rarely, a tori will continue growing and become irritated or get in the way of dentures. In these cases, it may need to be removed. 

There isn’t a known cause of bony growths on the gums but some experts think bruxism, genetic factors, diet and/or stress on the jaw from a bad bite may be the cause. 

  • Oral Cancer – While most bumps are benign, occasionally, a small growth or lump on the gum tissue is a sign of oral cancer. It might be accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
  • A red or white patch on your gums
  • Thickening of the skin
  • A sore that bleeds and/or won’t heal
  • Jaw or tongue pain
  • Loose teeth
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing

Risk factors for oral cancer include:

  • A family history of oral cancer 
  • Heavy drinking
  • Tobacco use
  • Having human papillomavirus (HPV) 
  • Being over age 40
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • A lack of fruit and vegetables in the diet

At Naperville Dental Specialists, we offer VELscope oral cancer screenings. VELscope is a small, handheld tool that uses light to painlessly identify pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions.

When caught early, oral cancer has a high survival rate. If you’re worried a lump is cancerous, schedule a visit at Naperville Dental Specialists. It’s also good practice to have a screening as part of your routine dental exams. 

Can I Pop a Bump on My Gums?

No. You should never pop a bump on your gums. Even popping a harmless bump will cause irritation and pain, making the situation worse. 

Though an abscess will sometimes drain on its own, popping it can damage the soft tissue and it will release bacteria into your mouth. If an abscess does drain on its own, gently swish with a saltwater rinse to get rid of the foul-tasting liquid and keep your mouth clean. 


How to Get Rid Of Bumps on Gums

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to get rid of bumps on your gums at home, in most cases. You should see your dentist for treatment if the bump doesn’t go away after a few weeks or it is accompanied by the signs of an abscess or oral cancer we noted above. 

While you’re waiting to see your dentist, you can alleviate pain by:

  • Swishing with a saltwater rinse (½ teaspoon of salt dissolved in a glass of warm water)
  • Avoiding irritating the bump when brushing or flossing or wearing an appliance
  • Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever as needed
  • Sticking with a soft foods diet

To prevent painful bumps on your gums in the future:

  • Practice good oral hygiene
  • Break repetitive habits that cause oral irritation like biting the inside of your cheek or grinding your teeth
  • Maintain a well-rounded, healthy diet
  • Manage stress
  • Avoid heavy drinking and using tobacco products
  • Keep up with regular dental exams and cleanings


Schedule a Visit with a Naperville General Dentist 

If a bump on your gums is bothering you or causing you to worry, schedule a visit with a general dentist at Naperville Dental Specialists today. We use high-tech diagnostic tools, so we can determine what’s causing the bump and create a personalized treatment plan to help you find relief. 


Dr. Anthony LaVacca, Dr Irene Jovicic & Dr. Sergio Baron

Dr. Anthony LaVacca, Dr Irene Jovicic & Dr. Sergio Baron featured in Naperville Magazine Medical Profiles

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Dr. Manal Ibrahim & Dr. Anthony LaVacca are joined by a team of talented general dentists and hygienists, as well as board-certified specialists, including a pediatric dentist, an orthodontist, oral surgeon, endodontist, periodontist and a dental anesthesiologist. Our doctors are trained in state-of-the-art techniques, using technology to painlessly and conveniently protect, restore and rejuvenate smiles. With generalists and specialists under one roof and a friendly, professional team, Innovative Dental Partners can give your family the most coordinated, comprehensive care possible.

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Bone Graft for Dental Implants

How Long After a Bone Graft Can You Get a Dental Implant?

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While you’ve probably heard of dental implants, not everyone is as familiar with bone grafting. But, for many patients, getting a bone graft is part of the dental implant process. Once the bone grafting material is in place, it takes time for it to heal and for new bone to form in order to support the implant. So, how long after a bone graft can you get a dental implant? The experts at Naperville Dental Specialists have answers. 

In this post, we’ll discuss:

  • What is a dental bone graft?
  • Is a bone graft always part of the dental implant process?
  • What happens during the bone grafting procedure?
  • How long does a bone graft take to heal and what is the recovery like?
  • How long after a bone graft can an implant be placed?
  • What is the dental implant process timing from start to finish?
  • How long does a bone graft last without an implant?

What is a Dental Bone Graft?

When you’re missing teeth, the underlying jawbone isn’t stimulated anymore, which signals to the body that it’s not needed. Over time, the body reabsorbs the bone. This jaw bone loss can not only impact your facial appearance and the health of your remaining teeth, it can also make it difficult to place dental implants. This is because implants need adequate quality and quantity of bone to support them.

The good news is, a dental bone graft is an excellent solution. Our Naperville implant dentist, Dr. Anthony LaVacca, places bone graft material into the empty socket after a tooth is extracted or in areas of the mouth where bone is deficient. The grafting material acts almost like a scaffold and new bone cells are created around it. Eventually the bone regenerates, replacing the graft materials and giving you bone where you need it. 

The type of bone graft procedure and material will depend on your unique needs. However, most commonly, Dr. LaVacca and his team use allografts. These grafts are made of donated bone materials that have been refined and sterilized. Allografts are biocompatible, high quality and don’t require another surgical procedure to take bone from somewhere else in your own body. 

Is a Bone Graft Always Part of the Dental Implant Process?

Not always. At Naperville Dental Specialists, Dr. LaVacca offers advances like All-on-4® dental implants. If you’re a candidate, the technique allows him to replace all of the teeth in one or both arches using just four, strategically placed implants without bone grafting. Additionally, some patients naturally have enough bone to support a dental implant or are able to replace a missing tooth before any bone loss occurs. When that’s the case, bone grafting isn’t necessary.

That said, it is extremely common for getting a bone graft to be part of the dental implant process. If you’re having a tooth extracted, we can usually perform a bone graft immediately after the extraction. This way, you’ll be ready for a dental implant. Even if you’re not sure about dental implants, a bone graft after an extraction might still be recommended in case you do decide to get an implant in the future.

Bone Graft

What Happens During the Bone Grafting Procedure?

There are several different types of bone graft procedures, including socket preservation, a sinus lift and ridge augmentation. Though the specifics will be slightly different depending on your needs, it’s actually a quick, minor procedure. 

We use local anesthetic (we also offer sedation if you’re anxious) to numb the area, so you won’t feel any discomfort. Dr. LaVacca then places the bone grafting material into the empty tooth socket or makes an incision and places it in the section of the jaw that needs augmenting. 

If you lost an upper molar or premolar and you’re having a sinus lift performed, Dr. LaVacca makes a small opening above the missing tooth. He then lifts the sinus membrane up and packs bone grafting material beneath it. This ensures there will be enough room to place the dental implant without damaging the sinus pocket. 

Depending on the type of graft, Dr. LaVacca may place a covering, or membrane, over it and secure it with dissolvable stitches. 

How Long Does a Bone Graft Take to Heal and What is Recovery Like?

Pain is usually pretty mild after a bone graft. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever can help manage discomfort. Swelling is normal, especially if you also had a tooth extraction. Hold a cold compress in the area of the procedure for 10 minutes at a time for the first day after surgery. Try to sleep with your head elevated and avoid strenuous physical activity until your dentist gives you the go-ahead. 

You’ll want to stick with liquids and soft foods in the days right after the procedure. Even after you resume your normal diet, don’t eat hard, crunchy or sharp foods for a few weeks. Be sure to follow the detailed post-op instructions we give you, which will include how to keep the area clean and any complications to keep an eye out for.

As for how long a bone graft takes to heal, you will probably feel completely back to normal within two weeks. But, the bone will still need to regenerate, so it takes three to nine months for most patients to fully heal. 

How Long After a Bone Graft Can an Implant be Placed?

There are some cases where we can do a sinus lift and dental implant placement in a single procedure. However, many times, such as with socket preservation, a bone graft needs to mature before it can support a dental implant. 

In order to determine how long after your bone graft you can get a dental implant, Dr. LaVacca will have you come in for a post-op visit so he can monitor your healing. The timing can vary depending on your oral and overall health, as well as other factors. Generally, we can place an implant three to four months after a bone graft, though it might be a bit sooner or later. 

What is the Dental Implant Process Timeline From Start to Finish?

The dental implant process timeline varies according to the procedures you need. Dr. LaVacca is an American board-certified prosthodontist and stays on the leading-edge of his field. He’s able to offer revolutionary treatment options, including All-on-4 and Teeth-in-a-Day®.

If you’re a candidate for a procedure like Teeth-in-a-Day, you’ll get your permanent replacement teeth on the same day as your dental implant surgery. If you didn’t require an extraction and bone graft beforehand, you won’t have any waiting period. A few weeks after your consultation, you’ll get a brand new smile.

If you opt for traditional dental implant surgery, the dental implant process timeline will run about three to six months. Dr. LaVacca will place a titanium or zirconia dental implant into your jawbone. The implant will be allowed to heal for three to six months, during which it will fuse with your jawbone in a process known as osseointegration. After it heals, Dr. LaVacca will attach your permanent replacement tooth. 

How long is the dental implant process when bone grafting is involved? It will look something like this:

  • Extraction and bone graft 
  • Three- to four-month healing period
  • Dental implant surgery 
  • Three- to six-month healing period
  • Permanent replacement tooth

That means the process can take six months to a year to complete. Whichever option you go with, we often give you a temporary replacement tooth during the healing period.

How Long Does a Bone Graft Last Without an Implant?

Maybe you’re thinking about getting a bone graft or you already got one and you’re still trying to decide if you want a dental implant. If that’s the case, you’re probably wondering, how long does a bone graft last without an implant?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a concrete answer that applies to everyone. In general, we encourage patients to get a dental implant within six to 12 months of the bone graft. This is because the implant puts the same pressure on the bone that your tooth roots did, which maintains the quantity and quality of bone, preventing bone loss. 

However, technically, a bone graft can last forever in some patients, though the quantity of bone will change. Over time, if a dental implant isn’t placed, the new bone that formed thanks to your graft will resorb just like your natural bone did. The atrophy will eventually slow, however. It really depends on your unique situation and oral health as to whether you can get a dental implant years down the road without needing another bone graft. 

The Bottom Line:

There are cases where bone grafting and dental implant surgery can be done at the same time. For others, Dr. LaVacca offers state-of-the-art tools and techniques like All-on-4, which can help certain patients avoid bone grafting altogether. However, most patients who require a bone graft will need to wait three to four months after the graft to have dental implants placed. 


Learn More About Bone Grafting & Dental Implants in Naperville, IL

As a leading prosthodontist, Dr. LaVacca can help you replace missing teeth with dental implants in the safest, most precise and efficient way possible. Using high-tech diagnostics, he’ll determine if you need a bone graft and create a personalized treatment plan and timeline for you. The end result will be a beautiful, functional smile and improved oral health. To learn more about your options, schedule a consultation with our Naperville implant dentist today!

Univision Chicago: Innovative Dental Partners Reminds Parents of Important Back-to-School Law

Univision Chicago: Innovative Dental Partners Reminds Parents of Important Back-to-School Law

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“Children are our most precious resource,” says George Castellanos, spokesman for Innovative Dental Partners in Naperville, who explains that, according to state law, minors who are in kindergarten and those who are in second, sixth or ninth grade must have dental exams prior to the start of the new school year. “Unfortunately, cavities and dental problems are one of the main causes of poor academic performance and absence from classes,” says the expert.

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Is Jaw Clenching and Teeth Grinding Making You Age Faster?

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Jaw Clenching and Teeth Grindin

Teeth grinding and clenching, technically called bruxism, is a common issue. Some people find themselves clenching their jaw or grinding their teeth during the day when they’re under stress. However, for others, bruxism happens during sleep when they’re not conscious of the habit. 

Chronic bruxism, particularly sleep bruxism, can lead to a number of complications, including chipped, cracked or worn teeth, damaged dental restorations, headaches, and facial and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. But can teeth grinding change your face shape or make you age faster? The experts at Naperville Dental Specialists have answers. 

Can Teeth Grinding Change Your Face Shape?

It might come as a surprise, but teeth grinding and jaw clenching can change your face shape. What’s the link between bruxism and your jawline? Well, clenching and grinding work the chewing muscles, including the masseter muscle, which connects to the cheekbone and the lower jaw, and the temporalis muscle, along the side of the head. 

Due to the overuse from bruxism, the masseter and temporalis muscles get stronger and more pronounced, just like any other muscle in the body does in response to exercise. This enlargement, called hypertrophy, can lead to a square jaw that looks undefined and stereotypically “masculine.”

Aside from a squared jawline, bruxism can also change your face shape by giving it a swollen appearance and adding bulk to the cheek area. 

Can Bruxism Make You Look Older?

Unfortunately, yes. According to a review published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, the repetitive facial expressions that occur when grinding the teeth or clenching the jaw are a culprit behind premature aging of the lower face. 

Teeth grinding makes teeth shorter as enamel erodes, which also contributes to changes in your facial appearance. In extreme cases, the constant biting force and, sometimes, even resulting tooth loss, cause jawbone loss and, in turn, facial sagging as the lower third of the face loses support and volume. 

Can Bruxism Make You Look Older

Can Changes to Your Facial Appearance from Bruxism be Reversed?

To some extent, they can. Getting treatment for teeth grinding and clenching will prevent bruxism from causing further changes to your face shape and reduce the appearance of overworked chewing muscles. For stress-related clenching and grinding, managing stress will go a long way in keeping the habit under control. 

If you grind your teeth in your sleep, stopping can be harder. In order to treat sleep bruxism and reverse changes in face shape, you may need:

  • A custom night guard

A night guard is similar to an athletic mouthguard, but it cushions against the grinding forces and also helps to relax the facial muscles. A Naperville dentist can create a custom guard that will keep your teeth safe from wear and, as you contract your masseter muscle less frequently, cause it to shrink.

  • BOTOX® in the masseter muscle

Masseter muscle Botox has increased in popularity. Botox temporarily blocks the nerves from signaling the muscle to contract. Eventually, the masseter muscle atrophies and the face slims down. However, you’ll need to have regular Botox injections to maintain the results, which can be pricey. 

  • TMJ disorder treatment

Often, bruxism and TMJ disorders go hand in hand. One of the treatments for TMJ disorder we offer at Naperville Dental Specialists is tmj NextGeneration™. The FDA-cleared, custom ear inserts sit comfortably and virtually invisibly in your ear canals. The devices support the TMJs, reducing pain and encouraging healing. They also alleviate strain on the chewing muscles and provide cognitive awareness of clenching and grinding, helping to stop bruxism. As teeth grinding and jaw clenching decreases and the muscles relax, the jaw will look less square.

  • Cosmetic dentistry 

If face shape changes from jaw clenching and teeth grinding are due to worn enamel, one of our skilled Naperville cosmetic dentists can restore the shape, length and appearance of your teeth with treatments like dental veneers or cosmetic dental crowns. This will make you look years younger. 

  • Orthodontic treatment

A misaligned bite can actually make you more susceptible to bruxism. In these cases, getting braces or Invisalign to straighten your teeth and improve your bite will be beneficial for stopping grinding and bringing your facial features into harmony. If you do need orthodontic treatment, as part of the Innovative Dental Partners family, we’re under the same roof as the talented, world-class orthodontists at Innovative Orthodontic Centers. We can refer you to the practice and easily coordinate your care. 

  • Dental implants

Lastly, facial sagging because of bruxism-related tooth and bone loss can be remedied with dental implants and, if needed, a bone graft. Our leading American board-certified prosthodontist, Dr. Anthony LaVacca, offers a wide range of dental implants in Naperville, IL. He will assess your teeth, jaw and facial structure and recommend the best type of implants for your needs. The dental implants will support your lower face, lifting it and adding youthful volume. 

Worried About a Change in Face Shape From Jaw Clenching or Teeth Grinding?

If you’re concerned about premature aging or changes to your face shape and jawline from bruxism, schedule a visit at Naperville Dental Specialists. With a team of general dentists and specialists in one practice, we can diagnose and treat bruxism in order to help you find relief and reclaim your appearance.

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