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Eddie Van Halen and the Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

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As most people probably read or saw in the news, sadly, Eddie Van Halen died at the age of 65 in early October. While Van Halen passed away from throat cancer, the iconic rocker’s long battle with cancer began with a diagnosis of mouth cancer in 2000, which led to him having a portion of his tongue removed. When our founder and Naperville prosthodontist Dr. Anthony LaVacca heard about Van Halen, he said to our team, “This is exactly why we do VELscope oral cancer screenings.” While VELscope is a powerful, life-saving technology, not all patients are aware of the benefits of VELscope and the role it plays in the early screening and detection of oral cancer and increasing the odds of survival. 

What is Oral Cancer?

First, what is oral cancer? Oral cancer, also referred to as mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer, which is what Eddie Van Halen’s cancer began as, is cancer of the lips, tongue, gums, inner lining of the cheeks, or the floor or roof of the mouth. Oropharyngeal cancer is cancer of the oropharynx, or the part of the throat immediately behind the mouth. Oral cancer and oropharyngeal cancer, which are often grouped together when it comes to oral cancer stats, are part of a larger group of cancers called head and neck cancers. These cancers do not include brain cancer, which is its own category.

As with all types of cancer, oral cancer occurs when the cells in the mouth experience changes in their DNA. These changes cause the cells to keep growing and dividing instead of dying off like healthy cells would. These abnormal cells accumulate and can turn into a tumor, which can eventually spread in the mouth, to the other parts of the head or neck, or even other areas of the body. The majority of oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, meaning they start in the squamous cells that line the inside of the mouth and lips. 

Oral cancer makes up 85% of all head and neck cancers. The Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that approximately 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer and only slightly more than half (57%) of those diagnosed will survive beyond five years. This number isn’t meant to scare you and oral cancer isn’t inherently more deadly or hard to treat than other cancers. In fact, the prognosis for oral cancer is very good when it’s caught early. While the exact survival rate of oral cancer depends on where the cancer is located (i.e., the tongue vs. the lips), overall, the five-year survival rate for oral cancer when it’s localized and in its earliest stages is 82.8%. 

Unfortunately, the five-year survival rate drops to 51.8% when oral cancer is in the regional stage (has spread to nearby structures or lymph nodes) and 27.8% in the distant stage (has to spread to distant parts of the body). The staggering difference between these numbers really highlights the importance of early detection when it comes to oral cancer. The challenge is that there aren’t always any signs or symptoms and it’s commonly caught in its later stages. 

What are the Causes and Signs of Oral Cancer?

While no one knows exactly what causes oral cancer, there are a number of risk factors, including:

  • Being male – Men are twice as likely as women to develop mouth cancer
  • Being over the age of 40 – While a large number of people with oral cancer are over the age of 40, the average age is getting younger because of the human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • Using tobacco – Smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes increased your risk about six fold, while using smokeless tobacco products like chewing tobacco can make you as much as 40 times more likely to develop cancer of lips, gums and cheeks. 
  • Heavy drinking 
  • Having a family history of cancer
  • Sun exposure – Excessive sun exposure has been tied to lip cancer
  • Not eating fruits and vegetables
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Having the human papillomavirus (HPV) – Some strains of this common sexually transmitted disease, especially HPV16, increase the risk of developing mouth and throat cancer

As for the oral cancer signs and symptoms, many people don’t experience any symptoms at all, particularly in the early stages. However, oral cancer signs may include:

  • A mouth or lip sore that doesn’t heal
  • Loose teeth
  • A reddish or white patch inside of the mouth
  • A growth of bump inside of the mouth 
  • Difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing
  • Pain in the mouth, jaw or ear

If you have any of the above symptoms and they’re bothersome or they last for more than two weeks, it’s important to schedule a visit with your dentist or a doctor. 

What is VELscope?

VELscope is a small, handheld imaging device that uses blue-spectrum light to reveal oral abnormalities before they can be seen by the naked eye. While VELscope is helpful for identifying things like chemical irritation, side effects from medication and infections, the most important abnormalities it can detect are cancerous and pre-cancerous lesions. 

When we perform a VELscope oral cancer screening, a Naperville Dental Specialists team member simply shines the light on the soft tissues inside of your mouth. The device uses what’s known as natural tissue fluorescence, which means abnormal tissues will stand out from healthy tissues under the blue-spectrum light. A VELscope exam is completely non-invasive and doesn’t require any dyes. If we do spot a suspected pre-cancerous or cancerous lesion, a biopsy would be recommended to determine if the lesion is in fact oral cancer. If so, you would receive the appropriate treatment. 

What are the Benefits of a VELscope Oral Cancer Screening?

There are a number of important benefits of a VELscope oral cancer screening, such as:

  • It helps us detect oral cancer in its earliest stages, including identifying pre-cancerous lesions. When oral cancer is in the localized stage, treatment is much more likely to be successful and the survival rate is significantly higher.
  • We can see suspicious areas long before they’re visible to the naked eye. While we always perform a visual inspection and look for signs of oral cancer at your regular dental exams, VELscope is able to pinpoint areas of concern much earlier.
  • A VELscope exam is safe. The device uses blue-spectrum light and doesn’t emit any radiation.
  • VELscope oral cancer screenings are quick and comfortable. We shine the light on the soft tissues of your mouth and you won’t feel a thing. There are no needles, no dyes, and no special rinses required.
  • You’ll gain peace of mind. Even if we don’t spot anything, you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there are no concerning lesions in your mouth. This is especially true if you have any of the risk factors of oral cancer. 

So, is VELscope worth it? Absolutely. Oral cancer is highly treatable and the prognosis is good when it’s caught in its earliest stages. A VELscope oral cancer screening can save your life and given that the exam is non-invasive and painless, the trade-off is well worth the few minutes it will take. Eddie Van Halen’s death just goes to show that none of us are immune to cancer. When it comes to oral cancer, the best thing we can do is stay on top of our oral health with regular exams that include tools like VELscope, so that early detection is possible. To learn more or to schedule a VELscope oral cancer screening in Naperville, contact Naperville Dental Specialists today online or by calling us at 630-848-2010.


Naperville Magazine: Dr. Manal Ibrahim and Dr. Anthony LaVacca, Innovative Dental Partners

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Husband and wife, Dr. Anthony LaVacca, Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics, and Dr. Manal Ibrahim, Diplomate, American Board of Orthodontics, are leaders in the fields. Dr. Ibrahim is among the top Invisalign and SureSmile Braces providers in the world and serves as a faculty member in the Department of Orthodontics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her technology-driven approach has led to her reputation as a leader in comfortable, accelerated orthodontics.

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The Best Presidential Smiles

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With the 2020 presidential election quickly approaching on November 3, we thought we’d take a stroll down memory lane remembering past presidents. Being that our Naperville dentists and specialists provide cosmetic dentistry, general dentistry and implant dentistry, of course, we’ll be focusing on the best presidential smiles. 

A History of Presidents’ Smiles

Before we get into which presidents sported some of the best smiles in history, let’s cover a few historical details. For centuries, people didn’t smile in pictures. At first, it’s hypothesized that it was because of older cameras’ long exposure times. Since subjects had to sit for several minutes, it was easier and more comfortable to keep a neutral expression. However, the penchant for not smiling in pictures continued into the late 1800s, even when camera technology had improved. Many historians think cultural forces were at work and that smiling was considered childish and silly. Whatever the reason, there aren’t very many photos of early U.S. presidents smiling. Because of that, we can only really evaluate the more recent presidents. 

So, when did the smiling begin? Theodore Roosevelt is often called “the first president that smiled” and his grin was caught on camera many times. However, the first president to smile in their official portrait and actually show teeth was Ronald Reagan. Yup, that’s a long history of stoic expressions. Yet, given the well-known dental problems many presidents faced, we can’t really blame them. 

For example, George Washington only had one natural tooth at his inauguration. The same year, he began wearing full dentures made with ivory and other people’s teeth (yikes). Abraham Lincoln also had dental issues. He had a serious fear of the dentist because of a tooth extraction gone wrong that left him missing a piece of his jawbone. He’s actually credited with being one of the first people to use an anesthetic when receiving dental care. Andrew Johnson also had bad teeth and was said to drool constantly. Thankfully, as the field of dentistry evolved and cultural ideals about smiling shifted, the United States presidents’ oral health improved and they were more apt to show their pearly whites. With this brief history lesson out of the way, on to the presidents with famous smiles. 

Past US Presidents With Stellar Smiles

Ronald Reagan


President Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan wasn’t just the 40th president of the United States, he was also a Hollywood actor at one time. It makes sense that he’d have one of those notable celebrity smiles. In a survey conducted by Delta Dental Plans and Kelton Global, respondents overwhelmingly voted Ronald Reagan as having the best smile out of past presidents. 

John F. Kennedy


President John F. Kennedy

The same survey that crowned Reagan as the reigning smile champion found that when it came to the best presidential smiles for democratic presidents, JFK took top billing. We can’t say we disagree. He had straight, white teeth and a wide grin, making for one of the best smiles in history, at least in the presidential arena. 

Barack Obama


President Barack Obama

Former President Obama is also the owner of one of the more famous smiles to occupy the White House. Much like JFK, he too has straight, white teeth and a broad grin.

Bill Clinton


President Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton had a memorable smile too. He appears to have good oral health and isn’t afraid to show his teeth when smiling in pictures. 

Gerald Ford


President Gerald Ford

While Gerald Ford might have been more reserved with his smiles, he had a nice grin. We’d guess he had good oral hygiene and likely wore braces at some point in his life, given how straight his teeth are. 

Jimmy Carter


President Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter had one of the best presidential smiles during his younger years when he was in office. According to Dr. Jack Ragsdale, an Illinois dentist whose hobby was studying presidential teeth, Carter had excellent oral health and was overzealous about flossing. 

George W. Bush 


President George W. Bush

George W. Bush makes the list because he was also ranked high among the former Republican presidents in the Kelton Global Survey. While his smile may not be as wide as some of the others, his teeth are straight and fairly white. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt


President Franklin D. Roosevelt

FDR probably smiled frequently because he wanted to show off his straight teeth. He actually wore dental braces to improve his smile. However, while he might be considered to have one of the best presidential smiles on the surface, in actuality, Roosevelt suffered from a number of oral health problems and wore partial dentures to replace his two front teeth. 

There you have it, the best presidential smiles from former U.S. presidents. Don’t forget to vote this November to let your voice be heard in the 2020 presidential election! If you’re not registered to vote yet, you can register online through October 18 or, after that date, in-person at early voting locations. To find out more about where and how to vote in the general election this year, check out this comprehensive, non-partisan resource for voters from the Naperville Public Library. 

Once you make a plan to cast your ballot, if getting your own presidential smile is on the agenda, schedule a visit with a Naperville cosmetic dentist, general dentist or specialist at Naperville Dental Specialists today! Visit us in person by calling us at (630) 848-2010 or book a virtual consultation to learn more about your smile transformation options.


What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

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When it comes to oral health, we tend to focus on our teeth and gums. Yet, the tongue plays a number of roles, including helping us speak and eat. What you may not know is that it also reveals a lot about our oral and overall health. Its appearance and, sometimes, sensations (i.e., feeling sore) can give you important information. A healthy tongue is pink in color and covered in tiny bumps (papillae). Changes in how it looks or any pain can indicate a concern and you should schedule a visit with your Naperville dentist to have it checked out. To illustrate just how powerful simply looking at your tongue can be, we’re sharing some of the clues you can gain from its appearance. 

Key Highlights:

  • Changes in your tongue’s appearance or tongue discomfort could indicate a health concern.
  • Why is my tongue white? A white tongue can be a sign of a number of different conditions, though it’s not usually anything serious. A black, hairy tongue is also not typically a cause for alarm.
  • A strawberry tongue, as well as a lump on the tongue, could signal potentially serious health problems. 
  • It’s always a good idea to bring up changes in the color of your tongue with your dentist. 

A White Coating or White Spots on Tongue 

Patients often ask, why is my tongue white? A white tongue or white spots on the tongue can be alarming but it’s not usually a sign of a serious condition. Here are a few reasons you may have a white tongue:

  • Not Brushing Your Tongue – A white tongue could just be due to a buildup of bacteria and debris. If the white coating on your tongue brushes away, that’s probably the case. As for how to get rid of a white tongue, in this instance, simply brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth to keep it clean. As a bonus, this will help fight bad breath too.
  • Oral Thrush – A white coating or white patches on the tongue can be a sign of oral thrush, which is a yeast infection. It’s caused by Candida yeast (fungus). While we all have Candida in our mouths, when it becomes overgrown, it causes an issue. It’s most common in infants, the elderly, especially those who wear dentures, and people with weakened immune systems. It can also be the result of taking oral or inhaled steroids or antibiotics. Your dentist or doctor may recommend an antifungal treatment, which can come in mouthwash form. 
  • Oral lichen planus – This type of white tongue looks kind of like you have lace on your tongue and features white lines. Oral lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory condition. It’s not contagious and usually goes away on its own.
  • Leukoplakia – Leukoplakia causes white spots on the tongue and inside of the mouth. It crops up when the cells in the mouth grow excessively and it can happen if the tongue gets irritated, such as from drinking alcohol or smoking. It’s not dangerous in and of itself but sometimes it can be a precursor to mouth cancer, so you should schedule an evaluation with your Naperville dentist. 

A Hairy, Black Tongue 

A hairy, black tongue sounds like something out of a horror movie but it’s actually not usually anything serious. Those tiny bumps on the tongue, or papillae, grow throughout your life. Sometimes, they can get really long, and look almost hair-like. Additionally, when they’re overgown, they tend to accumulate bacteria. The bacteria may look black or dark. The entire tongue can be black or it can start as black spots on the tongue.  In most cases, a black, hairy tongue is from poor oral hygiene, but it can also occur due to diabetes, chemotherapy or taking antibiotics. 

A Red Tongue or Strawberry Tongue

If your tongue is red or you have a strawberry tongue where it’s swollen, red and bumpy, it could indicate a number of conditions:

  • Folic Acid or B-12 Deficiency – If you have a folic acid or vitamin B-12 deficiency, it could result in a red tongue. Bloodwork can confirm if you’re lacking either vitamin. If you’re deficient, changing your diet and/or taking supplements could help you get the necessary vitamins and get rid of a red tongue. 
  • Kawasaki Disease – A sign of Kawasaki disease is a strawberry tongue (red and bumpy). The disease, which usually occurs in children under five, causes inflammation in the arteries. A strawberry tongue could be accompanied by high fever, a rash, peeling skin, and red eyes. It’s a serious condition, so if your child has these symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible. 
  • Scarlet Fever – Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection that leads to a strawberry tongue. Sometimes, strep throat can turn into scarlet fever. In addition to a bumpy, red tongue, other symptoms include a red rash over most of the body, high fever, sore throat, headache, flushed skin, and red lines in the folds of the skin. It’s most common in children and teenagers. Call your doctor or pediatrician if you or your child has these symptoms because antibiotics will likely be needed to treat it. 
  • Geographic TongueGeographic tongue gets its name because it’s characterized by a map-like pattern. You may have smooth, red, irregularly shaped spots on the surface of the tongue that can have a white border around them. You might also have pain or a burning, especially when eating spicy or acidic foods. The lesions will usually heal and then move to another area of the tongue. Fortunately, the geographic tongue is not serious and it will go away on its own. 
  • Food or Drug Allergies – Occasionally, a red tongue or strawberry tongue can be from taking a medication or eating a food you’re allergic to. A doctor may give you antihistamines to alleviate the swelling and redness. 

A Sore Tongue or Bumps on Tongue 

There are a variety of things that can lead to a sore tongue or bumps on the tongue, such as:

  • Trauma – If you ever wake up wondering, why does my tongue hurt? You could be grinding or clenching your teeth in your sleep, which can irritate the tongue and cause pain. At Naperville Dental Specialists, we can create a custom nightguard to help with teeth grinding and alleviate tongue pain. A sore tongue can also be the result of accidentally biting it or eating something really hot. In severe cases, eating something scalding could lead to blisters on the tongue. Your tongue will stop hurting once the damage heals. 
  • Canker Sores – A canker sore on the tongue, or anywhere in the mouth, is painful. This type of tongue ulcer isn’t contagious and it’s thought that stress can bring them on. Canker sores on the tongue tend to heal on their own and should go away in a week or two. 
  • Smoking – Smoking can irritate your tongue. It can also lead to a yellowish tongue. If it bothers you, use it as motivation to quit! 
  • Oral Cancer – If you have a lump or sore on your tongue that doesn’t improve within two weeks, even if it doesn’t hurt at all, it could be a sign of oral cancer. You should have it evaluated by your dentist. The early it’s treated, the better. 

These are just some of the many clues your tongue can reveal about your oral and overall health. If you notice any concerning changes in your tongue, schedule a visit at Naperville Dental Specialists. Our expert Naperville dentists can determine what’s causing any issues and, if necessary, create a personalized treatment plan to restore your oral health. 


Your Guide to Gum Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

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A lot of times, when people think of their oral health, the teeth instantly come to mind. However, the gums are incredibly important as well. Our gum tissue, or gingiva, helps to hold the teeth in place and serves as a protective seal to keep out harmful bacteria. Additionally, the health of our gums is tied to our overall health since gum disease is linked to a host of problems, including tooth loss, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and, in women, premature birth and low-birth-weight babies. Our Naperville general dentists and specialists are gum disease experts and we’re covering the basics here in our guide to gum disease. 

Key Highlights:

  • Gum disease is caused by a bacterial infection and, if untreated, can lead to the destruction of the bone and connective tissue that support the teeth. 
  • The signs of gum disease include red, swollen, bleeding gums, changes in your bite, bad breath and receding gums. 
  • Gingivitis is gum disease in its earliest stages and is still reversible with professional cleanings and proper homecare.
  • Periodontitis, the more advanced stage of gum disease, isn’t reversible but can be managed by your dentist to prevent further damage and tooth loss. 
  • Gum disease treatment options include professional dental cleaning, scaling and root planing, and more extensive procedures. 

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is when bacteria in the mouth cause infection and inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissues. It can progress and lead to the destruction of the bone, which in turn, can eventually result in tooth loss. There are stages of gum disease. The first stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. This is when plaque buildup at the gumline causes inflammation. You may notice red, swollen, sore gum tissue and bleeding when you floss. However, in this early stage, gum disease can be reversed. 

The next stage of periodontal disease is periodontitis. Once gingivitis advances to periodontitis, the bone and connective tissue that support the teeth have been damaged irreversibly. You may start to form pockets below the gumline that trap plaque and food. Your dentist, along with a solid homecare routine, can prevent further damage. 

The final step in the stages of gum disease is advanced periodontitis. The connective tissue and bone have been destroyed and your teeth have likely shifted or started to loosen. Aggressive treatment could help to save the teeth but, if it fails, you could need to have some teeth removed. 

Gum Disease Symptoms

The symptoms and signs of gum disease, include:

  • Puffy, swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed
  • Bright red or purplish gums
  • Gums that are tender when touched
  • Spitting out blood after brushing or flossing
  • Bad breath
  • Pus between the teeth and gums
  • Receding gums that make your teeth look longer than normal
  • Change in your bite (the way the teeth fit together)
  • Loose teeth 
  • Pain when chewing
  • Spaces developing between teeth that weren’t there before
  • Change in the fit of partial dentures
  • Tooth loss

What Causes Gum Disease?

As for what causes gum disease, the main cause is plaque build-up. When plaque accumulates on the gumline because it’s not removed with brushing, flossing and professional dental cleanings, it can lead to gingivitis. If this isn’t treated and reversed, it will eventually cause periodontitis. However, there are other risk factors that increase the likelihood a person develops gum disease, including:

  • Smoking or using chewing tobacco
  • Certain medications, such as anticonvulsants, oral contraceptives, steroids, calcium channel blockers and chemotherapy
  • Crowded or crooked teeth that are hard to clean
  • Diabetes
  • Poorly fitted dental appliances
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetics
  • Compromised immunity as with HIV/AIDS

Gum Disease Treatment

When you have gingivitis, it’s all about reversing gum disease and this can often be done with a professional dental cleaning and a dedicated homecare routine. When you come in for a cleaning, a team member will gently remove the hardened plaque, called calculus or tartar, that you can’t get rid of with a toothbrush at home. You’ll want to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once daily in between cleanings. We may also suggest or prescribe a mouthwash depending on your needs. 

If misaligned teeth are at the root of your gingivitis, once we reverse the infection, you may want to consider orthodontic treatment because straight teeth are easier to clean, which can prevent a recurrence of gum disease. As part of Innovative Dental Partners, we’re under the same roof as Innovative Orthodontic Centers. Board-certified orthodontists Dr. Manal Ibrahim and Dr. Christine Gin offer cutting-edge treatment, such as Invisalign® and braces with SureSmile® prescription wires to achieve results more more comfortably and conveniently. Not only will straightening your teeth improve your oral health but, as an added bonus, you’ll get a fantastic smile too. 

If you have periodontitis, you may require scaling and root planing. This is where we get rid of buildup above and below the gumline all the way to the bottom of the gum pockets. We then smooth the tooth roots, which helps prevent plaque from sticking to them. We may also use antibiotics or an antimicrobial cream to prevent infection. That may sound intimidating, but at Naperville Dental Specialists, we believe in painless dentistry and use the latest advances to make procedures comfortable. Once we’ve completed this deep cleaning, you’ll just come in for regular maintenance appointments so we can prevent plaque buildup and keep your gums healthy. 

In cases of advanced periodontitis, there are other gum disease treatment options, such as flap surgery and grafts, which you’ll discuss with your dentist on an individual basis. While reversing gum disease isn’t a possibility at this point, these procedures can sometimes save your teeth. You’ll also have to continue with gum disease treatment at home with regular brushing, flossing and mouthwash. 

Are you interested in Naperville gum disease treatment? Schedule a visit at Naperville Dental Specialists today by calling us at (630) 848-2010! Our knowledgeable dentists will help you restore your gums to optimal health. You can read about the measures we’re taking to keep our patients safe during the coronavirus here

Is it Safe to go to the Dentist During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

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For several months, dental offices were closed, including Naperville Dental Specialists. Going to the dentist during COVID-19, at least in the early months, wasn’t an option unless you had an emergency like severe pain, swelling or an infection. Now that things are slowly reopening and our practice is offering in-person care for all patients and not just emergencies, we know a lot of people are wondering if they should come in for a cleaning or treatment. To help, we’ll be covering what you need to know about the coronavirus and dental care.

Why Did Dental Offices Close During the Coronavirus?

During March, April and part of May, the majority of dental offices closed based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This is because COVID-19 is spread via respiratory droplets. Wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) can prevent dentists and their team members from contracting COVID-19. When they wear a mask, it also stops them from expelling respiratory droplets that could then spread the virus to a patient. However, at the start of the pandemic, there was a shortage of PPE and whatever PPE was available went to hospitals and those dealing directly with COVID patients. Our Naperville cosmetic dentists, general dentists and specialists didn’t have the appropriate gear to protect themselves and their patients.

Additionally, because experts feared the hospitals would be overwhelmed, it was important for everyone to stay home, dentists included, in order to help flatten the curve. If enough people adhered to the rules, it would slow the spread and the hospitals could take the time to prepare themselves to safely and effectively battle COVID-19. Pretty much all resources were directed towards fighting the disease and any procedures that weren’t emergencies had to be put on hold.

Is it Safe to go to the Dentist During COVID-19?

Yes, going to the dentist during COVID-19 is very safe if the practice is taking all of the necessary precautions like we are at Naperville Dental Specialists. In fact, it’s recommended that you treat pressing issues like infection, severe decay and gum disease at this time because there are health risks to not getting proper care. Additionally, if you’re worried about having lengthier, more invasive procedures done during the coronavirus, preventative care like cleanings will ward off the need for them. 

What Precautions are Dentists Taking to Prevent COVID-19?

 When it comes to the coronavirus and dental care, it’s important to note that all dental offices are required to follow OSHA guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing to keep patients and staff safe even when there isn’t a pandemic. At Naperville Dental Specialists, we invest in the latest technology, including technology for sanitization and we exceed OSHA guidelines. 

There are additional guidelines necessary to safely provide dental care during the coronavirus pandemic, which we’re also meeting or exceeding at our practice. At Naperville Dental Specialists, we’re:

  • Asking every patient to wear a face mask or covering when they enter the office and having them disinfect their hands before entering the clinical area of our practice.
  • Pre-screening every patient with a quick health questionnaire and a no-touch temperature check when they arrive at the office.
  • Having only the patient attend the appointment.
  • Assigning one team member to be our “safety champion.” They’ll greet patients, answer questions, ensure social distancing and be in charge of the overall monitoring.
  • Temporarily eliminating our magazines, reading materials, coffee and tea stations, our iBar, kidzCave arcade room and kidzFlix cinema. Our brushing stations are also paused, so please brush your teeth before coming to the office.
  • Spacing treatment chairs at least six feet apart so there’s adequate space between patients.
  • Continuing to use our state-of-the-art HEPA filters.
  • Performing enhanced cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting protocols after every appointment.
  • Continuing our hospital-grade sterilization of instruments, which is approved by the CDC.
  • Asking each patient to rinse with antiseptic mouth rinse prior to treatment.
  • Reducing aerosols by using high-speed suction and DryShield™, an all-in-one, hands-free suction, oral pathway protector, cheek retractor, mouthpiece and bite block.
  • Requesting patients reschedule their appointment if they or anyone in their household have been sick in the 14 days prior to their appointment.
  • Performing health checks and no-touch temperature checks on all of our team members.
  • Having every team member complete additional awareness and prevention programs on safe dental care and the coronavirus.
  • Having team members wear the appropriate PPE to keep themselves and patients safe.

By following our usual procedures for sterilization and disinfection along with a whole new set of protocols, we’re able to ensure it’s safe to go to the dentist during the coronavirus. If you go to another dental practice and they’re not taking precautions, such as limiting patients in waiting areas, wearing PPE or taking temperatures, we would encourage you to see a new dentist. If you’re looking for a dental specialist or general dentist in Naperville, schedule a visit at Naperville Dental Specialists where your health and safety are our top priorities. Book your visit by calling us at (630) 848-2010. If you’re not ready to go to the dentist in person, we’re also offering virtual consultations

Smile Concerns? Schedule a Virtual Consultation at Naperville Dental Specialists

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While our Naperville dental office is open again to patients, we understand that you’re busy or you may still be practicing social distancing. Well, we have good news! If you’ve been thinking of improving your smile, you can get started on the process with a free virtual consultation from the comfort of your own home, office or anywhere. 

We’ve always invested heavily in technology at our Naperville dental office and we’re all about identifying and embracing innovations that make treatment more effective, painless and convenient for our patients. Being here virtually for anyone looking to boost their oral health and confidence seemed like a natural step to take. Whether you’re interested in anything ranging from teeth whitening to zirconia dental implants, we’ve got you covered.

How Does a Virtual Dental Consultation Work?

You can start your consult directly on our website. You’ll snap some pictures of your smile and then tell us what you’d like to change about it. Depending on your needs, a Naperville cosmetic dentist, general dentist or implant dentist will evaluate your photos and information. They’ll then record and send you a personalized video. The video will include their recommended course of treatment and other important information, such as the cost and number of appointments it will take. You’ll have all of the information you need to feel confident about moving forward and, if you have questions, we’ll be more than happy to answer them. When you’re ready to begin treatment, we’ll schedule you for an in-person appointment.

What are the Benefits of a Virtual Consultation?

  • Convenient and User-Friendly – You can submit your photos and information from anywhere and watch the video on your time. The process is designed to be user-friendly and it will only take a few minutes for you to complete.
  • Encourages Social Distancing – While our virtual consultation option is awesome any time because it saves you a trip to the office, during this period of social distancing, it’s even more helpful. Everything is done virtually and once you’re ready to proceed, we’ll get you in for a visit. 
  • Saves You Time – Many of our treatments start with a consultation so that we can look at your smile, find out your goals, discuss cost and financing options, and more. With a virtual consultation, we can do all of this but you don’t have to fit an appointment into your schedule or even leave the house. Instead, we can complete a number of steps in advance so you’re ready to go when it’s time to start your treatment.
  • You’ll Receive a Personalized Plan – Our expert recommendations are tailored just to you and are meant to bring out the best in your unique smile. Once you decide to move forward, our knowledgeable dental specialists will design a customized treatment plan.
  • It’s Complimentary – Our digital consultations are free and there’s no obligation. We’ll simply assess your smile and send you our treatment recommendations. 

If you’re ready to learn more about how we can help you get the healthy, beautiful smile you deserve, start your virtual consultation with a Naperville dentist today! 


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At Naperville Dental Specialists, we are committed to the safety of our patients and staff. We are very excited to start seeing our patients again, and we have put in place advanced protocols to make your visit safe. Please read below for a quick introduction to these steps, and do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Facemasks & Hand Sanitizer 

Every patient will be asked to wear a face mask or facial covering and to thoroughly disinfect their hands before entering the clinical area of our practice. 

Pre-Screening of Every Patient

A quick health questionnaire along with a no-touch temperature check will be completed when you arrive at our office.

Safety Champion 

Each day, one person will be designated to guide our Commitment to Safety. This includes greeting patients, answering questions, ensuring social distancing, and overall monitoring.

Teeth Brushing

Please brush your teeth before arriving at the office. Our brushing stations are temporarily paused. 

No Magazines or Activities 

We temporarily paused our kidzFlix cinema, kidzCave arcade room, iBar and coffee & tea stations. This may make our reception area a little less exciting, but it makes it much safer as well. 

Social Distancing in Effect

Our treatment chairs are all spaced 6 feet apart, so there’s plenty of room between patients. 

Patients Only 

For now, we request just the patient attend the appointment. 

Cleaning After Every Appointment

Enhanced cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting protocols are in place to keep you safe and healthy. 

CDC-Approved Instrument Sterilization

 As always, we will continue our high-level disinfection between patients, hospital grade sterilization of instruments, and appropriate use of personal protective equipment.

Antimicrobial Rinse

Every patient will be asked to rinse with antiseptic mouth rinse prior to treatment. 

Appointment Rescheduling 

Please reschedule your appointment if anyone in your household has been sick in the last 14 days. 

Advanced Staff Training & Health Checks 

Each member of our team has completed additional awareness and prevention programs to enhance their knowledge to provide safe dental care. Each day, we complete health checks for our team with no-touch temperature checks and a quick set of questions. 

Thank you for your understanding as we work together to achieve your best smile! As the situation continues to progress, we’ll keep you updated on what’s happening in the office. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions! We are looking forward to seeing you soon! 

Dr. Anthony LaVacca and the Naperville Dental Specialists Team 

Do I Have Sleep Apnea? Signs You May be Suffering From This Common Sleep Disorder

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Does your sleeping partner complain about your snoring? Do you wake up feeling groggy even though you think you slept the whole night through? You could be one of the estimated 25 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea. The disorder is associated with a host of serious health issues and, unfortunately, it often goes undiagnosed. At Naperville Dental Specialists, we have expertise in obstructive sleep apnea. We can determine if you’re suffering with the disorder and offer solutions to help you sleep more soundly. If you’re wondering, “Do I have sleep apnea?” read on to find out more about the signs, symptoms and causes of this common sleep disorder.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Before we get into the sleep apnea symptoms, let’s cover what the disorder is. A person is said to have sleep apnea if they experience repeated episodes where their breathing stops for at least 10 seconds while they’re asleep. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. While there is another form, central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain doesn’t signal the muscles that control your breathing, today, we’ll be talking about obstructive sleep apnea. This type happens when the muscles in the back of the throat that support the uvula, soft palate, tonsils, tongue and the sides of the throat relax creating a narrowing or blocking of the airway. Your body isn’t able to take in enough oxygen. Your brain senses that you’re not breathing and wakes you up so that you can breathe again. You may find – or, more likely, your partner may notice – that you wake up gasping or choking for air. Since most people wake up only very briefly, they may not even remember that they did awaken.

This cycle of your breathing stopping and starting during sleep can happen a handful of times or 30 times or more every hour throughout the night. Since you have these frequent disruptions, you may not reach the deeper, restful phases of sleep, leaving you feeling excessively tired during the day.

What are the Signs of Sleep Apnea?

The most common sleep apnea symptoms are:

  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping or choking for air during sleep
  • Episodes where your breathing stops when you’re sleeping (reported by another person)
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking up
  • Excessive sleepiness during the daytime
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble staying asleep
  • Morning headaches
  • High blood pressure

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep apnea is caused either by a person’s physical structure or medical conditions. There are a number of risk factors for developing sleep apnea, including:

  • Being overweight
  • Having large tonsils
  • Having a large neck
  • Having a large tongue
  • Having a small jawbone
  • Being over the age of 40
  • Being male
  • A family history of sleep apnea
  • A deviated septum, allergies or sinus issues that block the nasal passageways
  • Premature birth
  • Suffering from certain conditions, including neuromuscular conditions

What Complications Can Sleep Apnea Cause?

A question we hear frequently from patients is, “Can you die from sleep apnea?” While, no, you won’t die in your sleep from not breathing because your body wakes you up, sleep apnea is tied to other conditions and incidents like car accidents and heart disease, which can decrease life expectancy. Because sleep apnea reduces oxygen levels in your blood, affects your circadian rhythms, elevates your blood pressure, and causes other disruptions in the body, it has been associated with:

  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Depression
  • Automotive and workplace accidents
  • Heart attack

These are all serious issues that can greatly reduce your quality of life and have a negative impact on your health.

What are My Sleep Apnea Treatment Options?

Thankfully, there are sleep apnea treatment options that can help. It’s always recommended that you try less invasive treatments before moving on to something permanent. As for how to treat sleep apnea, these are the most common approaches:

  • Lifestyle Changes – Making lifestyle changes is tough. We know! However, things like losing weight, quitting smoking and refraining from alcohol, particularly close to bedtime, can make a big difference and reduce or even eliminate sleep apnea. When you come in for a consultation at Naperville Dental Specialists, we take a detailed health history and determine some of the factors that could be making your sleep apnea worse. We then recommend changes and healthier alternatives.
  • An Oral Appliance for Sleep Apnea – We’ve had a lot of success treating our Naperville sleep apnea patients with the SomnoDent® Mandibular Advancement Splint (MAS). This custom oral appliance moves the lower jaw forward just slightly, which in turn, tightens the soft tissues and muscles in the upper airway, preventing obstruction when you’re sleeping. It also helps prevent the tissues of the upper airway from vibrating, which is a cause of snoring. An oral appliance for sleep apnea can be effective for mild, moderate and severe cases. A lot of patients prefer an oral appliance to invasive alternatives and cumbersome CPAP machines. 
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – CPAP is a machine that consists of a mask that’s connected to an air pressure generator. The device sends air through the throat that is strong enough to stop the tissues from collapsing. CPAP devices are effective but not all patients can tolerate wearing the sleep apnea mask and some find the machine to be awkward.
  • Sleep Apnea Surgery – Sleep apnea surgery should be your last resort after trying measures like weight loss, an oral appliance or CPAP. The most common surgical procedure for sleep apnea is the uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). During the procedure, a surgeon removes and/or remodels tissue in the throat so that it doesn’t obstruct the airway. Its long-term effectiveness is still being evaluated and it’s not the right option for every patient, however, for some, it does help improve their sleep apnea.

If you’re looking for relief from sleep apnea and you’re ready to reclaim your quality of life, schedule a consultation at Naperville Dental Specialists. Our experts will develop an accurate diagnosis and walk you through our Naperville sleep apnea treatment options. 

smiling couple

Can Dental Implants Improve Your Health?

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Dental implants can not only improve the appearance of your smile but also your quality of life and your health. Dental implants are a long-lasting, stable, strong alternative to dentures or dental bridges for replacing one or more missing teeth. Our Naperville dental implants patients can attest to the life-changing benefits of the treatment. While we’ve talked before about the cosmetic perks, today we’re discussing the ways dental implants can improve your oral and overall health. 

What Happens if You Don’t Replace Missing Teeth?

When you lose a tooth, the teeth surrounding the empty space have a tendency to shift and fill in the gap. This will leave you with crooked teeth and spacing, which doesn’t just impact the appearance of your smile but also makes teeth harder to keep clean and can result in uneven wear of the teeth. It can also weaken the surrounding teeth and cause further tooth loss. You may experience difficulty with chewing and speaking clearly when a tooth or teeth are missing as well.

Another consequence of a missing tooth is bone resorption. If the tooth isn’t replaced, there is nothing stimulating the bone and gum tissue where it once was. This causes the jawbone and gum tissue to deteriorate, leaving you with a sunken face that looks older than it really is, as well as discomfort.

How Do Dental Implants Work?

Dental implants, both titanium and zirconia, are surgically placed in your jawbone. They fuse with the bone and act as the tooth’s root. Once your bone heals following dental implants surgery, a permanent, lifelike replacement tooth, called a crown, is attached to the implant. Your new tooth functions and looks just like your natural tooth. We can replace just one or even all of your teeth with dental implants.

What are the Health Benefits of Dental Implants?

Many of our Naperville dental implants patients seek us out because they’re worried about the appearance of their smile. The cosmetic benefits of dental implants are not something to overlook. Replacing missing teeth with a titanium dental implant or zirconia dental implant will truly revitalize your smile and make you look healthier and more youthful. This leads to a huge increase in self-esteem and self-confidence that will have a positive effect on all areas of your life. Yet, as we mentioned, there are also important oral health and overall health benefits of dental implants, including:

  • Allowing You To Chew Properly – With missing teeth or dentures, you may find yourself skipping certain foods because you have a reduced ability to chew. Fresh, crunchy vegetables, nuts and seeds are among the healthy foods you may forgo. Since dental implants fuse with your bone, they act like natural teeth and you can chew with confidence. This means you can eat a more varied diet, which can improve your health. 
  • Preventing Jawbone Shrinkage – Dental implants stimulate your jawbone just like your natural teeth do. This is a huge benefit of dental implants vs. bridges or dentures. While dentures and bridges are useful for replacing missing teeth and restoring the appearance of your smile, you’ll still experience bone resorption and deterioration. This causes a shrunken, shriveled appearance to your face and can cause pain and discomfort. Dental implants keep your jaw healthy and strong and this is essential to your oral health.
  • Avoiding Malocclusion – Malocclusions, or issues with the positioning or alignment of the teeth and jaw, can occur when missing teeth aren’t replaced. When you lose a tooth, the teeth around the gap tend to shift in an attempt to fill in the space. Because teeth are harder to clean when they’re crooked, you have an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Additionally, when teeth aren’t in their correct places, they’re susceptible to excessive wear of the enamel.
  • Boosting the Health of Gums When You Choose Zirconia Dental Implants – The two main types of dental implant materials are titanium and zirconia. When comparing zirconia dental implants vs. titanium implants a great perk of zirconia implants, sometimes called holistic dental implants or ceramic dental implants, is the fact that zirconia resists plaque. This helps prevent gum disease. Your gum tissue is a barrier that wards off inflammation. Gum disease introduces bacteria into the bloodstream and this bacteria result in inflammation. This is likely why gum disease is tied to a number of health problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and, in women, premature birth. Therefore, keeping your gums healthy isn’t just good for your oral health but it also benefits your overall health.

If you’re ready to improve your health and smile with either titanium or zirconia dental implants, schedule a complimentary consultation with our Naperville prosthodontist Dr. Anthony LaVacca. He has the experience and knowledge to help you decide on the best type of dental implant procedure for your smile and needs. Book your visit online or by giving us a call at (630) 848-2010 today!