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Should You Brush Your Teeth Before or After Coffee?

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Should You Brush Your Teeth Before or After Your Morning Coffee?

Your alarm sounds, you roll out of bed and, if you’re like a lot of people, one of the first things you do is enjoy a cup of coffee (or two). And while coffee smells and tastes amazing when it’s straight from your mug in the morning, the same doesn’t hold true when it comes to your breath. So, understandably, your natural instinct might be to brush your teeth after having your coffee to ensure your mouth is fresh and clean as you go about your day. But there’s some debate about whether or not this is the right move. Well, the team at Naperville Dental Specialists is here to help. We’ll be weighing in on whether you should brush your teeth before or after coffee.

Should I Brush My Teeth Before or After Coffee?

Drumroll please….you should brush your teeth before having coffee, according to our Naperville dentists. We know, we know, it feels like that goes against all logic. After all, doesn’t coffee stain teeth? Won’t you be stuck with coffee breath? 

Yes, coffee does stain teeth and, sure, it can cause bad breath. However, there are two main reasons behind the recommendation for brushing your teeth before coffee:

  • Brushing your teeth eliminates plaque and gives your teeth a smooth surface. This makes it more difficult for the liquid to adhere to your enamel, which will prevent or reduce coffee stains on your teeth. It will also make lifting any superficial stains easier when you brush later. 
  • Coffee is acidic. Whenever you eat or drink something acidic, including coffee, it leaves your enamel vulnerable for about 30 to 60 minutes until your saliva neutralizes the acidity and the pH in your mouth returns to normal. If you brush when your enamel is temporarily weakened, it can cause erosion. As your enamel erodes, the underlying dentin becomes exposed. This can lead to tooth sensitivity, increase your risk of cavities and make your teeth look yellow. 

Wait, is coffee bad for your teeth?

The good news is, coffee (as long as you’re not adding sugar) doesn’t directly cause tooth decay and it’s no worse than any other drink that’s not water. However, the acidity, especially if you consistently brush your teeth right after your coffee, can eventually lead to enamel erosion, which will make you more susceptible to sensitivity and decay. Aside from the acid, coffee stains teeth too. It’s pigmented and, over time, it’s notorious for causing discoloration. 

But, overall, coffee may actually have some beneficial properties that can boost your oral health. For example, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Conservative Dentistry found that black coffee without any additives like sugar or cream helped prevent cavities thanks to its antibacterial effect. It’s thought the polyphenols in coffee are responsible for zapping bacteria. The bottom line: stick with black coffee and hold off on brushing your teeth afterwards. As long as you maintain good oral hygiene, you should be perfectly fine drinking it. 

brush your teeth before or after coffee

How Can I Prevent Coffee Breath and ‘Stains While Keeping My Enamel Safe?

Thoroughly rinsing your mouth with water after having a cup of coffee will go a long way in warding off coffee breath, keeping stains at bay and giving your mouth a clean sensation. Even better, rinse your mouth and then chew a piece of sugarless gum. (Bonus points if the gum contains xylitol since xylitol prevents bacteria buildup.) Chewing sugarless gum after any meal or beverage is a good practice for getting your saliva flowing and helping to prevent cavities. Having a piece after coffee has the added benefit of freshening your breath. 

If you drink a lot of coffee and other acidic beverages, you might also want to consider using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth that contains fluoride. The fluoride will help to remineralize your teeth and strengthen your enamel. Ingredients like potassium nitrate and stannous fluoride will reduce sensitivity by shielding the dentin and soothing the nerves inside of your teeth. 

The other thing to keep in mind is that the debate about whether you should brush your teeth before or after coffee refers to brushing soon after drinking it. The American Dental Association recommends waiting 60 minutes after eating or drinking before brushing your teeth. So, if you’re not in a rush, you can wait an hour until your oral pH is back to normal and then brush your teeth without any negative effects. 

Schedule a Visit With a Naperville Dentist Today

Do you have more questions about your oral health? Schedule a visit with a Naperville dentist today. We can fill you in on everything you need to know about caring for your teeth and gums, including how to develop a smile-friendly morning routine. If you’ve been brushing right after your coffee for years and now have sensitivity or discoloration, we can help with that too! 

what does apple cider vinegar do for your teeth

What Does Apple Cider Vinegar Do For Your Teeth?

By Blog, Teeth Whitening No Comments

What Does Apple Cider Vinegar Do For Your Teeth?

Apple cider vinegar has been touted as a cure-all for everything from heartburn to acne. While there aren’t a ton of studies to support many of the claims, the home remedy is still incredibly popular. Recently, there have been articles and blog posts about the benefits of apple cider vinegar for oral health. Recommendations include drinking a glass of it a day, using it as mouthwash and even rubbing it directly on the teeth to make them whiter. But, before you jump on the apple cider vinegar bandwagon, get the facts from our Naperville general dentists.

What are the Supposed Benefits of Apple 

Cider Vinegar for Oral Health?

There are claims of what does apple cider vinegar do for your teeth as a mouthwash is that it can kill the bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities and gum disease, and the potassium in the vinegar can help to strengthen teeth. Yet, the most popular application is using apple cider vinegar for teeth whitening. Some suggest brushing it directly on the teeth, while others say to mix it with baking soda. 

Is Apple Cider Vinegar Bad For Your Teeth?

Apple cider vinegar is acidic. It typically has a pH between 2.5 and 3. For reference, distilled water, which is neutral, has a pH of 7. Any type of acid, including the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar, can erode tooth enamel. So, yes, drinking or swishing with large quantities of apple cider vinegar is bad for your teeth.

When the enamel breaks down, it leads to sensitivity and puts you at a higher risk for tooth decay. Eventually, as the underlying dentin is exposed, your teeth will also look yellow.

A 2014 study examined the erosive effects of different types of vinegar on tooth enamel. The researchers found that between 1% and 20% of the minerals in the enamel were lost when the enamel was soaked in various kinds of vinegar for four hours. While the study did demonstrate that vinegar eroded teeth, it didn’t account for factors like the impact of saliva on the process, so more research is needed to understand the full extent of damage.

A 2012 case study of a 15-year-old girl whose enamel was significantly eroded found that the erosion was due to the daily glass of apple cider vinegar she drank for weight loss. 

There are no conclusive studies on whether apple cider vinegar is more effective at killing cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth than any other remedies.

Does Apple Cider Vinegar Make Teeth Whiter?

Studies, including one published in 2014, found that apple cider vinegar does make teeth whiter. However, though it has a minor bleaching effect, it can also damage the hardness of the enamel. 

The American Dental Association has weighed in on the topic. Their stance? Don’t whiten your teeth with apple cider vinegar, because the prolonged contact can wear away enamel. 

The minimal results that you’d get aren’t worth the risk. You’d achieve safer, much more dramatic results with a professional teeth whitening treatment at your dentist’s office. 

How to Protect Your Teeth From Apple Cider Vinegar

While large amounts of apple cider vinegar can damage your teeth, you don’t have to forgo it all altogether. Here’s how to protect your teeth from apple cider vinegar:

  • Dilute the vinegar with water. If you’re drinking it for health purposes, use five parts water for every one part apple cider vinegar.
  • Enjoy it in moderation. Putting it on a salad or having the occasional diluted glass of it is fine for most people’s teeth. 
  • Never use apple cider vinegar as a mouthwash or drink it straight from the bottle. 
  • Consider switching to a supplement. Some companies sell apple cider vinegar in pill form, allowing you to get the benefits without it coming into contact with your teeth. 
  • If you have apple cider vinegar (or anything acidic), wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. If you brush your teeth immediately, you can damage your enamel while it’s temporarily weakened from the acidity. 
  • After eating or drinking something with apple cider vinegar in it, rinse your mouth out really well with water. This will reduce the amount of vinegar that sits on your enamel. 
  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss once daily. When your enamel is strong, you’ll be less vulnerable to the effects of apple cider vinegar on your teeth. 

Schedule a Visit With a General or Cosmetic Dentist in Naperville, IL

If you have oral health concerns or want to get whiter teeth, schedule a visit with a general or cosmetic dentist at Naperville Dental Specialists. We can give you personalized recommendations to improve your oral health or whiten your teeth in a way that’s safe and effective.

What’s the Best Option for Super Fast Teeth Whitening?

By Blog

What’s the Best Option for Super Fast Teeth Whitening?


This month, we’re sharing another question the team at Naperville Dental Specialists received from a patient. 

“I have a class reunion coming up in about one week. I don’t think that is enough time to get my teeth really white with over-the-counter whitestrips.  Would professional whitening get my teeth really white by then?”Desiree M. 

We’ll be answering Desiree’s question and discussing the different ways to get a brighter smile, the fastest way to whiten teeth and the types of teeth whitening we offer in Naperville, IL. 

The Different Ways to Whiten Teeth

Before we dive into Desiree’s question about how to whiten teeth on a tight deadline, let’s talk about the different ways to whiten teeth in general and the pros and cons of each:

  • Whitening Toothpaste 

One option for low cost teeth whitening is to use a whitening toothpaste. You can opt for a traditional version like Crest 3D White Brilliance Toothpaste or Arm & Hammer Advance White Extreme Whitening Toothpaste

While all toothpastes are abrasive, whitening ones are even more abrasive in order to remove surface stains from the teeth. However, when whisking away stains, the products also take off a microscopic layer of tooth enamel, which can be tough on your smile. So, they’re not recommended for people with sensitive teeth or weakened enamel. 

In addition to traditional whitening toothpastes, there’s a lot of buzz about activated charcoal teeth whitening products. You typically mix the charcoal powder with water to create a paste that you then brush on your teeth with your toothbrush like you normally would. After letting it sit, you rinse it away. 

While billed as a natural teeth whitening solution, charcoal whiteners are no more effective than other toothpastes. They’re safe but still only remove surface stains caused by environmental factors like drinking coffee or eating certain foods. 

Lowest cost teeth whitening option
Easy to use
Gets rid of mild surface stains
Only gets rid of mild surface stains
Won’t dramatically whiten your teeth
Has to be used every day for a prolonged period of time to see results
Charcoal teeth whitening toothpaste doesn’t contain fluoride
Can cause sensitivity
Rough on teeth and not appropriate for people with weakened enamel
  • Over-the-Counter, At-Home Teeth Whitening Kits

Over-the-counter teeth whitening kits come in two main forms: teeth whitening strips and trays. The at-home teeth whitening trays you can purchase online also sometimes include an LED light along with the trays and bleaching solution. 

These are more effective than whitening toothpaste but still only get your teeth a few shades whiter. They can also cause or exacerbate tooth sensitivity. Whitening strips contain a layer of whitening solution and stick on your teeth. With the trays, you fill each tray, which looks like an Invisalign aligner, with bleach and let it sit on your teeth, with or without an LED light. 

Most options are fairly affordable
More effective than whitening toothpaste
Will get teeth several shades whiter
Can be done at home
Takes 10 days to three weeks to work
Can be messy
Strips often slide around 
Some have to be used for up to 30 minutes at a time 
Doesn’t eliminate deeper set stains
You have to be diligent with using it every day for weeks to get results


  • Professional At-Home Teeth Whitening

Another option for those who prefer to do their teeth whitening at home, is a professional take-home whitening treatment from your dentist. Your dentist will provide you with custom trays and a professional-grade whitening solution. Since your dentist will perform an exam first, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re a good candidate for whitening and that it won’t cause sensitivity or other issues. 

While you will have to use the whitening kit daily for about a week, the bleaching solution is stronger than what you can get over the counter, meaning your teeth will be whiter than they would if you used a kit you ordered online. The results will also last longer. 

Can whiten your teeth at home
Stronger and more effective than over-the-counter fast teeth whitening kits
Your dentist makes sure your teeth will respond and it won’t cause complications
Contains a safe, expert-approved bleaching solution 
Works more quickly than over-the-counter methods
Easy to use
Lasting results
More expensive than whitening toothpaste or whitestrips
Results take about a week
Has to be used every day
Won’t get teeth as white as they would with an in-office treatment


  • In-Office, Professional Teeth Whitening

When you get in-office, professional teeth whitening, your cosmetic dentist applies a professional-strength whitening gel to your teeth. A specially designed light is then used to activate the solution. Once activated, the whitening solution breaks down stains on your teeth, including deeper set stains that can’t be removed with other teeth whitening methods. 

Gets teeth dramatically whiter
Removes deeper stains
More effective than any other teeth whitening method
Only takes one session, which lasts about an hour
Done at your dentist’s office after they’ve made sure you’re a candidate for whitening
The longest lasting option (your teeth will always be whiter than they were prior to treatment)
Safe for enamel
Doesn’t cause tooth sensitivity
Predictable results
More expensive than over-the-counter teeth whitening kits and toothpaste
Not suitable for every patient, including kids under 13
Have to drive to the dentist’s office

What’s the Fastest Way to Whiten to Teeth?

Getting back to Desiree’s question, the fastest way to whiten teeth is an in-office, professional teeth whitening treatment. It will dramatically whiten your teeth in about an hour and in a single office visit.

Professional, take-home teeth whitening would also brighten Desiree’s smile in a week – just in time for her reunion. However, the results wouldn’t be as dramatic as they would be with in-office whitening. 

The majority of over-the-counter teeth whitening kits would not produce results in a week. Additionally, they don’t target deeper stains and won’t get teeth as white as professional treatment. The higher-concentration whitening solutions used by your dentist can only be purchased by professionals and aren’t available online or at a store.

Our Naperville, IL Teeth Whitening Options

At our practice, we offer both professional, take-home whitening kits and in-office, fast teeth whitening in Naperville, IL. Whichever option you choose, a Naperville cosmetic dentist will assess your teeth and gums and make sure you’re a good candidate for the treatment. Then one of our team members will go over the logistics, such as your teeth whitening cost.

If you opt for a take-home kit, you’ll be provided with all of the instructions you need, as well as a safe, effective whitening solution that you’ll apply using plastic trays. 

With an in-office whitening treatment, we’ll apply a gel to your teeth and activate it using a special light. The process takes about an hour. Before you leave, we’ll give you post-whitening care instructions. By following the instructions and practicing good oral hygiene, your results can last for years. 

Schedule Your Visit for Teeth Whitening at Naperville Dental Specialists!

Are you ready for a more dazzling smile? Schedule a visit with us to find out if you’re a candidate for professional teeth whitening in Naperville, IL. Book your appointment online or by calling us at (630) 848-2010. 

What Are The TMD Treatment Options?

What Are the TMD Treatment Options?

By Blog, TMJ

What is TMJ Exactly and What Are TMD Treatment Options?

Our Naperville prosthodontist, Dr. Anthony LaVacca, received the following question, which we’re sharing with permission:

“My sister has been diagnosed with TMJ. I want to help her research this, and determine what her treatment options are. What exactly is it?” 

– Michael

In this post, we’ll be answering Michael’s question and discussing what TMJ is, the symptoms and causes of TMJ disorders, how to find relief, and the different TMD treatment options. 

What is TMJ?

While people commonly call issues with the jaw “TMJ.” TMJ actually stands for temporomandibular joint and refers to the joint itself. Problems with the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, are technically called temporomandibular joint disorders or temporomandibular disorders, often shortened to TMJ disorders, TMD or TMJD. We know, it’s a whole lot of acronyms! 

Before we dive into TMJ disorders, first, let’s talk about the temporomandibular joint. There is one TMJ on either side of the head connecting the jaws to the temporal bones in your skull. The joints allow you to move your jaw side to side and up and down. When you yawn, chew, talk, or open and close your mouth, your TMJ is hard at work. 

TMJ muscle explanation

What are TMJ Disorders?

Temporomandibular joint disorders, or TMJ disorders, are a group of conditions that result in dysfunction and pain in the jaw joint and/or muscles that control the movement of your jaw. Since the TMJ is a complex joint, problems with it can also be complex, potentially involving not just the joints and muscles, but also the tendons, teeth, ligaments and nerves. 

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, TMJ disorders fall into three main categories:

  • myofascial pain (pain in the muscles related to jaw function)
  • dysfunction or pain in the joint itself (i.e., displaced joint, injured condyle, dislocated jaw, etc.)
  • arthritis in the joint

A patient could have a TMJ problem that fits into one of the above categories, or even all three. 

What are the TMJD/TMD Symptoms?

TMD symptoms may include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw, joint area and face
  • Pain in and around the ear
  • Headaches and/or neck aches
  • Popping or clicking noises when opening the mouth (popping or clicking on their own aren’t necessarily indicative of TMJ disorders unless accompanied by pain or other symptoms)
  • Jaw pain when chewing, speaking or opening the mouth wide
  • Difficulty opening the mouth all of the way
  • The jaws getting “stuck” or “locked” in an open or closed position
  • Swelling on the side of the face


TMJ disorders can also cause toothaches (in multiple teeth), ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, dizziness and other symptoms. TMJ disorders are more common in women than men, leading some experts to think they might be linked to female hormones. 

What are the Causes of TMJ Disorders?

While pinpointing the exact cause of a TMJ disorder can be difficult, many times it’s related to:

  • A misaligned bite (the upper and lower teeth not coming together properly)
  • Arthritis in the temporomandibular joint
  • Trauma to the jaw and joint, such as a blow to the face
  • Grinding or clenching the teeth (bruxism), which can put undue pressure on the joint
  • Stress that causes you to tighten your facial muscles or clench your teeth

How to Achieve TMJ Pain Relief at Home?

TMJ pain can range from mild to severe and it can be temporary or chronic. At Naperville Dental Specialists, we typically recommend trying TMJD home remedies first. If you’re not able to get TMJ pain relief, then conservative measures are your next option. Permanent treatments, such as TMJ surgery, should always be the last resort. 

Try the following TMJD home remedies on their own or in conjunction with professional TMD treatment options to alleviate discomfort and encourage mobility in the joint:

  • Eat soft foods. During an episode of TMJ pain, avoid foods that are difficult to chew and that involve opening your mouth wide to bite into them. Instead, opt for soft foods, such as yogurt, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, soft-cooked fish, bananas, applesauce, steamed vegetables, oatmeal, protein shakes and smoothies until your discomfort subsides. When you do go back to your regular diet, try to chew with both sides of your mouth.
  • Use moist heat or ice. If you’re experiencing a muscle spasm, muscle pain or your jaw feels locked, hold a washcloth that has been moistened with warm water or a warm compress on the outside of your face in the area of the joint for 10-15 minutes several times a day. This will help loosen the muscles and boost blood flow. 

If you’re experiencing facial swelling, a cold pack will reduce swelling and pain. For a DIY option, cover a bag of frozen vegetables or ziploc baggie of ice with a thin towel or cloth. Hold the cold pack against your face for 10-15 minutes, repeating as needed throughout the day. 

  • Give your jaws a break! Avoid chewing gum, extreme jaw movements (i.e., big yawns, yelling, singing, etc.), and chewing on your fingernails, ice or other objects. 
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help with pain and swelling. For more severe TMJ pain, your doctor may prescribe stronger NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, or, in some cases, certain antidepressants. 
  • Practice good posture. Try to hold your head in a neutral position with your ears in line with your shoulders and, if you work at a desk, keep ergonomics in mind. 
  • Manage stress. Stress can make you clench your jaw and tighten your facial muscles, which may cause or exacerbate TMJ disorders. Try different stress-reduction methods, such as deep breathing or guided meditation, until you find one that works for you. If you can’t seem to manage your stress and worry, consider scheduling an appointment with a therapist or counselor. 
  • Keep your upper and lower teeth slightly apart. To prevent clenching, which will worsen your TMJ pain, when at rest, try to keep your upper and lower teeth slightly apart. This will take pressure off your jaw and allow your temporomandibular joints to rest and heal. If you need to, stick your tongue between your teeth. 
  • Do gentle TMJ stretching and strengthening exercises once your pain improves. When you’re no longer feeling major discomfort, certain TMJ exercises can encourage mobility in the joint and strengthen the chewing muscles to prevent TMD symptoms from returning. The American Academy of Family Physicians has a list of TMJ exercises you may want to try. 

What are the TMD Treatment Options?

For moderate to severe TMJ disorders that don’t improve on their own, professional TMD treatment could be necessary. TMJD treatment options may include:

  • Custom oral appliances – Custom nightguards or TMJ splints are a great way to get TMJ pain relief without medication or surgery. These appliances are made for you by your Naperville dentist. Nightguards reduce the impact from clenching or grinding the teeth, which wards off damage to the teeth and jaw and reduces compression of your TMJ. A TMJ splint holds the jaw in a stable position and takes pressure off the joints so they can heal. 
  • TMJ devices – At Naperville Dental Specialists, another TMJ treatment we offer is the TMJ NextGeneration device. This FDA-cleared device is custom-made to fit comfortably and discreetly in the ear canal. It supports the temporomandibular joints and reduces TMJ pain, while also increasing your awareness of teeth grinding, clenching and other para-functional behavior. 
  • Physical therapy – Depending on the underlying cause of your TMJ disorder, physical therapy can be effective for strengthening the muscles that control jaw movement, increasing mobility and controlling discomfort and swelling. Your dentist or doctor can refer you to a physical therapist who will show you different stretching and strengthening exercises. They might also use massage techniques, myofascial release, moist heat and ice, ultrasound and other methods to help with pain and prevent future occurrences. 
  • Injections – Sometimes, TMJ disorders respond to injections, including corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation, trigger point injections to release muscle spasms, or Botox® injections to temporarily relax the chewing muscles and prevent them from contracting. 
  • Orthodontic treatment – When a temporomandibular joint disorder is due to a bite imbalance, treatment with braces or Invisalign® may be recommended to align the teeth and jaws. When the teeth are moved, the TMJ and surrounding structures will also be repositioned. Before treating TMJ disorders with orthodontic treatment, however, we have to make sure any tooth movements will improve the position of the TMJ and help with pain and not make things worse. 
  • Restorative dental work – In certain instances, if the way the upper and lower teeth meet is putting pressure on the TMJ and leading to pain, your Naperville cosmetic dentist can use dental crowns, bridges or, in the case of missing teeth, dental implants, to fix your bite problem and balance the biting surfaces of the teeth. This, in turn, will help with healing. 
  • Alternative medicine – Biofeedback, a technique that involves using electrical sensors to alert you to muscle tightening and jaw clenching, has become a popular TMD treatment option. The technique helps you to notice your internal cues so you can relax and prevent pain. Other alternative options that some patients swear by are acupuncture and radio wave therapy. 
  • TMJ surgery – If all of the other TMD treatments fail, surgery is an option. Since surgery is permanent and the different procedures have varying levels of effectiveness, this should be a last option.

What Type of Doctor Treats TMJ Disorders?

Although no one can technically be referred to as a TMJ specialist or TMJ dentist since it’s not a recognized specialty, Dr. LaVacca is an American board-certified prosthodontist. Prosthodontists have the experience that makes them well suited to helping patients with TMJ disorders. 

After completing dental school, a prosthodontist like Dr. LaVacca completes at least three additional years of advanced training and education in a post-graduate program. While there, they learn the intricacies of diagnosing, preventing and treating dental and facial problems, including TMJ disorders. 

Key Takeaways

  • The acronym TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint and refers to the joint itself. Problems with the temporomandibular joint are technically known as temporomandibular joint disorders or temporomandibular disorders, often shortened to TMJ disorders, TMJD or TMD. 
  • The TMJ is a complex joint and it can be difficult to pinpoint the underlying cause of TMJD, but arthritis, a bite imbalance, bruxism and trauma to the joint are among the common culprits. 
  • While there isn’t a recognized TMJ specialist designation, an American board-certified prosthodontist like Dr. LaVacca has the expertise and knowledge to diagnose and treat TMJ disorders. 
  • TMD treatment options can range from home remedies to TMJ appliances to surgery. Conservative treatments should always be considered first and surgical intervention should be the last resort. 

Schedule a Consultation With Our Naperville TMJ Expert

If you’re suffering from TMJ pain and unable to get relief, schedule a visit with Dr. LaVacca today. Dr. LaVacca and our team will use cutting-edge diagnostic technology to determine the underlying cause of your pain and then create a personalized TMJ treatment plan. 

can veneers fix crooked teeth

Can Veneers Fix Crooked Teeth?

By Invisalign

A Naperville cosmetic dentist at our practice received a question from Janet about whether veneers can fix crooked teeth. Here’s what she asked, which we’re sharing with her permission:

All my teeth are fine, except the two top front ones. These two teeth are crooked and kind of go past each other. I wonder if you can tell me if porcelain veneers can fix this kind of problem?

—– Janet 

Janet isn’t the only one wondering about fixing crooked teeth with veneers. In fact, it’s a common question we get from our patients at Naperville Dental Specialists. To give more insight into porcelain veneers, including what the cosmetic dentistry solution can fix, we’ll cover:

  • What are dental veneers?
  • Can veneers fix crooked teeth?
  • What other problems can veneers fix?
  • What are the pros and cons of dental veneers?
  • What are the other treatment options for fixing crooked teeth and similar cosmetic concerns?

What are Dental Veneers?

Before we answer Janet’s question, let’s talk about what dental veneers are. Dental veneers, or porcelain veneers, are extremely thin pieces of porcelain that are bonded permanently to the teeth. The tooth-colored shells cover the front and side surfaces of the teeth in order to mask imperfections and improve the appearance of your smile. 

There are different types of dental veneers. While options like press-on veneers and Lumineers® are advertised as easy to place, not every patient is happy with the appearance of press-ons or Lumineers on their teeth. For that reason, your Naperville cosmetic dentist will customize the veneers and the procedure to your individual needs and goals. 

How Porcelain Veneers Work?

Getting porcelain veneers is painless and you’ll see results immediately, which is why they’ve become so popular with patients who want to transform their smile. Using a digital intraoral scanner, a Naperville Dental Specialists’ team member will take quick, comfortable scans of your teeth. 

A computerized, 3D model of your mouth will be created and your cosmetic dentist will use CAD/CAM software to design custom porcelain veneers that match the shape, color and translucency of your natural enamel.

Once your dental veneers have been created, the dentist will then use special adhesive to bond the veneers to the surface of your teeth. Thanks to our high-tech approach and in-office lab, we can usually complete the procedure in two office visits or, in certain cases, even provide same-day veneers

Can Veneers Fix Crooked Teeth?

Yes, porcelain veneers can address the problem. They are very effective for fixing the appearance of crooked teeth. The end result will look stunning and natural. 

However, veneers camouflage the issue and don’t alter the position of the teeth, so we typically only recommend fixing crooked teeth with veneers when the problem is cosmetic. For more complex cases of misaligned teeth where there are functional or oral health concerns, porcelain veneers may not be the ideal solution. 

Innovative Orthodontic Centers, which is part of the Innovative Dental Partners umbrella, offers comprehensive orthodontic treatment, which, as we’ll talk about shortly, could be the better option for aligning the teeth and creating a healthy, functional bite when there is significant tooth misalignment. 

That said, if your teeth are just slightly crooked and the misalignment isn’t affecting your oral health or your ability to chew, speak or breathe properly, then veneers are an excellent alternative to orthodontic treatment. Instead of spending months in aligners or braces, the porcelain veneers will be bonded to the front of your teeth, making them instantly look straight. 

What Other Problems Can Dental Veneers Fix?

Porcelain veneers are very versatile and they can fix a range of cosmetic concerns, including:

  • Gaps between the teeth
  • Chipped or broken teeth
  • Discolored, stained teeth
  • Misshapen or slightly crooked teeth
  • Worn or short teeth

Once the veneers are in place, your smile will look whiter, healthier and straighter! 

What are the Pros and Cons of Dental Veneers?

As with any treatment, there are pros and cons to dental veneers. After an expert Naperville cosmetic dentist evaluates your smile and chats with you about your concerns and aesthetic goals, they’ll be able to let you know if porcelain veneers are the right choice for you.

Dental veneers pros:

  • Veneers look and function like your natural teeth
  • Porcelain veneers can mask multiple imperfections and concerns at once
  • The process is painless and quick
  • The porcelain veneers we use at Naperville Dental Specialists are durable, stain-resistant and natural looking
  • Veneers can strengthen your teeth
  • The restorations will last for decades with proper care
  • Results are instant! 

Dental veneers cons:

  • Although it will be minimal, we will have to remove a small amount of your tooth enamel to fit the veneers
  • Porcelain veneers are a cosmetic solution and won’t address underlying problems, such as functional issues related to tooth misalignment

What are the Other Options for Fixing Crooked Teeth and Similar Concerns?

In Janet’s situation, if only two teeth are crooked and that’s all that’s wrong with her smile, or if misaligned teeth are creating functional and oral health problems, then Invisalign® might be the better option. This way, she can fix the crooked teeth instead of just covering them up. 

Fixing Crooked Teeth With Invisalign

Invisalign isn’t like traditional braces. There are no wires and brackets and for a minor case like Janet’s, treatment could be done in as little as six months. The clear aligners are virtually invisible, removable and comfortable. Most people won’t be able to tell you’re wearing them. 

For patients with complex orthodontic problems, comprehensive Invisalign treatment will allow them to achieve the results they want. Dr. Manal Ibrahim and Dr. Christine Gin of Innovative Orthodontic Centers are the leading Naperville Invisalign providers and have the expertise to treat even the most severe cases with Invisalign in a way that’s efficient and comfortable. 

Sensational Smiles, on the other hand, provides limited treatment. With Sensational Smiles, patients like Janet can straighten their teeth with only three office visits. A board-certified orthodontist and Diamond+ Top 1% Invisalign provider will plan and direct the treatment using real Invisalign aligners. This means you can get the convenience of at-home aligner treatment without cutting corners. 

Dental Bonding vs. Veneers

Another alternative to dental veneers is dental bonding. Dental bonding involves placing a composite resin directly onto the tooth (or teeth). The resin hardens and is polished and shaped to blend in with your smile. It’s an affordable way to fix minor imperfections. 

When comparing dental bonding vs. veneers, bonding is usually reserved for teeth that aren’t subjected to a lot of biting force and the procedure can help with small chips or gaps. Veneers are longer-lasting, more stain-resistant and durable, so they work well for a truly dramatic smile transformation and issues like crooked teeth, as well as discoloration or staining that doesn’t respond to teeth whitening

Dental Crowns vs. Veneers

For a severely decayed tooth or teeth that are worn or misshapen, dental crowns can also restore their strength and appearance. But the dental crown procedure does involve removing much more of the natural tooth’s structure, so veneers are often better for fixing cosmetic flaws. 

How Much Do Our Naperville Veneers Cost?

Your Naperville veneers cost will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of veneers we use. While every patient is different, we aim to make veneers affordable. 

We file with most PPO insurances. If your insurance offers coverage for veneers, it can reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, we accept CareCredit, a healthcare financing card that lets you break up your porcelain veneers cost into low monthly payments with interest-free options. 

Now that you know all about whether, or not. veneers can fix crooked teeth, if you’re ready to find out if it’s the best solution for your smile concerns, schedule a visit with a Naperville dentist. Our experienced cosmetic dentists have the training and artistic ability to give you a spectacular smile makeover you’re proud to show off! 

What’s the Best Way to Store Your Toothbrush?

By General Dentistry

We talk a lot about brushing teeth. After all, brushing your teeth twice a day is an important way to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, as well as keep bad breath at bay. But, what about how to store your toothbrush? This is what a patient, Lucee, wanted to know when she sent the following email to a Naperville dentist at our practice, which we’re sharing with her permission:

“My boyfriend bought some of those plastic toothbrush cases to keep our toothbrushes in, but I noticed that they feel soggy in the morning. I always kept my toothbrush upside down in Listerine overnight. My mom keeps hers in a toothbrush holder and lets it dry, but to me, there are too many gross bathroom germs to do that. What’s the best way to store our toothbrushes? Thanks, Lucee”


All of the toothbrush storage ideas mentioned by Lucee might sound okay. After all, is there really a right and wrong way to store your toothbrush? Actually, there is! Proper toothbrush storage will keep your toothbrush sanitary and prevent the growth of bacteria.

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • Where to store your toothbrush
  • How to store a toothbrush
  • 5 extra steps to take for sanitary toothbrush storage and use

Where to Store Your Toothbrush

While Lucee didn’t ask specifically about where to store a toothbrush, we thought we’d talk about this first since there’s a lot of debate about whether or not to store a toothbrush in the bathroom. 

Yes, your bathroom contains your toilet and, as you may have read in recent years, there is such a thing as toilet plume. Toilet plume is the aerosolized cloud of microscopic particles that goes into the air and nearby surfaces when you flush the toilet. 

While there isn’t a standard distance for how far toilet plume reaches, keeping your toothbrush right next to your toilet probably isn’t the best toothbrush storage idea. However, there’s no need to leave your toothbrush in an entirely different room of the house. After all, in reality, your toothbrush isn’t sterile, even when it comes out of the package. 

Additionally, according to the American Dental Association, though toothbrushes have been found to harbor bacteria, including bacteria from toilet flushing, there is no evidence that these bacteria cause adverse health effects. And while research suggests there could be some risk for the transmission of certain viruses, including norovirus, from the toilet particles after flushing, this transmission is based on the viral particles in the air and hasn’t been tied directly to toothbrushes.

So, while it’s likely more of the gross factor and less of a health threat, when it comes to how to store toothbrushes in the bathroom to avoid germs, your best bet is to simply keep your oral hygiene supplies as far from the toilet as you can. 


How to Store a Toothbrush

Now, on to answering Lucee’s question about how to store a toothbrush. Though using a toothbrush case in the bathroom or putting your toothbrush in the medicine cabinet might seem like an appropriate tactic for keeping it safe from toilet plume, it’s actually not the best way to store a toothbrush. 

Instead, let your toothbrush air dry completely between uses to prevent bacteria growth. To do this, store it upright and uncovered. Ideally, if you can, put your toothbrush by an open window as it dries. If you store your toothbrush in a plastic case, in a cabinet or in a covered toothbrush holder, you’re creating the ideal conditions for bacteria and mold to thrive, and no one wants a germ-covered, moldy toothbrush. 

Will a toothbrush stand do the trick? Toothbrushes shouldn’t be stored touching or in close proximity in an open container, holder or stand because cross contamination can occur. Therefore, a multi-brush stand that’s crammed with the entire family’s toothbrushes isn’t recommended. That said, a toothbrush holder is fine as long as yours is the only toothbrush in it or the brushes are spaced far apart, and it’s open, ensuring your toothbrush head is able to air dry. 

What about how to store an electric toothbrush? The basics for how to store an electric toothbrush, bamboo toothbrush or conventional, manual toothbrush are the same. Since electric toothbrushes tend to be a bit bigger and you still want the toothbrush to be upright to air dry, storing it in a cup or a stand with a big enough opening to dry between brushing sessions will be helpful. 

girl uses toothbrush to brush her teeth


5 Tips for Sanitary Toothbrush Storage and Use

  1. After using your toothbrush, rinse it thoroughly with water to remove food debris and excess toothpaste before putting it away. 
  2. Soaking your toothbrush head in an antibacterial mouthwash as Lucee suggested can decrease bacteria growth. After soaking it for about 15-20 minutes, rinse it off, and let it air dry. Use a clean container to soak the toothbrush so cross contamination doesn’t occur.
  3. Never share toothbrushes with anyone else.
  4. If you’re concerned about toilet plume, or someone in your household is ill, make it a habit to close the toilet lid before flushing. This will prevent the particles from escaping in the air and coming into contact with your toothbrush.
  5. Replace your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head about every three months. If the bristles look frayed, replace it sooner. Worn bristles don’t clean teeth effectively. 

Now that you know the best way to store your toothbrush, don’t overthink it or worry too much. As long as you allow your brush head to air dry, it’s not touching other toothbrushes and you replace your toothbrush every three months, you’ll be fine. The risk of not brushing your teeth is a whole lot greater than the risk of brushing with a toothbrush that’s been sitting out in a bathroom. If you have any additional oral hygiene questions or you’re looking for expert cosmetic dentistry, general dentistry or specialty care in Naperville, schedule a visit at Naperville Dental Specialists today! 

Girl in pain using home remedies for tooth pain

What Are The Home Remedies for Tooth Pain That Really Work?

By Toothache, Blog No Comments

You bite down on something hard and suddenly get a shooting pain in your tooth? You try to shrug it off and tell yourself it will go away on its own, but a day later, your tooth is throbbing and the pain is so bad you can’t concentrate at work or even sleep. In an effort to put off going to the dentist a little longer, you hop on Google to find out how to stop tooth pain fast. The good news is, while, yes, you will need to seek dental care sooner rather than later, there are home remedies for tooth pain that are safe and effective to use until you can make an appointment 

Keep in mind that tooth pain is an indication that something is wrong. The earlier you see a dentist, the easier and less invasive treatment will be. Your dentist will also be able to rule out or treat things like tooth and gum infections and abscesses, which, if not addressed, can spread to the surrounding bone and tissue, or even other areas of the body, potentially causing systemic problems. 

That being said, these home remedies for tooth pain may help to reduce discomfort. They won’t eliminate pain permanently or get rid of an infection, but they can provide temporary relief. The team members here at our Naperville general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry and specialty practice are sharing some of the common causes of tooth pain and tips for keeping yourself comfortable in the short term. 

What are the Causes of Tooth Pain?

The common causes of toothaches, include:

Tooth Decay 

A cavity, or tooth decay, is the most common culprit behind a toothache. While you might not feel any discomfort at first, if not treated, a cavity will get larger and can reach the tooth’s nerve, which is one of the main causes of severe tooth pain. Tooth nerve pain is often persistent and throbbing. While pain may go away temporarily if the nerve dies, it still needs to be treated to prevent more serious infection or tooth loss. Usually, if you have a large cavity, pain will be sharp and significant enough to wake you up at night. Pain may also get worse when you’re lying down. Your best bet is to visit the dentist at the first sign of pain, before it becomes unbearable. Small to medium cavities can often be fixed with a tooth-colored filling. Larger areas of tooth decay could need a dental crown or, if it reaches the tooth’s pulp, a root canal.

Loose Crown or a Loose or Missing Filling

A loose crown or loose filling can allow bacteria and food particles to get trapped beneath them, which can lead to pain and, eventually, decay or pulpitis (inflammation of the tooth’s pulp). You may also experience sensitivity and a sensation of pressure in your tooth. If a filling falls out completely, this can leave behind a large space that gets packed with food, leading to pain when chewing or even worse tooth sensitivity. Thankfully, a loose crown or missing or loose filling is usually simple to fix if dealt with quickly. 

Dental Abscess

An untreated tooth infection can lead to a dental abscess. An abscess typically looks like a small pimple on the gums and it’s filled with pus. An abscess can cause persistent, throbbing pain, though sometimes it results in throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes. An abscess is serious and needs to be treated as soon as possible. You’ll often have a fever and can experience swelling around the tooth or even in the face. The infection can spread to other areas of the mouth and body and cause illness. 

Fractured Tooth

A cracked or fractured tooth is another of the causes of severe tooth pain. You may have pain and sensitivity when biting and chewing, and if bacteria is able to reach deep into the tooth, pain will become more persistent. Depending on how large the crack or fracture is, a dental crown could be needed to protect and strengthen the broken tooth. 


If the inside of your tooth becomes infected or inflamed, a root canal will probably be the only way to eliminate tooth pain for good. When the tooth’s pulp is infected, you’ll likely have throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes. The pain may even wake you up when you’re sleeping. You might also feel pressure in the tooth. As we said, the pain can disappear if the tooth dies (becomes necrotic) but the infection will remain, so treatment is still necessary. Gum infections don’t lead to pain inside of the tooth but the human body isn’t great at telling the difference between tooth and gum pain. So, sometimes patients who come in with toothaches actually have gum infections. In its earliest stages, a gum infection, or gum disease, is called gingivitis. Gingivitis is reversible with professional dental care and good oral hygiene practices. If not treated, gingivitis will progress into periodontitis, a more severe type of gum disease. Periodontitis can’t be cured but it can be managed. By stopping the progression and eliminating the acute infection, we can get rid of pain and prevent bone loss and tooth loss.


Getting hit in the face or tooth can result in tooth pain. The inside of the tooth may begin to swell and as pressure builds up, the tooth will hurt. If it’s mild, tooth pain from an injury might go away on its own in a few days as the swelling goes down. However, if the pain is severe, your tooth is discolored, or the pain doesn’t disappear in a few days, visit your dentist.

Teeth Grinding or Clenching (Bruxism)

Teeth grinding, called bruxism, or jaw clenching can cause toothaches. You might even feel a sharp bolt of pain when biting down after grinding your teeth in your sleep. Usually, you’ll feel the pain all over your mouth, or in the teeth on one side, as opposed to throbbing tooth pain in one tooth, unless your teeth grinding causes damage to a tooth’s enamel. Your Naperville dentist can teach you relaxation techniques to help with bruxism or create a custom night guard for teeth grinding and clenching that prevents damage and pain.

TMJ Disorders

You have a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) on either side of your face that connects your jaw to your head and lets you open and close your mouth. Problems with the TMJ are referred to as temporomandibular disorders (TMD) or temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD). Sometimes, TMJ disorders can cause jaw pain that feels like severe tooth pain. Similar to the discomfort from teeth grinding, you’ll usually have pain in more than one tooth. With a TMJ disorder, the pain is often closer to the ear and may be accompanied by a clicking or popping noise in the jaw. At Naperville Dental Specialists, we have advanced diagnostics to give you an accurate diagnosis and help you find relief, whether that’s with lifestyle changes or a custom oral appliance.

Your Sinuses

Your sinuses are located right above your upper teeth. When the sinuses are inflamed or full of gunk, such as when you have a cold, seasonal allergies or a sinus infection, the pressure can cause the upper teeth to ache. When this is the case, you’ll probably have nasal congestion and several teeth in the area will hurt, instead of just one. If your sinuses don’t improve on their own, see a doctor for treatment. Once the infection is gone, you can evaluate whether or not you still have tooth pain. These are the most common causes of tooth pain, however, there could be other issues resulting in your discomfort. The only way to determine what’s behind a toothache is to visit your dentist to have it evaluated.


man experiencing tooth pain at home


Home Remedies for Tooth Pain Relief

Now, on to how to get rid of tooth pain, or at least minimize it, until your dental appointment. None of these home remedies for tooth pain will treat the underlying reason for the toothache, and if you have tooth nerve pain, getting relief can be more challenging. With that said, these methods are safe and might be worth trying:

Saltwater Rinse 

A saltwater rinse is one of the best ways to get tooth pain relief, and it can help with gum infections prior to your dentist appointment. Mix a half teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water. Swish the solution around in your mouth and then spit it out – never swallow it. You might also want to try gently flossing around the tooth that hurts in case any food particles are stuck. 

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

When it comes to how to stop tooth pain fast, an over-the-counter pain reliever can be extremely helpful. Even if you’re experiencing severe, throbbing tooth pain, research published in The Journal of the American Dental Association in 2018 found that nonsteroidal, OTC pain relievers, with or without acetaminophen, such as ibuprofen, offered the best balance between benefits and risks for the relief of acute tooth pain as compared to opioid pain relievers. One caveat: take pain relievers orally. Putting aspirin directly on your sore tooth or gums is an old folk remedy that not only doesn’t work, but can also damage your mouth.

Rinse With Hydrogen Peroxide 

Rinsing with equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water and then spitting it out (again, don’t swallow it) may also offer some degree of tooth pain relief.


If you have a toothache after getting hit in the face or you’re experiencing facial swelling, holding an ice pack on the outside of your face can reduce swelling and some of the associated pain. Facial swelling can be a sign of an abscess, so this is a case where you should call the dentist immediately. You can also try sucking on an ice cube to numb a painful tooth. 

Over-the-Counter Anesthetics

There are plenty of over-the-counter pain-relieving liquids and gels designed to get rid of tooth pain fast. Most of them rely on benzocaine to numb the area. Apply them to the tooth and surrounding gums. These anesthetics aren’t meant for long-term use, so only use them to tide you over until your appointment with your dentist. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning, products with benzocaine shouldn’t be used on children for a toothache or as a teething remedy, particularly little ones under the age of two, as it can cause a rare but serious health condition in kids.

Clove Oil

Clove oil is frequently mentioned when talking about home remedies for tooth pain. This natural solution numbs the area, temporarily stopping discomfort. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Dentistry found clove oil to be just as effective as benzocaine as a topical anesthetic. 


Proponents of natural tooth pain remedies claim if you crush a garlic clove, the oily, disease-fighting liquid, known as allicin, that it releases can help with tooth pain. Studies haven’t proven whether or not this is really effective, but it’s safe and worth giving a go if nothing else is working. You can either chew a clove of garlic or put some minced garlic bits on your aching tooth. 

Use Wax or Gum

If you have a broken tooth or your filling has fallen out, you can temporarily cover the exposed area with softened, sugarless chewing gum or dental wax. This can reduce sensitivity and pain. For a loose filling or crown, gum or wax may help hold it in place, though there is also temporary cement you can purchase at the drugstore to secure your restoration.


Peppermint tea has a numbing effect that may provide tooth pain relief. Once your tea cools, you can swish it around in your mouth. The tannins in black tea have astringent properties, which is why some folk remedies claim you should place a warm, wet black tea bag on your sore tooth for short-term pain reduction. Alternatively, you can brew up some peppermint or black tea, dip a clean cotton ball in the tea and hold the cotton ball against your tooth. 


Wheatgrass isn’t just a superfood for better overall health; it can enhance your oral health too. There are a number of benefits of wheatgrass for teeth, in general, and you can also use wheatgrass for a toothache. It’s rich in chlorophyll, which boats antibacterial properties and helps to stop the growth of cavity-causing bacteria. This antibacterial effect even reduces halitosis, or bad breath. Aside from the benefits of wheatgrass for teeth, it also contains antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that support periodontal (gum) health and reduce inflammation. All of these properties are thought to be helpful for alleviating tooth pain. When using wheatgrass for a toothache, swish an ounce of the juice in your mouth, just as you would with a mouthwash. 

These home remedies for tooth pain are safe and some have been proven effective for temporarily relieving certain types of toothaches. If you’re experiencing discomfort, try a few of the suggestions until you’re able to visit the dentist. Again, severe, throbbing tooth pain requires immediate care. Yet, even minor pain should be checked out since the earlier the underlying problem is dealt with, the easier and more affordable treatment will be. 

Our Naperville dentists always prioritize patients in pain and we’ll get you in for an appointment right away. We use the latest technology and tools to quickly and accurately pinpoint what’s causing your tooth to hurt and give you effective, quick relief. Don’t put off your dental visit if you’re in pain. Book your appointment at Naperville Dental Specialists today! 


9 Simple Habits for a Brighter, Healthier Smile

By Blog No Comments

Whether you celebrated Valentine’s Day this year or not, we know one area of your life that could always benefit from a little TLC and that’s your oral health. Having healthy teeth and gums will help you look and feel your best. Of course, you’re already brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily (right?), but there are other simple habits you can adopt as well for a brighter, healthier smile and our Naperville dentists are sharing. 

Chew Sugarless Gum After Meals

Chewing gum might not sound like something that would make a list of tips for healthy teeth, but sugarless gum is a sneaky oral health superhero. Chewing gum has a number of oral health benefits, including encouraging saliva production. Saliva helps wash away food debris, plaque and bacteria and remineralizes the teeth after the acid attacks that occur whenever you eat or drink. 

While any sugarless gum will do the trick, choosing one with xylitol can be even more helpful. Xylitol is thought to kill harmful bacteria in the mouth and reduce the risk of tooth decay. (Purely Trident Sugar-Free Gum with Xylitol and Pur Sugar-Free Gum both fit the bill!) Rinsing your mouth after meals and snacks is another great smile care tip, but if you’re unable to rinse, chew sugarless gum, or for the best results, rinse and then chew gum. 

Add Mouthwash to Your Oral Hygiene Routine

When it comes to how to have healthy teeth and gums, mouthwash is underrated. Of course, brushing and flossing are paramount, but including mouthwash in your oral hygiene routine can also go a long way in improving your oral health. There are cosmetic mouthwashes meant solely to mask bad breath and, while having fresh breath is nice, these formulas don’t do much as far as boosting the health of your teeth and gums. 

Instead, therapeutic mouthwashes, like those that contain fluoride, peroxide, chlorhexidine and/or cetylpyridinium chloride are your best bet. Depending on the formulation or ingredients, these mouthwashes can reduce your risk of tooth decay, kill the bacteria that cause gingivitis, control plaque and whiten the teeth. Mouthwash is also good for getting the hard-to-reach places you may have missed with your toothbrush and floss. Some of our favorites, include:

Invest in a Water Flosser

A waterpik, or water flosser, isn’t a replacement for flossing with dental floss. You’ll still want to use dental floss once daily in addition to using a water flosser. That said, a waterpik is an amazing tool for getting a brighter smile and healthy teeth and gums. It’s able to address nooks and crannies that are difficult to reach to dislodge food particles, improve the health of your gums and wash away plaque. 

Floss Before Brushing

There have been some articles popping up about the order of flossing and brushing. There was even a recent study on whether to floss or brush first. The results are what we’ve always told our Naperville general dentistry and cosmetic dentistry patients, which is flossing before brushing removes significantly more plaque. Flossing loosens the bacteria and food particles between the teeth, and then brushing followed by rinsing further clears everything from the mouth.

Don’t Always Reach for Your Toothbrush Right Away

While, yes, you should brush your teeth every morning, it’s not always ideal to do it immediately after breakfast. In fact, it’s probably better to brush your teeth before breakfast. We know, we know, no one wants to enjoy their glass of orange juice right after having toothpaste in their mouth. However, brushing won’t just rid your mouth of the bacteria and plaque that accumulated overnight, your fluoride toothpaste will also create an invisible coating on your teeth that can create a temporary barrier to protect against acidic foods and drinks.  

If you have something acidic, like orange juice, for breakfast or at any time of day, the American Dental Association recommends you wait 60 minutes after eating or drinking before brushing your teeth. This is because brushing can damage the enamel that’s been weakened by the acidity. Waiting an hour allows the pH in your mouth to return to normal, so your teeth can withstand your toothbrush. 

Enjoy Some Key Beverages and Foods for Gum Health

Your gums support your teeth and gum disease can result in the deterioration of tissue and bone. Ultimately, in extreme cases, this leads to tooth loss, which, obviously, won’t help your smile look healthy and bright. Show your gums love and your teeth will thank you. 

There are a number of foods and drinks that are a boon to periodontal (gum) health. Omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in salmon, tuna, pistachios and sesame seeds, can help reduce inflammation, decreasing your risk of developing gum disease. Vitamin C is also key to boosting your immune system, fighting bacteria and helping gum tissue regenerate. Incorporating red and green bell peppers, oranges and broccoli can increase your vitamin C intake. 

Studies have also found that the polyphenols found in unsweetened green tea and black tea are great for encouraging healthy gums. Green tea, in particular, contains flavonoids that lower inflammation and inhibit the growth of periodontal bacteria, lessening the risk of gum disease. For people who already have gum disease, green tea may slow its progression and prevent bone loss. 

Watch the Sugar and Carbs

Your diet and dental health are closely linked. The bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars and starches, and when they do, they release acids that eat away at tooth enamel, which can lead to cavities. While having sugars and starches in moderation is fine, particularly if you practice good oral hygiene, an excessive amount can increase your risk for tooth decay and gum disease

Enjoy sugary treats, particularly if they’re sticky and will sit on the teeth for long periods of time, on special occasions and try to limit sugary drinks, especially if they’re also acidic, like soda, sports drinks and energy drinks, as much as possible. Simple carbohydrates (we’re looking at you, potato chips and white bread) should also be eaten in moderation. 

Instead, focus on eating a well-rounded, balanced diet with lean proteins, a variety of fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and calcium-rich food (either dairy, dairy substitutes or veggies). Be sure to also incorporate food for healthy teeth like nuts, leafy greens, low-fat yogurt and hard cheeses. The nutrients and calcium in these options will help strengthen enamel and the supporting bone. 

Raw, fibrous fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, celery and apples, are excellent foods for healthy teeth too, because they have the added benefit of scraping away bacteria and plaque as you eat them. Consider them nature’s toothbrushes. 

Use a Whitening Toothpaste With Fluoride

Using a whitening toothpaste that contains fluoride is a great way to brighten your smile. Not only will the fluoride strengthen teeth and protect against cavities, the whitening ingredients will help banish surface stains. If you need more than just a bit of brightening, however, professional teeth whitening will get you much more dramatic results in a way that’s safe and doesn’t increase tooth sensitivity.

Our Naperville teeth whitening treatment eliminates the deeper, more set-in stains without damaging your enamel. Yet, even after professional teeth whitening, a whitening toothpaste will help you maintain your results and keep your smile dazzling between treatments. 

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Routine Dental Visits

We offer a full range of Naperville general dentistry services, including routine dental cleanings and exams. It can be tempting to put these appointments off when you’re not experiencing any dental problems. However, they’re really the key to maintaining healthy teeth and gums and catching problems early while they’re either reversible or easier to treat. Beyond that, during professional cleanings, we get rid of hardened plaque (tartar) that you can’t eliminate at home with a toothbrush, as well as surface stains, for an instantly whiter, healthier-looking smile.

Practice these nine simple habits to achieve a brighter, healthier smile and give your teeth and gums the love and care they deserve. If you’re interested in taking your smile health to the next level, whether with routine preventative care or our Naperville cosmetic dentistry services, schedule an appointment at Naperville Dental Specialists today online or by calling us at (630) 848-2010.


On the Keto Diet? How to Get Rid of Keto Breath

By Blog No Comments

The ketogenic diet, or keto diet, has been a popular option for losing weight and improving certain medical conditions for years now. Whether you’re a longtime adherent or you just started as part of your New Year’s resolution, you probably know that it’s essentially a high-fat, low-carb diet. While there are benefits like shedding pounds and lowering blood sugar, there is one key drawback to the keto diet, and that’s something called keto breath. As a Naperville cosmetic dentist, general dentist and specialist practice, we thought we’d shed some light on this phenomenon by covering everything from what causes the less-than-stellar odor to how to get rid of keto breath. 

What is Keto Breath?

For the first order of business, what is keto breath? It’s a form of bad breath caused by being on a ketogenic diet. The keto diet involves eating a very minimal amount of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein and lots of fat. In fact, when a person is on the keto diet, a minimum of 70 percent of their daily calories will come from fat, while only 5 to 10 percent will come from carbohydrates. This causes the body to enter a metabolic state called ketosis where it’s burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. 

When the body is in a ketogenic state and in fat-burning mode, it can lead to weight loss and help regulate blood sugar, as well as help manage other health concerns. Yet, this is also where the keto bad breath comes in. As the body burns fat, the fatty acids are converted to ketones, including acetone, hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate, in the liver. 

These naturally occurring chemicals aren’t harmful but they are excreted during urination and exhalation. So, every time you exhale, you’re releasing ketones into the air, which is what keto breath is. Acetone probably sounds familiar because it is found in nail polish remover and has a strong odor. 

What Does Keto Breath Smell Like?

What does keto breath smell like? The good news is, keto breath has a distinctive smell, making it fairly easy to determine if it’s keto bad breath or bad breath from another cause like pungent foods, cavities, illness, or tooth or gum infections. Keto breath often has a fruity smell or a scent that’s reminiscent of nail polish remover. What does keto breath taste like? A lot of people describe the taste of keto breath as metallic. 

Having keto breath is actually a sign that the keto diet is working and your body is burning fat instead of glucose (sugar) from carbohydrates to fuel itself. In fact, some people use a keto breath tester, known as a ketone breath meter, to measure their ketone levels and be extra certain their bad breath is from their diet. Yet, while keto breath might be a good sign for you, you probably don’t want the rest of the world to smell it. 

How Long Does Keto Breath Last?

As for how long keto breath lasts, it’s temporary. It usually first appears within a few days to a week after starting the keto diet and lasts from several weeks to a few months, though if you go on and off the diet, your keto breath will come back. 

How to Get Rid of Keto Breath

Now that we’ve talked about what keto breath is, what it smells like and how long it lasts, let’s discuss how to get rid of keto breath. While, often, it can’t be eliminated completely since it’s the natural byproduct of the body converting stored fat to energy, it can be reduced or masked. Here are five tips for combatting keto breath:

1. Drink Plenty of Water

Staying hydrated with water is one of the first things any list of how to get rid of keto breath should mention. This is because drinking lots of water will dilute the concentration of smelly ketones you’re breathing out, helping to combat keto breath. 

Beyond that, water is an oral health star, in general. It doesn’t have sugar or carbohydrates for the bacteria in the mouth to feed on, it washes away odor- and cavity-causing food debris and plaque, it encourages saliva flow, which remineralizes the teeth, and it prevents dry mouth (another common cause of bad breath). 

2. Maintain Excellent Oral Hygiene 

While brushing and flossing won’t eliminate keto breath, they will control the other causes of bad breath and prevent your breath from getting worse. Brush your teeth twice a day and rinse your mouth out with water after eating. Floss your teeth once daily. You may also want to add a fluoride mouthwash to the mix. Since decay, plaque build-up, food particles, and tooth and gum infections can result in a bad odor, keeping teeth and gums healthy will go a long way in promoting fresh breath. 

3. Chew Sugarless Gum or Suck on Sugar-Free Mints

Sugarless gum and sugar-free mints won’t eliminate keto breath, but they can mask it. Chewing on gum or sucking on mints after meals also has oral health benefits, including encouraging the production of saliva to rinse food, bacteria and plaque off teeth. This also helps restore the pH balance of the mouth to reduce the risk of tooth decay. If you want to add even more benefits, opt for sugarless keto breath mints or chewing gums that contain xylitol, which can kill smell-producing and cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth.

4. Adjust Your Diet

If you eat too much protein, your body will release ammonia, another byproduct of metabolism, through your breath and urine as it breaks the protein down. The odor of ammonia is very strong, and when combined with the acetone your body is also extreting, it will lead to intense, really bad keto breath. So, if you’re eating more protein than you need, reducing your intake a bit can be helpful for improving your breath. 

If your keto bad breath is still really strong after moderating your protein intake and you can’t tolerate it, you can try increasing your carbohydrate intake a little too. This is where a keto breath tester is clutch. You can measure your ketone levels to make sure your body is still in ketosis after the carbohydrate increase, allowing you to find a sweet spot where you’re still losing weight but your keto breath is tamed. 

5. Visit Your General Dentist if All Else Fails

As we said, keto breath is temporary and it should go away in a few weeks to a few months, at the most. If you wait patiently and try these other tips for how to get rid of keto breath and nothing is working, maybe it’s not keto breath at all. You could be suffering from actual halitosis, or bad breath, from one of those aforementioned causes, including tooth and gum infections, dry mouth or poor oral hygiene. Or, it could be a sign of a health condition, such as diabetes. Make an appointment at Naperville Dental Specialists and a general dentist will help you get to the root of the problem and offer customized bad breath treatment to eliminate it once and for all. 

Now that you know how to get rid of keto breath, as well as what causes it, you can continue to go strong on the keto diet. If you need more help with bad breath, or improving your smile was also one of your New Year’s resolutions, schedule a visit with a Naperville general dentist, cosmetic dentist or specialist today!

sleep apnea patient sleeping

7 Tips for Getting Better Sleep With Sleep Apnea

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It’s recommended that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. That can be a tall order in the best of circumstances, but when you’re suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, it probably seems impossible. While you might have no idea you’re even waking up multiple times during the night, you certainly feel the fatigue and lack of quality sleep in the morning. Because sleep deprivation can have such a negative impact on your physical and mental health, figuring out tips on how to get better sleep with sleep apnea will go a long way in helping you reclaim your life. Not sure where to start? As a Naperville general dentist and speciality practice, we have you covered. We’re sharing 7 ways to get better sleep with sleep apnea. 

What is Sleep Apnea?

Let’s have a quick refresher on what sleep apnea is before we dive into our tips. Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing stops and starts throughout the night, sometimes hundreds of times. The airway becomes blocked, usually due to the soft tissues in the back of the throat collapsing. This causes you to stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer before you awaken, sometimes gasping for air, and your breathing resumes. This cycle repeats itself throughout the night. Patients are considered to have severe sleep apnea when breathing stops and starts 30 times an hour or more. 

Obstructive sleep apnea leads to irregular sleep patterns, preventing you from getting the quality of sleep you need, as well as decreased blood oxygen levels. This combination of lack of deep sleep and decreased oxygen can cause a number of serious problems, including:

  • Daytime fatigue
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Learning difficulties
  • Memory issues
  • Accidents, including car accidents and workplace accidents
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Death

With such potentially severe consequences, it’s no wonder the first question most people ask is, can sleep apnea be cured? While mild cases of sleep apnea that are due to a person being overweight could potentially be resolved by the person losing weight, and there are surgical options for extreme cases that could alleviate the issue, in general, sleep apnea can’t necessarily be cured permanently. However, there are a number of sleep apnea treatments, ranging from using a sleep apnea machine, known as a CPAP machine, to wearing a custom dental device for snoring and sleep apnea, which we’ll get to shortly.

What are the Signs of Sleep Apnea?

The only way to know for certain if you have sleep apnea is to visit a specialist for an evaluation. Often, you’ll be referred for a sleep study. However, if you experience any of the common signs of sleep apnea, you should seek help. So, what are the signs of sleep apnea? The signs and symptoms include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping for air while asleep
  • Instances where you stop breathing while sleeping (noticed by another person)
  • Headache upon awakening
  • Waking up with a dry mouth
  • Having a hard time staying asleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Problems paying attention 

7 Tips for How to Get Better Sleep With Sleep Apnea  

Just because you have obstructive sleep apnea doesn’t mean you’re destined for poor quality sleep forever. There are a number of things you can do to sleep longer and experience fewer breathing disturbances:

1. Learn How to Sleep With Sleep Apnea

It’s important to understand the basics of how to sleep with sleep apnea since your sleeping position can make it worse. Sleeping on your back, known as the supine position, increases the likelihood that the soft tissues of the back of the throat will relax and block the airway because gravity will draw them down. Sleeping on your side is the better option and it may decrease the number of apnea episodes. We know switching sleep positions is easier said than done. One study found that sewing a tennis ball to the back of the shirt helped people with positional obstructive sleep apnea stop sleeping on their backs, at least in the short-term. While you may not have to go to that extreme, it can be beneficial to find ways to get comfortable with sleeping on your side. 

2. Lose Weight if Necessary

While not everyone who has obstructive sleep apnea is overweight, being overweight or obese is a risk factor for developing sleep apnea. When you gain weight, you also gain fatty deposits around the neck and tongue that can restrict the airway. If you are overweight, losing weight will likely improve sleep apnea symptoms. According to the Sleep Foundation, weight loss of 10 to 15% of a person’s body weight can decrease the severity of obstructive sleep apnea by 50% in moderately obese patients. Yet, even if you’re carrying just a few extra pounds, losing weight might help you breathe easier and sleep better.

3. Limit Alcohol and Quit Smoking

Alcohol causes decreased muscle tone in the mouth and the back of the throat, which impedes airflow and can exacerbate snoring and sleep apnea. It can also interfere with the muscles that are involved in breathing and in how the brain controls sleep. While we’d never ask you to give up the occasional glass of wine completely, it’s a good idea to limit your alcohol intake, particularly close to bedtime. Smoking is also a culprit when it comes to worsening sleep apnea. Cigarettes cause inflammation in the upper airway, which impacts breathing. Quitting smoking will help with sleep, breathing and your health in general. 

4. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene 

Practicing good sleep hygiene on its own may not help you get rid of sleep apnea. However, good sleep hygiene will enable you to sleep more soundly overall and it can ensure that once you’ve used other methods or you’ve sought out sleep apnea treatment, you’re maximizing your ability to get some shut eye. Some ways to boost your sleep hygiene include:

  • Using your bedroom for sleep only
  • Avoiding device screens like your phone, tablet or laptop, which emit blue light, at least an hour before you turn in at night
  • Developing a sleep schedule and sticking with it (i.e., going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on the weekends)
  • Avoiding caffeine, large meals and alcohol close to bedtime
  • Keeping your room dark, soothing and at a comfortable temperature
  • Doing something relaxing before bed like taking a bath or reading 

5. Exercise 

Exercise is a key way to improve sleep and may also help you sleep better with sleep apnea. Moderate aerobic exercise can boost the amount of slow wave sleep, or deep sleep, you get at night. However, any exercise, whether cardio or weight training, might do the trick. Researchers analyzed eight studies on exercise and sleep apnea and found that doing any type of exercise, including walking, running, riding a stationary bike and doing strength training, as few as two days a week or as many as seven days a week, improved obstructive sleep apnea symptoms in patients. Patients also had better overall sleep and less daytime drowsiness. The improvements were independent of any weight loss, indicating it’s the exercise itself that helped participants sleep better.

6. Invest in a Humidifier

There’s a reason why many sleep apnea machines have built-in or attachable humidifiers. It’s because dry air can irritate your nose and throat making you more likely to snore and breathe with your mouth open while sleeping. While a humidifier isn’t a sleep apnea treatment or cure and won’t make sleep apnea disappear, it can help you get a better night’s sleep and breathe more comfortably. 

7. Consider an Oral Appliance

An oral appliance for sleep apnea is more comfortable and less burdensome than a CPAP and most patients prefer it to more invasive options. At Naperville Dental Specialists, we offer the SomnoDent® Mandibular Advancement Splint (MAS). The custom oral appliance can treat mild, moderate and even severe sleep apnea. It shifts the lower jaw slightly forward, which tightens the soft tissues and muscles in the back of the throat to prevent obstruction during sleep. 

It’s also an excellent dental device for snoring because it stops the tissues of the upper airway from vibrating as air passes over them, which is the main cause of snoring. Oral appliances are a tried and true method for getting better sleep with sleep apnea and they don’t interfere with your daily life or require significant upkeep. Your sleep partner will appreciate you using a dental device for snoring too! 

We hope our tips for getting better sleep with sleep apnea help you breathe easier and wake up more well rested. If you’re struggling, schedule an evaluation at Naperville Dental Specialists online or by calling us at (630) 848-2010. Dr. Anthony LaVacca and our expert team offer sleep apnea treatment in Naperville to help you improve your sleep and quality of life. 

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