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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

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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. 

oral screening

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, coated 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, coated 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 coated tongue could just be due to a buildup of bacteria and debris. If the white coating 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, coated tongue or white patches 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.