What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

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

Key Highlights:

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

A White Coating or White Spots on Tongue 

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

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

A Hairy, Black Tongue 

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

A Red Tongue or Strawberry Tongue

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

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

A Sore Tongue or Bumps on Tongue 

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

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

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

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

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

Why Did Dental Offices Close During the Coronavirus?

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

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

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

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

What Precautions are Dentists Taking to Prevent COVID-19?

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

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

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

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

Smile Concerns? Schedule a Virtual Consultation at Naperville Dental Specialists

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

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

How Does a Virtual Dental Consultation Work?

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

What are the Benefits of a Virtual Consultation?

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

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


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

Facemasks & Hand Sanitizer 

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

Pre-Screening of Every Patient

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

Safety Champion 

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

Teeth Brushing

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

No Magazines or Activities 

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

Social Distancing in Effect

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

Patients Only 

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

Cleaning After Every Appointment

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

CDC-Approved Instrument Sterilization

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

Antimicrobial Rinse

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

Appointment Rescheduling 

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

Advanced Staff Training & Health Checks 

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

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

Dr. Anthony LaVacca and the Naperville Dental Specialists Team 

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

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

What is Sleep Apnea?

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

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

What are the Signs of Sleep Apnea?

The most common sleep apnea symptoms are:

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

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

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

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

What Complications Can Sleep Apnea Cause?

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

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

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

What are My Sleep Apnea Treatment Options?

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

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

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

smiling couple

Can Dental Implants Improve Your Health?

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

What Happens if You Don’t Replace Missing Teeth?

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

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

How Do Dental Implants Work?

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

What are the Health Benefits of Dental Implants?

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

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

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


5 of Our Favorite Recent Advances in Dental Technology and Techniques  

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Dental technology and techniques have come a long way over the last decade, particularly when it comes to adult dentistry. At Naperville Dental Specialists, we pride ourselves on staying at the forefront of these advances. After all, our goal is to offer our patients the best possible diagnostics, allowing us to avoid problems altogether. When a patient does have an issue, we’re able to treat it comfortably, quickly and effectively and ensure the results look stunning. While there are so many advances in dentistry that have revolutionized the way we practice, here are five that we consider among our top favorites.

 1. Digital Scanning and CAD/CAM Software

In the past, when the dentist needed to get impressions of your teeth, the process involved you biting into a putty-filled tray and holding it in your mouth while you tried not to gag. In fact, some practices still use this method. Naperville Dental Specialists is an impression-free office thanks to our iTero® and TRIOS® digital scanners. We use the small, handheld wands to take quick, comfortable scans of your teeth and gums. A 3D computerized model of your dental anatomy is created and we can use it to plan out your treatment right on our screen. It’s less invasive, faster and a whole lot more accurate.

The iTero and 3Shape TRIOS systems have CAD/CAM software, which is where dentistry meets engineering. We use the software to design custom restorations and create precise surgical guides for dental implant procedures. With the software, we’re able to offer treatments like Teeth-in-a-Day® and All-on-4® dental implants. This means, when you come to us for dental implants, you may be able to leave the office the same day with a new smile. Additionally, because we have an in-house digital lab and mill crowns and veneers from your digital scans, we also offer same-day crowns and veneers.

2. All-on-4 Dental Implants

Our Naperville All-on-4 dental implants are a popular option with our patients and the treatment is a game-changer in implant dentistry. The technique was developed by Portuguese dentist Dr. Palo Malo and is trademarked by Nobel Biocare. With the procedure, Dr. LaVacca can replace all of the teeth in one or both arches with just four dental implants per arch and without bone grafting, even in patients with low jawbone density. The implants are angled and surgically implanted in the posterior of the jawbone, which gives the prosthetic teeth secure support. We can often complete the procedure in a single day so you won’t have to revitalize your smile in phases. It’s less costly and quicker than implant procedures that require bone grafting.

3. Zirconia Dental Implants

Another of our favorite of the latest advances in dentistry are zirconia dental implants, sometimes referred to as ceramic dental implants or holistic dental implants. They’re a metal-free option for replacing missing teeth. While titanium was the most common material for dental implants and it’s still excellent, zirconia does have improved biocompatibility and there’s no chance of having an allergic reaction, galvanization or chemical leaching, making it the safest and healthiest choice. Zirconia implants are also more aesthetic since they’re white and you don’t get a gray cast along the gum line like you can with titanium implants. Zirconia resists plaque, which helps keep gums healthier and reduces post-procedure inflammation. 

4. VELscope®

VELscope is a potentially life-saving dental technology that we offer at Naperville Dental Specialists. The handheld device emits blue-spectrum light that can reveal oral abnormalities before they’re visible to the naked eye. It can detect things like cancer and pre-cancerous lesions, infection, trauma, side effects from medication, chemical irritation and other conditions, which all stand out against healthy tissue. We use it to perform comfortable, quick oral cancer screenings. It allows for early detection while lesions are treatable and still localized, which greatly improves the chances that oral cancer treatment will be successful. The blue-spectrum light is safe and the device doesn’t emit any radiation.

5. ICON Infiltration Technique

Last, but not least, on our list of our favorite dental technology, is ICON Caries Infiltrant. White spots on teeth, such as those due to braces treatment, early tooth decay or fluorosis, have been notoriously difficult to get rid of. Well, not any more. We can now eliminate white spots on teeth in a single session without the need for injections or drilling. We apply the ICON Caries Infiltrant, a fluid resin, to the white spot and it enters the tooth’s pore system, filling it and stopping cavity-causing acids from getting through. This lets us preserve the tooth’s structure, while also blending white spots in with the healthy enamel so they’re no longer visible. It’s completely painless and highly effective.

Of course, we also have to give honorable mentions to some of the other amazing dental technology that we offer at our practice, including DIAGNOdent™, i-CAT® and our intraoral cameras, to name a few. By investing in proven, new advances in dentistry, we’re able to offer the highest quality of care to our patients. If you’re interested in general, cosmetic or implant dentistry with a technology-led approach, contact Naperville Dental Specialists today online or by giving us a call at (630) 848-2010.

Zirconia vs. Titanium Implants: What’s the Difference?

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Dental implants have quickly become one of the most popular restorative procedures in the world of adult dentistry. This is because implants are a permanent, attractive, comfortable solution to missing teeth. Our Naperville implant dentist, Dr. Anthony LaVacca, has been a leader in prosthodontics and stays at the forefront of the latest advances in the field. One of these advances is the zirconia dental implant, which we offer at Naperville Dental Specialists. When it comes to zirconia vs. titanium implants, patients are often curios as to what the difference is. We’ll be covering what sets zirconia implants apart and how they can transform your smile. 

What are Zirconia Implants?

Before we dive into zirconia vs. titanium implants, first let’s discuss exactly what zirconia implants are. Sometimes referred to as ceramic implants, holistic implants or zirconium dental implants, these implants are metal-free. They’re made of durable zirconium that is naturally white in color, which helps the implant blend in with your smile. Zirconia is biocompatible and the implant integrates into the jawbone, acting just as your tooth’s root would. A permanent replacement tooth is attached to the zirconia dental implant. 

At our practice, we use Z-systems ceramic dental implants. These high-quality implants have an innovative design that allows us to offer same-day dental implants instead of having to do it in two phases. With our Z-systems zirconia implants and our in-house lab, we can design, fabricate and attach a crown on the same day as your surgery so you can leave the office with a new tooth. 

Zirconia Dental Implants vs. Titanium Dental Implants

The two main types of dental implants are zirconia and titanium. While titanium implants are a great option for many patients, there are benefits to zirconia implants. Let’s compare some of the features:

  • Aesthetics 

Ceramic dental implants, or zirconia implants, are the clear winners when it comes to aesthetics. Titanium implants are made of metal so there can be a gray cast at the gum line in people with thin gum tissue. Or, if you experience gum recession, some of the metal can peek out. Zirconia dental implants are the same color as your teeth, so even if you do experience gum recession, it will not be noticeable. When combined with a porcelain crown or a crown that has porcelain on the outside and zirconia on the inside, you’ll get the most realistic, lifelike result. Unlike titanium, zirconia lets light pass through it just like a natural tooth does.

  • Gum Health

While plaque can adhere to titanium, zirconia implants actually resist plaque, which helps to keep gums healthier and reduces the likelihood of gum inflammation after you procedure. Gum disease has been tied to a host of health problems, including diabetes, stroke, heart disease and, in women, premature labor, so promoting healthy gums is an excellent benefit of ceramic implants. 

  • Biocompatibility

Both titanium and zirconia are biocompatible. However, zirconia has been shown to have improved biocompatibility. Some patients are concerned about corrosion, chemical leaching and reactions with titanium implants. Over time, if the metal corrodes, the micro-particles can get into your tissues and bloodstream. You don’t need to worry about these risks with zirconia because the material is bio-inert and non-corrosive. Zirconia is optimally tolerated by the body and it is the safest, most holistic solution for missing teeth. 

  • Healing

When comparing zirconia vs. titanium dental implants, zirconia does promote a superior soft tissue response and elicits less of an inflammatory response. This means faster healing and the gums regenerate more quickly and adequately. There is also less of a chance of gum recession with zirconia, while some patients experience receding gums around titanium implants. 

  • Conductivity

Titanium conducts thermal energy, as well as electromagnetic energy, which some theorize has health implications. Zirconia implants, on the other hand, do not react with electromagnetic fields. Additionally, they have a low thermal conductivity, meaning you won’t feel hot and cold sensations in the tooth, which improves comfort. 

  • Allergy Potential

Metal allergies can cause a variety of problems, including swelling, implant failure, loss of taste, and more. Ceramic implants are metal-free and hypoallergenic. This makes them the best dental implants for anyone who has a sensitivity or allergy to metal.  

  • Strength and Design

Zirconia dental implants are exceptionally strong and don’t scratch or corrode. They can withstand an enormous amount of biting pressure, making them ideal for both front and back teeth. While titanium is durable as well, it does have the potential to corrode. As for the design, as we mentioned earlier, the Z-systems ceramic dental implants we use are crafted from one piece and placing them is a one-part procedure. Some titanium implants are comprised of two pieces: the implant and the abutment. For these types of implants, bacteria can get lodged between the pieces, which can ultimately lead to implant failure. Additionally, depending on the design, the implant procedure may need to be done in two phases as opposed to one. 

Now that you have all of the information about zirconia vs. titanium dental implants, schedule a complimentary consultation with our Naperville implant dentist, Dr. LaVacca, by giving us a call at (630) 848-2010. He’ll be able to determine the best dental implants for your unique needs so that you can smile with confidence. 


What are the White Spots on Teeth and How Can You Treat Them?

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You may have noticed someone that has chalky white spots on their teeth or maybe you have them on your own teeth. Beyond being an aesthetic concern, exactly what are the white spots on teeth? Technically referred to as white spot lesions, there are a number of things that can cause them. At our Naperville cosmetic dentistry and general dentistry practice, it’s a problem we see frequently. Today, we’ll be diving into the causes, as well as solutions for how to get rid of white spots on teeth.

Why Do I Have White Spots on My Teeth?

The two most common causes of white spots on teeth are fluorosis and early decay, though they can also be the result of certain nutritional problems or genetics. Fluorosis occurs when a child is exposed to too much fluoride during the first eight years of their life. When the permanent teeth come in, parents or the dentist will often notice discoloration, including white spots. 

The other cause is decalcification, which is the first sign of tooth decay. Essentially, white spots on teeth are often early cavities, which is why we sometimes call them cariogenic white spots. White spots on teeth after braces are extremely common. Plaque tends to accumulate around the bracket and it’s hard to reach it to brush it away. When it sits there, the plaque acids cause mineral loss underneath the surface enamel of the tooth. This causes white spots to form where the brackets once were.

How to Get Rid of White Spots on Teeth

We know discovering white spots on teeth after braces is especially disheartening because you went through the effort to get a perfect smile. When the big day arrives, and your brackets come off, the last thing you want are white spot lesions ruining the show. The good news is, there are ways to remove white spots on teeth and help you reclaim your smile, regardless of the cause. Here are some of the treatments for white spot lesions:

  • Prescription Paste – A prescription product called MI Paste, which is the commercial name for casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate, or CCP-ACP, and sodium fluoride (NaF) may both help remineralize white spots. However, researchers are still looking into the treatments and they tend to work better when used preventatively.
  • Remineralization – Some dentists offer remineralization treatments after orthodontic treatment, such as a fluoride varnish. Remineralization replaces the minerals that were lost due to the plaque acids and should, theoretically, stop the decay from progressing and help even out the appearance of white spots. While one study did show that fluoride helped reduce the appearance of white spots on teeth after braces, more research is needed and it might not give you the dramatic results you’re looking for.
  •  Icon Infiltration Technique – Icon infiltration is a cutting-edge way to gently treat white spots on teeth without needles or drilling. Research has shown that resin infiltration is more effective than CCP-ACP and fluoride in the esthetic improvement of white spots. We offer Icon caries infiltrant in Naperville at our office. We inject a highly fluid resin into the enamel where the white spot is. It makes its way into the tooth’s pore system and it fills the area, quickly stopping decay and esthetically blending the white spots so they match the rest of your enamel. The infiltration technique also has the added benefit of preserving your tooth and increasing its life expectancy.
  • Veneers or Composite Fillings – As a last resort, veneers, composite fillings or bonding can give you the even, white smile you want. However, since a treatment like veneers will involve filing down healthy teeth, it’s best to try less invasive options first, such as the Icon infiltration technique.

Ways to Prevent White Spot Lesions

You can prevent white spots on teeth after braces, or at any time in your life, by following these tips:

  • To prevent white spots on your child’s smile, avoid excessive fluoride. Talk with your pediatric dentist about how much fluoride your child should be getting before adding any topical fluoride products to the mix.
  • Practice good oral hygiene, especially when you’re wearing braces. Brush using an electric toothbrush in the morning, after meals and before bed. Be sure to floss once daily as well. If you need a little extra help cleaning around your braces brackets, use an interproximal brush or a water flosser in addition to your toothbrush and dental floss. These tools are good for getting in tight spaces and around brackets.
  •  Watch your diet. Acidic foods and drinks, including citrus fruit, sports drinks, soda, white wine and fruit juice eat away at your tooth enamel and can increase your risk of getting white spots. Try to enjoy these types of foods and beverages in moderation.
  • Ask your orthodontist or dentist about topical fluoride. If you’re at a higher risk for cavities or white spots, they may prescribe a special fluoride rinse or toothpaste or apply a fluoride varnish in the office.

If you’re unhappy with the white spots on your teeth, we can help! Schedule a visit at Naperville Dental Specialists today and learn about how we can remove white spots on teeth and restore your smile with the Icon infiltration technique. 


The Ultimate Guide to How to Whiten Teeth

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If we’ve learned anything in our years as Naperville’s general dentists, it’s that everyone wants a perfect pair of sparkling pearly whites. But between the foods we eat and the habits we create, getting shiny white teeth can be easier said than done. Whitening your teeth (and keeping them that way) requires good oral hygiene practices, including brushing, flossing, regular cleanings, and avoiding things that cause damage and discoloration, like smoking and poor diet.

If you’re suffering from teeth stains or yellowing teeth, don’t worry — you’re not alone. There are many ways to whiten your teeth, both at home and at the dentist, and things you can do to keep discoloration at bay. But while at-home practices can be effective, nothing will give you the same dramatic results as professional teeth whitening.

No matter which teeth whitening method you choose, the experts at Naperville Dental Specialists are here to help you restore your teeth to their former brilliancy. Let’s take a look at what causes tooth discoloration and how to put the “white” back in your pearly whites. 

What Causes Yellow Teeth

There are many factors that contribute to yellow teeth — from lifestyle and diet choices to genetic predispositions and aging. Some of these things are in our power to change; for example, we can choose to eat more fruits and veggies and avoid smoking. Other things are just a part of how we’re built.

When it comes to whitening your teeth, it’s important to understand that your teeth have two basic parts: the enamel (or outer layer) and dentin (or inner core). As we age, dentin naturally yellows which unfortunately is just a part of growing older. But there are ways to combat the aging process, and to whiten your enamel, to keep your teeth looking whiter for longer. Here’s how:

  • Eat healthy, nutritious foods: A diet that lacks proper vitamins and nutrients will lead to premature aging of the dentin, meaning your teeth will look yellow quicker. At the same time, your enamel can become discolored by highly pigmented foods and drinks, like red wine, coffee and tobacco. Fortunately, eating a diet rich in healthy, nutrient-packed foods will slow yellowing down and whitening treatments are extremely effective to clear up your enamel.
  • Protect your teeth from trauma: Grinding and trauma from accidents, falls or sporting injuries can all accelerate the aging of the dentin. As we’ve learned, that equals yellow teeth. When you grind your teeth or suffer damage from an accident, the force can cause the dentin to shrink and trigger the aging process, so be sure to take good care of your teeth.
  • Get a whitening treatment: From at-home solutions to in-office professional services, there are so many ways to get whiter teeth. Keep reading to find out more and then ask your dentist which method is best for you.

How to Get Whiter Teeth

Now that you know what’s dulling your teeth’s shine, let’s talk about the best way to get whiter teeth. The most effective solution is professional teeth whitening but it can be more of an investment than some patients are ready to make. For those who prefer to whiten their teeth on their own, there are plenty of DIY teeth whitening practices you can try. Just be aware that while at-home methods and regular cleanings at your dentist will help get rid of surface stains, they won’t be able to clear away deep, set-in discoloration. In most cases, professional teeth whitening is the best solution.

  • Teeth whitening strips: It seems that every major toothpaste brand has some sort of teeth whitening product that promises to give you the shiny, white teeth of your dreams. This type of method is super popular for good reason: it’s super affordable and you can do it in the comfort of your own home.

The truth is whitening strips are actually effective — but that doesn’t make them safe. These strips typically contain hydrogen peroxide, which definitely makes your teeth whiter by breaking down the molecules that cause discoloration in both your enamel and dentin. But hydrogen peroxide is considered toxic or harmful when used in the mouth, so the side effects may not be worth the pearly whites after all.

  • Activated charcoal: This one is for the DIY-ers out there. Activated charcoal has long been used to promote detoxification and treat poisoning, dating back nearly 200 years. The healing properties of activated charcoal have stood the test of time and are now used in all types of beauty and health products, including teeth whitening methods. Unlike hydrogen peroxide, activated charcoal cannot reach the dentin and can only whiten surface stains caused by environmental factors, food and drinks — but it is a 100% safe, natural way to whiten your teeth.
    To try it out, make a paste with activated charcoal, then smear it on your teeth and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Then rinse and brush away anything remaining. Since charcoal is quite abrasive, it’s best to only use this homemade toothpaste a few times a week.
  • Professional teeth whitening: Like we’ve mentioned, this is the only guaranteed way to get whiter teeth that last. Professional teeth whitening can safely get rid of stains and yellowing on both your enamel and dentin, giving you the whitest smile possible.

At Naperville Dental Specialists, we offer Zoom Tooth Whitening. Using a specially designed, light-activated gel, this method breaks down stains. In less than an hour, you’ll have the brightest, whitest teeth you’ve had in years. All you have to do is follow our aftercare instructions and practice good oral hygiene. With our professional teeth whitening service, we’re confident we can put the sparkle back in your smile.