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Naperville Dentist Highlights the Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

By Blog

For Naperville Dental Specialists, oral care for patients goes beyond dental treatments. That’s why they offer throat cancer screening with the high-tech VELscope® diagnostic tool, which allows them to spot possible oropharyngeal cancers that aren’t visible by the eye alone.

The American Cancer Society’s most recent 2024 estimates for oral cavity and oropharyngeal (throat, base of the tongue, and tonsils) cancers in the US include about 58,450 new cases this year. They also calculate that the risk of developing these types of cancers is 1 in 69 for men and 1 in 139 for women. This data reflects a trend of oral cancers increasing about 1% yearly since the mid-2000s.

In light of these statistics—and that April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month—Dr. Anthony LaVacca and the award-winning team at Naperville Dental Specialists encourage everyone to schedule an oral cancer screening appointment. According to Texas Oncology, throat cancers are more likely to respond successfully with surgery alone or combined with radiation therapy when caught early, particularly in Stages I and II.

Who Should Have Regular Oral Cancer Screenings?

Those who smoke, consume alcohol excessively, have a history of cancer, or have HPV are more at risk and should include oral cancer screenings as part of their regular overall health reviews. Regular screenings can help detect oral cancers early.

The Link Between Oropharyngeal Cancers and HPV

Dr. LaVacca also wants to highlight the connection between oropharyngeal cancers and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Research indicates that 70% of oropharyngeal cancers are caused by HPV 16. However, this can be prevented by getting the HPV vaccine before it is contracted. Oral cancer screenings are critical in oropharyngeal cancer cases linked to HPV since these types are known to develop without exhibiting any early-stage symptoms.

What Does An Oral Cancer Screening Involve At Naperville Dental Specialists?

Oral cancer screening at Naperville Dental Specialists’ state-of-the-art dental office includes a mouth and throat physical exam, and the utilization of innovative VELscope® technology. This diagnostic tool helps reveal abnormal tissue in the throat that might not be visible to the naked eye in a physical exam. The VELscope emits specific wavelengths of blue spectrum light to stimulate natural tissue fluorescence; abnormal tissue lights up differently than healthy tissue when viewed through the VELscope.

Ask Your Naperville Dentist About An Oral Cancer Screening

Your award-winning Naperville dental team wants to help you stay on top of your oral health. Contact us to schedule your next dental check up and cleaning and ask us about including a VELscope oral cancer screening at your visit.

Here’s What You Should Know About HPV and Oral Cancer

By Blog, Oral Health

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month so there’s no better time to shed light on a critical oral health issue: the connection between Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and oral cancer in the throat. Surprised that HPV can cause oral cancer? It’s not one of the first connections people often make when they think of HPV. That’s why the team at Naperville Dental Specialists wants to talk about it here. We care not only about your dental health by providing everything you need from general to cosmetic dentistry , but also about how your oral health affects your overall well-being.

The Connection Between HPV and Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can affect all adults and includes cancers of the mouth and the back of the throat. While tobacco and alcohol use are often what we initially associate with oral cancers, the HPV virus, particularly HPV16, also causes oropharyngeal cancers (back of the throat, base of the tongue, and tonsils). In fact, research has indicated that 70% of oropharyngeal cancers are caused by HPV 16. So if someone were to ask you, “Can HPV cause throat cancer?” the answer is a definite yes.

HPV-Related Throat Cancer Symptoms

If you haven’t received the HPV vaccination and you end up contracting it, it can be years between contracting HPV and developing HPV-related throat cancer. You see, your immune system does try to fight off the HPV infection but if it isn’t successful after a year or two, it can stay in your body and cause cancer. In other words, you don’t know when HPV throat cancer symptoms could appear. And what does HPV do to your throat? HPV can change the cells in your throat, infecting the squamous cells that line the inner surface of your oropharynx with cancer.

Now, we should take a moment to talk about the difference between what’s called “oral cavity cancers” and “throat/oropharyngeal cancers”. Oral cavity cancer happens on the lips or mouth (but not in the throat). HPV is not connected to oral cavity cancers like it is with throat cancer. Instead, oral cavity cancer is caused by tobacco and alcohol use, and sometimes the UV exposure from prolonged use of tanning beds.

So back to throat cancer, the big question is, what symptoms should you pay attention to that might indicate throat cancer from HPV? Throat cancer symptoms can include:

  • A sore throat doesn’t get better
  • A lump in your throat, back of your mouth, or neck
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble opening your mouth fully or moving your tongue
  • Ear pain
  • Changes in your voice
  • Coughing up blood.

HPV Stage 1 Early Throat Cancer: Catch it Early for Successful Treatment

As with many types of cancer, recognizing HPV-related throat cancer in its early stage is important. Early stage throat cancer — Stages 1, 2, or sometimes 3 — is typically treatable. So be aware of early throat cancer symptoms and see your family doctor or your Naperville dentist right away if you experiencing any of them. But also keep in mind that HPV Stage 1 early throat cancer sometimes doesn’t have symptoms, which is why regular throat and oral cancers screenings are crucial.

The Importance of Throat and Oral Cancer Screening

Regular oral cancer screenings can detect cancerous and precancerous conditions in your throat, even before symptoms develop. The first step in an oral cancer screening? A physical examination of your mouth and throat by your doctor or a screening by your dentist using VELscope®. If findings are of concern, you might then see an ENT for further examination and diagnosis.

What is VELscope?

VELscope is a radiation-free, non-invasive and painless examination technology used by dentists to screen for oral cancer in the throat. This handheld device allows us to see any abnormal tissue that we couldn’t see with the naked eye, whether you have throat cancer symptoms or not. How does this technology work for throat and oral cancer screening? The VELscope tool emits specific wavelengths of blue spectrum light into your mouth to stimulate natural tissue fluorescence which can be viewed directly through the VELscope. Abnormal tissue will look different than healthy tissue.

Schedule Your VelScope Appointment to Screen for HPV-Related Throat Cancer

Now that you’re more informed about the connection between HPV and oral cancer in the throat, screening should be on your mind. As part of our cutting-edge approach to dental care, Naperville Dental Specialists offers state-of-the-art VelScope oral cancer screenings. You can easily include it onto your next check-up and cleaning appointment at our Naperville office.

Be proactive about your health and schedule your VELscope appointment with our experienced, award-winning team.

The Science of Attraction: 5 Studies Linking Your Smile to Dating Success

By Blog

It’s February and love is in the air. So as your Naperville dentists, what’s on our minds this month? We’re thinking about how an attractive, healthy smile can influence your dating life! And we’re not alone — several studies on smiles have found a close relationship between smiling and attraction.

Really? Do straight teeth matter in the science of attraction? Well, If you’re not convinced, read on as Dr. Anthony LaVacca and the dentistry team at Naperville Dental Specialists cover five studies about how smiling and attraction go hand in hand.

1. A Beautiful Smile and Memorable First Impressions

Whether you first meet someone in person or are trying to decide on swiping right or left, first impressions mean a lot. So, how does smiling play a role? According to a study by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, a smile is the most memorable attribute people remember. In the study, about 48% of adults believe a smile is the most memorable feature when first meeting someone, regardless of age. A smile is even more memorable than any other physical attribute or even what’s first said. So, it makes sense that a beautiful smile with straight teeth makes for a positive first impression. On the flip side, participants also said that those with less-than-straight smiles seemed less attractive and confident.

2. Straight Teeth Signals You’re Healthy

In another study, researchers found that participants chose images of people with whiter, straight, evenly spaced teeth over pictures of those same people with yellower or gapped teeth. This preference is rooted in evolutionary cues, where nice teeth are seen as a sign of health and genetic quality, playing a central role in smiling and the science of attraction. The study also found that straight teeth in a woman’s smile signals reproductive health.

3. Smiling = You’ve Got it Together

On top of making a good first impression and giving the vibe that you’re healthy, an attractive, straight smile also hints at personality and achievements. One of the most well-known studies on smiles, a Kelton Research study, found that participants connected more positive attributes to images of people with straight teeth than those with crooked teeth.

Those with straight teeth were often perceived as happy, loved by others, and having great overall health. They also were perceived as having the potential for professional and financial success. A person with a pleasant smile was also considered more likely to get a job than someone with a less-than-appealing smile who had the same qualifications. And people with straight teeth were perceived as 58% more likely to have success and wealth.

4. Straight Teeth and Long-Term Relationships

A smile not only informs our initial perceptions about personality or triggers that first spark, it also gives us an impression of long-term suitability. One of the more unique studies on smiles, the study called: Cool Guys and Warm Husbands: The effect of smiling on male facial attractiveness for short- and long-term relationships, suggests that men with attractive smiles are not only preferred for short-term dating but also more likely giving the impression they’re suitable for long-term partnership, too. It’s a perception that’s subconsciously rooted in our ideals of good health and reproductive fitness — key qualities for a lasting relationship.

5. Smile and Get A Smile Right Back

“Smile and the world smiles with you.” It’s not just a hopeful saying — it’s a fact! You’ve likely noticed that when you smile at someone, more often than not, they automatically smile back. It’s a natural response called “sensorimotor simulation,” which is a fancy way of saying how we instinctively copy other people’s facial expressions. This review of several studies on smiles and expressions concluded that mimicking another person’s facial expression is our way of bringing up the same emotion in ourselves and acting out of empathy.
What happens when you smile at someone? A smile signals a person is happy, triggering a positive feeling in the person they’re smiling at and informing how the receiver should respond to them. Simply put, a smile is contagious, so when it comes to the science of attraction, it’s a great way to establish and share a happy and comfortable mood.

Get A Smile Transformation That’ll Change Your Dating Life

If you think a more attractive, straight smile could boost your dating life, the award-winning Naperville Dental Specialists dental experts have covered you. Fix damaged teeth from teeth grinding, missing teeth or gaps from gum disease, or stained, yellow teeth with a cosmetic dentistry procedure like natural-looking dental veneers, crowns, bridges, dental implants, or whitening. Our state-of-the-art dental practice in downtown Naperville offers comprehensive, comfortable dentistry in a modern, relaxing environment.

Or if you’re looking for the benefits of orthodontic treatment, our orthodontic team at Innovative Orthodontic Centers will help you get beautiful results with braces or Invisalign®.

Contact us today to get started toward a smile transformation that’ll help you find dating success!

Quiz: Do You Really Know How to Brush and Floss Your Teeth?

By Blog

Excellent brushing and flossing are the foundation for healthy, sparkling teeth. But are you sure you really know the basics of proper brushing technique and how to floss your teeth correctly?

Test your brushing and flossing knowledge with this quick and fun oral health quiz from the team at Naperville Dental Specialists. Compare your answers to the answers at the end and find out if you’re a dental beginner, novice, or teeth-knowledge ace!

1. How often should you brush your teeth?
a) Once a day
b) Twice a day
c) After every meal
d) Once a week

2. At what angle should you hold your toothbrush against your gums?
a) 90 degrees
b) 45 degrees
c) Straight on
d) 30 degrees

3. When flossing, what shape should you form around each tooth for proper flossing technique?
a) O shape
b) S shape
c) C shape
d) L shape

4. How long should you brush your teeth each time?
a) 1 minute
b) 2 minutes
c) 30 seconds
d) 5 minutes

5. Should you brush or floss first?
a) Floss, then brush
b) Brush, then floss
c) Use mouthwash, then floss
d) Doesn’t matter!

6. How often should you change your toothbrush or toothbrush head in your oral hygiene routine?
a) Every month
b) Every 3-4 months
c) Once a year
d) When the bristles fall out

7. Which part of the mouth should not be missed while brushing?
a) The tongue
b) The roof of the mouth
c) The inside surface of teeth
d) All of the above

8. What type of toothbrush bristles are generally recommended by dentists?
a) Hard
b) Medium
c) Soft
d) Extra soft

9. How much toothpaste should kids and adults use?
a) The size of a pea
b) The size of a grape
c) A full brush length
d) Just a dab

10. What’s the main benefit of flossing?
a) Whiten teeth
b) Freshen breath
c) Remove plaque and food particles between teeth
d) Strengthen the gums

11. Should you brush before or after your morning coffee?
a) Before
b) Right after
c) No need, brushing is only for after you eat
d) Flossing is preferred after coffee

12. What’s the best way to store a toothbrush?
a) On its side in a drawer
b) With a cover on the bristles
c) Upright and uncovered so it can air dry
d) Bristles down in a cup or container

13. In your oral hygiene routine, what is the best way to brush your tongue?
a) Proper brushing technique is with firm strokes
b) Brush with the back of your toothbrush
c) No need to brush your tongue
d) Brush gently

14. Fluoride in your toothpaste is important because:
a) It freshens your breath
b) It scrubs away the plaque
c) It strengthens your tooth enamel
d) It helps boost proper flossing technique by making your teeth smoother

15. Why include mouthwash in your oral hygiene routine?
a) Mouthwash can get rid of oral bacteria in places a toothbrush can’t reach
b) Some have ingredients that can whiten teeth
c) Some have anti-inflammatory properties
d) All the above

Add up your answers. If you got:

1-5 questions right: consider yourself a dental beginner with room to grow!
6-12 questions right: you’re on your way to oral care ace!
13-15 questions right: pat yourself on the back — your teeth knowledge is top-notch!

Have any questions about your oral hygiene routine that wasn’t answered here? Founding dentist, Dr. Anthony LaVacca, and your Naperville, IL, dental care experts can answer all your dental questions and cover all your oral health needs. Make an appointment with our award-winning team today!


1 b) Twice a day; 2. b) 45 degrees; 3. c) C shape; 4. b) 2 minutes; 5. a) Floss, then brush; 6. b) Every 3-4 months; 7. d) All of the above; 8. c) Soft; 9. a) The size of a pea; 10. c) Removing plaque and food particles between teeth; 11. a) Before; 12. c) Upright and uncovered so it can air dry; 13. d) Brush gently; 14. c) It strengthens your tooth enamel; 15. d) All of the above

Decoding Dental Dreams

Decoding Dental Dreams: What Those Teeth Dreams Really Mean

By Blog

The weird and wonderful world of teeth-related dreams. You know the kind – one minute, you’re relaxing at a beach in your dream, and the next, your teeth are breaking into tiny pieces! Eww. But don’t worry, it’s not just you;  teeth dreams are pretty common, and people have been trying to decipher their meanings for ages.

Now, you might be wondering why your Naperville Dental Specialists team is talking about teeth dreams. Well, although we’re serious about taking excellent care of our patients’ teeth, we also like to have fun. So here, we’re diving into a lighthearted, less dental topic: a few of the most common teeth dreams and their interpreted meanings.

When Teeth Fall Out In Your Dream? 

First off, the classic “teeth falling out” dream. Dreams of teeth falling out happen a lot. So, do teeth falling out in dreams have a meaning? Dream analysts often link dreams of teeth falling out to anxiety or stress. Specifically, your teeth falling out in a dream can reflect:

  • worry about or working through the death of a loved one
  • feeling a loss of control
  • going through poor oral health
  • experiencing low self-image
  • lacking confidence in interpersonal communication
  • dental anxiety about an upcoming treatment

But what if your teeth aren’t falling out by themselves, but you’re pulling them out in a dream? Pulling teeth out in a dream can mean you’re ready for or going through a transition in your life.

Crumbling and Breaking Teeth

One dream analyst says that teeth dreams are about communication: what you’ve been saying or how you’ve been talking about things. Specifically, dreams about crumbling teeth reflect times when you couldn’t or didn’t express yourself how you wanted. Like if you couldn’t get your point across in an argument or didn’t explain something correctly.

Then there are teeth dreams when you end up breaking your teeth on something. You’re biting into an apple, and, crack, there goes a molar. In dreamland, broken teeth can symbolize stress or anxiety similar to dreams of your teeth falling out. Or broken teeth dreams can represent passive-aggressive moments or missed opportunities to communicate your feelings.

Loose or Wiggly Teeth

Dreams where your teeth are loose or wiggly are very common. They’re often interpreted as a sign of indecision or uncertainty. Essentially, your dream is mirroring a feeling of, “I’m not sure what to do here.” These loose teeth dreams can also tell you that you want to speak up about something but haven’t done it yet or found the right words.

Teeth That Won’t Stop Growing

Ever had that dream where your teeth are growing uncontrollably? It’s a less-than-common teeth dream but just as intriguing. Often, dreams where your teeth keep growing signal a positive transformation in your life — you’re gaining more confidence, power, or a new skill. Yet, these teeth dreams can also mean a fear of aging or financial concerns.

Rotting Teeth

Now, let’s talk about the “rotting teeth” dream. This one’s often linked to regret or guilt about something you’ve said or done. Think of it as an internal nudge to address some unresolved issues or to take better care of yourself, physically and emotionally.

Turning Teeth Dreams Into Positive Action IRL

So, what’s the takeaway from all these teeth dreams? It’s fun to talk and think about what they could be telling you, acting as a window into your deeper thoughts and feelings. Whether anxiety, stress, unresolved communication, or fear, these dreams are considered by some as a way to help you process what’s going on in your life. 

Dream interpretation isn’t an exact science; what might signify stress for one person could mean something different for another. Ask yourself how your loose teeth dreams relate to your life, or maybe why you’re having dreams of your teeth falling out in the first place. This introspection can lead you to make positive steps in real life.

On the other hand, if you’re having dental dreams and also notice some dental issues, take the dreams as a sign to contact your dentist. The award-winning dental team at Naperville Dental Specialists provides comprehensive dental care and is happy to help you with your oral health issues, from a small filling to a new crown to dental implants.

Contact your Naperville, IL dentist today!

Innovative Dental Partners Wins Best of Naperville For 16th Consecutive Year

By Blog

Naperville Magazine readers once again voted Innovative Dental Partners as “Best Dentist” in Naperville. This year marks 16 years in a row our Naperville, IL, dental and orthodontic practice has received the honor.

Each year, the magazine recognizes community leaders in 40 unique categories for “Best of Naperville.” Winners are chosen based on readers’ votes, meaning Innovative Dental Partners is beloved by those we serve: our patients, our families, and the community at large. The Innovative Dental Partners team is proud and humbled to receive this recognition again from their Naperville community. 

Innovative Dental Partners includes three dental practices under one roof: Innovative Pediatric Dentistry, Innovative Orthodontic Centers, and Naperville Dental Specialists. Founding doctors Dr. Anthony LaVacca and Dr. Manal Ibrahim are a husband-and-wife duo who wanted to offer the Naperville community dental generalists and specialists in one location. Under the Innovative Dental Partners umbrella, patients can find adult dentistry, pediatric dentistry, and orthodontic treatment at one hub, making this Naperville, IL, practice the ultimate dental destination for the whole family.

What Makes Us An Award-Winning Dental Practice 

Whether visiting Innovative Pediatric Dentistry, Naperville Dental Specialists, or Innovative Orthodontic Centers, patients can expect exceptional dental care and stunning smile results. Bright and modern offices, friendly teams, and state-of-the-art technology ensure every visit is positive, comfortable, and efficient.

Innovative Dental Partners is the go-to destination for comprehensive dental and orthodontic care in Naperville, IL. Headed by American board-certified prosthodontist Dr. Anthony LaVacca and American board-certified orthodontist Dr. Manal Ibrahim, Innovative Dental Partners’ three, award-winning practices offer pediatric and adult dentistry as well as orthodontics with braces or Invisalign — all under one roof. From babies dental care to seniors, Innovative Dental Partners can be a lifetime partner in oral health solutions for your entire family.

Importance of Flossing

Is Flossing Your Teeth Really That Important?

By Blog

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

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

Why floss your teeth?  

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

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

The benefits of flossing your teeth 

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

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

How often should you floss your teeth?

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

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

How to floss your teeth

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

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

  1. Use enough floss.

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

  1. Keep it tight!

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

  1. Be gentle.

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

  1. Use a C shape.

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

  1. Move on to the next pair of teeth.

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

  1. Don’t forget any teeth!

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

What’s the best dental floss to use?

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

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

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

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

What is gum disease?

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

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

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

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

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

What are the consequences of gum disease?

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

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

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


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

Heart Disease

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


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


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

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

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

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

Connect with a dentist in Naperville

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

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


Spring Clean Your Oral Hygiene Routine

4 Ways to Spring Clean Your Oral Hygiene Routine

By Blog

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

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

Steps to Spring Clean your Dental Routine:


1. Replace your toothbrush

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

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

2. Stock up on your oral hygiene products



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


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


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


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

Dental Guard

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

3. Book your bi-annual dental checkup and cleaning


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

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

4. Brighten your smile


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

Spring into action and visit your Naperville dentist!

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

Chocolate is Smile-Friendly

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

By Blog, Valentine's Day

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

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

But first, let’s talk phytochemicals:

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

  • Polyphenols

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

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

  • Tannins

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

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

  • Flavonoids

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

Here’s Why Chocolate is Smile-Friendly

Dark chocolate is dentist approved because it:

1. Inhibits Some Enamel-Destroying Acids

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

2. May Zap Cavity-Causing Bacteria

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

3. Boosts Periodontal (Gum) Health

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

4. Discourages Plaque Formation 

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

5. Fights Inflammation

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

6. Is Less Likely to Cause Cavities Than Other Treats

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

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

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

7. Makes You Smile

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

What Type of Chocolate is Healthy?

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

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

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

Ready to Get a Smile You Love?

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

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

Why Do I Have a Bump on My Gums?

Why Do I Have a Bump on My Gums?

By Blog


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

Why Is There a Bump on My Gums?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Risk factors for oral cancer include:

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

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

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

Can I Pop a Bump on My Gums?

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

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


How to Get Rid Of Bumps on Gums

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

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

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

To prevent painful bumps on your gums in the future:

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


Schedule a Visit with a Naperville General Dentist 

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


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