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

By Blog

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

 

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

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

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

The Different Ways to Whiten Teeth

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

  • Whitening Toothpaste 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

  • Professional At-Home Teeth Whitening

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

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

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

 

  • In-Office, Professional Teeth Whitening

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

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

What’s the Fastest Way to Whiten to Teeth?

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

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

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

Our Naperville, IL Teeth Whitening Options

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

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

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

Schedule Your Visit for Teeth Whitening at Naperville Dental Specialists!

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

What Are The TMD Treatment Options?

What Are the TMD Treatment Options?

By Blog, TMJ

What is TMJ Exactly and What Are TMD Treatment Options?

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

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

– Michael

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

What is TMJ?

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

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

TMJ muscle explanation

What are TMJ Disorders?

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

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

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

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

What are the TMJD/TMD Symptoms?

TMD symptoms may include:

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

 

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

What are the Causes of TMJ Disorders?

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

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

How to Achieve TMJ Pain Relief at Home?

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

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

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

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

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

What are the TMD Treatment Options?

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

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

What Type of Doctor Treats TMJ Disorders?

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

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

Key Takeaways

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

Schedule a Consultation With Our Naperville TMJ Expert

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

Girl in pain using home remedies for tooth pain

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

By Toothache, Blog No Comments

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

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

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

What are the Causes of Tooth Pain?

The common causes of toothaches, include:

Tooth Decay 

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

Loose Crown or a Loose or Missing Filling

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

Dental Abscess

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

Fractured Tooth

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

Infection

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

Trauma

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

Teeth Grinding or Clenching (Bruxism)

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

TMJ Disorders

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

Your Sinuses

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

 

man experiencing tooth pain at home

 

Home Remedies for Tooth Pain Relief

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

Saltwater Rinse 

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

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

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

Rinse With Hydrogen Peroxide 

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

Ice

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

Over-the-Counter Anesthetics

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

Clove Oil

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

Garlic

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

Use Wax or Gum

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

Tea

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

Wheatgrass

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

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

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

patients-treatment-for-brighter-smiles

9 Simple Habits for a Brighter, Healthier Smile

By Blog No Comments

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

Chew Sugarless Gum After Meals

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

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

Add Mouthwash to Your Oral Hygiene Routine

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

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

Invest in a Water Flosser

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

Floss Before Brushing

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

Don’t Always Reach for Your Toothbrush Right Away

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

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

Enjoy Some Key Beverages and Foods for Gum Health

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

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

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

Watch the Sugar and Carbs

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

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

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

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

Use a Whitening Toothpaste With Fluoride

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

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

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Routine Dental Visits

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

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

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

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

What is Keto Breath?

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

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

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

What Does Keto Breath Smell Like?

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

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

How Long Does Keto Breath Last?

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

How to Get Rid of Keto Breath

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

1. Drink Plenty of Water

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

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

2. Maintain Excellent Oral Hygiene 

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

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

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

4. Adjust Your Diet

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

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

5. Visit Your General Dentist if All Else Fails

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

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

sleep apnea patient sleeping

7 Tips for Getting Better Sleep With Sleep Apnea

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

What is Sleep Apnea?

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

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

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

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

What are the Signs of Sleep Apnea?

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

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

7 Tips for How to Get Better Sleep With Sleep Apnea  

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

1. Learn How to Sleep With Sleep Apnea

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

2. Lose Weight if Necessary

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

3. Limit Alcohol and Quit Smoking

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

4. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene 

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

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

5. Exercise 

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

6. Invest in a Humidifier

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

7. Consider an Oral Appliance

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

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

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

oral screening

Eddie Van Halen and the Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

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

What is Oral Cancer?

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

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

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

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

What are the Causes and Signs of Oral Cancer?

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

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

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

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

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

What is VELscope?

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

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

What are the Benefits of a VELscope Oral Cancer Screening?

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

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

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

 

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The Best Presidential Smiles

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

A History of Presidents’ Smiles

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

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

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

Past US Presidents With Stellar Smiles

Ronald Reagan

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President Ronald Reagan

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

John F. Kennedy

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President John F. Kennedy

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

Barack Obama

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President Barack Obama

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

Bill Clinton

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President Bill Clinton

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

Gerald Ford

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President Gerald Ford

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

Jimmy Carter

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President Jimmy Carter

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

George W. Bush 

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President George W. Bush

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

Franklin D. Roosevelt

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President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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

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

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

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What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

By Oral Health, Blog No Comments

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

Key Highlights:

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

A White Coating or White Spots on Tongue 

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

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

A Hairy, Black Tongue

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

A Red Tongue or Strawberry Tongue

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

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

A Sore Tongue or Bumps on Tongue 

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

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

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

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

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