Exercise & Oral Health

woman exercisingWe all know that we should exercise regularly to keep our bodies healthy. At our dental office in Wicker Park, we also know that exercising can be beneficial for our smiles. However, just like too much exercise or improper form can lead to injuries or trouble with overall health, we also know that exercise may actually contribute to some oral health issues.

Top Culprits

We don’t want to discourage anyone from exercising or create fear that working out will ultimately lead to dental problems. While there seems to be a correlation between athletes and tooth decay, we can pinpoint two reasons why.

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are packed with ingredients that can help the body replenish what’s lost during intense exercise. However, some of those ingredients are known contributors of enamel erosion and tooth decay. For example, the acidity alone can quickly cause damage. In fact, according to an article published by the Academy of General Dentistry, tooth damage can occur after just five days of consuming sports drinks because they’re so acidic.

Mouth Breathing

During any exercise, trainers and coaches alike will encourage you to practice proper breathing techniques to help reduce the risk of cramps and to make your workout as effective as possible. However, the majority of people breathe in and out of their mouths during exercise. Mouth breathing dries the mouth out and makes it an ideal place for damaging bacteria to thrive.

It’s Not All Bad News

Just because high intensity exercise over a prolonged period of time may lead to issues with your oral health, doesn’t mean you should quit your workout routine. According to research collected through the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), individuals who followed the government’s recommendations for physical activity were less likely to have gum disease. And that’s great news for both your mouth and your body. Gum disease can affect overall health and has been linked to serious health issues including increased risk for certain cancers, heart disease, and stroke.

Whether you’re concerned about exercise affecting your oral health or even if you’re just looking for a dentist, we welcome you to call our Wicker Park dental office to schedule an appointment. We’re always happy to see our neighbors and keep them healthy.

What Exactly is Occlusion?

woman and dentist examine x-rayAt our dental office in Wicker Park, we’re often asked what certain technical dental terms mean, and we’re always happy to explain them. Which brings us to the topic of the day: Occlusion. What is occlusion? What are we looking at when we talk about it? Why does it matter? We’re glad you asked!

Occlusion Explained

Occlusion is a simply a fancy name to describe the relationship between the way your upper teeth connect with your lower teeth when you chew, bite, or clench down. More commonly, occlusion is explained as your bite.

What Are We Looking At?

When your dentist in Wicker Park is evaluating your bite, he or she is looking for any areas where the two sets of teeth don’t line up well. A healthy bite is important for proper chewing, and if a bite is “bad,” the force placed on teeth isn’t distributed evenly. This can lead to several problems and the need for restorations or long-term treatment.

How Does a Bite Become “Bad?”

There are times when people develop a bad bite as they lose their baby teeth and their permanent ones erupt. Most commonly, these are classified as overbites, underbites, or crossbites (more on these in a minute). Other individuals see a shift in their once good bite as they get older thanks to accidents, clenching or grinding, or as a result of teeth shifting when a permanent tooth is lost and not replaced.

Signs of a Bad Bite

There aren’t one or two concrete signs of malocclusion (another fancy dental term used to say bad bite). In fact, there are several symptoms that may indicate an issue including:

  • Excessive wear on tooth enamel
  • Broken or chipped teeth
  • Tooth loss
  • Head or neck pain
  • Pain in the jaw joint
  • Upper teeth that fall behind the lower teeth when the mouth is closed (underbite)
  • Top teeth that cover most or all of the bottom front teeth while biting (overbite)

If you’re experiencing any of these signs, we encourage you to call our dental office in Wicker Park. Treatment to correct a bite varies from person to person, so it’s best to evaluate your individual situation and recommend a personalized plan.

5 Secrets Your Tongue Reveals About Your Health

woman sticking out tongueGrab a mirror, open up, and say “ah” because we’re talking tongues today. Did you know the color and even the shape of your tongue can say a lot about what could be going on health-wise in the rest of your body? Our dental office in Wicker Park (and your primary care doctor too) are always on the lookout for signs or symptoms that your tongue may be trying to tell us! Check out these helpful tips about tongue health to learn more.

What You See: A Glossy, Raspberry Red Tongue

What it Means: Have you ever looked at your tongue and it looks like you just finished eating a strawberry or raspberry popsicle? This is actually a common side effect of having a vitamin deficiency – primarily B12. It can also indicate that your body is low on iron. Vegetarians are especially prone to this.

What You See: Wrinkles

What it Means: As we age, our tongues do too! A cracked or wrinkled appearance to your tongue is generally nothing to worry about. It’s very important to maintain good hygiene and brush your tongue to avoid infections in the wrinkles.

What You See: Painless, White Patches

What it Means: These white marks known as leukoplakia are usually caused by the growth of too many cells in one area. Sometimes they are a result of an accidental bite while we’re chewing food or maybe you have a tooth that’s rubbing you the wrong way. If you’re experiencing these kinds of patches or any other tongue troubles, it’s always good to give your dentist in Wicker Park a call to take a look!

What You See: Painful Sores

What it Means: Usually when we see patients with a sore on their tongue they all have one thing in common: they’re stressed. Sometimes when you’re run down from illness or everyday stress this causes canker sores to erupt on the tongue and cheeks. They’re usually painful for a few days and will subside within a week or two.

What You See: Unevenness, Peaks, and Valleys

What it Means: It may sound strange but there’s actually a common condition called “geographic tongue,” and it’s absolutely harmless. It makes your tongue look like it has some pretty bumpy, rough terrain and it’s actually known to affect up to 14% of the population. Doctors aren’t sure what causes the condition but it most likely has something to do with your taste buds. Geographic tongue doesn’t require any special treatment or medication. If it becomes painful, be sure to talk to your dentist.

Our Wicker Park dental office knows how important it is to keep a close eye on your teeth and your tongue because they’re pretty accurate indicators of other things that your body might be experiencing or trying to make you aware of. If you have any questions about the health of your tongue, please call!

What’s Good and What’s Bad About Bottled Water?

rows of bottled waterThese days you can’t go very far without seeing bottled water, whether you’re scanning the aisles at your favorite supermarket, cheering on your kids at their latest sporting event, or perhaps packing for a trip to your favorite vacation destination. Our dental office in Wicker Park wants you and your family to stay healthy and hydrated, which may mean drinking more bottled water. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the getting water from the bottle vs. the tap.

The Pros: Why is Bottled Water So Popular?

  1. It’s Readily Available

Bottled water is an excellent solution for having delicious drinking water anytime, anywhere. It’s portable and travels easily in briefcases, purses, gym bags, backpacks, and more. Sometimes, given your surroundings (i.e. camping or in a foreign country) it’s easier to have a bottle of water with you. It’s also able to be purchased conveniently.

  1. Easy to Store and Delicious to Drink

In the event of a disaster or other emergency, your dentist in Wicker Park knows that having bottled water on hand is definitely helpful and it can be a lifesaver depending on the circumstances. Because bottled water does not expire, it’s always a good idea to keep some stored away, just in case. Depending on the condition of your tap water, bottled H20 also tends to taste better too. This usually due, in part, to the purification process certain types of bottle water must undergo during the preparation process.

The Cons: What’s So Bad About Bottled Water?

  1. It Could Cost You More Money

Because there are so many additional necessary steps to ensure bottled water is safe to drink (purification, packaging, transporting, marketing, etc.), it can tend to be a bit more pricey than the water flowing from your tap.

  1. There Could Be Some Health Risks

Our Wicker Park dental office wants you to know about the possible health risks associated with bottled water. Did you know commercially produced bottled water does not contain fluoride, while tap water does? Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps keep teeth strong and healthy. It’s especially important that kids get enough fluoride for their growing teeth. Some plastic bottles also contain the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) which can seep into the water before you drink it. This risk increases significantly if your water is stored somewhere hot in direct sunlight.

We hope you learned a little bit about some of the benefits and some of the potential downfalls to drinking bottled H20! No matter what kind of water you choose either for yourself or your family, it’s always very important to stay hydrated each and every day. This helps your body function a peak performance, you feel good, and look great on the outside too! Do you have any questions about what we talked about in our blog? Give us a call or ask us your questions at your next visit!

Negative Effects of Nail Biting

young woman biting nails stuydingNail biting is a bad habit that often begins early in life as a response to stress or boredom, or sometimes as a subconscious reaction to nervousness. While the habit tends to fade as we get older, it’s estimated that about 30% of people continue to gnaw on their nails into adulthood. At our dental office in Wicker Park, we know that nail biting is more than a bad habit. To us, it’s about all of the negative effects nail biting can have on teeth and overall oral health.

Risks to Overall Health

Your nails are one of the areas on your body where you can find tons of germs and bacteria. Usually wedged in between the nail and the skin of your finger, these germs and bacteria can be pretty harmful if ingested into your system. When someone puts their finger in their mouth and bites away at the nail, it’s an easy way for these bacteria to be released into the body which could lead to some serious illnesses.

Negative Effects on Oral Health

Besides the risk to overall health, nail biting can wreak havoc on teeth and gums. Your dentist in Wicker Park will tell you that chronic nail biting has been linked several oral health issues including chipped, cracked, or worn down teeth, damage to the gum tissue, and bruxism. Bruxism, more commonly known as tooth grinding, can lead to headaches, recessed gums, tooth sensitivity, and even tooth loss.

Tips on How to Stop

Like any habit, stopping nail biting can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Trying to retrain yourself to quit nibbling on your nails takes a conscious effort. These tips can help.

  • Paint your nails with an ill-tasting lacquer designed specifically for nail biters
  • Find another release for stress like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or exercise
  • Check out close up photos of the bacteria that live under nails to remind you of what you could be putting in your mouth whenever you bite — spoiler alert: it’s gross!
  • Keep nails trimmed as short as possible to give yourself less to bite

Start by trying one of the above methods to quit biting your nails. If it doesn’t work for you, try another one. It may take persistence but once you quit biting your nails, your overall health and oral health will thank you.
In the meantime, if you happen to chip or crack a tooth, have gum damage, or suspect bruxism we welcome you to schedule an appointment at our Wicker Park dental office. We’ll diagnose the damage and talk with you about the most appropriate treatment for you.

The Importance of Measuring Gum Pockets

young woman in dental chair looking upThe process of measuring gum pockets, also known as periodontal charting, is pretty simple and should be painless as long as there is no infection. At our dental office in Wicker Park, when we do a periodontal charting, you’ll hear us call out several numbers as we gently poke along the gum line. These numbers represent how deep the gum pockets are in millimeters. But why are those measurements so important in evaluating overall oral health? We’re glad you asked.

What is a Gum Pocket?

Before we discuss why periodontal charting is important, we should first cover some terminology. When looking at the anatomy of the mouth, it would appear as if the teeth and gums attach along the gum line. However, there are actually six small spaces in between each tooth and the gum tissue. These areas are known as the gum pockets.

What do the Measurements Mean?

As your Wicker Park dentist measures each gum pocket, you’ll hear several numbers being called out, usually ranging from 1 to 7. You want to hear smaller numbers as these mean a shallower gum pocket and, normally, healthier gums. Check out the guide below for an idea of what each depth can indicate.

  • 3 mm – 5mm with no bleeding can be a sign of very early, moderate gum disease
  • 3 mm – 5 mm with bleeding is usually a strong indicator of gum disease that’s still pretty moderate.
  • 5 mm – 7 mm with bleeding typically guarantees gum disease is active and may have started to deteriorate bone.
  • 7 mm+ with bleeding indicates aggressive gum disease that will need treatment or surgery to fix.

Why is Knowing Important?

Since gum disease is a serious problem that can lead to tooth loss, other oral health problems, and even whole-body diseases like heart disease and stroke, diagnosing and treating gum disease early is always ideal. Gum disease treatment can not only make your mouth healthier, it can make your overall health better, too.

Other Signs of Gum Disease

Periodontal charting isn’t the only way to detect gum disease. You should also keep an eye out for:

If you recognize any of these signs, contact our Wicker Park dental office as soon as you can.

The Oral Health Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco

chewing tobaccoApril is recognized as Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and while many people know the risks associated with smoking tobacco, the team at our dental office in Wicker Park want to make sure our patients and neighbors know that just because smokeless tobacco is, well, smokeless, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own fair share of risks.

Oral Cancer

The most serious concern associated with smokeless tobacco use is oral cancer. Oral cancer is a serious disease that affects the lives of nearly 50,000 newly diagnosed people every year. If not caught early, oral cancer can lead to death. While anyone can get oral cancer, tobacco use (of any kind) is the top risk factor for developing the disease.

Know the Signs

  • Pain while swallowing, chewing, or speaking
  • Changes in voice
  • A white, scaly patch on the inside of the cheek or lip
  • A lump inside the mouth or neck

If you notice any of the signs above, contact your dentist in Wicker Park to schedule an appointment as soon as you can.

Gum Recession

Chewing tobacco can also cause gums to recede, mostly because the tobacco (and everything else found in it) is left on the gums for prolonged periods of time which irritates the tissues. Once gums have receded, the tooth roots become exposed, and that’s when the problems start. Without the protection of the gums, the roots are at increased risk for sustaining damage from foods, drinks, and more tobacco. Not only does this make cavities more likely, it also tends to lead to tooth sensitivity, which can be pretty painful.

Tooth Discoloration

Thanks to the ingredients found in all forms of tobacco, specifically tar and nicotine, tobacco users tend to suffer from a yellow smile. The good news is this discoloration can be reversed through a professional smile whitening or cosmetic dentistry treatment like veneers. But if a patient continues to use tobacco after treatment, the teeth can be easily stained again.  

Regular visits to the dentist are important for everyone, but especially for tobacco users, smokeless or not. If you’re looking for a dentist, we welcome you to call our Wicker Park dental office to schedule an appointment. We’re here to help keep our patients healthy and we’re always happy to see new patients. Give us a call today.

What’s a Frenectomy and Do You Need One?

woman asking whyThere are times when the team at our dental office in Wicker Park may recommend a frenectomy for a patient. But we understand that many patients aren’t exactly sure what a frenectomy is and why one may be needed. So we’d like to cover the basics to help all of our patients stay properly informed.

A Little About Anatomy

Before we can dive into the treatment itself, we need to talk a bit about the mouth’s anatomy. The mouth has two thin muscular attachments called frenum that can inhibit normal function of the mouth. One of these is the tight muscle found under the tongue that connects the tongue to the lower part of the mouth (called the lingual frenum). The other connects the top lip to the gum tissue above the top teeth (called the maxillary labial frenum). When either one of these effects tongue function or proper tooth placement, a frenectomy may be appropriate.

What’s a Frenectomy?

Simply put, a frenectomy is the removal or shortening of a frenum. A frenectomy is usually recommended if the frenum is clearly causing pain or hindering proper function.

Why Are Frenectomies Important?

The benefits behind a frenectomy depends on which frenum needs treatment.

  • Lingual Frenum Frenectomy

When the lingual frenum is too long and extends to the tip of the tongue, it can directly affect tongue function. Most common in children, a lingual frenum frenectomy can help restore proper tongue function and can make swallowing, eating, and talking easier.

  • Maxillary Labial Frenum Frenectomy

A large maxillary labial frenum or one that attaches close to the teeth can create a gap in between the two front teeth. Occasionally this type of frenectomy is recommended by your Wicker Park dentist following orthodontic treatment that initially closed the gap but has since reopened.

How is a Frenectomy Performed?

We understand that the procedure may sound scary, but it’s actually quite simple. Treatment always begins by numbing the area. Then the frenum is cut away from the either the floor of the mouth or the gum line. Following a few stitches, the treatment is complete. Depending on the technology offered by your dental office, a laser may also be used.

If you have more questions, we welcome you to call our Wicker Park dental office. We’re always happy to help.

A Word to the Wise: Don’t Let Wisdom Teeth Cause Trouble

wisdom teethWisdom teeth usually begin to develop and show on x-rays in our early teens. And that’s the best time to start monitoring their growth to see if your wisdom teeth can stay, or if it’s better to get them removed. While all wisdom teeth don’t necessarily have to be extracted, all of us at our dental office in Chicago want our patients to know that if wisdom teeth removal is recommended, it’s for a good reason.

When Can Wisdom Teeth Stay?

Sometimes, wisdom teeth are growing in just fine and there is no reason to discuss or consider removing them. In most cases, if your wisdom teeth are healthy, completely grown in, positioned correctly so they don’t affect your bite or neighboring teeth, and are able to be cleaned properly, they can stay right where they are. However, it’s more common that they will need to be removed, sometimes before they’re fully erupted.

Reasons Wisdom Teeth Need to be Extracted

Proper Care Becomes Difficult

Even if your wisdom teeth came in without a hitch, you may not necessarily get to keep them. In fact, one of the main reasons wisdom teeth need to come out is that they are difficult to care for. Your wisdom teeth, the four molars in the back of your mouth, are hard to reach with a toothbrush, and even harder to floss. This tends to increase the likelihood of gum disease and cavities. If any issues are noticed during your routine checkups with your Chicago dentist, removal may be recommended to reduce the risk of more cavities and infection later.

There’s No Room For Them

Another reason – the most common reason – why wisdom teeth need to be removed is because there isn’t enough room in your mouth. This can often be handled with an easy wisdom teeth removal before any teeth begin to erupt through the gums. However, if the procedure is delayed or avoided, the teeth can get trapped in the bone and become impacted. Once wisdom teeth are impacted, the surgery is a bit more complicated, but still fairly easy.

Keeping up with your regularly scheduled appointments at our Chicago dental office is an important step in monitoring your wisdom teeth and making sure that everything in your mouth is healthy, functioning correctly, and looking great. If you need someone to check out your wisdom teeth, or your smile as a whole, give us a call today.

“Why Are My Teeth So Sensitive?”

sensitiveDo you experience shooting pain through your teeth when you drink something hot or bite into something cold? If so, you may be suffering from sensitive teeth. It’s a common problem for many people, but our dental office in Chicago wants to help explain some possible reasons behind your sensitivity and how we can fix it.

Reason #1: Clenching & Grinding

Although tooth enamel is really strong stuff, it can be worn away by chronically scraping teeth together through clenching or grinding (also known as bruxism). When enamel erodes it leaves the middle part of the tooth exposed and sensitivity results. Tooth clenching and grinding can not only lead to sensitivity, but also other dental problems like cracked or chipped teeth which require restorative dentistry to repair.

Solution: Tooth clenching and grinding can be treated. Typically a custom-made bruxism mouthguard is recommended. These mouthguards keep your teeth from scraping together, protecting them from damage.

Reason #2: Brushing Too Hard

Although it seems to make sense that the harder you brush your teeth, the cleaner your mouth will be, that just isn’t the case. Using a side-to-side motion or scrubbing too vigorously will make enamel wear down more quickly than normal, increasing the risk of tooth sensitivity.

Solution: Revise your brushing technique. You should brush using small, gentle circles while holding your brush at a 45 degree angle. You may also want to make sure your brush has soft bristles for an even gentler clean.

Reason #3: Gum Disease

One of the common symptoms of gum disease is sensitivity. Why? Gum disease can cause the gums to recede, exposing the tooth roots. These roots contain nerves and if these nerves are unprotected, it can be very painful.  In addition to sensitivity, signs of gum disease can include red, swollen, and bleeding gums.

Solution: See your dentist in Chicago as soon as you can. Gum disease is a serious concern that can not only cause tooth sensitivity, but also contributes to whole body problems like strokes and heart disease.  

If you have sensitive teeth, give our Chicago dental office a call to schedule an appointment with us. We’ll work with you to determine the cause and discuss relief options.

(312)818-2441
Monica Urda, DDS
1755 W North Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
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