The 6 Cavity-Causing Culprits You May Not Know About

woman looks at teeth in mirrorThere are many widely known causes of cavities including eating too much sugar, not brushing or flossing your teeth enough, or avoiding regular visits to your Wicker Park dentist. But there are also plenty of lesser known cavity-causing culprits out there that you should be aware of…

Teeth with Deep Grooves

Many people naturally have teeth with many deep grooves. Most commonly found in the back molars, these grooves can make it difficult to fully remove food particles and bacteria. This makes them the perfect place for bacteria to bury in and create tooth decay.

Genetics

Our genes play a large role in our overall health, including the health of our mouths. Some genes make certain people more susceptible to having large amounts of mouth bacteria while others can be responsible for brittle teeth. Both of these concerns are likely to increase the person’s risk of cavities.

Certain Medications

Dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications and even some cancer treatments. While this may seem like no big deal or simply an unpleasant feeling, dry mouth can be dangerous to oral health. When someone suffers from dry mouth, they aren’t producing enough saliva to rinse away bacteria or neutralize acid. This allows the bacteria to hang around and decay teeth and the acid to damage protective enamel. Without enamel, teeth are at even more risk for decay.

Aging

Just like the rest of our bodies, our oral health changes as we get older. Our teeth may become weaker, our mouths drier, and our gums may even recede. All of these things allow bacteria to attack our mouths and teeth, increasing the likelihood of cavities.

Dental Restorations

Dental restorations such as fillings are designed to fix problems such as cavities. However, if done improperly they can have an adverse effect. Loose fillings or ones that are too large can allow bacteria to get under them. If this happens, the decay can continue to affect the tooth. Most likely, the filling will need to be replaced.

Grinding Your Teeth

Tooth grinding is common among the U.S. population. Whether done during sleep or as a response to stress, it can not only damage teeth, it can also make it easier for cavities to form. The repeated tooth-on-tooth grinding wears away enamel. As we learned earlier, less enamel means more risk for cavities.

We recommend doing your best to avoid the controllable lifestyle choices above that contribute to dental decay. And while you may not be able to totally avoid or change the others, our dental office in Wicker Park can help reduce the effect they have on your teeth. We welcome you to schedule an appointment so we can work together to prevent cavities or other oral health problems.

Are All Those Claims About Charcoal Toothpaste Really True?

charcoal toothpasteThere’s recently been a surge in the popularity of using charcoal toothpaste to get a whiter smile. Promoters of the charcoal toothpaste trend claim that it can help whiten teeth effectively without the risk of increased sensitivity that may result from using other products. But does it really work? Join the team at our Wicker Park dental office as we dive into the truth.

What Exactly is Charcoal Toothpaste?

Before we launch into whether or not charcoal toothpaste can really whiten your smile, let’s look into what the stuff actually is. Charcoal toothpaste uses something called activated charcoal, which is much different than the charcoal you’d use to grill a burger. Activated charcoal is a form of carbon that’s been treated in order to make it incredibly porous. Since the porous nature makes activated charcoal really great at absorption, the thought is that it can pull stains, tartar, and bacteria away from teeth.

Is Charcoal Toothpaste Safe?

The short answer is yes, charcoal toothpaste is safe for the human body. Even though the modern age of the world wide web may have popularized the use of it, its usage has a rich history dating way back to the days of the ancient Romans. In fact, a powder form of charcoal was a pretty common ingredient in their toothpastes. Besides its dental usage, activated charcoal was, and still sometimes is, used to treat people who have been poisoned.

So, Does it Whiten Teeth?

Charcoal toothpaste has been effective at removing surface stains on teeth which may help a smile appear whiter. However, using it doesn’t come without risks. Even though charcoal toothpaste is porous, it’s also fairly abrasive. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), charcoal toothpaste is too abrasive to be used regularly and may result in damage. Using an abrasive toothpaste can wear away the protective layer of enamel, making teeth not only more exposed to the dangers of bacteria, but also creating a dingy, discolored appearance.

Other Ways to Whiten Your Teeth

If you’ve tried charcoal toothpaste and didn’t see the results you were hoping for, or you’re not quite on board with its claims, there are still other safe and effective ways you can whiten your teeth.

  • Try a whitening toothpaste that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance
  • Schedule a professional smile whitening with your dentist in Wicker Park
  • Consider dental veneers to cover up any discoloration or imperfections

As always, our dental office in Wicker Park is happy to answer any questions you may have about the best way to whiten your teeth. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment!  

5 Things You Can Do to Get a Smile You’ll Love

woman hides her smileA little too crooked or a little too gapped… a smidge too yellow or a lot not right… there are plenty of reasons you may be unhappy with your smile. If you’re one of the many people who doesn’t like your smile, you’ve come to the right place. The wide range of cosmetic dentistry options at our dental office in Wicker Park can easily fix some of most common concerns people have about their smiles.

Brighten Your Look With Smile Whitening

The most common thing people dislike about their smiles is the color. The simplest way to get a brighter, whiter smile is through a professional smile whitening treatment. There are plenty of options available, from an in-office treatment to a take-home solution from your dentist, and even over-the-counter products. Make sure you choose a product that’s earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance and talk with your dentist before performing any whitening treatment.

Cover Up Imperfections With Dental Veneers

If you’re someone who is more concerned about chipped, crooked, or deeply discolored teeth, dental veneers may be a better solution for you. These thin pieces of ceramic are adhered to the front of the tooth surface to cover up any imperfection. They’re also custom shaped for each person and tooth to create an incredibly natural appearance.

Orthodontics

An overbite, underbite, or crooked teeth can absolutely cause someone to be unhappy with their smile. But thanks to the many orthodontic options available, a smile doesn’t need to stay that way. Whether it’s traditional braces, clear braces, or plastic aligners, orthodontic treatment is sure to shift a smile into a look you’ll love.

Consider a Smile Makeover for a Brand New Look

When there are several concerns about the way a smile looks, it may be an appropriate time to consider a smile makeover. During a smile makeover, your dentist takes a comprehensive look at all of your smile concerns and develops a custom treatment plan that combines a few cosmetic dentistry procedures. Working closely with a dentist you trust can truly transform your smile into one you’re proud of.

Brush & Floss Regularly

Most importantly, the best thing you can do to get a smile you love is to brush and floss everyday and maintain regular visits with your dentist in Wicker Park. A proper dental hygiene routine can go a long way in keeping your smile bright, white, and healthy.

You don’t need to settle for a smile that doesn’t make you happy. Give our Wicker Park dental office a call to set up a cosmetic dentistry consultation. We have solutions to fit every need and will be happy to work with you in creating a beautiful smile.

Drinking Wine: Good for the Heart, Bad for Teeth?

holiday dinner with wineMost of us have heard that drinking red wine may have heart-healthy benefits. And while there’s still some debate on just how true that is, you may find it surprising that there may just be some oral health benefits to partaking in glass every now and then. Our dental office in Wicker Park explores these potential smile benefits as well as some not-so-good side effects in this week’s blog.

The Good

Studies conducted in several areas throughout the world have suggested a positive link between drinking red wine and a decrease in tooth decay. One of these studies published by the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry took bacteria rich biofilm from the mouths of several volunteers, which they then dipped into wine. What they found was that the wine was effective at getting rid of the bacteria. With less bacteria around to weaken enamel and cause decay, one could also assume a lower risk for cavities. However, it might not be all good news.

The Bad

In most of the studies surrounding the positive correlation between red wine and dental health the researchers removed the alcohol content prior to testing. This is important to note since we know alcohol tends to dry out the mouth. A dry mouth has the opposite effect of fighting off decay and actually supports a decay-friendly environment. Red wine also has a tendency to transform teeth from a bright white to a dull or discolored appearance. While that can usually be reversed through whitening or cosmetic dentistry from your dentist in Wicker Park, it’s still a negative in our book. Finally, the acidity of wine can wear down tooth enamel and leave teeth exposed to, you guessed it, decay.

The Final Verdict

We don’t really have a definite conclusion on whether the potential positives of red wine outweigh the negatives. Essentially, more research is needed for us to get on board with supporting the claim that red wine is a good way to fight decay. But in the meantime, we’re not here to tell anyone to stop enjoying their occasional glass of wine, of course. Just enjoy responsibly, keep an eye out for any tooth discoloration, and follow the tips below.

  • Alternate drinking wine with water. If you can, it wouldn’t hurt to rinse your mouth out with water occasionally, too.
  • Hold off on brushing immediately after drinking wine to keep the acid from being spread throughout your entire mouth and all over your teeth.

If you’re a red wine lover and happen to notice some tooth discoloration, call our Wicker Park dental office to schedule a professional whitening or cosmetic dentistry treatment to get your smile back to a vibrant white. Or if you’re just looking for a new place to call your dental home, we’re always welcoming new patients and would love to see you. Schedule a visit with us today!

4 Ways to Beat Bad Breath

kiss under the mistletoeBad breath can be caused by any number of things. But it can be embarrassing, and gum or mints only go so far in covering it up. Instead of masking the issue, our dental office in Wicker Park has a few tips on how to solve the problem once and for all.

The Best Ways to Fix Chronic Bad Breath

Occasional bad breath may be a result of something you ate, such as a super garlicky pasta dish. This type of bad breath is usually short lived and easily fixed by brushing your teeth. However, chronic bad breath, or halitosis, doesn’t disappear no matter how much mouthwash you swish. When this is the case, there are several things you can try to help you freshen up.

  • Back to Basics

The easiest way to start working on beating bad breath is to make sure you’re practicing proper oral hygiene by brushing twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing once a day.

  • Drink More Water

A hydrated mouth is a happy mouth. The more water you drink, the more bacteria is rinsed away before it has a chance to settle in and lead to decay or bad breath.

  • Stop Smoking

Smoker’s breath can linger around long after you put out your cigarette. Smoke particles can hang around in lungs for hours after smoking, and tiny amounts are released every time you exhale… hence the bad breath.

  • Visit Your Dentist in Wicker Park

Twice annual dental visits are the best way to fight off bad breath and keep it away in the first place. Your dental team will deep clean your teeth removing stuck on tartar and freshening your entire mouth. They’ll also be able to notice and treat any other issues that may be contributing to bad breath.

Sometimes Bad Breath is More Than Simply Bad Breath

If you practice good oral hygiene at home, visit your dentist twice a year, drink plenty of water, and don’t smoke, yet you still suffer from chronic bad breath, there’s a possibility it may a sign of a larger problem. Bad breath can be a sign of:

  • Gum Disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Sinus Infection
  • Diabetes
  • Liver or Kidney Problems

If you’re been in the bad breath battle for some time and you’re ready to make a change, we welcome you to contact our Wicker Park dental office to schedule an appointment. We’ll be happy to get you on the right track towards fresher breath.

Be Thankful for a Healthy Mouth

woman expresses thanksThis Thanksgiving, we want to switch it up a bit and challenge all of our patients to think outside of the box when sharing their thanks with friends and family around the dinner table. Everyone gives thanks for friends, family, overall health, and perhaps love. And rightfully so. But at our dental office in Wicker Park we want you to give a few reasons to be thankful for a healthy mouth.

Dental Health & Overall Health Are Linked

We mentioned earlier that many people give thanks for their overall health during Thanksgiving praises of appreciation. But what’s often overlooked is the correlation between oral health and overall health. Poor oral health has been linked to several serious whole-body problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Some serious health problems also first show signs in the mouth. So it’s safe to say the healthier your mouth is, the more likely it is that you’re whole body is healthy, too.   

A Healthy Mouth Lets You Eat All The Food

Turkey, yams, peas, potatoes, pies for days — nearly every table in the country will be overloaded with all kinds of food on Thanksgiving Day. And in order to enjoy every bite of flavor, we need our teeth to be in tip top shape. Healthy teeth that are free of pain-causing cavities or other problems allow us to chew properly and properly digest our food.

Gives Confidence

When our smiles aren’t as white as we’d like or as healthy, they aren’t an accurate representation of who we are. If we aren’t proud of our smiles, we tend to shy away from cameras or laugh or smile with our mouths closed. This can negatively affect your entire mood. However, a bright, white, healthy smile can allow you to laugh and speak freely without worry or embarrassment. Having a brilliant grin boosts confidence and can certainly affect your mood in a positive way. If you aren’t totally happy with your smile, talk to your dentist in Wicker Park about cosmetic dentistry options that can help.

Keeps Breath Kissably Fresh

A healthy smile isn’t just a white smile. A truly healthy smile also keeps breath fresh day in and day out. The best way you can help keep your pearly whites white and your breath smelling good is to brush every morning and every night for at least two minutes, floss every day, and if you use mouthwash, use it sparingly. Many mouthwashes actually only temporarily mask bad breath and end up drying out the mouth, which can make bad breath even worse.

At our Wicker Park dental office, we’re always here to help get and keep our neighbors’ smiles healthy. If you’re in need of a dentist, we welcome you to give us a call.

Top 7 Ways to Protect Yourself This Flu Season

couple with the fluNobody enjoys the threat of the flu lurking everywhere this time of year. But with the right precautions you can protect yourself and your family and reduce your risk of contracting the flu. Our dental office in Wicker Park has put together a guide to help you avoid the flu and keep you healthy all year long.

Wash Your Hands Often

Using warm water and soap, scrub your hands before preparing food, after eating or using the restroom, and after shaking hands. If soap and water are unavailable use an alcohol-based sanitizer.

Keep Your Hands Away From Your Face

Germs spread easily through the eyes, nose, and mouth. If your hands get in contact with flu germs and you rub your eye, itch your nose, or bite your fingernail, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll get sick.

Drink Plenty of Water

Your body functions optimally if it’s hydrated. This includes its ability to fight off germs. Not to mention, a well hydrated mouth is a healthy mouth, and that’s sure to make your dentist in Wicker Park happy.

Eat a Well Balanced Diet

Fueling your body with fruits, veggies, whole grains, and proteins is crucial in helping your body stay healthy. Proteins, in fact, have been proven to support the immune system so make sure you’re getting your fair share.

Clean Your Home and Your Office

Sanitize the areas you or others use most. Think about the items that get touched often like doorknobs, toilets, elevator buttons, or your computer mouse. A good rule of thumb to follow is to clean it even it doesn’t look dirty.

Take Care of Your Toothbrush

Toothbrushes can hold a lot of bacteria and if not taken care of properly could make you sick. Make sure you rinse the bristles thoroughly after each use, store family members’ brushes far away from each other, and consider sterilizing them once a week in hot water.

Avoid People Who Are Sick

Although this seems obvious, it’s not always simple. If a co-worker comes to the office sniffling and sneezing, it’s difficult to avoid them and everything they touch. Try to communicate via email instead of face-to-face meetings, carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you, and again, always wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

If you do happen to get sick, try your best to stay home to help prevent the illness from spreading to others. Our dental office in Wicker Park also encourages you to find sugar-free medications so as you’re working on feeling better, you’re not doing damage to your oral health.

The Not So Scary Truth About Root Canals

root canal modelSo your dentist in Wicker Park told you that you need a root canal. And you’re a little bit scared because, let’s face it, a root canal doesn’t sound like much fun. After all, everything you’ve ever heard about root canals make them sound painful and scary. Root canals have had a bad reputation for years, but we’re here to set the record straight.

Root Canals Relieve Pain, Not Cause It

If you happen to need a root canal, chances are you’re suffering from some intense tooth pain, and the last thing you want is something that supposedly hurts even worse. However, the truth is, root canals stop the tooth pain and don’t contribute to it. A root canal is usually necessary if a tooth has severe decay or a deep infection, and the treatment itself removes the diseased part of the tooth, easing the pain.

How is a Root Canal Performed?

First and foremost, your root canal treatment will begin by numbing the area. It may take just a few minutes for the numbing agent to take effect, but once it kicks in, you shouldn’t feel anything. After you’re nice and numb, your dentist in Wicker Park will make a teeny, tiny hole in the infected tooth, allowing access to the inner tooth (known as the pulp chamber). This is where the root canals are located. Inside the root canals you’ll find pulp, nerves, and blood vessels. These inner workings of the tooth are removed, alleviating any feeling in that tooth. Your dental team will then thoroughly clean the area and seal the canals to keep anything from entering. Lastly, the tooth is capped with a dental crown restoration to further protect it.

Signs You May Need a Root Canal

One of the most obvious signs that may indicate the need for a root canal is tooth pain. But just because you have a toothache doesn’t automatically mean a root canal is the solution. Keep an eye out for other symptoms including:

  • Increased pain while chewing or with applied pressure
  • Sensitivity to heat or cold that doesn’t go away quickly
  • A small, raised bump on the gums near the tooth that hurts
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Gum swelling or pain  

If you notice any of these signs, we welcome you to call our dental office in Wicker Park to schedule an appointment. We’ll perform a thorough exam to find the cause of the problem. If you happen to need a root canal, we promise to recommend the best treatment possible so that you experience relief in no time.

Top 7 Braces-Friendly Halloween Treats

halloween teensOctober isn’t only when we celebrate Halloween, it’s also National Orthodontic Month. With this in mind, the team at our dental office in Wicker Park thought it’d be a great time to combine the two and talk a bit about which Halloween treats are safe for those with braces. Don’t worry, if you do have braces, you still have plenty of yummy options to choose from.

Best Candy for Braces

When searching for safe candy options for braces, consider the texture of the sweets. Anything that’s super sticky, gooey, or hard is probably best to avoid. Instead, look for these top braces-friendly choices.

  • 3 Musketeers
  • Peanut Butter Cups
  • Peppermint Patties
  • Hershey’s Kisses
  • Milky Way
  • Crunch Bar/Krackel Bar
  • Pure Chocolate Bars

All of these delicious options are easy to bite and chew and don’t contain any ingredients that are hard enough to damage braces.

Worst Candy for Braces

At our Wicker Park dental office, we want all of our braces patients to have fun this Halloween and enjoy some treats. However, we also feel it’s important for them to be informed of what candy could potentially damage their brackets or wires so they also know what to avoid.

  • Hard Candy
  • Gum
  • Caramels
  • Jelly Beans
  • Nuts or anything containing nuts

Additionally, don’t attempt to eat any of the “safe foods” if they’ve been frozen. Freezing candy negates the soft texture that makes them safe for braces and biting into a rock hard candy bar can certainly cause some trouble.

When you’re out in the neighborhood gathering your treats and maybe showing off some tricks, politely pass on any candy that may cause damage to your braces and rather pick the pieces that are both delicious and safe.

Most importantly, be safe, have fun, and Happy Halloween from your Wicker Park dentist!  

Workplace Habits That Are Damaging Your Teeth

workspace covered in snacksMost of us spend a lot of time at work each and every day answering emails, taking phone calls, attending meetings, organizing spreadsheets, and doing countless other responsibilities. In between, or perhaps during some of these activities, we may be engaging in other behaviors that have now become everyday habits. Some of which may be damaging your teeth. Join the team at our dental office in Wicker Park as we cover some of the most common workplace habits that are harmful to smiles.

Chewing on Pencils or Pens

Nibbling on the end of a pen or pencil is usually done subconsciously or when deep in thought or nervous, but it’s a habit that can wreck teeth. The tough texture of writing utensils can break or crack teeth which can be painful and will most certainly require restorative dental care. If you find yourself putting your pencil or pen to your mouth regularly, consider replacing it with an alternative like carrots or celery. Keeping a small bag of these healthy veggies handy can help satisfy your need to nibble on something.

All-Day Snacking

As we eat, the bacteria in our mouths break down the food particles left behind and then produce acid as a byproduct. This acid is what eats away at the protective tooth enamel and leads to decay. When we snack throughout the workday, it leaves teeth constantly exposed to this acid, especially if you don’t brush in between snack sessions, and increases the chance of cavities.

Using Teeth as Tools

Need to open a package that’s sealed a little too tight? Or maybe you need to send the package and need help ripping the tape to secure the box shut. Whatever you do, don’t use your teeth as tools. Using teeth to rip, tear, or hold objects can chip your teeth and wear away at enamel, leaving teeth exposed to decay.

Smoke Breaks

We know you probably know this already but it’s worth repeating. Smoking is detrimental to both your overall health and oral health. Smoking as well as using smokeless tobacco greatly increases the risk of oral cancer, gum disease, and even tooth loss. Instead of a smoke break, consider taking a quick walk, chew sugarless gum, and talk with your doctor to learn several techniques that can help you quit.

The team at our Wicker Park dental office encourages you to work on becoming aware of these habits and try your best to avoid them. Like any habit, some of these may be difficult to break. If you’re looking for help, or perhaps a new dentist in Wicker Park, we always welcome you to give us call.  

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