June is Men’s Health Month

men's health monthEvery year during the month of June, healthcare providers across the nation promote the importance of prevention and early detection of diseases that affect American men. Our dental practice in Wicker Park is no different. To do our part, we’re dedicating this blog to educating our patients and community on the unique dental issues that often apply to the male population.

The Dangers of Skipping Dental Checkup

It’s typically recommended that everyone visits their dentist at least twice year for proper preventive care and a deeper cleaning than you can get at home. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, barely 60% of American men between the ages of 18 and 64 went to the dentist in the past year. Skipping regular visits to your dentist in Wicker Park can allow problems to go untreated and lead to bigger, more complicated (and often more expensive) treatment. In fact, the Academy of General Dentistry states that it’s all too common for men, in particular, to only go to the dentist when they’re experiencing a problem. Most likely, these problems could have been prevented by keeping bi-annual dental appointments.

Greater Risk of Gum Disease & Oral Cancer

While regular dental appointments can help protect teeth against decay and the need for fillings or more advanced restorative dentistry such as root canals or crowns, they can also diagnose gum disease and oral cancer early when treatment is less invasive and more successful. This is especially important for men since they’re at increased risk for both gum disease and oral cancer. The truth is, oral cancer is twice as common in men than women and, according to the American Academy of Periodontology, 56% of men have gum disease as compared to only 38% of women.

Gum Disease & Men’s Health

Even though oral cancer is certainly scary and serious, gum disease can be quite scary, too. Gum disease can contribute to a host of other problems throughout the body and has been linked to an increased risk in heart disease and certain cancers, as well as prostate health in men. Studies have shown that there is a possible correlation between gum health and prostate health due to something called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). When gums are inflamed because of periodontal disease or the prostate is unhealthy, PSA levels increase. However, PSA levels are substantially higher in those with both a prostate condition as well as gum disease suggesting a connection between the two.

Dry Mouth is More Common, Too

Dry mouth is something that may sound like nothing to worry about, however can contribute it’s own oral health issues. In a healthy mouth, there’s is an abundance of saliva production that helps neutralize acids and wash away harmful bacteria. But someone who suffers from dry mouth doesn’t have the same benefits. This leaves teeth exposed to enamel-eroding acid and decay-causing bacteria.

This month, and every month, we’re here to keep our neighbors healthy. Whether you’re a man who may have been skipping dental visits, or you’re a woman who has men in your life you care about, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at our Wicker Park dental office today.

Thinking About Skipping a Brushing Session? Think Again.

young woman brushes teethAt our dental office in Wicker Park, we always recommend that our patients brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes. Following this routine daily isn’t just good for your oral health, but can benefit your overall health, too. However, if you skip a brushing session altogether or don’t brush thoroughly, your body may be at risk for all sorts of scary problems…

Why Two Minutes?

We aren’t alone in our two minute rule. In fact, the American Dental Association also supports brushing for two minutes every day for good oral and overall health. There’s even plenty of research to back up the claim. According to one study in The Journal of Dental Hygiene, patients who brushed for only 30 seconds removed 55% less plaque than those who committed to the full two minutes. Just imagine what would be left lingering around if you skipped brushing altogether?

What Happens if You Don’t Brush for Two Minutes?

Besides plaque buildup, there are other things in your mouth that can stick around and cause problems if not removed regularly through a proper brushing. For instance, food particles that are left behind can feed bacteria found in the mouth. As this bacteria feeds on these tiny pieces of leftover food, they release acid. Acid will then begin to attack tooth enamel and leave teeth at an increased risk for decay. An overabundance of bacteria can also affect gum health. If not treated, it may cause gum disease.

Why is Gum Disease a Concern?

Gum disease is a serious infection caused by an excess of bacteria. Gum disease affects nearly half of all Americans and can eventually lead to tooth loss. But that’s not all. If gum disease isn’t treated by your dentist in Wicker Park, it can start to put other parts of the body in danger.

  • Heart Health

Numerous studies have found a positive correlation between gum disease and heart disease. In fact, researchers estimate that those who have gum disease are twice as likely to also have heart disease.  

  • Diabetes

People who have diabetes and gum disease are in a unique and dangerous position. Advanced gum disease may cause blood sugar levels to increase, causing diabetic complications.

  • Respiratory Problems

Bronchitis and pneumonia are caused by bacteria that may come from the mouth. So if there’s enough bacteria hanging around to cause gum disease, it can also move throughout the body, into the lungs, and make you sick.

Brushing twice a day for two minutes can help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth and minimize your risk for gum disease and the whole-body concerns that can go with it. In addition to those four minutes of brushing a day, make sure you also visit our Wicker Park dental office twice a year for an even more thorough cleaning that will not only protect your teeth, but also your overall health.

Could Allergies Affect Your Dental Health?

woman with allergiesIf you get a stuffy nose when the pollen count is high, every time you’re around a cat, or have an even worse reaction to certain foods, it’s likely you’re suffering from an allergic reaction. The typical symptoms of allergies include itchy eyes, a stuffed up nose, or difficulty breathing. But did you know that allergies can also affect dental health? Our dental office in Wicker Park takes a closer look in this week’s blog…

Stuffy Noses & Oral Health

We already know that it’s common for people with allergies to suffer from itchy, watery eyes and leaky, stuffy noses. These symptoms are a result of the body making too much mucus. And too much of this thick, slimy stuff can block up airways, making it difficult to breathe out of the nose. As a natural response, the body switches to breathing out of the mouth, also known appropriately as mouth breathing. That’s where the problems begin.

The Problems With Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing, at first, may not appear as such a big deal, but to your dentist in Wicker Park it’s a habit that can lead to several oral health problems. In fact, the Academy of General Dentistry reports that mouth breathing can lead to a gummy smile, problems with facial development in kids, and even complications to overall oral health.

Breathing out of your mouth decreases saliva production and dries it out. Without saliva, dangerous acids and bacteria are left to create problems like tooth decay and chronic bad breath. Dry mouth is also one of the causes of gum disease, a dangerous oral health problem that can create health issues throughout your body including stroke, heart disease, and heart attacks.

Signs You May be Suffering from Dry Mouth

If you’re a mouth breather, you may not even know it. That makes it important to recognize the common signs and symptoms so you can seek treatment before any serious issues develop. Some common signs and symptoms of being a mouth breather include:

  • Dry lips
  • Crowded teeth
  • Snoring
  • Sleeping with an open mouth
  • Chronic bad breath

What You Can Do

If you have allergies that affect your ability to breathe properly there are things you can do to help relieve the symptoms and protect your oral overall health. Start by speaking with your doctor and the team at our Wicker Park dental office. As part of your healthcare team, we will be happy to recommend some ways to get allergy relief so you can start breathing easier.

What’s the Point of Dental X-Rays?

dental x-rayAt your bi-annual dental appointments, you most likely have dental x-rays taken. While these images are an important diagnostic tool, just what are they showing and why are they important? At our dental office in Wicker Park, we don’t want any patient to have anything done and not know why. That’s why we’re here to help explain the point of dental x-rays as well as talk about the different types.

What Do Dental X-Rays Show?

Essentially, dental x-rays allow us to see what we can’t with just our eyes alone. Even though our exams and cleanings are incredibly thorough, sometimes disease or decay is hiding below the surface just waiting to cause a problem. This is where x-rays come in handy. Images obtained through dental x-rays can help us catch:

  • Decay
  • Bone loss
  • Impacted teeth
  • Damaged bone
  • Abscesses or cysts

Having x-rays taken allows your dentist in Wicker Park to diagnose any potential problems early when treatment is still easy and before you may even have to experience any pain or other symptoms.

Two Main Types of Dental X-Rays

While there are several kinds of dental x-rays, they can typically be broken down into two main categories: intraoral or extraoral.

Intraoral X-Rays

Intraoral x-rays show the details of each individual tooth. Because of this intricate view, these x-rays are useful in helping dentists identify:

Extraoral X-Rays

Extraoral x-rays take a broader image of the entire mouth including all of the teeth, the jaw, and skull. Extraoral x-rays can help examine:

  • Tooth Growth & Development
  • Issues with the jaw joint (TMJ)
  • Impacted Teeth

Dental x-rays are a crucial part to a thorough exam and are necessary for preventive dental care. You should have x-rays taken at least once a year, sometimes twice depending on your unique needs and health. Dental x-ray emit a low amount of radiation and are safe. Our Wicker Park dental office also takes additional safety measures to further protect you including using lead vests and only taking them when necessary. If have any questions regarding dental x-rays, or need to schedule an appointment, we welcome you to call us at any time.

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

oral cancer awarenessOral cancer is a very serious disease that affects thousands of Americans every year. While it may not be talked about as often as other cancers, it’s just as scary and can take the lives of those who get it. At our Wicker Park dental office, we take each April to talk about the importance of early detection, recognizing the signs, and knowing what puts you at increased risk.

Oral Cancer by The Numbers

The number of Americans who get oral cancer continues to grow every year. In 2018, the American Cancer Society estimates that over 51,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer. Another 10,000 will die from it. But thanks to advancements in early detection and treatment, survival rates are high if it’s caught in the early stages.

Some Signs of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer symptoms are often overlooked as other non-serious problems which makes early diagnosis sometimes difficult. However, catching oral cancer early is key to a successful and life-saving treatment. It’s always better to be safe and see your dentist in Wicker Park if you notice any of the following potential signs of oral cancer:

  • A mouth sore that doesn’t go away
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek area
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Changes in voice
  • Persistent bad breath

Avoid These Risk Factors

There are many known risk factors that increase the chance of oral cancer. Some we can control, others we cannot. For example, genetics, being over age 55, and being male are all uncontrollable things that may put someone at increased risk for oral cancer. However, the following lifestyle choices, also known to raise the risk, can be avoided:  

How to Protect Yourself

Avoiding the lifestyle risk factors listed above is a great step to help prevent the development of oral cancer. But there are other steps you can take to minimize your risk. One of the best ways is maintaining bi-annual visits with your dentist in Wicker Park. At these visits, your dental team is looking for any areas that may present signs of oral cancer so the disease can be caught and treated early. Again, early diagnosis greatly increases the chance of survival. Getting a dental checkup every six months may just save your life.

If you’re in need of dentist, we welcome you to contact our Wicker Park dental office to schedule an appointment today. We’re always happy to help our neighbors get a healthy smile that also can get them a healthy body.

“Why Do I Have Dreams Where My Teeth Fall Out?”

woman wakes from nightmareAt our dental office in Wicker Park, we occasionally have a patient who is concerned with a recurring dream where they lose their teeth. Sometimes one tooth becomes curiously loose and just pops right out. Other times the whole mouth of teeth begins to crumble, leading to a totally toothless smile. While we understand these dreams can be disturbing, the likelihood that they’re related to your real dental health is slim. Instead, we’re going to look at three possible explanations…

Feelings of Anxiety or Helplessness

The most widely accepted interpretation of dreams where your teeth fall out revolve around feeling anxious or helpless. Occasionally, the dreams only happen during when you’re life is a bit too stressful. Other times, however, the dreams are recurring and happen regularly. According to a Psychological Reports study, repeatedly experiencing dreams in which you lose your teeth may be more common in those in those whose personality contains high levels of anxiety, those who are depressed, and those who struggle with self-esteem issues.

An Impending Serious Decision

In life, there are times when we need to make difficult decisions that can affect everything. Perhaps you’re considering quitting your job, but are nervous about how that decision will affect your family. Maybe you’re unhappy in a relationship and are questioning how that decision will change your life as you know it. When these stressful decisions need to be made, it can make us feel as if we don’t have any control over our own lives. During these events we’re more likely to experience tooth loss dreams.

A Positive Rebirth

Not all of the common dream interpretations are attributed to something so worrisome. In fact, according to research conducted by psychologist Carl Jung, dreaming about your teeth falling out can be a sign of rebirth. Whether you’re starting a new, exciting job, finally getting serious about that hobby you’ve always wanted to try, or embarking in a new relationship, there are many life events that can be fulfilling and positive. But they are still changes and sometimes our unconscious mind constructs that in a subconscious dream. In this case, a dream where you lose your teeth.  

If you suffer from dreams about your teeth falling out, try not to worry about your real-life teeth. There’s no studied evidence that suggests the two are linked together. In fact, most dreams are not accurate representations of what will happen in real life, but rather symbols of how our psyche reacts to life’s situations.

However, if you are missing a tooth or are at risk for losing one or several, we welcome you to talk to us about some tooth replacement options including dental implants, a dental bridge, and dentures. Call our Wicker Park dental office to schedule a consultation today!  

Think Twice Before Drinking That Green Beer

green beerThe luck of Irish tends to be with everyone during St. Patrick’s Day, whether or not there’s an ounce of Irish in them. Besides wearing a lot of green, one of the most common ways to celebrate this holiday is by drinking a lot of beer. At our dental office in Wicker Park, we hope that our patients enjoy the festivities responsibly, but also want them to be aware of some of the oral health dangers of drinking too much alcohol.

Where’s My White Smile?!

There are plenty of things that can cause your normally bright, white teeth to take on a dull or discolored appearance. Drinking beer excessively happens to be one of them. Too much beer over time can transform your teeth into looking yellow or even slightly brown. While darker beers put you at greater risk, all beer can lead to discoloration…especially the green stuff so many people enjoy during St. Patrick’s Day. The dye used to give the beer its festive appearance can also dye your teeth pretty quickly. But don’t worry, this greenish tint can usually be removed by using a slightly more abrasive tooth whitening toothpaste or by seeing your Wicker Park dentist for a cleaning or professional smile whitening.

Weakened Teeth

Your teeth are protected by one of the strongest materials in your body — your tooth enamel. But this enamel can be damaged by acid, despite its strength. Beer contains a lot of acid, and when its consumed in large amounts, your teeth are basically bathing in it. This can cause your enamel to erode. Without the enamel, your teeth are at risk for decay, increased sensitivity, and even discoloration. As the enamel wears away, your teeth become more translucent and the inner part of the tooth, which is actually dark in color, becomes visible. Teeth can then appear dull or gray.  

Protect Your Health

Enjoying alcoholic beverages in moderation greatly reduces your risk of any alcohol related oral health problems. But besides choosing to limit your alcohol intake, there are other ways you can further protect your smile including:

  • Drinking water after every alcoholic beverage
  • Maintaining a great oral health care routine of brushing and flossing every day
  • Scheduling and keeping appointments with your dentist in Wicker Park twice a year

Whether you’re due for a dental checkup or are looking for help in minimizing your St. Patty’s Day green smile, we’re always happy to see new patients and welcome you to our Wicker Park dental office. Call to schedule an appointment with us today!

The Surprising Link to Heart Disease

heart health monthEven though it may seem that our cardiovascular health can’t have anything to do with our oral health, research has shown a surprising connection between the two. During this American Heart Health Month, our dental office in Wicker Park would like to do our part to help raise awareness of heart disease by sharing the link between oral health and heart health.

It Starts With The Gums

Your dentist in Wicker Park is concerned with much more than just your teeth. In fact, an area that gets a lot of attention at your bi-annual visits are your gums. Your gums can hold a lot of information about not only the health of your mouth, but can play a role in heart health too. If the gums are healthy, they’ll be pink in color and tight to the teeth. However, if these qualities aren’t observed, there’s a chance gum disease may be present. Gum disease is a serious infection that can progress to gingivitis or periodontitis, and can even cause tooth loss.

How Does Gum Disease Affect The Heart?

If gum disease isn’t treated, the infection can move into the bloodstream. When this happens, your body produces more C-reactive protein (CRP) than normal. Elevated levels of CRP can cause some serious cardiovascular issues including:

  • Inflamed arteries
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes   

Signs of Gum Disease

If you have any of the symptoms listed below, contact your Wicker Park dentist to schedule an appointment as soon as you can.

  • Bleeding when brushing or flossing
  • Puffy, tender gums
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth

How to Prevent Gum Disease

The best way to prevent gum disease and protect your mouth and heart is to brush and floss every day. Make sure to also visit your dentist at least twice a year. It’s important to know that gum disease can be treated, and treatment is easier and more successful if caught early. That’s part of what makes seeing your dentist regularly so important.

If you’re overdue for a dental appointment, give our Wicker Park dental office a call today.

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!  

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