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.  

4 Possible Explanations to Your Tooth Pain

woman with tooth painMost of us will experience the unpleasant sensation of tooth pain at least once in our lives. And as anyone who has had a toothache before will tell you, it’s pretty unbearable. Tooth pain is unlike any other kind of pain. It can come on suddenly and sometimes it seems as if nothing can help relieve it. At our dental office in Wicker Park, we understand and are here to help you by listing some possible reasons your teeth hurt.

You have a cavity.

Let’s start with the most obvious cause of tooth pain, a cavity. Once a tooth begins to decay and a cavity forms, you may not initially feel pain. However, if left untreated, the cavity can affect the inner tooth nerves, and that’s when the pain starts. It’s best to get a filling before the cavity has a chance to grow or leads to an abscess.  

Gums have started to recede.

So you brush everyday, twice a day and take great care of your teeth. Yet you’re experiencing tooth pain. What could be happening? There’s a chance that even though you’re brushing diligently, you may be brushing too hard. Applying pressure as you brush your teeth can seem like the best way to get your pearly whites as clean as possible, but in fact, it can damage your gums and cause them to recede. Once gums recede, the tooth’s roots become exposed and you can experience pain.  

Nighttime grinding is causing daytime pain.

Many people grind their teeth as a response to stress. Others may grind while they’re asleep and not even know it. Either way, tooth grinding can lead to pain. As your teeth repeatedly rub against each other, sometimes with quite a bit of force, your enamel can wear down and leave tooth roots exposed and cause sensitivity. Other times, chronic tooth grinding can lead to jaw pain or headaches. The best treatment if this is the cause behind your pain is usually a custom-fitted mouthguard.  

A tooth has cracked.

You may think that if a cracked tooth is the reason behind your pain, you’d know it. But that’s not always true. Symptoms of a cracked tooth have a way of creeping up on us, sometimes days after we actually did the damage. Cracked teeth could be a result of eating something particularly hard, teeth grinding, or an injury. Get to your dentist if you suspect a cracked tooth before it has a chance to get bigger.   

While there are a variety of possible explanations as to why your teeth hurt, it’s important to remember that tooth pain is typically a sign there’s a problem and you should get to your dentist in Wicker Park as soon as you can.

If you’re looking for a compassionate dental team to take a closer look, we’re always happy to help. We welcome you to call our Wicker Park dental office at any time to schedule a visit.

What You Need to Know About Probiotics & Your Oral Health

woman wearing probiotics tshirtProbiotic use is typically associated with digestive health and even as a “good bacteria” replacement after a round of antibiotics. But can probiotics also be beneficial for oral health? At our dental office in Wicker Park, we’ve been hearing about some research that may show a positive correlation between certain probiotics and healthier mouths. In this blog, we take a closer look at those studies to see if there is in fact an oral health benefit to taking probiotics.

What Are Probiotics?

We know that probiotics have been heavily talked about in recent years, but what are they, exactly? Basically, probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria, that help support the digestive system. The term bacteria has typically always meant something negative, something that makes us sick. The truth is, there is both bad and good bacteria. Probiotics fall under the category of good bacteria, or friendly bacteria.

Different Probiotics Treat Different Things

Different probiotics tend to help with different things. Most commonly when we talk about probiotics, we’re referring to those that help in digestion. These are the ones that are found in yogurt and other foods that contain “active cultures.” But the probiotics researched in relation to oral health are different.

These probiotics are often referred to as oral probiotics. This term is not necessarily used to describe probiotics that are taken orally, but rather those that have been researched to see if they have impact on oral health. Following several studies, research suggests that there may be a positive correlation between specific types of probiotics and reducing the risk of gum disease, plaque, and bad breath.

A Closer Look at Bifidobacterium & Lactobacillus

Easier to explain than to say, the probiotic strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are the ones mainly associated with probiotic research in relation to oral health. These strains are naturally found both in the bodies and mouths of mammals, including humans. During several research studies involving Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, there has been evidence of a correlation between an increase in the probiotics and healthier mouths. While none of the limited amount of research available conclusively identifies the link, there have been cases where Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus have helped in the treatment of periodontal disease and halitosis, and has seemed to reduce the risk of cavities.

Again, there is still more research to be done on the relationship between probiotics and oral health. Because of this, we don’t recommend starting yourself on a probiotics regimen before discussing it with your medical team, including your dentist in Wicker Park.

Just a Teeth Cleaning? Think Again!

man gets dental cleaningEvery six months or so you come into our dental office in Wicker Park to have your bi-annual teeth cleaning. This typically means a little bit of gentle scraping to remove plaque buildup, a thorough flossing, and a finishing polish. While one purpose for these hygiene visits is indeed to get your teeth super clean, there are several other reasons why these twice a year appointments are so important.

X-Rays Provide a Detailed Picture

Your dental hygienist has a trained eye and knows what to look when performing your cleaning, but the human eye can only see so much. That’s why we rely on dental x-rays to get a closer view at your teeth and jaw bone. These images, often produced by safe, low-radiation x-rays, allow both your hygienist and your dentist in Wicker Park to see any cavities that are still too tiny to see with the naked eye. Some types of x-rays can also show any problems lurking below the actual teeth such as an abscess or bone loss.

We Look at More Than Just Teeth

At each one of your appointments, your hygienist and dentist aren’t only looking for any dental problems, they’re also on the lookout for signs of several systemic diseases. There have been many studies that support a link between oral health and overall health. In fact, sometimes diseases that can affect the whole body are first identified at a dental visit, according to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. These diseases may include diabetes, oral cancer, and heart disease.

It’s the Best Time to Ask Questions

Over time, teeth may shift, gums may recede, or tooth sensitivity may increase. Your bi-annual dental hygiene appointments are a great time for you to discuss any changes to your oral health or any concerns you may have with your dentist. It’s also when you may choose to talk about any cosmetic dentistry or restorative dentistry treatments you’ve been debating on for awhile.

Keep Up with Your Oral Hygiene at Home

Regular cleanings and exams are a great way to catch and treat any problems before they become larger, more serious issues. But these cleanings alone won’t keep smiles healthy for long. It’s still important to maintain a proper oral hygiene routine at home. This means brushing twice a day and flossing once a day for optimal oral health.

We understand that sometimes it’s difficult to go to the dentist, especially if you aren’t experiencing any pain or suspect any problems. But regular appointments at our Wicker Park dental office can help prevent those issues from occurring the first place.

If it’s time for your dental cleaning, give us a call to schedule an appointment.

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.

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