How to Get a Whiter Smile

teeth whiteningThere are a number of things that can stain our teeth and make them look dull and discolored. When this happens, we tend to look for ways to bring back our bright, white smiles. At our dental office in Wicker Park, we have some good news — there are many ways to whiten your teeth! Let’s take a look at some of the most common things you can do to get a whiter smile.

Professional Teeth Whitening

The best way to whiten your smile fast is to get professional whitening from your dentist in Wicker Park. Even though this option is more costly than many over-the-counter tooth whitening products, you can customize just how white you want your teeth to get and see the results immediately. Many times dental offices can also provide you with custom trays and whitening gel that you can use at home safely to maintain your new look.

DIY Smile Whitening

If you’re looking for ways to whiten your teeth, you may begin by exploring all of the options in your local grocery store or online. While there are tons of over-the-counter smile whitening products available, and they can be cheaper than a professional whitening, they do come with some risks. For example, you may be using a solution that’s too high for your teeth that could cause sensitivity and pain. Additionally, whitening strips and non-custom trays can allow the solution to seep into your gums. If left too long it can cause gum damage. Lastly, over-the-counter tooth whitening products tend to take longer to work.  

Cosmetic Dentistry

If traditional forms of smile whitening just aren’t making your teeth as white as you’d like, you may be a candidate for cosmetic dentistry. The truth is, there are some types of tooth staining that don’t respond to whitening gels. In this case, the best solution may be dental veneers. Dental veneers essentially cover up the front of your natural teeth with a custom-made slice of porcelain. These veneers can be your ideal shade of white and are shaped to blend in with your other natural teeth.

It’s important to note that you should talk to your dentist before beginning any whitening treatment. Not all whitening solutions are appropriate for everyone. To find the best option for you and to reduce the risk of negative side effects, meet with your dentist.

If you’re unhappy with the color of your teeth, call our Wicker Park dental office to schedule an appointment today. We’ll talk with you about what you’d like to change as well as your oral health history so we can recommend the best tooth whitening treatment for you.  

All About Oral Cancer

oral cancer awarenessThis month is Oral Cancer Awareness Month — a month-long dedication to increasing the public’s knowledge of this serious and scary disease. At our dental office in Wicker Park, we’re all about doing whatever we can to help keep our neighbors healthy, so we’re spreading the word about just how serious oral cancer is, how to recognize the signs, and what you can do to reduce your risk.

Oral Cancer Statistics

The word “cancer” itself instills some fear in all of us. It’s a scary disease that affects millions of Americans every year. Oral cancer is no different. It’s a widespread problem that can take the lives of those affected. In fact, oral cancer kills one person every hour, every day annually. That’s more than 8,500 people each and every year. This year alone, more than 50,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer.

Oral Cancer Symptoms

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer can save your life. However, many signs of oral cancer can resemble other non-serious oral health problems. So if you notice any of the signs below and they don’t go away, call your dentist in Wicker Park as soon as possible to get checked out and ease your mind.  

  • Pain while swallowing, chewing, or speaking
  • Changes in voice
  • A sore or discoloration that doesn’t go away after two weeks
  • A lump inside the mouth or neck
  • Chronic bad breath

The most successful way to treat oral cancer is to diagnose it early. This is also one reason why you should see your dentist at least every six months.

Oral Cancer Risk Factors

Oral cancer can happen to anyone, but there are factors that can put someone at greater risk. Some we can control, others we cannot. Some risk factors are:

  • Tobacco Use: 80% of oral cancer diagnoses are in tobacco users including those who smoke cigarettes, cigars, or use smokeless tobacco.
  • Drinking Alcohol: Nearly 70% of those diagnosed with oral cancer are heavy drinkers.
  • Gender: Men are two times more likely to develop oral cancer than women.
  • Age: Those over the age of 50 are at increased risk of oral cancer.

At our Wicker Park dental office, we care about keeping our neighbors healthy. If you have any questions, are concerned about your risk of oral cancer, or it’s been more than six months since you’ve seen a dentist, we welcome you to schedule an appointment with us.

Why Do I Grind My Teeth?

man grinds teethDid you ever wake up in the morning and notice that your face and jaw are sore? Do you get up in the mornings with unexplainable headaches?  Our dental office in Wicker Park wants to know if you’ve ever considered that your pain and discomfort could be caused by teeth grinding or bruxism. Read on and see if your smile is at risk because of clenching or grinding…

What Exactly is Bruxism Anyway?

Bruxism is defined as the involuntary habitual grinding of your teeth, mainly while you’re asleep. That’s what makes teeth grinding so dangerous for you and your smile. Many of the 30 million people who struggle with bruxism don’t even know they’re doing it, so they don’t know what signs and symptoms they should be looking for. That’s why it’s important to have a partner like your dentist in Wicker Park who can see the early warning signs and help you fight your bruxism before it badly damages your teeth.

What Causes Bruxism or Teeth Grinding?

The American Dental Association says there are three big reasons why patients of all ages grind or clench their teeth while sleeping. While we break them down here, ask yourself if any of these could be affecting you oral and overall health.

  1. Anxiety or Stress – This is a big one that so many people can relate to, especially when life is busy and demanding. Worrying or feeling stressed can cause us to tense up making it all the more likely you’ll start to clench your jaw or grind your teeth. It’s important to address your stress before it ruins your smile and your sleep.
  2. Having a Bad Bite – Sometimes when your teeth are out of alignment, it can cause problems with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the surrounding facial muscles. Your muscle can start to spasm during sleep causing you to grind your teeth together in response.
  3. Medical Complications – Some patients who grind their teeth at night could have an underlying, undiagnosed medical condition such as Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease or even acid reflux. Bruxism is also a side effect of certain prescription medications.

Stop ignoring your pain or masking it with medications. It’s time to call our Wicker Park dental office as soon as possible before your teeth become damaged or broken. We can give you a comprehensive, thorough exam, learn more about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing, and monitor your bite. From there, we’ll be able to address the severity of your teeth grinding and put together a personalized treatment plan for you.

Change Your Diet. Improve Your Smile. Celebrate National Nutrition Month!

nutrition monthIn honor of National Nutrition Month, we thought now is the perfect time to talk a little about the changes you can make to your diet that can help to improve not only your oral health but your overall health too. At our dental office in Wicker Park, we always recommend that patients work with their primary care physician to create a dietary plan that’s healthy and right for you and your family.

Can Eating Healthy Help My Smile?

The resounding answer to this question is Y-E-S! It starts with adding foods that are rich in these vitamins and minerals to your diet:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A

The biggest benefit to eating healthy foods is that you’re going to have an added defense and protection to your tooth enamel. While this is the hardest substance in our bodies, even stronger than bone, it can be highly and irreversibly damaged by acids and bacteria. This is a problem because, no matter how advanced dentistry has become, there’s nothing that can replace the natural durability of your tooth enamel.

What Foods Does My Dentist in Wicker Park Recommend?

We agree with the American Dental Association when it recommends adding certain foods and beverages to your diet that contain beneficial tooth nutrients. Note that they’re not high in sugar or overly processed. Some of the recommended foods include:

  • Milk
  • Plain yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Tofu
  • Leafy greens
  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Celery

Is Sugar Really That Bad for Me and My Smile?

Unfortunately, sugar isn’t good for your mouth or your body. Especially candies, chocolates, sodas, and sports drinks. It’s important to limit or even eliminate these things from your diet wherever you can. They’re going to do more harm to your teeth than good, so it’s best to keep them to a minimum for you and your family’s oral health to function properly.

Remember, sugars lurk in mysterious places like carbohydrate-loaded foods. They break down into simple sugars in your body, and this is just as dangerous as eating sweets and drinking sugary beverages. Try being more mindful of what the labels say when you’re shopping at the store for you and your family.

If you have questions about making your diet more healthy or how to take care of your smile, please never hesitate to reach out to our Wicker Park dental practice. We’re happy to take your call, answer your questions, and even schedule you for a visit to talk.

4 Ways to Help Bad Breath

bad breathHalitosis, or more commonly referred to as bad breath, can happen to anyone. It can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. But what’s more concerning for the team at our dental office in Wicker Park is that bad breath can be a sign of something more serious. Let’s take a look at what causes bad breath and some ways you can get rid of it.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath can be caused by something temporary such as fragrant food or something like coffee. This type of bad breath usually resolves itself and is probably nothing to worry about. However, when bad breath becomes an ongoing occurrence, you should consider calling your dentist in Wicker Park.

Chronic bad breath is typically caused by an overabundance of bacteria in the mouth. Now, while the bacteria themselves don’t smell bad, the byproduct they give off after feeding certainly does. This byproduct is stinky hydrogen sulfide and it’s what we’re referring to when we talk about smelling bad breath.

Why is Bad Breath Concerning?

Besides causing embarrassment, bad breath can be an early symptom of gum disease. Gum disease is a serious problem not only for your mouth but also for your body. Untreated gum disease can lead to tooth loss, sensitivity, and has even been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Essentially, bad breath is something you should take seriously and seek proactive treatment.

How to Get Rid of Bad Breath

If you suffer from bad breath, there are few tips you can try.

  1. Practice Good Oral Hygiene. Making sure that you brush and floss daily is a great way to get rid of bacteria that could contribute to bad breath if left alone. Clean the surface of every tooth, under the gum line, and the tongue.
  2. Choose Water. Keeping your mouth hydrated helps wash away bacteria which can lower your risk of bad breath. When our mouths don’t get enough water, they dry out and saliva production slows, leaving bacteria free to linger around.  
  3. See Your Dentist. Maintaining regular visits to your Wicker Park dentist can not only help protect your smile from cavities, it can also help catch any potential problems before they have a chance to become serious… including gum disease. If you’re worried about your bad breath, or if it’s been longer than six months since your last dental appointment, give us a call today.

How to Ease Toothache Pain

woman with toothacheCan you believe that there’s actually a day dedicated to toothaches? It’s true! February 9th is recognized as National Toothache Day, and in honor of this ‘holiday,’ the team at our dental office in Wicker Park is here to celebrate by giving you advice on how to ease toothache pain.

What Causes a Toothache?

There’s no one thing that leads to a toothache, but oftentimes toothaches can be caused by:

  • Erupting teeth (in children)
  • Decay or cavities
  • Chipped tooth
  • Food that’s become wedged deep in between teeth
  • Improper brushing and flossing

The Truth About Toothaches

The truth is, toothaches don’t usually just pop up out of nowhere. They’re typically a sign of an underlying problem. While at-home toothache remedies can provide temporary relief, it’s wise to see your dentist in Wicker Park sooner rather than later. Early intervention will help diagnose any problems quickly and when treatment is usually easier and more successful.

Toothache Remedies

If you’re experiencing a toothache there are things you can do to help ease the pain before your dental visit including:

  • Rinsing with warm salt water
  • Holding an ice pack to your cheek
  • Gently flossing the sore spot
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medicine

Nobody wants to experience a toothache. They’re painful and annoying for anyone, and the discomfort can absolutely affect our quality of life. When and if you get a toothache, treat it gently and with care and schedule a visit to our Wicker Park dental office as soon as you can.

Avoiding Toothaches

The best ways to avoid a toothache in the first place is to make sure you’re brushing and flossing properly every day and getting dental checkups at least every six months. Practicing preventive care can reduce the risk of toothaches and help keep painful problems away.

We’re always welcoming new patients at our dental office and welcome you to schedule an appointment with us today!

What Happens if You Don’t Get Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?

wisdom teeth on x-rayWisdom teeth are often a topic of concern for many patients, and we get asked a lot of questions about these sometimes pesky teeth. How do you know if you need to have your wisdom teeth removed? What happens if you don’t extract wisdom teeth? Does the procedure hurt? We understand that wisdom teeth can be confusing and perhaps even scary, but don’t worry, our dental office in Wicker Park is here to help.

Wisdom teeth are usually first seen on dental x-rays during routine appointments with your dentist in Wicker Park. Typically your dental team can see them before you even know that they’re starting to work their way to surface. This is also when we can most likely tell if they’re going to need to be removed. Most of the time, they will need to come out. In fact, 90% of Americans have their wisdom teeth removed. But what happens if you don’t have your wisdom teeth extracted?

Overcrowding

The top reason why most wisdom teeth need to be removed is that there’s simply not enough room in the mouth for these new teeth. Your dental x-rays will show your dentist whether or not there will be enough space for your wisdom teeth. However, if your mouth doesn’t have adequate room and you do not have your wisdom teeth removed, it can lead to overcrowding, crooked teeth, or even an impaction. Having impacted wisdom teeth essentially means that the teeth are stuck in your bone below the gum line. This can be very painful and increases the risk of infection.

Coming in Sideways

Wisdom teeth also have a funny way of working themselves sideways and start to come through horizontally rather than vertically through the gums. If this occurs, nearby healthy teeth can be seriously damaged and your bite can be affected, causing larger, more serious, and painful problems.

The Dangers of Bacteria

Let’s say your wisdom teeth develop perfectly and there’s room for them in your mouth. While rare, it does happen. If you’re one of the few that can keep their wisdom teeth, problems may still find you in the future. Wisdom teeth are way in the back of the mouth which makes them very difficult to properly care for. If proper oral hygiene isn’t maintained, teeth can decay and the risk for gum disease increases.

Maintaining regular visits to our Wicker Park dental office not only helps protect your existing teeth from decay, but these appointments can also help us identify whether your wisdom teeth should be removed before any problems arise. If your wisdom teeth do need to be removed, don’t worry. The procedure is incredibly common and your dental team will do everything they can to keep you comfortable during and after treatment.

Top Questions About Dental Care

fAQ'sAt our dental office in Wicker Park, we believe in not only caring for our patients’ smiles but also educating them on all things related to dentistry. We’re often asked questions by either our patients or their families, and we always welcome them! Today we’d like to answer some of the questions we hear most often.

Is It Going to Hurt?

We get asked this question about several dental treatments such as fillings, root canals, and cleanings. While each procedure is unique, advancements in dental technology have made many treatments incredibly comfortable. If you’re nervous about anything, talk with your dental team. Ask them what to expect during the procedure and let them know if you start to feel anxious or uncomfortable.

Are Dental X-Rays Dangerous?

Even though dental x-rays require radiation, the risks are minimal. In fact, the amount of radiation used for dental x-rays is super small, and therefore, dental x-rays are super safe. Your dentist in Wicker Park will also take additional precautions to further decrease radiation exposure such as using a leaded apron. The pictures your dental team gets from dental x-rays gives them a unique look into the jaw bone and into the tooth roots. This allows them to see problems before you experience any signs, symptoms, or pain and when treatment is easier and often cheaper.

How Often Should I Have My Teeth Cleaned?

You should get a professional dental cleaning twice a year. However, if you have gum disease or have had it in the past, your dental team may recommend cleanings more often. During these appointments, your hygienist is not only removing plaque and tartar buildup but also taking x-rays, measuring gum pockets, and searching for any signs of decay. Making sure you see your dentist every six months can help diagnose problems while they’re still small and easy to treat.

Do I Really Need to Floss?

Yes! Flossing regularly is just as important as brushing. You should floss once a day, every day to remove food particles, bacteria, and buildup that’s been wedged tightly between each and every tooth. There are many different types of floss out there including traditional floss, floss picks, and water flossers. Find what’s most comfortable for you to use and floss often.

If you have questions about dentistry, we’re here to help! Call our dental office in Wicker Park today to schedule an appointment. We’d be happy to see you!

5 Resolutions You Should Make for a Healthier Mouth

family photoAs we prepare to enter the new year, people all over the world are making resolutions to get healthier. Whether that means going to the gym more often or eating healthier, the team at our Wicker Park dental office wants to get involved by helping you set realistic resolutions. Here are five things you can do that will not only help you reach your goal of getting healthier but can improve your oral health too.

#1 – Stay Hydrated

Choosing to drink more water and staying away from sugary drinks such as soda can benefit your entire body, including your mouth. Water is necessary for proper body function and is a key part of maintaining a healthy smile. Sipping on water throughout the day helps keep the mouth moist so plaque and bacteria don’t settle in and cause problems. This year, commit to drinking the recommended eight, 8-ounce glasses of water daily.

#2 – Kick the Habit

Smoking is one of the leading causes of health problems including heart disease, respiratory problems, and cancer. It’s also a habit that can contribute to several oral health problems such as discolored teeth, gum disease, and oral cancer. Even if smoking is the only resolution you’re making to yourself this year, it’s a great one to stick with. Your mouth and your whole body will thank you.

#3 – Eat More of the Good Stuff

With our busy lives, it can be difficult to fit in a healthy diet. But packing your body full of nutrient-rich foods such as raw fruits and veggies can be great for your health. These foods are loaded with antioxidants that can help fight off dangerous bacteria and lower inflammation. They’re also great for our smiles for the same reasons. Even the texture of some fruits and veggies such as apples or carrots can gently scrub away plaque and help protect teeth.

#4 – Lower Alcohol Intake

With all of the holiday parties and celebrations this time of year, we know reducing your alcohol intake can be difficult. But the benefits of lowering how much alcohol you drink and how often you drink it are plentiful. Limiting your alcohol intake can help with weight loss and improve liver function. It can also help improve oral health; less alcohol in the mouth means more opportunity for saliva production. This saliva is crucial to helping neutralize acid, wash away bacteria, and remove plaque. Without saliva, the mouth is at increased risk for cavities, decay, and other oral health problems. Make a commitment to yourself now to lower how much alcohol you plan to drink in the coming year.

#5 – See Your Dentist in Wicker Park

If you’ve been putting off dental visits in the past, make a resolution to see your dentist at least every six months from now on. These bi-annual checkups not only help catch any problems early when treatment is still easy and less costly, they can also help your dentist diagnose any other potential whole-body problems before they have a chance to affect the rest of the body.

If you’re making new year’s resolutions to get healthier in 2019, don’t forget that your mouth plays a key role in overall health. In fact, poor oral health has been linked to many systemic health problems including heart disease and diabetes. Make a promise to yourself this year and schedule an appointment at our dental office in Wicker Park today.

Another Option Besides a Tooth Extraction

young man with toothacheSo you’ve been told you need to have a tooth extracted. Going through this treatment may even sound appealing if you’ve been suffering from tooth pain. But the team at our dental office in Wicker Park wants you to know that you may have another option available.

Consider a Root Canal

A tooth extraction is usually recommended when a tooth has severe decay or sustained a serious dental trauma. But there are times when a natural tooth can be saved despite the damage. The treatment of choice for severely decayed teeth is often a root canal. Even though this treatment has a bad reputation of being painful, it’s usually the best option to save a tooth from extraction.

What is a Root Canal?

If you ask the general population what the worst dental treatment is, we’re willing to bet most of them would say a root canal. But that claim is outdated and simply no longer true. Advanced dental technology makes root canal treatment incredibly comfortable. During a root canal, your dentist in Wicker Park will numb the area, make a teeny hole in the infected tooth, and remove any infected material lurking inside the tooth. Afterward, a dental crown caps the tooth. While the treatment itself may seem scary, it actually allows for almost immediate pain relief.

When Won’t a Root Canal Work?

There’s no one answer for any given situation, but there are occasions when a root canal won’t resolve pain or fix the problem. When this happens, a tooth extraction is probably the best option. Of course, keeping your natural teeth for as long as possible is always the desired outcome for any dentist. But when that’s not possible and an extraction is needed, you should consider tooth replacement options such as:

Replacing any lost tooth is important to maintain not only the cosmetic appearance of your smile but also its proper function. When a tooth is pulled it opens up a space. This can allow other teeth to shift. The result may be a change in bite and ultimately TMJ or jaw problems.

Our Wicker Park dental office is committed to preventing the need for advanced dental treatment such as a root canal or extraction. Part of what allows us to do that is making sure we see you twice a year for a dental checkup. These visits allow us to check for any new decay and treat it before it has a chance to affect deep into the tooth.

If you’re overdue for a dental checkup, call us to schedule an appointment today.

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