Our Dental Blog

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
July 11, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures
ArianaGrandeBreaksFree-ofHerWisdomTeeth

Via a recent Instagram post, pop diva Ariana Grande became the latest young celebrity to publicly acknowledge a dental milestone: having her wisdom teeth removed. The singer of hits such as “Break Free” and “Problem” posted an after-surgery picture of herself (wearing her signature cat-eye eyeliner), with a caption addressed to her teeth: “Peace out, final three wisdom teeth. It’s been real.”

With the post, Grande joined several other celebs (including Lily Allen, Paris Hilton and Emile Hirsch) who have shared their dental surgery experience with fans. Will "wisdom teeth removal" become a new trending topic on social media? We aren’t sure — but we can explain a bit about the procedure, and why many younger adults may need it.

Technically called the “third molars,” wisdom teeth usually begin to emerge from the gums between the ages of 17 and 25 — presumably, around the same time that a certain amount of wisdom emerges. Most people have four of these big molars, which are located all the way in the back of the mouth, on the left and right sides of the upper and lower jaws.

But when wisdom teeth begin to appear, there’s often a problem: Many people don’t have enough space in their jaws to accommodate them. When these molars lack sufficient space to fully erupt (emerge), they are said to be “impacted.” Impacted teeth can cause a number of serious problems: These may include pain, an increased potential for bacterial infections, periodontal disease, and even the formation of cysts (pockets of infection below the gum line), which can eventually lead to tooth and bone loss.

In most cases, the best treatment for impacted wisdom teeth is extraction (removal) of the problem teeth. Wisdom tooth extraction is a routine, in-office procedure that is usually performed under local anesthesia or “conscious sedation,” a type of anesthesia where the patient remains conscious (able to breathe normally and respond to stimuli), but is free from any pain or distress. Anti-anxiety medications may also be given, especially for those who are apprehensive about dental procedures.

So if you find you need your wisdom teeth extracted, don’t be afraid to “Break Free” like Ariana Grande did; whether you post the results on social media is entirely up to you. If you would like more information about wisdom tooth extraction, please call our office to schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Wisdom Teeth” and “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
June 26, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   shingles  
BesidesYourHealthShinglesCouldAffectYourDentalCare

If you had chicken pox as a child, you're at higher risk for a painful viral infection later in life called shingles. Besides a painful skin rash and other symptoms that can develop, shingles could also affect your dental care.

About 90% of children contract chicken pox, a disease caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), which usually clears up on its own. But later in life, usually after age 50, about a quarter to a third of chicken pox patients will develop shingles.

The onset of shingles usually produces an itching or burning sensation on the skin that's either numb or overly sensitive to the touch. A red rash may ensue with crusty lesions, accompanied sometimes by pain, fever and fatigue. The rash often forms a belt-like or striped pattern along one side of the face or body.

For most patients this painful rash is the extent of their symptoms. But women who are pregnant, patients undergoing cancer treatment or people with compromised immune systems are at risk for more serious complications if they contract the disease. It's important for these at-risk patients to obtain a vaccination, as well as avoid contact with anyone with shingles.

Which brings us to your dental care: in its early stages shingles can be contagious, the virus passing to others through skin contact or by airborne respiratory secretions. That's why it's important if you're currently experiencing a shingles episode that you let us know before undergoing any kind of dental work.  Even a routine teeth cleaning with an ultrasonic device could disrupt the virus and increase the chances of it spreading to someone else. We may need to postpone dental work until the virus is under control.

Antiviral drugs like acyclovir or famciclovir are highly effective in bringing the disease under control, especially if treatment starts within three days of the onset of symptoms. And don't forget the shingles vaccination: the U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends it for anyone 60 or older regardless of a past history with chicken pox.

See your physician as soon as possible if you begin to notice symptoms. Don't let shingles interfere with your life — or your dental care.

If you would like more information on the impact of shingles and similar viruses on dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
June 18, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures
HowKathyBatesRetainsHerMovie-StarSmile

In her decades-long career, renowned actress Kathy Bates has won Golden Globes, Emmys, and many other honors. Bates began acting in her twenties, but didn't achieve national recognition until she won the best actress Oscar for Misery — when she was 42 years old! “I was told early on that because of my physique and my look, I'd probably blossom more in my middle age,” she recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “[That] has certainly been true.” So if there's one lesson we can take from her success, it might be that persistence pays off.

When it comes to her smile, Kathy also recognizes the value of persistence. Now 67, the veteran actress had orthodontic treatment in her 50's to straighten her teeth. Yet she is still conscientious about wearing her retainer. “I wear a retainer every night,” she said. “I got lazy about it once, and then it was very difficult to put the retainer back in. So I was aware that the teeth really do move.”

Indeed they do. In fact, the ability to move teeth is what makes orthodontic treatment work. By applying consistent and gentle forces, the teeth can be shifted into better positions in the smile. That's called the active stage of orthodontic treatment. Once that stage is over, another begins: the retention stage. The purpose of retention is to keep that straightened smile looking as good as it did when the braces came off. And that's where the retainer comes in.

There are several different kinds of retainers, but all have the same purpose: To hold the teeth in their new positions and keep them from shifting back to where they were. We sometimes say teeth have a “memory” — not literally, but in the sense that if left alone, teeth tend to migrate back to their former locations. And if you've worn orthodontic appliances, like braces or aligners, that means right back where you started before treatment.

By holding the teeth in place, retainers help stabilize them in their new positions. They allow new bone and ligaments to re-form and mature around them, and give the gums time to remodel themselves. This process can take months to years to be complete. But you may not need to wear a retainer all the time: Often, removable retainers are worn 24 hours a day at first; later they are worn only at night. We will let you know what's best in your individual situation.

So take a tip from Kathy Bates, star of the hit TV series American Horror Story, and wear your retainer as instructed. That's the best way to keep your straight new smile from changing back to the way it was — and to keep a bad dream from coming true.

If you would like more information about orthodontic retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Why Orthodontic Retainers?” and “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.” The interview with Kathy Bates appears in the latest issue of Dear Doctor.

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
June 03, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dentures  
TheresaLotofEffortBehindtheScenestoMakingDenturesWorkforYou

For centuries, people who've lost all their teeth have worn dentures. Although materials in today's dentures are more durable and attractive than those in past generations, the basic design remains the same — prosthetic (false) teeth set in a plastic or resin base made to resemble gum tissue.

If you're thinking of obtaining dentures, don't let their simplicity deceive you: a successful outcome depends on a high degree of planning and attention to detail customized to your mouth.

Our first step is to determine the best positioning for the prosthetic teeth. It's not an “eyeball” guess — we make a number of calculations based on the shape and size of your jaws and facial features to determine the best settings within the resin base. These calculations help us answer a few important questions for determining design: how large should the teeth be? How far forward or back from the lip? How much space between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are at rest?

We also can't forget about the artificial gums created by the base. How much your gums show when you smile depends a lot on how much your upper lip rises. We must adjust the base size to accommodate your upper lip rise so that the most attractive amount of gum shows when you smile. We also want to match as close as possible the color and texture of your natural gum tissues.

There's one other important aspect to manage: how your upper and lower dentures function together when you eat or speak. This means we must also factor your bite into the overall denture design. This may even continue after your dentures arrive: we may still need to adjust them while in your mouth to improve function and comfort.

Ill-fitting, dysfunctional and unattractive dentures can be distressing and embarrassing. But with careful planning and customization, we can help ensure your new dentures are attractive and comfortable to wear now and for years to come.

If you would like more information on removable dentures for teeth replacement, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Removable Full Dentures.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
June 02, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures

How dental implants from Decatur can restore your smile.dental implants

If you are haunted by an incomplete smile because you have lost teeth, there is a solution. If you have a difficult time eating the foods you love because you are missing teeth, there is a solution. The solution is dental implants! Dental implants are the modern, state-of-the-art way to bring back the smile you’ve lost. Dr. Carol Cunningham at Gentle Art of Dentistry in Decatur, IL, wants to introduce you to restoring your smile with dental implants.

If you are missing teeth, there are conventional treatments like bridges, partials, and dentures, but all of these treatments have one thing in common: they may not look or feel as natural as your own teeth. Dental implants are the most natural-looking tooth replacement available. In fact, they are virtually indistinguishable from your natural teeth. There are many other reasons why dental implants are the treatment of choice for missing teeth. Consider these important facts about dental implants:

  • Dental implants are stable and won’t move around because they are firmly embedded in bone
  • Dental implants can help your overall health and are easy to care for because you can brush and floss them just like your natural teeth.
  • Dental implants are long-lasting and can last a lifetime with proper care and maintenance
  • Dental implants can’t decay or stain like natural teeth can, and this makes them much more easy to maintain.

Dental implants are highly successful with a success rate of over 95 percent, according to the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

Dental implants are a conservative treatment because only the implant space is treated, not the teeth around the implant.

Dental implant treatment begins with a simple in-office procedure to place the implant screw. After a healing period, the implant screw is capped with a beautiful implant crown. To find out more about the dental implant procedure, please visit the dental implants page on the website at http://www.gentleartofdentistry.com/dental-implants.html.

To find out more about dental implants and other dental treatments, call Dr. Cunningham at Gentle Art of Dentistry in Decatur, IL. Don’t be haunted by your missing teeth, check out dental implants by calling today!





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