Our Dental Blog

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
September 11, 2019
Category: Oral Health

When he isn’t among the ten players vying for position on the basketball court, Cole Aldrich of the New York Knicks sometimes lets his dangle behind one ear. Mason Plumlee, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets, slips his snugly inside one of his socks during off times. Other players can be seen at timeouts gnawing on them nervously, or tucking them into spandex waistbands. But when the whistle blows, they go into the mouth before the players get on the court.

We’re talking about protective mouthguards, of course. According to a recent story in the New York Times, only a handful of basketball players wore them regularly a few years ago. Today, more and more are wearing them, both in practice and during games. What’s the reason for the change?

Partly, it’s the result of better design and improved construction; today’s mouthguards are more comfortable and better-fitting than ever. Part of it comes from mounting evidence that they work: Research studies have consistently demonstrated the benefits of wearing a mouthguard — not only to protect the teeth, but also to reduce the risk of concussion. And partly, it stems from the growing acceptance that safety is an important aspect of all athletic activity.

If the pros are doing it — shouldn’t you be too? While you may think that only contact sports (such as football) are risky, the fact is that “non-contact” sports like baseball and basketball account for the majority of dental injuries. In fact, the American Dental Association recommends you wear a mouthguard when you participate in activities like handball, soccer, surfing and weight lifting — as well as boxing, skydiving, martial arts and “extreme sports” — whatever that may mean to you.

What’s the best kind of mouthguard? It’s the one that you actually wear, of course! And the most comfortable and best-fitting mouthguard is the one that’s custom-made for you by your dentist. Sure, you can pick up an off-the-shelf mouthguard at a big box store; but it can’t offer you the same level of protection and comfort you’ll get from a mouthguard that is made from a model of your own teeth. Custom-made mouthguards from your dentist are reasonably priced — and by preventing dental trauma, they can save an untold amount of hurt… both to your body and to your pocketbook.

So take a tip from the pros: Get a custom-made mouthguard, and wear it every time you play. But when you’re done playing… how about putting it away in a case?

If you would like more information about custom-made athletic mouthguards, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry” and “Athletic Mouthguards.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
September 09, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: does implants  

Struggling with missing teeth? Change the direction of your smile and your life with ingenious dental implants. With the ability to replace dental implantsteeth from the root on up, implants recreate natural biting, chewing, speaking, and aesthetics for healthy teens and adults. Here at Gentle Art of Dentistry in Decatur, IL, Dr. Carol Cunningham can restore your smile with the help of dental implants. Dental implants are a reliable and long term solution. Read on to learn more!

What is a dental implant?

It is a prosthetic tooth that is made of three parts: a titanium screw that functions as a tooth root, a metal extension placed on top of it, and custom-crafted porcelain crown at the summit. The titanium root actually bonds with the jaw bone, increasing bone volume and strength. This bonding process is known to research scientists and dentists as osseointegration.

How long do implants last?

Healthy dental implant sites support these artificial teeth for decades, according to the Institute for Dental Implant Awareness.

Is the procedure painful?

A specialist will place the dental implant. A dental implant procedure always begins with the numbing the insertion site, so rest assured that the treatment will be free of discomfort. 

Furthermore, you will be happy to know that dental implant placement succeeds 95 percent of the time.

How long does implant treatment take?

The surgery itself takes about an hour, with osseointegration taking another few months to complete. Once the fusion process has occurred, you will return to Gentle Art of Dentistry's office in Decatur for the restoration of the dental implant with a crown.

Find out more

Your smile can be beautiful and functional again. To start the dental implant process, call Dr. Carol Cunningham's office in Decatur, IL, by dialing (217) 422-7448.

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
September 01, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: dental injuries  

When your favorite baseball team wins, it's hard not to get excited — especially if you're right there in the stadium. It's even better when a player tosses the ball to fans. But sometimes, in the heat of the moment, things can go awry.

That's what happened during a recent game at New York's Yankee Stadium. After catching the ball that ended the game in an 8-2 Dodgers win, Los Angeles outfielder Yasiel Puig tossed it into a cheering crowd of supporters. “I saw it coming at me and I remember thinking, 'I don't have a glove to catch this ball,'” Dodgers fan Alyssa Gerharter told the New York Daily News. “I felt it hit me and I could feel immediately with my tongue there's a hole. And I looked down at my hand and saw there's a tooth in my hand.”

Ouch. Just like that, one fan's dream became… a not-so-good dream. But fortunately for the 25-year-old software engineer, things went uphill from there. Ushers quickly escorted her into a first-aid room at the stadium. She was then rushed to a nearby hospital, where the upper front tooth was re-inserted into her jaw. After a follow-up appointment at her dentist's office the next day, Gerharter said she remains hopeful the re-inserted tooth will fuse with the bone, and won't require replacement.

We hope so too. And in fact, she has as good a chance of a successful outcome as anyone, because she did everything right. If you're not sure what to do about a knocked-out tooth, here are the basics:

  • locate the tooth, handle it carefully (don't touch the root surface), and if possible gently clean it with water
  • try to open the person's mouth and find the place where the tooth came from
  • carefully re-insert the tooth in its socket if possible, making sure it is facing the right way
  • hold the tooth in place with a soft cloth as you rush to the dental office or the nearest urgent care facility
  • if it can't be replaced in its socket, place the tooth in a special preservative solution or milk, or have the person hold it between the cheek and gum (making sure they won't swallow it) — and then seek immediate care at the dental office
  • follow up at the dental office as recommended

In general, the quicker you perform these steps, the more likely it is that the tooth can be preserved. How quick is quick? The best outcomes are expected when re-implantation occurs in no more than five minutes. So if you're in this situation, don't wait: get (or give) appropriate first aid right away — it just might save a tooth!

If you would like more information about what to do in a dental emergency, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more the Dear Doctor articles “Knocked Out Tooth,” and “The Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
August 22, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures

When die-hard music fans hear that their favorite performer is canceling a gig, it’s a big disappointment—especially if the excuse seems less than earth-shaking. Recently, British pop sensation Dua Lipa needed to drop two dates from her world tour with Bruno Mars. However, she had a very good reason.

“I’ve been performing with an awful pain due to my wisdom teeth,” the singer tweeted, “and as advised by my dentist and oral surgeon I have had to have them imminently removed.”

The dental problem Lipa had to deal with, impacted wisdom teeth, is not uncommon in young adults. Also called third molars, wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt (emerge from beneath the gums), generally making their appearance between the ages of 18-24. But their debut can cause trouble: Many times, these teeth develop in a way that makes it impossible for them to erupt without negatively affecting the healthy teeth nearby. In this situation, the teeth are called “impacted.”

A number of issues can cause impacted wisdom teeth, including a tooth in an abnormal position, a lack of sufficient space in the jaw, or an obstruction that prevents proper emergence. The most common treatment for impaction is to extract (remove) one or more of the wisdom teeth. This is a routine in-office procedure that may be performed by general dentists or dental specialists.

It’s thought that perhaps 7 out of 10 people ages 20-30 have at least one impacted wisdom tooth. Some cause pain and need to be removed right away; however, this is not always the case. If a wisdom tooth is found to be impacted and is likely to result in future problems, it may be best to have it extracted before symptoms appear. Unfortunately, even with x-rays and other diagnostic tests, it isn’t always possible to predict exactly when—or if—the tooth will actually begin causing trouble. In some situations, the best option may be to carefully monitor the tooth at regular intervals and wait for a clearer sign of whether extraction is necessary.

So if you’re around the age when wisdom teeth are beginning to appear, make sure not to skip your routine dental appointments. That way, you might avoid emergency surgery when you’ve got other plans—like maybe your own world tour!

If you would like more information about wisdom tooth extraction, please call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Wisdom Teeth” and “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
August 20, 2019
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: Dental Bonding  

Bonding from your dentist in Decatur, IL, can enhance your smile

Did you know there is an easy way to enhance your smile? It’s called dental bonding, and it’s a very popular dental treatment to give you bright smilethe smile you deserve. Dr. Carol A. Cunningham at Gentle Art of Dentistry in Decatur, IL, offers a wide variety of restorative, preventive, and cosmetic dental services, including dental bonding to help your smile.

Dental bonding is one of the most versatile cosmetic dental treatments available. In fact, dental bonding can help restore and repair teeth that are:

  • Chipped, cracked, or broken
  • Eroded, abraded, or worn down
  • Discolored, stained, or blotchy

Dental bonding can also help hide other issues including gaps between your teeth, and tooth overlap. The treatment uses composite, a unique liquid resin material that can be matched to the color of your teeth, so the bonding treatment looks natural. Composite can also be sculpted to match the natural contours of your teeth, so your smile looks uniform and harmonious.

There are many reasons why dental bonding has become popular. When you choose dental bonding, you will enjoy:

  • Fast results, because most bonding services can be completed in one appointment
  • Budget-friendly services, because dental bonding is much less expensive than other cosmetic treatments.

Your tooth is prepared for dental bonding by the application of an etching agent, which creates small pore-like openings in the tooth surface, to help retain the composite. Then a strong cement is applied, followed by the composite. The composite is hardened using a blue light. As a final step, the bonding is polished to perfection.

Dental bonding can help your smile more easily and quickly than you’ve ever thought possible. You and your smile deserve the magic of dental bonding. To find out more about dental bonding and other dental services, call Dr. Carol A. Cunningham at Gentle Art of Dentistry in Decatur, IL, today!

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