Our Dental Blog

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
September 09, 2017
Category: Oral Health
HowBigBangTheoryActressMayimBialikGetsHerKidstoFloss

How many actresses have portrayed a neuroscientist on a wildly successful TV comedy while actually holding an advanced degree in neuroscience? As far as we know, exactly one: Mayim Bialik, who plays the lovably geeky Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS' The Big Bang Theory… and earned her PhD from UCLA.

Acknowledging her nerdy side, Bialik recently told Dear Doctor magazine, “I'm different, and I can't not be different.” Yet when it comes to her family's oral health, she wants the same things we all want: good checkups and great-looking smiles. “We're big on teeth and oral care,” she said. “Flossing is really a pleasure in our house.”

How does she get her two young sons to do it?

Bialik uses convenient pre-loaded floss holders that come complete with floss and a handle. “I just keep them in a little glass right next to the toothbrushes so they're open, no one has to reach, they're just right there,” she said. “It's really become such a routine, I don't even have to ask them anymore.”

As many parents have discovered, establishing healthy routines is one of the best things you can do to maintain your family's oral health. Here are some other oral hygiene tips you can try at home:

Brush to the music — Plenty of pop songs are about two minutes long… and that's the length of time you should brush your teeth. If brushing in silence gets boring, add a soundtrack. When the music's over — you're done!

Flossing can be fun — If standard dental floss doesn't appeal, there are many different styles of floss holders, from functional ones to cartoon characters… even some with a martial-arts theme! Find the one that your kids like best, and encourage them to use it.

The eyes don't lie — To show your kids how well (or not) they are cleaning their teeth, try using an over-the-counter disclosing solution. This harmless product will temporarily stain any plaque or debris that got left behind after brushing, so they can immediately see where they missed, and how to improve their hygiene technique — which will lead to better health.

Have regular dental exams & cleanings — When kids see you're enthusiastic about going to the dental office, it helps them feel the same way… and afterward, you can point out how great it feels to have a clean, sparkling smile.

For more information about oral hygiene, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can read the interview with Mayim Bialik in the latest issue of Dear Doctor magazine.

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By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
August 25, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  
LookattheLong-TermCostsWhenConsideringDentalImplants

You’ve probably heard a lot of great things about dental implants as a replacement for missing teeth. But there’s one aspect about implants that may cause you hesitation about choosing them: the cost. If you have multiple teeth to be replaced, the expense of implants may seem even further beyond your means.

But before you decide against what’s widely considered the premier tooth replacement option, it would be beneficial for you to look at their cost from a long-term perspective. You may find implants are actually a cost-effective investment in both your oral health and your smile.

So, what sets the dental implant apart from other options? One of its most important attributes is its life-like appearance. Not only does the visible crown resemble the color, shape and texture of natural teeth, the implant’s placement can so precisely mimic the appearance of natural teeth emerging from the gums, it’s indistinguishable from the real thing.

They’re not just attractive, but also durable. This is due in large part to titanium, the most common metal used in implants, which has the unique quality of being osseophilic, or “bone-loving.” Bone cells naturally attract to titanium and over time will grow and adhere to the implant in a process known as osseointegration. As a result, the implant’s attachment in the jaw becomes strong and secure.

This durability gives implants a greater longevity on average than most other replacement options. If you thus compare the total costs for an implant (including maintenance) over its projected life with the costs of other options like dentures or fixed bridges, you’ll find implants may actually cost less over time.

That may sound affordable for one or two missing teeth — but what about several? Replacing multiple teeth individually with implants can be quite high; but implants are also versatile — just a few strategically placed implants can support a fixed bridge or overdenture. This “hybrid” solution combines the affordability of these other options with the stability of implants.

Before weighing your options, you should first undergo a complete dental examination to see if you’re a candidate for implants. From there we can help you decide whether implants are the right investment for your health and your smile.

If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 “Dental Implants 101.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
August 10, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures
MasterIllusionistBenefitsfromtheMagicofOrthodontics

Magician Michael Grandinetti mystifies and astonishes audiences with his sleight of hand and mastery of illusion. But when he initially steps onto the stage, it’s his smile that grabs the attention. “The first thing… that an audience notices is your smile; it’s what really connects you as a person to them,” Michael told an interviewer.

He attributes his audience-pleasing smile to several years of orthodontic treatment as a teenager to straighten misaligned teeth, plus a lifetime of good oral care. “I’m so thankful that I did it,” he said about wearing orthodontic braces. “It was so beneficial. And… looking at the path I’ve chosen, it was life-changing.”

Orthodontics — the dental subspecialty focused on treating malocclusions (literally “bad bites”) — can indeed make life-changing improvements. Properly positioned teeth are integral to the aesthetics of any smile, and a smile that’s pleasing to look at boosts confidence and self-esteem and makes a terrific first impression. Studies have even linked having an attractive smile with greater professional success.

There can also be functional benefits such as improved biting/chewing and speech, and reduced strain on jaw muscles and joints. Additionally, well-aligned teeth are easier to clean and less likely to trap food particles that can lead to decay.

The Science Behind the Magic

There are more options than ever for correcting bites, but all capitalize on the fact that teeth are suspended in individual jawbone sockets by elastic periodontal ligaments that enable them to move. Orthodontic appliances (commonly called braces or clear aligners) place light, controlled forces on teeth in a calculated fashion to move them into their new desired alignment.

The “gold standard” in orthodontic treatment remains the orthodontic band for posterior (back) teeth and the bonded bracket for front teeth. Thin, flexible wires threaded through the brackets create the light forces needed for repositioning. Traditionally the brackets have been made of metal, but for those concerned about the aesthetics, they can also be made out of a clear material. Lingual braces, which are bonded to the back of teeth instead of the front, are another less visible option. The most discrete appliance is the removable clear aligner, which consists of a progression of custom-made clear trays that reposition teeth incrementally.

How’s that for a disappearing act?!

If you would like more information about orthodontic treatment please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about the subject by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Magic of Orthodontics.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
August 02, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: Oral Cancer  

What your dentist in Decatur wants you to knoworal cancer

Oral cancer can be disfiguring and even fatal. Fortunately, there are some common signs and symptoms you can look for that may indicate early precancerous or cancerous changes. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to surviving oral cancer. Dr. Carol Cunningham at Gentle Art of Dentistry in Decatur, IL wants to share how to look for oral cancer, prevention, and professional oral cancer screening.

Some common signs and symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • White or red open lesions in your mouth that aren’t healing
  • Chronically irritated or sore areas in your mouth
  • Wrinkling or thickening of oral tissues
  • Eroded or rough areas in your mouth
  • Numbness or tenderness around your lips or in your mouth
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing or talking
  • A chronically hoarse voice or a sore throat

One of the most important things you can do to prevent oral cancer is to stop smoking or using tobacco products. You should also avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol because the combination of alcohol and tobacco is responsible for most oral cancers in this country.

If you have lifestyle risk factors for oral cancer, you should perform a self-exam regularly to check for any tissue changes or lesions. If you can catch any signs early, leading to early diagnosis, you can improve your chances of surviving oral cancer by as much as 75 percent. If cancer has spread, chances of reaching five year survival are only 20 percent.

If you use tobacco or drink alcohol, make sure you go in for an oral cancer screening from your dentist regularly. Your dentist will check the inside of your cheeks, under your tongue, the roof of your mouth, back of your throat and other areas to look for tissue changes. They may request an oral biopsy to determine whether tissue changes are normal.

Oral cancer is serious and shouldn’t be ignored. The National Cancer Institute estimates nearly 8,000 people will die from oral cancer each year. For more information about oral cancer or to schedule an oral cancer exam, call Dr. Carol Cunningham at Gentle Art of Dentistry in Decatur, IL today!

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
July 26, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   bacteria  
NotAllBacteriaareHarmfultoOralHealth

Most people associate bacteria with disease and ill health. But the real story about the trillions of microscopic organisms now living in and on your body is a bit more complicated. With recent advances in genetic code research scientists are learning that many of these microorganisms you’re hosting are actually beneficial for you — including your teeth and gums.

Beginning at birth and throughout your lifetime you are continually developing a distinct microbiome — actual communities of bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit your body. As your microbiome develops it helps train your immune system to distinguish between “good” bacteria that help with digestion and other bodily processes and “bad” bacteria that cause disease.  And it continually adapts to changes in what we eat, the pets we acquire or the drugs we take.

But lifestyle choices like diet can also have a detrimental effect, causing harmful bacteria to become dominant. This seems to be the case with Streptococcus mutans, the bacterial strain most associated with tooth decay. Scientists have analyzed biofilm (plaque deposits on teeth) from the pre-industrial era before 1900 and compared it with modern biofilm samples. They’ve found Streptococcus mutans levels to be much higher in modern biofilm, which they directly attribute to the modern Western diet.

As we gain a better understanding of these findings and of the role of bacteria in our lives, it could change many health recommendations not only about diet but about medications too. In the fight against disease, for example, we’ve used antibiotics to eradicate infection-causing microorganisms, but with a broad destructive ability that can also kill many beneficial strains of bacteria. It’s hoped as our knowledge grows we’ll be able to create newer drugs that more narrowly target harmful microorganisms while not affecting beneficial ones.

There’s a new appreciation emerging for bacteria’s role in our lives. As a result efforts to rebalance a person’s microbiome when they become sick may eventually become a critical element in healthcare treatment strategies. The benefits of this strategy for health, including for our teeth and gums, could be quite impressive.

If you would like more information on the role of bacteria in oral health, 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 “New Research Shows Bacteria Essential to Health.”





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