Our Dental Blog

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
September 16, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
TakingtheDreadOutofDentalVisits

We always look forward to seeing our patients, but not all of you look forward to seeing us! If you’re one of them, don’t worry — we don’t take it personally. Dental anxiety prevents many people from seeking the care they require to restore or maintain a healthy smile.

But if dental problems are allowed to progress, they can affect not only the beauty of your smile and health of your mouth, but your overall wellness, too. Infection can travel from the mouth to other areas of the body, and dental disease exacerbates chronic health conditions like heart disease or diabetes.

Overcoming Apprehension

Fear should never be an obstacle (in the immortal words of President Franklin Roosevelt, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”). And fortunately there are some safe options for those of us who can’t get past our anxiety when it comes to dental care:

Oral Sedation. A sedative medication can be prescribed that you take by mouth approximately an hour before your dental visit to minimize anxiety and promote relaxation.

Intravenous (IV; “intra” – inside, “venous” – vein) Sedation. If oral sedation isn’t entirely effective in facilitating treatment, then a medication combining a sedative for relaxation and a pain-blocking anesthetic can be delivered through or small needle or catheter that is gently inserted into a vein. This is referred to as “conscious sedation” because you are in a semi-awake state during which you are able to respond to verbal direction. It takes effect quickly, and you can come out of it quickly. However, you may not remember much about your procedure. It is very different from general anesthesia during which you are completely unconscious.

Safety First

Dentists who offer IV sedation receive extensive training after which we must pass an exam and apply for a special permit that we maintain through continuing education. We carefully screen patients for eligibility and monitor you throughout so you can rest easy before, during, and after your procedure.

If you would like more information about sedation in dental care, 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 “Oral Sedation Dentistry.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
September 06, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
HowtoCleanYourOralAppliance

Question: What oral health issue do teenagers who wear orthodontic retainers and older folks who wear dentures have in common?

Answer: Both need to pay particular attention to cleaning their oral appliances.

The same goes for anyone who wears a nightguard to control tooth grinding, a mouthguard to protect teeth while playing sports, or a clear aligner for orthodontic treatment. Yet many people aren’t sure how to properly clean their appliances — so here are a few handy tips:

DON’T:

  • Use toothpaste on your appliance — the ingredients in toothpaste, which are designed to polish the hard enamel of your teeth, are too abrasive for the soft plastic of oral appliances, and will cause scratches.
  • Boil your appliance, or use bleach to clean it — both will end up breaking down and destroying the appliance. Don’t even use very hot water, as it can deform the plastic and make the appliance useless.
  • Leave your appliance out on the nightstand, or anywhere else — pets and small children have been known to find (and destroy) oral appliances left lying around. Instead, store it properly in its special case.

DO:

  • Use liquid dish detergent or hand soap to clean your appliance. A little mild soap plus warm water will do a great cleaning job. While you’re at it, get a brush just for the appliance — because, while it’s fine for plastic, you don’t want to brush your teeth with soap!
  • Put a towel in the sink basin when you clean your appliance. Soapy appliances (especially dentures) can be slippery, and can be damaged by dropping — and that’s an expensive mishap.
  • Consider investing in an ultrasonic cleaner. These inexpensive countertop devices are an excellent way to get the tiny ridges and crevices of your appliance really clean.

Whether you rely on dentures for everyday use, or just need to wear a retainer for a period of time, your oral appliance serves an important function. It may also represent a significant investment. That’s why it’s worthwhile to spend a few minutes each day giving these important items the care they need.

If you have questions about oral appliance care, please contact us or schedule an appointment.

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
August 27, 2018
Category: Oral Health
BeyonceMakesFlossingaFamilyAffair

As is the case with most celebs today, Beyonce is no stranger to sharing on social media… but she really got our attention with a video she recently posted on instagram. The clip shows the superstar songstress — along with her adorable three-year old daughter Blue Ivy — flossing their teeth! In the background, a vocalist (sounding remarkably like her husband Jay-Z) repeats the phrase “flossin’…flossin’…” as mom and daughter appear to take care of their dental hygiene in time with the beat: https://instagram.com/p/073CF1vw07/?taken-by=beyonce

We’re happy that this clip highlights the importance of helping kids get an early start on good oral hygiene. And, according to authorities like the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, age 3 is about the right time for kids to begin getting involved in the care of their own teeth.

Of course, parents should start paying attention to their kids’ oral hygiene long before age three. In fact, as soon as baby’s tiny teeth make their first appearance, the teeth and gums can be cleaned with a soft brush or cloth and a smear of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. Around age 3, kids will develop the ability to spit out toothpaste. That’s when you can increase the amount of toothpaste a little, and start explaining to them how you clean all around the teeth on the top and bottom of the mouth. Depending on your child’s dexterity, age 3 might be a good time to let them have a try at brushing by themselves.

Ready to help your kids take the first steps to a lifetime of good dental checkups? Place a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste on a soft-bristled brush, and gently guide them as they clean in front, in back, on all surfaces of each tooth. At first, it’s a good idea to take turns brushing. That way, you can be sure they’re learning the right techniques and keeping their teeth plaque-free, while making the experience challenging and fun.

Most kids will need parental supervision and help with brushing until around age 6. As they develop better hand-eye coordination and the ability to follow through with the cleaning regimen, they can be left on their own more. But even the best may need some “brushing up” on their tooth-cleaning techniques from time to time.

What about flossing? While it’s an essential part of good oral hygiene, it does take a little more dexterity to do it properly. Flossing the gaps between teeth should be started when the teeth begin growing close to one another. Depending on how a child’s teeth are spaced, perhaps only the back ones will need to be flossed at first. Even after they learn to brush, kids may still need help flossing — but a floss holder (like the one Beyonce is using in the clip) can make the job a lot easier.

If you would like more information about maintaining your children’s oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Top 10 Oral Health Tips For Children” and “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
August 17, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene   Dental Visits  

Not sure the last time you visited the dentist? It might be time you did!Dental Visits

Visiting the dentist is something everyone needs to do, regardless of how healthy or wonderful your teeth and gums look and feel. After all, things like cavities and gum disease can stay silent while still wreaking havoc on teeth, so the only way you’ll even know you have an issue is if you visit our Decatur, IL, dentist Dr. Carol Cunningham for routine care. Sure, we know life gets hectic but making a little bit of time twice a year (every six months) for dental cleanings and exams could save you time and money in the future.

What happens during my six-month dental checkup?

There are two main components to this visit: the checkup and the cleaning (sometimes referred to as prophylaxis). During the checkup, our Decatur, IL, general dentist will examine your teeth and gums and check for any cavities, tartar and plaque buildup, as well as warning signs of gum disease.

An oral cancer screening is also performed during your checkups. These screenings only take a minute and you may not even know it’s happening. The only thing we do is look at the throat, soft tissue, gums and tongue to check for growths, lesions, red or white patches, or other signs that oral cancer may be present.

The cleaning is also a crucial part of your checkup. After all, even the most talented and thorough brushers and flossers miss areas, and it’s our job to remove any plaque and tartar buildup left behind. Plus, once plaque hardens into tartar it’s impossible for you to remove tartar with your at-home toothbrush. The only way is through a professional dental cleaning.

Why are these checkups important?

Everyone should visit their dentist at least every six months (you may need to come in more regularly if you are a smoker, are pregnant or have active gum disease) for routine checkups and care. After all, these visits are meant to prevent problems from occurring rather than just treating the problem once it happens.

It’s never too late to get your oral health and dental care back on track and our dental team here at the Gentle Art of Dentistry is here to help. We want to make the dental experience in Decatur, IL, a pleasant one for all of our patients. Our gentle, caring touch will make your dental visits a breeze.

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
August 17, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
DevelopingaDentalCareStrategyCouldSaveLong-TermCosts

Taking care of your teeth is a life-long endeavor. And like any other aspect of healthcare, it can be costly — from regular dental visits and cleanings to more expensive treatments and procedures for protecting and preserving your teeth.

But what if you’re limited in your financial ability — does that mean your dental health has to suffer? Not necessarily — if you’re careful to adopt and follow an effective strategy for oral care.

Here, then, are 3 considerations you should keep in mind as you develop your dental care strategy and action plan.

Practice thorough, daily oral hygiene. Many of the potential dental problems people face are the result of not practicing or not properly performing oral hygiene — daily brushing and flossing along with semi-annual dental visits for cleanings and checkups. The aim is to remove bacterial plaque, the sticky film that adheres to teeth after we eat, and keep it from building up on tooth surfaces. Removing plaque reduces your chances of developing the two major dental diseases caused by it, tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease, which could result in additional treatment costs. However, even with excellent oral hygiene you’ll still form tartar (hardened plaque deposits) on your teeth, so professional cleanings are also a must.

Take care of the rest of your health. Your teeth and gums aren’t islands unto themselves — your oral health is heavily influenced by other conditions in the body, especially systemic diseases like diabetes or cardiovascular disease. So, be sure you’re eating a nutritious diet, follow an exercise plan and see your physician regularly to monitor your health. Your teeth, as well as the rest of your body, will be healthier for it.

Work out treatment plans with us to fit your finances. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee your teeth and gums won’t need advanced care sometime in your life, even with proper hygiene and diet. If you’re in need of extensive treatment or you feel you need to enhance your smile, talk with us. We’ll be glad to discuss your options, and work out both a treatment and financial plan that fits your needs and budget.

If you would like more information on oral care with financial limitations, 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 “Finances and Dental Care.”





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