Our Dental Blog

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
November 16, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: cosmetic dentistry  
LookingGoodfortheHolidays

The holidays are a time for getting together with family and friends from near and far. The memories you make at these joyful celebrations are the ones you’ll treasure forever, but it can be hard to show good cheer if you’re not happy with the way your teeth look. If you’re keeping that grin under wraps, we may be able to perk up your smile with some quick and economical in-office treatments.

A professional teeth cleaning is one of the best values in dental care. In just minutes, we can remove the buildup of hardened tartar that can make your teeth look dull and yellowed. Tartar can also lead to tooth decay and gum disease—two kinds of trouble you don’t need! While you’re in the office, you will also have a thorough exam that could prevent minor issues like small cavities and bleeding gums from becoming more serious dental problems. When you leave, your teeth will look and feel sparkly clean.

If your smile doesn’t look as bright as you’d like, ask about teeth whitening treatments. In-office whitening is a safe and effective way to lighten your teeth up to 10 shades in a single visit! If you have more time, you can get similar results from a take-home kit that we can provide—one that’s custom-made just for you.

Are chips or cracks making your teeth look less than perfect? Cosmetic bonding could be the answer. Translucent, tooth-colored bonding material can be applied to your teeth to repair minor cracks, chips or spacing irregularities. This in-office procedure usually requires just one visit and can make a dramatic difference in your smile.

So as holiday celebrations draw near, why not give yourself a reason to smile? Contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation to see if professional teeth cleaning, teeth whitening or cosmetic bonding could give your smile some holiday sparkle! You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
November 01, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: stress   dental care  
TreatmentOptionstoKeepStressFromCausingDentalProblems

Chronic stress can cause any number of physical problems like back pain, insomnia or stomach ulcers. In the mouth, it can also be the cause of teeth grinding or clenching habits that may lead to pain and tooth damage.

Besides toothaches and jaw pain, stress-related teeth grinding may also be causing your teeth to wear at a faster than normal rate. While the teeth can withstand normal forces generated from biting and chewing, a grinding habit could be subjecting the teeth to forces beyond their normal range. Over time, this could produce excessive tooth wear and contribute to future tooth loss.

Here, then, are some of the treatment options we may use to stop the effects of stress-related dental habits and provide you with relief from pain and dysfunction.

Drug Therapy. Chronic teeth grinding can cause pain and muscle spasms. We can reduce pain with a mild anti-inflammatory pain reliever (like ibuprofen), and spasms with a prescribed muscle relaxant drug. If you have sleep issues, you might also benefit from occasional sleep aid medication.

A Night or Occlusal Guard. Also known as a bite guard, this appliance made of wear-resistant acrylic plastic is custom-fitted to the contours of your bite. The guard is worn over your upper teeth while you sleep or when the habit manifests; the lower teeth then glide over the hard, smooth surface of the guard without biting down. This helps rest the jaw muscles and reduce pain.

Orthodontic Treatment. Your clenching habit may be triggered or intensified because of a problem with your bite, known as a malocclusion. We can correct or limit this problem by either moving the teeth into a more proper position or, if the malocclusion is mild, even out the bite by reshaping the teeth in a procedure known as occlusal (bite) equilibration.

Psychological Treatment. While the preceding treatments can help alleviate or correct dental or oral structural problems, they may not address the underlying cause for a grinding habit — your psychological response to stress. If you’re not coping with stress in a healthy way, you may benefit from treatments in behavioral medicine, which include biofeedback or psychological counseling.

If you would like more information on dental issues related to stress, 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 “Stress & Tooth Habits.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
October 17, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
UseSweetenerSubstitutesWiselytoReduceSugarinYourDiet

Although a variety of foods provide energy-producing carbohydrates, sugar is among the most popular. It’s believed we universally crave sugar because of the quick energy boost after eating it, or that it also causes a release in our brains of serotonin endorphins, chemicals which relax us and make us feel good.

But there is a downside to refined sugars like table sugar or high-fructose corn syrup: too much in our diets contributes to conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dental disease. On the latter, sugar is a primary food source for oral bacteria; the more sugar available in the mouth the higher the levels of bacteria that lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Moderating your intake of refined sugars and other carbohydrates can be hard to do, given that many processed foods contain various forms of refined sugar. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables helps control sugar intake as well as contribute to overall health. Many people also turn to a variety of sugar substitutes: one study found roughly 85% of Americans use some form of it in place of sugar. They’re also being added to many processed foods: unless you’re checking ingredients labels, you may be consuming them unknowingly.

Sugar substitutes are generally either artificial, manufactured products like saccharin or aspartame or extractions from natural substances like stevia or sorbitol. The good news concerning your teeth and gums is that all the major sugar substitutes don’t encourage bacterial growth. Still, while they’re generally safe for consumption, each has varying properties and may have side-effects for certain people. For example, people with phenylketonuria, a rare genetic condition, can’t process aspartame properly and should avoid it.

One alcohol-based sweetener in particular is of interest in oral care. A number of studies indicate xylitol may actually inhibit bacterial growth and thus reduce the risk of tooth decay. You can find xylitol in a variety of gum and mint products.

When considering what sugar substitutes to use, be sure you’re up to date on their potential health effects for certain individuals, as well as check the ingredients labels of processed foods for added sweeteners. As your dentist, we’ll also be glad to advise you on strategies to reduce sugar in your diet and promote better dental health.

If you would like more information on your best options for sweeteners, 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 “Artificial Sweeteners.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
October 10, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: cosmetic dentistry   veneers  

Are you interested in getting veneers?veneers

Your dentist understands the importance of having a beautiful smile. Dr. Carol Cunningham at Gentle Art of Dentistry in Decatur, IL assess your teeth to make sure there aren't any serious problems like cavities. If there are cavities, she will need to clean them out and seal them.

Afterwards, she will remove some enamel off the surface of your teeth and place the porcelain veneers, which are basically thin shells. The veneers will fit evenly along your teeth because they are custom made and the enamel removed makes way for them.

The veneers you decide to have placed are a great way to conceal unappealing issues:

  • They hide stained and/or discolored teeth, which aren't attractive anymore because of poor habits like smoking, chewing tobacco, drinking tea or coffee, and eating heavily pigmented foods. Even some antibiotics, such as tetracycline, may cause teeth to become discolored.
  • Another issue people suffer from and want to conceal is mishappened teeth like worn or chipped teeth, uneven surfaces, crooked teeth, uneven spacing, like overcrowdedness, and irregularly shaped teeth.
  • Veneers are also great for concealing dents, cracks and fractures, and grooves on the surface of your teeth that may have been caused by trauma.

While the process is simple and non-invasive, removing enamel is a permanent decision. So make sure you speak to your Decatur dentist.

Also, keeping up with your healthy oral regimen will help keep your smile intact for as long as possible. So brush twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Make sure to brush for two whole minutes and angle your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle. Flossing should also be a part of your dental care. Floss at least once before bed and don't miss your bi-annual checkups with your dentist.

If you're interested in veneers and have questions for Dr. Carol Cunningham, then call you Decatur, IL, dentist today! Your smile and health are important.

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
October 02, 2017
Category: Oral Health
GameSetMatchMilosRaonicSaysAMouthguardHelpsHimWin

When you’re among the top players in your field, you need every advantage to help you stay competitive: Not just the best equipment, but anything else that relieves pain and stress, and allows you to play better. For top-seeded Canadian tennis player Milos Raonic, that extra help came in a somewhat unexpected form: a custom made mouthguard that he wears on the court and off. “[It helps] to not grind my teeth while I play,” said the 25-year-old up-and-coming ace. “It just causes stress and headaches sometimes.”

Mouthguards are often worn by athletes engaged in sports that carry the risk of dental injury — such as basketball, football, hockey, and some two dozen others; wearing one is a great way to keep your teeth from being seriously injured. But Raonic’s mouthguard isn’t primarily for safety; it’s actually designed to help him solve the problem of teeth grinding, or bruxism. This habitual behavior causes him to unconsciously tense up his jaw, potentially leading to problems with muscles and teeth.

Bruxism is a common issue that’s often caused or aggravated by stress. You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to suffer from this condition: Everyday anxieties can have the same effect. The behavior is often worsened when you consume stimulating substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and other drugs.

While bruxism affects thousands of people, some don’t even suspect they have it. That’s because it may occur at any time — even while you’re asleep! The powerful jaw muscles that clench and grind teeth together can wear down tooth enamel, and damage both natural teeth and dental work. They can even cause loose teeth! What’s more, a clenching and grinding habit can result in pain, headaches and muscle soreness… which can really put you off your game.

There are several ways to relieve the problem of bruxism. Stress reduction is one approach that works in some cases. When it’s not enough, a custom made occlusal guard (also called a night guard or mouthguard) provided by our office can make a big difference. “When I don’t sleep with it for a night,” Raonic said “I can feel my jaw muscles just tense up the next day. I don’t sense myself grinding but I can sort of feel that difference the next day.”

 An occlusal guard is made from an exact model of your own mouth. It helps to keep your teeth in better alignment and prevent them from coming into contact, so they can’t damage each other. It also protects your jaw joints from being stressed by excessive force. Plus, it’s secure and comfortable to wear. “I wear it all the time other than when I’m eating, so I got used to it pretty quickly,” said Raonic.

Teeth grinding can be a big problem — whether you put on your game face on the court… or at home. If you would like more information about bruxism, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Stress & Tooth Habits” and “When Children Grind Their Teeth.”





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