Our Dental Blog

Posts for: July, 2018

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
July 28, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: nutrition   sugar  
ForYourTeethsSakeExerciseCautionConsumingEnergyorSportsDrinks

Energy drink makers would have you believe their products are a healthy rehydration choice for athletes while also giving them keener focus and renewed vitality. But before adding them to your sports regimen, you should also consider what effect these beverages could have on your teeth.

Energy drinks are similar in ingredients to sports drinks like Gatorade® and PowerAde®, which mostly consist of water, salts, vitamins, sugars and acids. In addition, energy drinks like Red Bull® and Monster Energy® add caffeine to boost energy.

Besides their sugar content, the main threat from a dental health perspective for both of these drinks is their acidity, which can severely erode tooth enamel. The irreplaceable loss of enamel significantly increases your risk of tooth decay and eventually tooth loss.

The threat of enamel erosion is especially pronounced whenever the mouth’s pH level falls below 5.5. The acidity of both sports and energy drinks falls well below this mark. In one experimental study samples of enamel exposed to a number of sports drinks lost an average of 1.5% of mineral content over five days; energy drinks more than doubled that loss at 3.1%.

Given the potential harm these beverages, especially energy drinks, can cause your teeth, you should exercise caution when consuming them. In fact, our best advice is for you to avoid energy drinks altogether, for your overall health as well as your teeth’s sake.

Unless you’re participating in a physically intense sport, water is your best source for hydration after exertion.  If you do drink sports beverages, try to limit them to meal times when your saliva is most active to neutralize mouth acid. You can also rinse out your mouth with water after drinking to help further reduce mouth acidity.

As an athlete, you’ve trained your body to be at its optimum physical peak. Don’t let energy or sports drinks take the edge off your health, especially your teeth.

If you would like more information on the effects of sports or energy drinks on dental 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 “Sports and Energy Beverages Bathe Teeth in Erosive Acids.”


By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
July 18, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
CharlizeTheronBackinActionAfterDentalSurgery

When they’re introducing a new movie, actors often take a moment to pay tribute to the people who helped make it happen — like, you know, their dentists. At least that’s what Charlize Theron did at the premiere of her new spy thriller, Atomic Blonde.

"I just want to take a quick moment to thank my dentists," she told a Los Angeles audience as they waited for the film to roll. "I don’t even know if they’re here, but I just want to say thank you."

Why did the starring actress/producer give a shout-out to her dental team? It seems she trained and fought so hard in the action sequences that she actually cracked two teeth!

“I had severe tooth pain, which I never had in my entire life,” Theron told an interviewer from Variety. At first, she thought it was a cavity — but later, she found out it was more serious: One tooth needed a root canal, and the other had to be extracted and replaced with a dental implant — but first, a bone grafting procedure was needed. “I had to put a donor bone in [the jaw] to heal,” she noted, “and then I had another surgery to put a metal screw in there.”

Although it might sound like the kind of treatment only an action hero would need, bone grafting is now a routine part of many dental implant procedures. The reason is that without a sufficient volume of good-quality bone, implant placement is difficult or impossible. That’s because the screw-like implant must be firmly joined with the jawbone, so it can support the replacement tooth.

Fortunately, dentists have a way to help your body build new bone: A relatively small amount of bone material can be placed in the missing tooth’s socket in a procedure called bone grafting. This may come from your own body or, more likely, it may be processed bone material from a laboratory. The donor material can be from a human, animal or synthetic source, but because of stringent processing techniques, the material is safe for human use. Once it is put in place your body takes over, using the grafted material as a scaffold on which to build new bone cells. If jawbone volume is insufficient for implants, it can often be restored to a viable point in a few months.

Better yet, when grafting material is placed in the tooth socket immediately after extraction, it can keep most of the bone loss from occurring in the first place, enabling an implant to be placed as soon as possible — even before the end of a movie’s shooting schedule.

Will Atomic Blonde prove to be an action-movie classic? Only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure: When Charlize Theron walks down the red carpet, she won’t have to worry about a gap in her smile.

If you have questions about bone grafting or dental implants, please contact our office or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implant Surgery” and “Immediate Dental Implant.”


By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
July 08, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: dental erosion  
TestYourKnowledgeAQuizonDentalErosion

1. What is dental erosion?
a. tooth decay; b. dissolving of tooth enamel by acids in food or drink; c. destruction of tooth material by wear; d. attacks on teeth by bacteria

2. Which of these drinks does not cause dental erosion?
a. orange juice; b. cola drinks; c. water; d. energy drinks

3. Soda sweetened with artificial sweeteners does not cause dental erosion.
a. true; b. false

4. Brushing your teeth immediately after consuming acidic food or drinks may make erosion worse.
a. true; b. false

5. Waiting after consuming acidic foods or drinks allows time for your saliva to neutralize the acid and add calcium back to the enamel in your teeth.
a. true; b. false

6. How long should you wait before brushing after consuming acidic foods or drinks?
a. 10 minutes; b. 20 minutes; c. 30 minutes to an hour d. eight hours

7. Loss of tooth surface material due to dental erosion is reversible.
a. true; b. false

8. People who suffer from bulimia, a psychological condition in which they frequently induce vomiting, often develop severe dental erosion from stomach acid.
a. true; b. false

9. What is the meaning of a low pH value?
a. high pH means high acidity; b. low pH means high acidity; c. neutral pH means high acidity; d. none of the above

10. Properties of a beverage that define their likelihood to erode your teeth are its acidity and its buffering capacity (resistance to being neutralized by saliva.)
a. true; b. false

11. Cola beverages, sports and energy drinks, and fruit juices have a low pH and high buffering capacity. What other factors determine their likelihood of causing dental erosion?
a. acid concentration; b. drinking them more frequently; c. swishing them around in your mouth; d. all of the above

12. How can you reduce dental erosion from the beverages you drink?
a. drink acidic beverages only at mealtimes and not all day long; b. drink beverages with added calcium; c. sip drinks through a straw to reduce contact with your teeth; d. all of the above

Answers: 1b, 2c, 3b, 4a, 5a, 6c, 7b, 8a, 9b, 10a, 11d, 12d

How did you score on our quiz? We hope you gained some information that will help you reduce dental erosion and preserve your teeth’s vital protective enamel.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about acid erosion of teeth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor article, “Dental Erosion.”


By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
July 02, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures

No one wants to lose a tooth, but it happens. Maybe it's that tooth that had multiple fillings, two root canals, and then, it just failed. Or, a cardental implants accident knocked out a tooth, and your dentist could not save it. Whatever the reason for your smile gaps, dental implants can address them with lifelike appearance and outstanding oral function. Dr. Carol Cunningham places dental implants at Gentle Art of Dentistry in Decatur, IL.

The amazing dental implant

It really is wonderful because this artificial tooth offers numerous benefits which other tooth replacements cannot. Placed directly into a patient's jaw bone, one or more dental implants:

  • Restore normal biting and chewing
  • Protect the size and density of bone and gum tissue
  • Look just like the real thing
  • Feel just like the real thing
  • Last for decades
  • Rarely need replacement
  • Do not need anchorage to adjoining natural teeth

How can a dental implant consisting of a titanium screw, metal post, and porcelain crown do all that? The secret operative is a natural process called osseointegration.

Research shows that human bone is attracted to the titanium metal in the implant. After implant surgery, the bone adheres to the device, creating an immovable foundation for the rest of the artificial tooth. Only a healthy natural tooth is stronger than a dental implant, and osseointegration practically guarantees success, says the International Congress of Oral Implantologists.

Dental implants are versatile

As sad as it is, sometimes people lose more than one tooth. Accidental loss, gum disease, and decay rob people of the smiles which once made them feel confident in their appearance, speech, and ability to bite and chew.

Dr. Cunningham in Decatur carefully evaluates her patients who have lost teeth. Visual inspection and X-rays tell her if a patient has enough jaw bone to accept one or multiple implants as needed. Yes, today's implants, placed in strategic locations in the jaw bone, can accept prosthetics such as fixed bridgework or even a full set of dentures.

Keeping implants healthy

Recent dental implants have rougher surfaces than earlier devices. This roughness speeds osseointegration which is key to implant success.

Also, proper hygiene is key--daily and meticulous flossing around implant sites and twice daily brushing with a low abrasive toothpaste keeps gums pink and intact.

Finally, what you put in your mouth determines implant health. Eat a low-carb, high-fiber diet, and drink plenty of water every day. Also, avoid tobacco--both the smokeless variety and cigarettes, too. Tobacco contains toxins which harm gums, and the heat from cigarette smoke actually burns soft oral tissues and degrades underlying bone.

You'll love your dental implant

So lifelike, comfortable, and functional, the dental implant helps millions of people regain their smiles. For an implant consultation with Dr. Cunningham, please call her office in Decatur, IL, at (217) 422-7448.