Our Dental Blog

Posts for: August, 2018

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.”


By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
August 07, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
ToFightToothDecayReduceBADfactorsPromoteSAFEOnes

Humanity has been waging war against tooth decay for millennia — with this relentless opponent often getting the better of us.

Over the last century, however, significant treatment advances have turned the tide of battle in our favor. Perhaps the greatest of these advancements is our deeper grasp of the disease process — new understandings that have altered our treatment strategy. Rather than wait for cavities to occur and then repair the damage, we now focus on stopping the damage from occurring in the first place.

Prevention starts by reducing factors that contribute to tooth decay. We can signify these detrimental factors with the acronym BAD:

Bad Bacteria. Millions of bacteria inhabit our mouths at any one time, but only a few strains produce the acid that causes decay. We want to reduce their population by removing dental plaque (where they feed and grow) through daily brushing and flossing, and, at a minimum, semi-annual office cleanings.

Absence of Saliva. This important fluid neutralizes acid and strengthens tooth enamel. Some people, however, suffer from reduced saliva flow. We want to find the cause (for example, a side effect of certain prescription drugs) and then improve saliva flow.

Dietary Habits. A diet heavy in sugar and acid (particularly sodas and soft drinks) gives bacteria a ready food source and increases the mouth’s acidic level. Chronic high acid levels in particular are often too great for normal saliva flow to overcome and neutralize. Reducing the amount and frequency of these food items creates a healthier oral environment.

Reducing BAD factors is only half of our prevention focus. We also want to promote SAFE factors that enhance tooth health and strength: Sealants, especially for children, that shield tooth surfaces from decay; Antimicrobial rinses that target and rid the mouth of acid-producing bacteria and give healthy bacteria room to develop; Fluoride, a proven enamel-strengthening chemical available in dental products, many drinking water systems and as a topical application in dental offices; and an Effective diet that’s rich in nutrients and low in sugar and acid as already mentioned.

Keeping the focus on reducing BAD factors and promoting SAFE factors will greatly increase your chances of personally winning the war against tooth decay.

If you would like more information on the prevention and treatment of tooth decay, 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 “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”