Our Dental Blog

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
February 18, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
SomethingBetweenYourTeethDontUseAnythingElsebutDentalFloss

As a saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention” is no more appropriate than when you have something caught between your teeth. And humans, as inventive and creative as we are, have used a weird assortment of items—usually within arms' reach—to dislodge a pesky bit of food.

According to a recent survey, more than three-fourths of Americans admit to using a number of “tools” to clean between teeth including twigs, nails (the finger and toe variety), business cards or (shudder!) screwdrivers. And it's one thing to do this alone, but among dinner companions and other folk it's a definite faux pas.

Usually, it's smarter and more economical if you can use a particular tool for many different applications. But when it comes to your teeth, you should definitely go with a “unitasker” designed specifically for the job: dental floss. It's not only the safest item you can use to clean your teeth, it's specifically designed for that purpose, especially to remove disease-causing plaque from between teeth.

Of course, the reason many of us use alternate items for cleaning between teeth is that they're the closest ones at hand. You can remedy this by keeping a small spool (or a short length) of dental floss or floss picks handy for those moments you encounter a wedged piece of food. In a pinch, you can use a rounded toothpick (better for your gums than the flat variety).

At home if you find flossing difficult, consider using a water flosser. This handheld device emits a pulsating stream of pressurized water that loosens and flushes away plaque and bits of food remnant. It's ideal for people who have a hard time maneuvering floss or who wear braces, which can block regular floss thread from accessing between teeth as fully as possible.

In any case, use the other “tools” at hand for whatever they're intended. When it comes to what's best for your teeth, use floss to keep the in-between clear and clean.

If you would like more information on best oral hygiene practices, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
February 08, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: pain management  
IsThereaBetterWaytoManagePainWithoutNarcotics

The ongoing opioid addiction epidemic has brought together government, law enforcement and healthcare to find solutions. The focus among doctors and dentists has been on finding ways to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions.

Opioids (or narcotics) have been a prominent part of pain management in healthcare for decades. Drugs like morphine, oxycodone or fentanyl can relieve moderate to extreme pain and make recovery after illness or procedures much easier. Providers like doctors and dentists have relied heavily on them, writing nearly 260 million narcotic prescriptions a year as late as 2012.

But although effective when used properly, narcotics are also addictive. While the bulk of overall drug addiction stems from illegal narcotics like heroin, prescription drugs also account for much of the problem: In 2015, for example, 2 million Americans had an addiction that began with an opioid prescription.

The current crisis has led to horrific consequences as annual overdose deaths now surpass the peak year of highway accident deaths (just over 54,000 in 1972). This has led to a concerted effort by doctors and dentists to develop other approaches to pain management without narcotics.

One that’s gained recent momentum in dentistry involves the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin work by dilating blood vessels, which reduces painful inflammation. They’re available over the counter, although stronger doses require a prescription.

NSAIDs are effective for mild to moderate pain, but without the addictive properties of narcotics. There are some adverse health consequences if taken long-term, but limited use for pain or during post-procedure recovery is safe.

Many dentists are recommending NSAIDs for first-line pain management after most dental procedures. Narcotics may still be prescribed, but in a limited and controlled fashion. As part of this new approach, dentists typically combine ibuprofen and acetaminophen: Studies have shown the two work together better at reducing pain than either one individually.

Still, many aren’t eager to move away from the proven effectiveness of narcotics to primarily NSAIDs. But as these non-addictive drugs continue to prove their effectiveness, there’s hope the use of addictive opioids will continue to decrease.

If you would like more information on pain management practices in dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

DakotaJohnsonandHerMissingToothGapSparksOnlineDebate

Celebrities’ controversial actions and opinions frequently spark fiery debates on social media. But actress Dakota Johnson lit a match to online platforms in a seemingly innocent way—through orthodontics.

This summer she appeared at the premier of her film The Peanut Butter Falcon missing the trademark gap between her front teeth. Interestingly, it happened a little differently than you might think: Her orthodontist removed a permanent retainer attached to the back of her teeth, and the gap closed on its own.

Tooth gaps are otherwise routinely closed with braces or other forms of orthodontics. But, as the back and forth that ensued over Johnson’s new look shows, a number of people don’t think that’s a good idea: It’s not just a gap—it’s your gap, a part of your own uniqueness.

Someone who might be sympathetic to that viewpoint is Michael Strahan, a host on Good Morning America. Right after the former football star began his NFL career, he strongly considered closing the noticeable gap between his two front teeth. In the end, though, he opted to keep it, deciding it was a defining part of his appearance.

But consider another point of view: If it truly is your gap (or whatever other quirky smile “defect” you may have), you can do whatever you want with it—it really is your choice. And, on that score, you have options.

You can have a significant gap closed with orthodontics or, if it’s only a slight gap or other defect, you can improve your appearance with the help of porcelain veneers or crowns. You can also preserve a perceived flaw even while undergoing cosmetic enhancements or restorations. Implant-supported replacement teeth, for example, can be fashioned to retain unique features of your former smile like a tooth gap.

If you’re considering a “smile makeover,” we’ll blend your expectations and desires into the design plans for your future smile. In the case of something unique like a tooth gap, we’ll work closely with dental technicians to create restorations that either include or exclude the gap or other characteristics as you wish.

Regardless of the debate raging on social media, the final arbiter of what a smile should look like is the person wearing it. Our goal is to make sure your new smile reflects the real you.

If you would like more information about cosmetically enhancing your smile, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Space Between Front Teeth” and “The Impact of a Smile Makeover.”

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
January 23, 2020
Category: Cosmetic Dentistry
Tags: veneers  

Have you been thinking about improving your smile? Veneers provide a perfect solution whether your teeth are damaged, discolored or oddly shaped. The restorations, offered by your Decatur, IL, dentist, Dr. Carol Cunningham, conceal many common types of tooth flaws, enhancing your smile.

How do veneers work?

Veneers are thin porcelain or plastic shells that attach to the fronts of teeth where flaws are most visible. The restorations adhere to your teeth with dental cement and conceal imperfections.

Before you receive veneers, our Decatur dentist will remove a tiny amount of enamel from your teeth to ensure that your new veneers fit well and look natural. She'll also send an impression of your mouth to the dental laboratory that will create your custom restorations.

Are veneers right for you?

Veneers offer a simple way to hide many types of flaws that can affect your smile. Your dentist may recommend them if you have minor damage to your teeth, such as a small chip or shallow crack. Veneers can also conceal pits, bumps or uneven surfaces.

Thanks to veneers, you can completely change the way a tooth looks. They're a good choice if you have a crooked tooth that doesn't require orthodontic treatment. Shape-changing veneers not only make a crooked tooth look straight but can improve the appearance of any oddly shaped tooth.

Do you have a few teeth that are too short? Whether the teeth have always been short, or you've noticed that they've gradually grown shorter since you've been grinding your teeth at night, veneers add a little extra length.

Gaps between teeth are a common complaint. Although the spaces may not affect your ability to chew, they can make you feel self-conscious about your appearance. Veneers offer a simple way to close slight gaps between your teeth.

Veneers can be made to match the exact shade of nearby teeth or whiten your smile. They're a good option if you want to brighten all of your teeth or have a dark or discolored tooth due to large fillings, dental procedures or the use of certain antibiotics.

Are you ready to renew your smile with veneers? Call your Decatur, IL, dentist, Dr. Carol Cunningham, at (217) 422-7448 to schedule an appointment.

By Carol A. Cunningham, DDS
January 19, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: x-ray  
The21stCenturyPromisesBetterDentalDiagnosticswithConeBeamImaging

X-rays revolutionized dental care in the 20th Century. The same could happen in the 21st Century as cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) becomes a fixture beside the traditional x-ray machine.

CBCT made its debut in dental offices about a decade and a half ago. It utilizes the same invisible energy as traditional x-rays to create images of the face and jaw. But unlike traditional x-rays, which can only depict structures in the two dimensions of width and height, CBCT can create three-dimensional images in amazing detail.

The CBCT's x-ray projector rotates around a patient's head. As it emits a cone-shaped beam of x-rays, the device simultaneously collects anywhere from 150 to 599 distinct image views. It transmits these views to a computer that assembles them into three-dimensional images that can be viewed on a computer display.

From the data file of images, dentists can re-format a variety of views and angles of teeth, jaws and other facial bones at various levels of magnification. Because of this wide range of views, all in striking detail, CBCTs are highly useful among other things for diagnosis of malocclusions (bad bites), the size and location of infections, obstructions at possible implant sites, or jaw problems prior to surgery.

Because they expose a patient to higher doses of radiation than a standard x-ray machine, they're normally limited to more complex oral situations. That means you'll still undergo standard x-rays for most of your dental treatment needs. CBCT radiation levels are lower, however, than medical CT scans, which use a fan-shaped beam that can expose a patient to ten times the radiation of a CBCT. For dental care, a CBCT machine also produces greater image detail than an MRI.

Depending on your needs, CBCT may one day be a part of your dental care.  With their range and accuracy, it could play a major role in helping you attain good health.

If you would like more information on cone beam diagnostics, 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 “Getting the Full Picture with Cone Beam Dental Scans.”





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