Why Are My Teeth So Sensitive?

Park Ridge DentistIS A SIMPLE SPOONFUL of ice cream enough to make you cringe because of the pain in your teeth? Do you have to be careful when you drink hot coffee that none of it touches your chompers? If you know the feeling, then you’re one of millions who experience tooth sensitivity. Let’s take a closer look at what causes tooth sensitivity and what can we do about it.

How We Feel Sensation In Our Teeth

Each of our teeth is covered in a layer of protective enamel. Underneath this is dentin, which is a lot like bone. Dentin contains thousands of microscopic tubules that run through it from the inside of the tooth out to the enamel. At the core of each tooth is the pulp chamber, which contains nerves and blood vessels. Because of those tubules, the nerves inside the tooth can detect what’s happening on the tooth’s surface.

Common Causes Of Tooth Sensitivity

If the enamel wears away, the tubules become exposed and the nerves in the dental pulp suddenly get much more stimulation than they like. This is what makes enamel erosion one of the main causes of tooth sensitivity. Without enamel, the nerves get a nasty shock whenever anything too hot or cold, or even too sweet or sour, touches the outside of the tooth.

Root exposure from gum recession also leads to sensitivity. The enamel only covers the crown of the tooth, not the roots. Those are protected by the gums. If the gums recede (sometimes as the result of teeth grinding or improper brushing over time), it exposes the roots.

Cavities and tooth injuries can cause sensitivity as well, even if you’ve been taking great care of your gums and enamel.

Use The Right Tools To Protect Your Teeth

Fortunately for all of us, there are ways to fight back, even if our teeth are already sensitive. Using a soft-bristled brush will help prevent further enamel erosion or gum recession. There is also special toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. Avoiding sugary and acidic foods and drinks (particularly soda) is another way to help your teeth.

We Can Help You Fight Tooth Sensitivity

Your best ally in the fight against tooth sensitivity is the dentist! Schedule a dental appointment as soon as you notice a change in your sensitivity level, or if you’ve been struggling with it for a while. The dentist can help protect your teeth with a fluoride varnish, perform restoration work to combat enamel erosion, and may recommend a gum graft for receding gums or prescribe a toothpaste to help with sensitivity.

Together, we’ll keep your smile happy and healthy!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Defeating Bad Breath

Park RIdge DentistWE’VE ALL BEEN THERE BEFORE — sitting in the middle of a job interview or a first date and realizing that our breath is far from minty fresh. Even when everything else is going perfectly, bad breath can be enough to ruin your confidence and turn a good experience sour. Why do we get bad breath, and what can we do to stop it?

Oral Bacteria And The Food We Eat

In order to effectively fight bad breath, it’s important to figure out what’s causing it. The simplest and most common cause is leftover food particles stuck between our teeth after a meal. The bacteria in our mouths break down these particles, and the end result doesn’t smell good. We can combat this with a good daily hygiene routine, including daily flossing, twice-daily brushing, scraping our tongues clean, and chewing sugar-free gum.

Causes Of Chronic Bad Breath

Chronic cases of bad breath (also called halitosis) might not be solved by good oral hygiene practices alone. Halitosis may be caused by:

  • Chronic conditions. Sometimes, bad breath is linked to conditions that you wouldn’t think are connected to oral hygiene, such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, and acid reflux.
  • Medications. A common side-effect of medications is dry mouth. Without saliva to wash away food particles and neutralize acid, the mouth is vulnerable to problems like bad breath.
  • Mouth-breathing. Whether it happens by habit or because breathing through the nose is difficult, mouth-breathing tends to dry out the mouth, leading to the same problems as described above.
  • Mouth, nose, and throat infections. Bad breath can be the result of increased mucous when we have a cold or a sinus infection.
  • Pregnancy. Symptoms such as morning sickness and nausea can cause bad breath, because of the extra acid in the mouth. This is also a problem for people struggling with bulimia.
  • Tobacco products. Tobacco in any form leaves smelly chemicals in the mouth and can also dry it out. In addition, it increases the risk of oral cancer and gum disease, which negatively impact breath as well.
  • Tooth decay and gum disease. Poor dental health often goes hand-in-hand with chronic bad breath because cavities and periodontitis are caused by the same bacteria that produces those nasty-smelling chemicals.

Keeping Your Breath Fresh

Even if strict oral hygiene isn’t enough to keep the bad breath completely at bay, it will help to manage it, and treating the underlying cause may be able to eliminate it. If you are a habitual mouth-breather, try breathing through your nose more. Quitting smoking will eliminate a major cause of bad breath. If dry mouth is the problem, chew sugar-free gum and mints to stimulate saliva production, sip water, and use a humidifier to help keep up the moisture.

Your Dentist Can Help

Discovering the underlying cause of bad breath is a crucial step in fighting back, and the dentist is your best ally here. Schedule an appointment so that you can get the answers you need to fight bad breath the best way.

We want all our patients to feel confident about their breath!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Sleep Apnea And Your Child’s Dental Health

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UP TO 20 PERCENT of habitually snoring children have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that results in brief but repeated interruptions to normal breathing during sleep. Not only is this a potentially life-threatening disorder, it also has a significant impact on oral health.

The Three Types Of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can occur in three different ways. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the result of a blockage in the airway, typically the tongue collapsing against the soft palate, which in turn collapses against the back of the throat, closing off the airway. This is the most common type of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea happens when the brain fails to signal the muscles of the respiratory system to keep breathing. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of the first two types.

Each time breath is interrupted, the brain causes the person with sleep apnea to wake up. It happens so quickly that they usually don’t remember it, but the interruptions severely impact the overall quality of sleep, as they can happen as often as hundreds of times in a single night.(

What Does Sleep Apnea Have To Do With Teeth?

In addition to leaving your child with all the usual symptoms of sleep deprivation, such as exhaustion, difficulty concentrating at school, irritability, and hyperactivity, sleep apnea has a number of effects on oral health. There is a significant association between OSA and moderate to severe periodontitis (gum disease), but the most common dental health complications are temporomandibular joint disorders(TMJ or TMD).

Studies have shown that the jaw reflexively clenches to prevent the airway from becoming blocked when the throat relaxes during a sleep apnea episode. TMD leads to other problems like worn, cracked, or broken teeth, pain when chewing, chronic headaches, and neck and shoulder pain.

How The Dentist Can Help

The dental effects of sleep apnea are so common that the dentist might be the first one to spot the signs and diagnose the disorder. This is just one way your child’s regular dental appointments will benefit their overall health. If they are diagnosed with sleep apnea, common treatment options include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines and nighttime dental devices that push the tongue or the lower jaw forward.

Healthier Sleep For Healthier Smiles

If your child has been experiencing any of the symptoms described above, there’s no reason for them to continue living with interrupted sleep and the health and cognitive problems that come with sleep apnea. Give us a call or drop by our practice today to schedule an appointment so that we can see if sleep apnea is the cause and get your child on the path to more restful sleep and better oral health.

Wishing all our patients a good night’s sleep!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image by Flickr user originallittlehellraiser used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Train Your Child To Be A Flossing Ninja

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BEING A GOOD NINJA isn’t just about mastering the nunchaku and learning to move about completely undetected; it’s also about keeping one’s teeth and gums healthy and strong. One of our greatest weapons against gum disease and tooth decay is a good flossing habit.

The Importance Of Flossing To The Path Of The Ninja

You might wonder why it’s so important for a young ninja-in-training to floss. If baby teeth are only temporary, then why does it matter to keep them healthy, and does flossing really make a difference? While it is true that baby teeth will soon be replaced by adult teeth, it is still critical to keep them healthy and strong so that the adult teeth can come in where they should. A toothbrush isn’t enough to keep them clean, which is where flossing comes in.

When To Begin Flossing Training

It takes time for all shinobi to develop good dexterity and hand-eye coordination, so we recommend that you start flossing for them around age two and a half. If you make it into a daily habit, they will be ready to learn how to floss on their own by about age five. The most important thing is consistency. They will be much more likely to maintain a good flossing habit on their own if they are already used to it being a part of their day.

The Way Of The Flossing Master

Here are a few tips to help parents pass on the noble technique of flossing to children who are ready to learn, because what is second-nature to an adult may not be so easy for a child:

  • Explain the importance of flossing. If they understand why it matters, they will be more motivated to do it.
  • Emphasize that flossing is a Big Kid skill. Like learning to tie their shoes and ride a bike without training wheels, they’ll be eager to prove how grown up they are by flossing their own teeth.
  • Use flossers or floss picks if traditional floss is too tricky.
  • If you’re sticking with traditional floss, show them how to pull out the right amount (a foot and a half) and loosely wrap it around their middle fingers, leaving just an inch or two to slide between the teeth.
  • Show them how to effectively clean by using a back-and-forth motionwithout snapping their gums. Curve the floss around each tooth in a C-shape to make it more gentle.
  • Teach them how to move down the strand so they use clean floss on each tooth. We want to get rid of the plaque, not move it around!

Seek Wisdom From Your Dentist

Teaching your child good dental hygiene habits is as much about giving them the right perspective as it is about the proper technique. Ideally, they’ll see tasks like brushing and flossing as quick and easy ways to keep their teeth feeling great, rather than unpleasant chores. If you need help or advice on how to convince your young ninja that dental hygiene matters, we are always happy to provide a demonstration at our practice!

Keep up the great work training a new generation of flossing ninjas!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

When Your Child Has A Toothache…

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A TOOTHACHE IS never fun to deal with for anyone, and they can happen for a variety of reasons. Do you know what to do if your child has one, especially if it happens over the holidays or at the beginning of the weekend and you can’t get quick access to professional dental care?

Toothache Causes

The most common reason a tooth might initially feel painful is tooth decay, but it isn’t the only reason. Tooth pain can also be the result of pulp inflammation, an dental abscess, a cracked tooth, or even gum disease. Impacted teeth (teeth that are blocked from coming in where they should by bone, gum tissue, or other teeth) can also be painful.

Tooth sensitivity can lead to discomfort as well, and sometimes the cause of a toothache is merely a sinus infection or congestion. For children, it could be as simple as teething discomfort or a sore loose tooth, in which case it’s usually just a normal part of development.

Reducing Dental Pain Before The Appointment

The best thing to do when your child has a toothache is to come see us right away. If for some reason that isn’t possible, there are a few things you can do to manage your child’s dental pain in the meantime.

  • Have them rinse and spit with warm saltwater to reduce inflammation
  • Apply a cold compress to their cheek near the sore area
  • Give them anti-inflammatory medication
  • Use an over-the-counter topical medication meant for children


Preventing Future Toothaches

If your child has had or currently has a toothache, you probably want it to be their last. Obviously some of the causes can’t be prevented, such as sinus infections, teething, sore loose teeth, and a tooth being damaged in an accident, but there’s a lot you can do to protect their teeth from the aches and pains that come from poor dental health.

Teaching them to brush twice a day for two minutes with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste, encouraging them to floss daily, and scheduling regular dental appointments for them will keep their teeth healthy. You can also help their teeth out by cutting down on sugary foods and drinks they consume.

Bring That Tooth Pain To Us As Soon As You Can

Pain is the body’s alert system to let us know when there’s a problem, and it’s important not to ignore it. No matter what you think might be causing your child’s toothache, schedule an appointment with us to get it taken care of before the underlying problem has a chance to get worse. We’ll be able to take a look and get their tooth the treatment it needs!

Let’s fight that toothache together!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

What To Do When You Have A Toothache

Park Ridge IL Dentist

A TOOTHACHE IS never fun to deal with, and they can happen for a variety of reasons. Do you know what to do when one strikes, especially if it happens over the holidays or at the beginning of the weekend and you can’t get quick access to professional dental care?

Toothache Causes

The most common reason a tooth might initially feel painful is tooth decay, but it isn’t the only reason. Tooth pain can also be the result of pulp inflammation, an dental abscess, a cracked tooth, or even gum disease. Impacted teeth (teeth that are blocked from coming in where they should by bone, gum tissue, or other teeth) can also be painful. Tooth sensitivity can lead to discomfort as well, and sometimes the cause is merely a sinus infection or congestion.

Reducing Dental Pain Before Your Appointment

The best thing to do when you have a toothache is to come see us right away. If for some reason that isn’t possible, there are a few things you can do to manage your dental pain in the meantime.

  • Rinse and spit with warm saltwater to reduce inflammation
  • Apply a cold compress to the cheek near the sore area
  • Take anti-inflammatory medication
  • Use an over-the-counter topical medication

Preventing Future Toothaches

If you’ve had or currently have a toothache, you probably want it to be your last. Obviously some of the causes can’t be prevented, such as sinus infections and a tooth being damaged in an accident, but there’s a lot you can do to protect your teeth from the aches and pains that come from poor dental health.

Brushing twice a day for two minutes with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and scheduling regular dental appointments will keep your teeth healthy. You can also help your teeth out by cutting down on sugary foods and drinks.

Bring That Tooth Pain To Us As Soon As You Can

Pain is the body’s alert system to let us know when there’s a problem, and it’s important not to ignore it. No matter what you think might be causing your toothache, schedule an appointment with us to get it taken care of before the underlying problem has a chance to get worse. We’ll be able to take a look and get your tooth the treatment it needs!

Let’s fight that toothache together!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Kids, Teens, And Gum Disease

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YOU MIGHT THINK that gum disease is a dental health problem that only adults have to deal with. Unfortunately, teenagers and children are also at risk of developing gingivitis and more severe forms of periodontal disease.

Causes Of Gum Disease

The causes of gum disease are different for teenagers than for younger children. The flood of hormones from puberty can increase blood flow to the gums, making them more sensitive. This is more of a problem for girls than for boys, but more than half of teens have some form of gum disease.

For younger children, the main cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene. When plaque is allowed to build up on the teeth and harden into tartar, the gums become vulnerable to irritation and inflammation.

Signs Parents Can Watch For

Children don’t always recognize when something is wrong, so they may not come to you with a detailed description of their gum disease symptoms. However, because gum disease worsens over time, we shouldn’t wait for them to notice a problem anyway. Here are a few signs of gum disease that you can be on the watch for:

  • constant bad breath that does not improve with brushing and flossing
  • swollen and unusually red gums
  • bleeding gums during brushing or flossing
  • gum recession

Gum Disease Prevention And Treatment

If your child doesn’t have gum disease, wonderful! However, there are still important steps you can take to keep their gums healthy. The most essential is to encourage good dental hygiene habits. Set an example by brushing twice a day and flossing daily, and make sure they’re following that example. Regular dental checkups are also critical for detecting problems early and giving your child professional cleanings to keep their dental health on track.

It is always better to prevent a dental health problem before it can develop, but if your child does have gum disease, you can still fight back by persevering with those good oral hygiene habits and regular dental checkups.

Together, We Can Keep Those Gums Healthy!

Childhood is an important time for oral health, because it’s when we learn the habits that will determine how healthy our teeth and gums will be for the rest of our lives. When parents and dentists work together to give kids a headstart on their oral health, they won’t just help them defeat gum disease; they’ll give them all the tools they need to enjoy lifelong healthy smiles!

We look forward to seeing your child again soon!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Top Causes Of Childhood Tooth Decay

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42 PERCENT OF CHILDREN will get at least one cavity between ages 2 and 11, and tooth decay is the most common childhood disease. Why is it so common, and what can we as parents do to keep our children’s teeth healthy? Well, before we can fight childhood tooth decay, we have to understand what causes it.

Sippy Cups And Baby Bottle Rot

One of the biggest dangers to a child’s oral health comes from sugary drinks and the way children consume them. Whether the drink is soda, fruit juice, or even milk, the sugars in the drink will feed your child’s oral bacteria and increase the risk of decay. Sugars in drinks become particularly dangerous if a child has access to a bottle or sippy cup that they can keep drinking from over a long period of time, because their teeth are constantly exposed to more sugar.

This is such a common problem that it has actually earned its own name: baby bottle tooth decay, or bottle rot. Now, we aren’t suggesting a total ban on all sugary drinks, but the less time your child’s teeth are exposed to them, the better. Sugary drinks are much safer for teeth when consumed quickly at mealtimes. If a sippy cup or bottle is the only thing that helps your child fall asleep at naptime and bedtime, then the healthiest option for their teeth would be to fill it with water.

Sugary Snacks And Candy

Sugar doesn’t have to be in liquid form to cause trouble for the teeth, which brings us to our next oral health danger for children: snacks. Everything from candy to healthier options like cheese and crackers contains sugar. Every time we eat, our saliva needs at least half an hour to wash away all the remnants of the food, but when children have access to snacks all the time, their mouths never have a chance to recover.

So just like with sugary drinks, it’s best to consume sugary foods during mealtimes instead of nibbling on them throughout the day. Cutting back on treats with the most sugar, like candy, is also a good choice for dental health.

What Parents Can Do

Apart from cutting down on juice-filled sippy cups and sugary snacks, there is a lot that parents can do to ensure that their children remain cavity-free. The most important thing is teach them how to effectively brush their teeth and help them get to a point where it becomes a routine rather than a chore. Giving them a toothbrush and toothpaste they like will make this easier. And don’t forget to teach them about flossing! Also avoid doing things that will spread bacteria, such as sharing spoons or cleaning a dropped pacifier with your own mouth.

Here’s a fun demonstration you can do with your kids to show how soda affects teeth:

The Role Of Your Child’s Dentist

Even if you’re already doing everything in this post with your children, sometimes a cavity will still appear. Don’t get discouraged! Everyone’s teeth are different, which is why the final crucial thing you can do as a parent to help your child keep their teeth healthy is bringing them in to see us for cleanings and dental exams!

Keep up the good work raising kids with great oral health!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

op image by Flickr user Upsilon Andromedae used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Why Are Dental Sealants Important?

DO YOU SPEND A LOT of time worrying about how to keep your child’s teeth cavity-free? Teaching them to brush and floss are critical steps towards ensuring that they can take good care of their teeth for life. Once those permanent teeth come in, there’s something we can do at the dental practice that will give them even more protection against tooth decay, and that something is applying dental sealants.

Bacteria Versus Your Child’s Teeth

The reason it’s so critical to teach our children good oral health habits at an early age is that 40 percent of children develop cavities by the time they start school because of poor oral hygiene and consuming sugary snacks and drinks. Every human mouth contains numerous species of bacteria that excrete acid onto our teeth when consume sugar, and this acid wears away at our enamel and leads to tooth decay.

Brushing, flossing, and limiting our sugar intake are all important ways we can keep that bacteria in check. But even when we do all of these things, there are crevices in our teeth where bacteria can hide, and these can be difficult to reach with a toothbrush. That’s where sealants come in!

family dentist park ridgeWhat Are Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants are a protective clear plastic layer brushed onto the chewing surfaces of teeth to “seal them off” from plaque and bacteria that would cause cavities to form. Dentists started using sealants in the 1960s, and they’ve been popular ever since.

Typically, sealants are applied to the molars because these teeth are the ones that do the most chewing and have those deep crevices where bacteria can hide. The sealant will fill in and cover any crevices on the tooth to act as a shield from the bacteria. What makes them even better is that the sealant application process is quick and painless!

When Should Your Child Get Sealants?

The best time to bring your child in for dental sealants is around when their adult molars erupt, which is usually at age six. The sooner they sealants are in place, the less opportunity the oral bacteria will have to build up in the crevices of the molars. However, sealants are still beneficial when applied later on. Older children and even adults can get them and have their teeth protected too!

Schedule Your Child’s Next Appointment Today!

Whether your child needs sealants or just a normal twice-yearly dental cleaning, don’t hesitate to schedule their next appointment! And if you have any concerns with the way your child is brushing or with how the food they eat might be affecting their teeth, be sure to let us know so that we can help.

Our top priority is protecting your child’s smile!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Thumb-Sucking, Pacifiers, And Oral Health

family dentist park ridgeTHE WORLD IS A big, new, confusing place for a young child, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that they like having something familiar to help them cope. Sometimes this means a stuffed animal or favorite blanket they carry everywhere, but for many children, it’s a pacifier or a thumb.

As parents, it’s important to be able to strike the right balance for our children when it comes to thumb-sucking or pacifier habits. Forcing them to stop too early can bring them unnecessary stress, but allowing them to continue sucking that thumb too long can cause significant problems for their oral health.

When Thumb-Sucking And Pacifiers Are Beneficial

Sucking on things is a reflex babies develop before birth, and it can be very comforting for them. Sucking their thumb or a pacifier will help them feel safe and happy in their earliest years of life. Benefits to thumb-sucking or pacifier use at this stage include helping them sleep (which also helps you sleep), keeping them calm when separated from you, and reducing the risk of SIDS.

When Is It Time To Stop?

Many parents worry that their toddler’s thumb-sucking or pacifier use will cause their adult teeth to grow in crooked, but there’s no need to worry at this age. Most children stop sucking their thumbs on their own by age four, and when they begin school, the desire to appear as grown-up as their peers will encourage them to stop.

If they don’t stop on their own around kindergarten age, this is when it’s important to intervene. Once the permanent teeth start coming in, vigorous thumb-sucking can lead to changes in the shape of the palate and an open bite between the upper and lower teeth, which will mean expensive orthodontic treatment down the line.

Tips For Discouraging Thumb-Sucking

Bite and dental alignment problems are less common with pacifiers because parents can simply take the pacifier away if the child doesn’t stop using it on their own by age three, but if your child is getting close to age six and still sucking their thumb, here are a few safe strategies you could use:

  • Praise their successes rather than scolding them for continuing to suck their thumb.
  • Create a rewards chart so they can see the progress they’re making and what they’re working for.
  • Keep their hands and minds occupied with activities like arts and crafts. Sometimes they thumb-suck because they’re bored!
  • Cover their hands with socks at night to keep them from thumb-sucking in their sleep. (You may need to tape these in place so they can’t remove them.)

Don’t forget that these strategies are for kindergarten-age and older children, not toddlers! Toddlers are too young to understand why you want them to stop sucking their thumb, so attempts at discouragement will only upset them.

Come To Us With Your Concerns

If you’re worried about your child’s pacifier use or thumb-sucking habit, don’t hesitate to talk to us! We can answer your questions and help you develop an effective strategy to ensure your child’s healthy dental development.

We love having you and your child as part of our practice family!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.