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Fluoride Treatments—They’re Not Just for Kids!

August 17th, 2022

Fluoride has been one of the great game-changers in children’s dental health. Drinking fluoridated water. Using fluoride toothpaste. Scheduling fluoride treatments. All of these child-friendly dental habits help prevent cavities and strengthen tooth enamel.

And we adults enjoy the benefits of fluoride as well. Drinking fluoridated water. Using fluoride toothpaste. If only we hadn’t outgrown fluoride treatments… or have we? Time to have an adult conversation about fluoride treatments!

  • To Start, Some Dental Chemistry

The enamel in our teeth is largely made of calcium and phosphate ions. These elements combine to form hydroxyapatite, the mineral crystals that make teeth and bones so hard and strong. But enamel isn’t indestructible. The oral bacteria in plaque create acids that cause demineralization, stripping away calcium and phosphate ions. This leaves the tooth surface weakened and vulnerable to decay.

Our bodies have a way of compensating for demineralization. Saliva is filled with calcium and phosphate ions that restore lost minerals. This balancing act goes on every day. When conditions in the mouth are too acidic, however, remineralization can’t take place as effectively. Here’s where fluoride is so beneficial.

  • Why Fluoride?

First, because fluoride helps remineralize. Fluoride works on the surface of the tooth to attract the calcium and phosphate ions in our saliva, restoring them to our teeth. Even better, it joins with these ions to create fluorapatite. Fluorapatite crystals are larger, stronger, and more resistant to acids than hydroxyapatite. This means your teeth are not only remineralized, but stronger than they were originally!

  • Why Adult Fluoride Treatments?

While fluoridated water and fluoride toothpaste might be all you need for strong enamel, there are several conditions that make fluoride treatments a good addition to your preventive care at our Mundelein office.

  • Problems with dental hygiene. Consider fluoride treatment if you have trouble brushing and flossing, if you wear braces, or if there’s any other reason that makes daily cleaning more difficult.
  • Exposed roots. Gums often recede as we age, and can pull away from the teeth even further with added factors like gum disease, harsh brushing habits, teeth grinding, or smoking. As gums recede, parts of the tooth roots are exposed. Because roots are covered with cementum instead of the much harder enamel, they are more vulnerable to decay.
  • Dry mouth. Medical conditions, medications, and aging can cause a decrease in saliva production. Because saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, bathes the teeth with minerals that strengthen enamel, and neutralizes acids, less saliva can equal more cavities.
  • Our individual biology. Some of us are born with weaker tooth enamel, and so are more at risk for cavities—even with great brushing and flossing habits.

In all of these cases, fluoride treatments can provide the extra protection you might need for stronger tooth enamel and improved dental health.

  • Treatments Are an Easy Addition to Your Dental Appointment

Regular fluoride treatments are neither complicated nor time-consuming. Fluoride can be administered as a varnish, a gel, a rinse, or a foam. It can be applied with a brush, a swab, as a mouthwash, or in a tray. After application, Dr. Collins will let you know if any follow up instructions, such as avoiding food and drink for 30 minutes after treatment, are necessary. That’s all there is to it. Protection lasts for months, and your dentist can let you know when a re-application is needed.

You’re doing the right thing by using a fluoride toothpaste and keeping up with your dental exams and cleanings. Ask Dr. Collins if a fluoride treatment is something that could strengthen your teeth and help prevent decay—it could be a game-changer for your dental health!

Whitening an Artificial Tooth

August 10th, 2022

It’s a bit of a contradiction: you are justifiably proud of your beautiful dental work, but you don’t want it to be obvious when you smile. Dental prosthetics such as veneers and crowns should blend perfectly with your natural teeth. If you have noticed your veneers are a different shade than your other teeth, or have a crown that is visibly darker than the teeth surrounding it, you are probably wondering if there is any way to lighten and whiten an artificial tooth surface. There is no one right answer, but let’s examine a few common scenarios to find the best solution for you.

If You Haven’t Started Your Dental Work and Want a Whiter Smile

If you are planning on getting a veneer or a crown, it’s best to take advantage of teeth whitening before you have the work done. Choosing a shade of bright white for your veneers and then trying to whiten your natural teeth to match it afterward is almost impossible. It’s a good idea to talk to us about whitening beforehand, and, if this is the best way to achieve the look you want, Dr. Collins can match the color of your new prosthetic to your newly whitened smile. The goal is to make your new veneer or crown a perfect match to your natural teeth.

If You Have Existing Veneers, Crowns, or Other Artificial Surfaces

Porcelain veneers cannot be whitened, but the good news here is that they don’t stain the way natural teeth do. Unlike our teeth, porcelain is non-porous, so it is very difficult for typical culprits such as coffee, tea, or red wine to have as much effect. Any surface stains that appear can usually be gently removed with a professional cleaning and polishing, where we will take care not to scratch the delicate surface of the veneer. Porcelain crowns and implants, like veneers, can be brightened with a professional surface cleaning, but their original color cannot be changed.

Composite veneers and composites used in dental bonding are more porous and therefore more likely to stain. They are also immune to whitening, but might respond somewhat to a careful professional polishing at our Mundelein office.

Finally, if the color of your existing dental prosthetics is a concern, replacement is an option we can consider together.

Whether you have existing veneers and crowns or are planning future dental work, please talk with us about achieving a seamless blend of old and new for a beautiful, natural smile. It’s a bit of a contradiction: the best work is the work no one notices!

Hot Day? Three Drinks to Leave Home When You’re Packing the Cooler

August 3rd, 2022

Whew! It’s a hot one! And whenever the temperature soars, you need to stay hydrated, especially when you’re outside or exercising. But all cold drinks aren’t equal when it comes to healthy hydration. Which beverages shouldn’t have a prime spot in your cooler when you’re wearing braces or aligners?

  • Soft Drinks

You’re probably not surprised to find soft drinks at the top of the list. After all, sugar is a) a big part of what makes soda so popular, and b) not a healthy choice for your teeth.

Sugar is a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that make up plaque. These bacteria convert sugar into acids, and these acids attack the surface of your tooth enamel. Over time, the minerals which keep enamel strong begin to erode, and weakened, eroded enamel is a lot more susceptible to cavities.

So, what about sugar-free drinks? Does this make soft drinks a better choice? Unfortunately, you can take the sugar out of many sodas, but you can’t take the acids out. Most soft drinks are very acidic, even without sugar, and will cause enamel erosion just like the acids created by bacteria will.

  • Fruit Drinks

Fruit juice provides us with vitamins, which is great, but it’s also full of natural sugars and acids. And blended fruit drinks and fruit punches often contain added sugars and added citric acids. Best to choose 100% fruit content and check the labels before you buy. (And you can always get refreshing fruit flavor by adding a slice of fruit to a glass of water.)

  • Sports Drinks

You might be surprised to see these on the list—after all, they promise healthy hydration while you’re working out. And hydration is healthy—but sugars and acids aren’t. Even when the label tells you there’s no added sugar, that same label will often reveal high amounts of citric acid. In fact, some sports drinks are more acidic than sodas.

We’ll make an exception, though, for thirsty people who participate in sports or activities that require a lot of physical exercise and produce a lot of sweat. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, those ionized minerals which help regulate many vital bodily functions. Talk to Dr. Collins about which sports drinks are best for you if you need to replenish your electrolytes when working out.

So, what’s your best hydration choice on a hot day? Water! It not only hydrates you, it cleans your teeth, it helps you produce saliva, and it often contains tooth-strengthening fluoride. But if you only have sports drinks in the cooler, or if you just want to enjoy a soft drink or a bottle of juice from time to time, no need to go thirsty. We have some ways to make sure your teeth are safer, even with this tricky trio:

  • Rinse with water after you drink a sugary or acidic drink. And remember to brush when you get home.
  • Be choosy. Check labels for added sugars and acids.
  • Don’t sip your drinks all day long. Saliva actually helps neutralize acids in the mouth, but sipping acidic beverages throughout the day doesn’t give saliva a chance to work.
  • Use a straw to avoid washing your enamel in sugars and acids.

You need to keep hydrated when it’s hot. When you’re packing your cooler, choose drinks that are healthy for your entire body, including your teeth and gums. Ask our Mundelein team for the best choices in cold drinks to make sure you’re getting the hydration you need—without the sugar and acids you don’t!

Dangers of Alcohol and Oral Health

July 27th, 2022

We often have patients who ask, “Can drinking alcohol affect my oral health?” There are, in fact, a few reasons why that martini may not be good for your pearly whites.

In addition to creating an overly acidic environment in your mouth, alcohol severely dehydrates oral tissues because of its desiccant and diuretic properties. Because alcohol saps oral tissues of their moisture so readily, saliva glands can't keep enough saliva in the mouth to prevent dry mouth. In addition, saliva contains antibacterial properties that inhibits growth of anaerobic bacteria, a destructive type of oral bacterial responsible for tooth decay, gingivitis, chronic bad breath, and periodontitis.

What are anaerobic bacteria?

When there is a lack of saliva flow in the mouth and the mouth cannot naturally cleanse itself of oral debris (food particles, dead skin cell, mucous), conditions develop that promote activity of anaerobic bacteria, or bacteria that thrive in dry, airless places. These anaerobes also flourish when an unending supply of proteins (food debris) are available to consume, creating rapidly multiplying layers of plaque that stick to teeth and demineralizes tooth enamel unless removed by brushing and professional dental cleanings.

Oral Cancer and Alcohol

Acetaldehyde is a chemical compound leftover after the liver has metabolized alcohol. Capable of causing genetic mutations, acetaldehyde is also a known carcinogen that contributes to the ill feelings of hangovers. Although most metabolism of alcohol is done in the liver, evidence shows that metabolism also occurs outside the liver and that enzymes in the mouth could encourage accumulation of acetaldehyde in oral tissues.

When combined with poor oral health, smoking, and other detrimental lifestyle factors, alcohol may be considered a primary contributory factor in the development of oral cancer.

Even if you don't drink or drink only occasionally, remaining aware of symptoms that may indicate oral cancer will improve your chances of recovering successfully when you start treatment in the early stages of oral cancer. Signs include red or while speckled patches in the mouth, unexplained bleeding, lumps/swellings, chronic ear or throat pain, and areas of numbness in the mouth or on the face.

If you have any questions about alcohol and its connection to oral health, don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Collins at your next visit to our Mundelein office.

(847) 566-5350
287 N Lake St
Mundelein, IL 60060
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