Our Blog

How Does Your Dentist Fill a Cavity?

August 24th, 2022

The grownups in your life want you to have healthy teeth. That’s why they remind you to brush and floss, make you tooth-friendly meals, and take you to see the dentist regularly, at an office designed just for you. You’ve been visiting Dr. John Rottschalk Dental Group for a while now, so you know all about checkups and cleanings.

At every dental exam, Drs. Rottschalk, Acker, and Froidcoeur will look at your teeth very carefully, checking not just the outside of your teeth, but around and behind your teeth as well. (That’s what those little mirrors are for.) You might have X-ray pictures taken to show the inside of your teeth. In all these ways, we make sure your teeth are healthy, inside and out.

You expect all these things at a dental checkup because you’re used to them. When you hear that you have a cavity, you might be worried. After all, if you’ve never had a cavity before, you don’t know what to expect. And sometimes not knowing is a little scary. So let’s talk about what a cavity is, and how your dentist can help make your tooth healthy again if you need a filling.

  • What’s a Cavity?

Teeth are covered with a very hard white coating called enamel. Enamel is the strongest part of our bodies, even stronger than our bones. But when we eat too many sugary foods, or don’t brush the way we should or as much as we should, or even just because of the way some people’s bodies work, our enamel can be hurt by cavities.

A cavity is a hole in your tooth enamel. These holes are made by the bacteria in plaque, which turn sugars into acids. This is why it’s important to brush carefully to get rid of plaque, and to watch how much sugar we eat. It’s not just people who like sugar—bacteria do, too!

The acids bacteria create attack our enamel and make it weaker. If the enamel gets too weak, a hole will start to form. This is what we call a cavity.

  • How Do You Know You Have a Cavity?

Maybe you came to our Fairview Heights, IL office because you have a toothache, or it hurts when you eat something hot or cold. Those are often clues that you have a cavity.

But small, early cavities don’t always bother us. That’s why regular checkups are so important, and why Drs. Rottschalk, Acker, and Froidcoeur will look carefully at each tooth to make sure that it’s healthy.

  • Getting Ready

Drs. Rottschalk, Acker, and Froidcoeur might give you some medicine to make sure you don’t feel uncomfortable while your tooth is being repaired. The area around your tooth will get numb, which means you won’t feel anything while we work.

  • Removing Decay

There are different ways to remove decay from your tooth. Some can be noisy, and some are quiet.  If noise bothers you, let your dentist know—there are ways to cover up annoying sounds.

After the decay has been removed, it’s time to clean your tooth. This makes sure that no germs or bacteria are still around when your tooth is filled.

But after all the decay is gone, you’ll still have a little hole in your tooth. That’s why the next step is . . .

  • Filling Your Tooth

Since a hole in your tooth enamel makes it weaker, this hole needs to be filled up to make your tooth strong again—that’s why it’s called a “filling.”

There are different kinds of fillings, and your dentist will tell you which one is best for your tooth. A molar, one of the big teeth in the back of your mouth, needs a strong filling for all the work it does chewing food. Your dentist might use a metal filling to help your molar do its job. If you have a cavity in one of your front teeth, you might get a tooth-colored filling. This filling is made to match the color of your enamel, so no one can see the filling when you smile.

  • After Your Filling

All done! In just a little while, the area around your tooth won’t be numb anymore, and we will let you know when you can eat and drink regular foods again.

If you do your best to keep your teeth healthy, you can look forward to cavity-free checkups in the future. But when you need a filling, or if you have a tooth which needs another kind of treatment, we are here to help you make sure your happy smile is a healthy smile!

Treating Gum Disease with Antibiotics

August 17th, 2022

Why does gum disease develop? Our mouths are home to bacteria, which form a film called plaque. Plaque sticks to the surfaces of our teeth, at the gumline, and can even grow below the gumline. And this bacterial growth leads to inflammation and gum disease.

When the disease progresses, the gums gradually pull away from the teeth leaving pockets which can be home to infection. Toxins can attack the bone structures and connective tissue, which support our teeth. Left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to serious infection and even tooth loss.

Because we are dealing with bacteria, it makes sense that antibiotics are one way to combat gum disease. Depending on the condition of your gums, we might suggest one of the following treatments:

  • Mouthwashes—there are mouthwashes available with a prescription that are stronger than over-the-counter antibiotic formulas, and can be used after brushing and flossing.
  • Topical Ointments—These ointments or gels are applied directly to the gums, most often used for mild forms of the disease.
  • Time-release Treatments—If there is severe inflammation in a pocket, we might place a biodegradable powder, chip, or gel containing antibiotics directly in the affected area. These minute methods release antibiotics over a period of time as they dissolve.
  • Pills and Capsules—For more serious periodontal disease, you could be prescribed an oral antibiotic. Take in pill or capsule form as recommended, and always finish the entire prescription.

Talk to Drs. Rottschalk, Acker, and Froidcoeur at our Fairview Heights, IL office before beginning a course of antibiotics. It’s important to know if you have any allergies to medications, what to look for if you might have an allergy you didn’t know about, if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, or if you have any health concerns that would prohibit antibiotic use. Talk to us about possible side effects and how to use the medication most successfully. With proper treatment, we can treat gum disease as quickly and effectively as possible, and provide advice on maintaining a periodontal routine that will keep your gums and teeth healthy for years to come.

Can children be at risk for periodontal disease?

August 10th, 2022

You want to check all the boxes when you consider your child’s dental health. You make sure your child brushes twice daily to avoid cavities. You’ve made a plan for an orthodontic checkup just in case braces are needed. You insist on a mouthguard for dental protection during sports. One thing you might not have considered? Protecting your child from gum disease.

We often think about gum disease, or periodontitis, as an adult problem. In fact, children and teens can suffer from gingivitis and other gum disease as well. There are several possible reasons your child might develop gum disease:

  • Poor dental hygiene

Two minutes of brushing twice a day is the recommended amount of time to remove the bacteria and plaque that cause gingivitis (early gum disease). Flossing is also essential for removing bacteria and plaque from hard-to-reach areas around the teeth.

  • Puberty

The hormones that cause puberty can also lead to gums that become irritated more easily when exposed to plaque. This is a time to be especially proactive with dental health.

  • Medical conditions

Medical conditions such as diabetes can bring an increased risk of gum disease. Be sure to give us a complete picture of your child’s health, and we will let you know if there are potential complications for your child’s gums and teeth and how we can respond to and prevent them.

  • Periodontal diseases

More serious periodontal diseases, while relatively uncommon, can affect children and teens as well as adults. Aggressive periodontitis, for example, results in connective and bone tissue loss around the affected teeth, leading to loose teeth and even tooth loss. Let Drs. Rottschalk, Acker, and Froidcoeur know if you have a family history of gum disease, as that might be a factor in your child’s dental health, and tell us if you have noticed any symptoms of gum disease.

How can we help our children prevent gum disease? Here are some symptoms you should never ignore:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Redness or puffiness in the gums
  • Gums that are pulling away, or receding, from the teeth
  • Bad breath even after brushing

The best treatment for childhood gum disease is prevention. Careful brushing and flossing and regular visits to our Fairview Heights, IL office for a professional cleaning will stop gingivitis from developing and from becoming a more serious form of gum disease. We will take care to look for any signs of gum problems, and have suggestions for you if your child is at greater risk for periodontitis. Together, we can encourage gentle and proactive gum care, and check off one more goal accomplished on your child’s path to lifelong dental health!

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 Drs. Rottschalk, Acker, and Froidcoeur 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 Fairview Heights, IL 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!