Dry Socket

Preventing & Treating Dry Sockets

A dry socket is a painful tooth condition that can develop following the removal of a tooth. If one develops after you’ve had a tooth removed, it can lead to exposure of your bone and nerves and cause pain. Below, we take a closer look at why they develop and how they are best prevented and treated.

The Formation Of A Dry Socket

A dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, is a complication that occurs after a permanent tooth has been removed. Once the tooth is removed, a blood clot will form at the site to help protect the underlying bone and nerves. However, if this blood clot gets dislodged, these sensitive tissues can become exposed to the elements. This can cause food debris and other material to collect in the socket and cause significant pain in the area or pain that radiates. A dislodged blood clot typically occurs 24-72 hours after the removal of a tooth, so the first three days following tooth removal is a very crucial time in helping to prevent the formation of a dry socket.

Dry sockets are one of the more common complications that occur following the removal of a person’s wisdom teeth. Factors that can put you at an increased risk for the formation of a dry socket after tooth removal include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Failing to following care guidelines put forth by the dental team
  • Tooth infections
  • Having dry sockets in the past
  • Taking oral contraceptives

Pain isn’t the only problem caused by the formation of a dry socket. Exposure of the soft tissues in the mouth can put you at an increased risk of infection, which can affect your whole-body health. Give up tobacco products and consult with your dentist about the best ways to prevent dry socket formation if you need to have a tooth extracted. You’ll also want to stick to soft foods and avoid using a straw in the first few days after a tooth extraction, as harder foods and the sucking action of the straw can accidentally dislodge the clot.

Dry Socket Treatment

Even when you take preventative steps, dry sockets can still develop, and when this happens, you need to seek treatment. Treatment often includes a dental visit in which the dentist will clean the socket and insert a medical dressing to prevent food particles and other substances from entering the opening. The dressing will need to be changed regularly in order to prevent potential infection and allow healing, and you’ll also be given over-the-counter pain medications to help with discomfort. After a couple days, the area should clot over and healing will continue without the soft tissues being exposed.

So if you are dealing with new pain in the mouth following a tooth removal and you believe the blood clot may have moved, be sure to reach out to your dentist as soon as possible. Dr. Brooks and his team work hard to help prevent dry sockets, but they can also help care for you mouth if you have to deal with the condition. For more information or to set up an appointment, reach out to Smiles For Life Dental in Bloomington today.

Smiling Woman With Beautiful Smile Using Invisible Teeth Trainer

A Primer on Invisalign Braces

When it comes to straightening your teeth with braces – you have a few options to choose from. You can go with traditional metal braces, or invisible braces (such as those offered by Invisalign). Learn how Invisalign braces work and why they are often a preferred alternative to traditional.

How Invisalign Works

Instead of having a bunch of metal put into your mouth that needs to get tightened over the course of several years, invisible braces consist of a series of plastic aligners that gradually realign your teeth over time.

How Invisalign works:

Benefits of Invisalign

There are many reasons to choose Invisalign over traditional metal braces.

Benefits of Invisalign:

  • More comfortable than metal braces
  • Less unsightly than metal braces
  • Just as effective as metal braces

An explanation of the benefits of Invisalign:

If you’re thinking about braces, we recommend speaking with a dental professional. We can walk you through the Invisalign process and get you started. For more information, contact Smiles for Life Dental today to set up an appointment with Dr. Brooks.

When to Get Braces

Are Braces Worth The Cost?

Nobody wants to overpay for something, especially if it’s something they aren’t going to use or are unsure if they even need. If you’ve been told that your child needs braces (or you need braces yourself), you’re probably wondering if they are fine without the mouth gear and how much braces cost in the first place. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at the price of braces, what they do, and whether or not they are worth the investment for your child’s teeth.

What Do Braces Do?

If you’re like most people, you probably assume that braces only work to shift your teeth back into a correct position to give your child a more regular smile. While braces do work to help improve the cosmetic appearance of your smile, they do much more than that. Braces help to fix our teeth alignment, which can help with:

  • Trouble chewing, that can affect nutrition and eating habits.
  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Teeth spacing, helping to prevent against tooth decay and cavity formation.
  • Bite problems.
  • Confidence issues tied to tooth alignment.

As you can see, braces can have a significant impact on your mouth health and your confidence, which make them worth every penny for you and your child. But that leads right into our next question, which is how much do braces cost?

The Cost of Braces

For starters, there’s no standard price for braces, and the price will vary based on a number of different factors. For example, the type of braces you choose will affect the cost of your braces. In most cases, standard metal braces are the least expensive, and prices go up if you opt for clear braces or removable Invisalign options.

Price is also impacted by how long the dental professional believes your child will need to wear braces in order to achieve the desired results. Some patients will need them for only a few months, while other children will have braces for more than a year, and the maintenance that goes into caring for the braces will impact the total cost.

Another factor to consider is the severity of your alignment. If you need significant alignment work, some bracing options may not be available. Others will minor alignment problems may be able to transition to a retainer sooner, which again can help to limit the costs.

As you can see, the cost of braces will vary from patient to patient, but at Smiles For Life Dental in Bloomington, we do everything in our power to keep costs down and work with your insurance to help them cover their portion of the bill. Braces can cost a couple thousand dollars, but view them as an investment in you or your child’s oral and overall health. To learn more about anything related to braces, be it the cost for your individual case, your bracing options or payment plans, be sure to reach out to our clinic and we can provide you with more information. Contact Dr. Brooks’ clinic today at (952) 888-3200.

Cavity Treatment

I Think I Have A Cavity – Now What?

Do you have a sensitive spot in one of your teeth? If so, it may be a sign that you’re dealing with a cavity. Whether you suspect that this is your first cavity, or it’s just the most recent one, we’re here to help. But what should you do if you suspect that you have a cavity? Below, we explain what you should do if you believe you have a cavity in one of your teeth.

I Have A Cavity

If you think you have a cavity, you’re not alone. Each year dentists diagnose and treat more than 3 million cavities in the United States alone, and cavity formation is the number one reason why kids miss time from school. So while cavities are pretty common in today’s society, it doesn’t mean that you should just ignore them.

Unless you have a regular dental cleaning scheduled within the next week, it’s a good idea to call and schedule an appointment and let them know that you believe you’re dealing with a cavity. That’s because a cavity is a hole in your tooth, and the longer your inner tooth is exposed to food and bacteria, the more damage that can be done. Left untreated, an infection can set in and that can require a root canal to fix. Even if it doesn’t progress to that level, the longer the cavity goes untreated, the bigger it can become. Call your dentist as soon as you notice a funny feeling in one of your teeth.

What Happens Next?

If you’ve never had a cavity before, you probably don’t know a lot about the procedure the dentist performs to fix the issue. It’s a very straightforward procedure that can be performed in one short visit.

During your visit, your dentist will administer a local anesthetic to numb the tooth and the nearby area so that you won’t feel any pain during the procedure. The tooth will then be isolated and kept dry during the procedure to reduce the likelihood of infection. Any decayed part of the tooth will then be removed using specific dental tools. Once the decayed area is gone, the dentist will clean the tooth so it is prepped for the filling.

Once prepped, the dentist will apply the filling material and cure the filling to your tooth using a light or another device so that it seals to your tooth. It will seal almost instantly, and then the dentist will check your bite to make sure the new filling isn’t affecting your normal tooth alignment and bite. Finally, the dentist will polish the filling so that it is as smooth as your other teeth.

That’s it! The procedure doesn’t take very long, and you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that your teeth are protected against the elements. So if you’re dealing with sensitivity or pain in one tooth, don’t ignore it and hope it goes away on its own, because it probably won’t and the damage will likely get worse. If you want to talk to Dr. Brooks about your filling options, reach out to his office today for more information.

Football Mouthguard

Picking The Right Mouthguard For Any Sport

As the name implies, mouthguards are designed to guard your mouth against impact and injury during athletic activity. In fact, mouthguards prevent more than 100,000 severe tooth injuries each and every year, so you should definitely consider wearing one if you’re participating in athletic events. But what mouthguard is best for your situation, and what else do you need to know about the device? We answer those questions, and more in today’s blog.

Choosing A Mouthguard

When it comes to picking a mouthguard, there are typically three different options available. Here’s a closer look at each option and why it might or might not be a good fit for your situation:

  • Stock – Stock mouthguards are the cheapest mouthguards available, and although they do offer a layer of protection, they can be uncomfortable because they are often pre-formed and may not fit the best. They are alright if you need a mouthguard at the last minute, or if your growing child needs something for pee-wee football, but otherwise, they aren’t usually the preferred option because they aren’t always the most comfortable.
  • Boil and Bite – A boil and bite mouthguard are a little more expensive, but you can fit them to your mouth. You boil the mouthguard in hot water, and when it is warm, you bite into the piece, so it forms to your mouth. These are the most common options because they aren’t too expensive and provide a nice fit. These are great for most athletes and weekend warriors.
  • Custom Made – Finally, a third option is the custom made mouthguard, a mouthpiece designed by a dental professional. We can custom build a mouthguard for you, and while it is the most expensive of the three options, it can provide a perfect fit to your teeth. This is an excellent option for athletes in contact sports and those with dental hardware (like braces) that should be protected with an individualized mouthguard.

Have Mouthgear? Protect It

The final piece of information above is key. If you have braces or other fixed bridgework, you must protect your teeth. Breaking part or losing your hardware because of a blow to the face can thousands of dollars, so be proactive and protect your mouth by getting a custom-fit mouthguard.

Even if you don’t have braces or hardware, a mouthguard can help prevent severe injuries to your teeth. Mouthguards can greatly reduce the amount of force felt by your teeth if you make contact to the face, which can help protect your teeth as well as other sensitive areas like your gums, lips, and tongue.

If you have questions about your mouthguard, or you want a dentist’s opinion on your mouthguard, please reach out to us. Also, feel free to bring your mouthguard with you to your next dental appointment. We can ensure it fits properly, and we can talk to you about different options if your current model is causing discomfort. For more information, contact Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Dentist with medical history asking to a patient

The Many Ways Your Dentist Works To Prevent Infections

Caring for your dental health is extremely important, and while dentists primarily work to clean and protect your teeth, there’s also the possibility that they can make a situation worse if they don’t have adequate infection prevention strategies. At Smiles For Life Dental in Bloomington, we have strict infection prevention guidelines for all hygienists and dentists so we can ensure your teeth stay healthy. Below, we talk a little bit about the many ways in which we work to help prevent the spread of infections through hygenic dental practices.

Protecting Our Patients

The mouth is full of bacteria, which is why it is so important that dental professionals work hard to prevent the spread of germs. Some of the ways we work hard to do that include:

  • Regular Hand Washing – Dental professionals are trained to wash their hands with warm soapy water between each patient. You can ask us to wash our hands again, but know that we wash them between each and every patient.
  • Protective Gear – Our dental staff is also equipped with the protective gear to keep both patient and provider safe from infection. You’ll see us wearing gloves, masks, gowns and sometimes eyewear to help prevent the spread of germs. New gloves and masks are put on between each and every patient.
  • Instrument Disinfection – Instrumentation disinfection is crucial for every dental practice. Either we use tools that are one-and-done, meaning that they are thrown away after they are used on a patient, or they are sterilized between patients. We can show you the sterilization process next time you’re in the clinic if you’re interested, but you can also trust that every reusable item goes through a rigorous sterilization process between each patient.
  • Surface Cleaning – Between each patient, we also work to make sure each exam room is cleaned. The dental chair, the dental light, drawers and surfaces are wiped down with disinfectants between patients to ensure each patient has access to clean rooms. We take pride in ensuring every exam room is clean for each and every patient.

As you can see, we’re very thorough when it comes to making sure that we cut down on the spread of germs and infections. Our job is to provide you with the best possible service, and that’s only possible if we treat infection control as a high priority item. To see our team in action, or to set up your next appointment, reach out to Dr. Brooks and the team at Smiles For Life Dental in Bloomington today.

Nail biting

Does Biting Your Nails Damage Your Teeth?

Biting your fingernails when you get anxious or worried is a nervous habit for millions of Americans, and while it may seem like your nails are the one taking the brunt of the damage, regularly chomping on your fingernails can also harm your teeth. In today’s blog, we explain why biting your fingernails can be bad for your teeth, and what you should do to help kick the habit.

How Biting Your Nails Damages Your Teeth

There are a couple of ways in which biting your fingernails can be harmful to your teeth. The first is the most obvious, as the act in itself can lead to microtrauma on your teeth. Over time this can gradually wear down your teeth and make them more predisposed to injury. There is also the potential of immediate damage, as biting your nails can actually lead to cracked or broken teeth. Cracked teeth are more common as you get older, especially if you’ve been a nail biter for decades, but that doesn’t mean younger patients are immune from severe teeth damage from chomping on their fingernails.

Another way in which nail biting can affect your teeth health is through what’s known as acquired bruxism. Bruxism is a condition where people unknowingly grind their teeth, and this oftentimes occurs while the patient is asleep. Dentists suggest there is a real connection between people who subconsciously bite their fingernails and individuals who develop bruxism during their sleep. This nervous and subconscious activity while you’re awake can manifest into teeth grinding while you’re sleeping, which can lead to worn teeth, cracked teeth or broken hardware.

Kicking The Habit

So if you’re a nail biter, do yourself a favor and try to kick the habit for the sake of your teeth. Make the decision to consciously stop biting your nails when you know you’re doing it, or take more drastic actions if you continue to bite your nails. Some people find it easiest to apply a bitter-tasting, clear nail polish to their nails so that they get a bad taste in their mouth if they go to bite their nails.

Another way to cut down on biting your nails is to work on eliminating stress in your life. Biting your nails is often done when you’re nervous or stressed, so working to eliminate and reduce your daily stress can limit the need to bite your nails. Others have found it easier to channel this stress into physical activity, like running or swimming. Working to destress your life is another way to kick the habit of biting your nails.

A final simple solution is to find another option to occupy your mouth. Sugar-free gum is the simplest option, so make it a habit of carrying a pack around with you wherever you go. Once you get the urge to bite a nail, pop in a stick of gum and you may find that the urge is gone!

Regardless of whether you regularly chew your nails or never picked up the habit, make sure you are getting regular dental checkups from your dentist. You should be going twice a year, so if you’re due for a visit, pick up the phone and give Dr. Brooks and his team at Smiles For Life Dental in Bloomington a call today.

Morning hygiene

5 Signs Your Teeth Aren’t As Healthy As You Think

If your teeth aren’t hurting, you probably think they are pretty healthy. Hopefully, that is the case, but often there are some subtle signs your teeth aren’t as healthy as you think they are. Below, we share five signs and symptoms that suggest you should head to a dentist for your semi-annual checkup.

You Have Bad Breath

Bad breath isn’t all that uncommon once in a while, especially after eating certain foods, but if you have chronic bad breath, there may be an underlying mouth issue. Bad breath can be a symptom of gum disease or even sinus issues, so have a dentist take a closer look if you’re experiencing regular bouts of bad breath.

Food Is Always Getting Stuck

If food is always getting stuck in between the same teeth, it could just be the result of the way your teeth formed, but it could also be a tooth issue. Sometimes cavities can form between teeth, and these holes can catch food and cause it to get stuck. If food keeps getting stuck in the same spot after every meal, bring it up to your dentist on your next visit.

One Tooth Is Darker

Sometimes it’s easier to see dental problems rather than feel them. When a tooth starts to look darker than the surrounding teeth, you may be dealing with an underlying nerve problem. This often occurs to your front teeth as the result of trauma. If you fell and hit your mouth or took a rogue elbow during sports and have noticed one tooth appears darker than its neighbor, head to the dentist.

Overly Sensitive Teeth

Healthy teeth usually aren’t too sensitive to hot or cold foods, so if they hurt or ache when sipping coffee or indulging with a bowl of ice cream, you may have an undiagnosed issue. Sensitivity issues can be a sign of a cavity brewing beneath the surface. Head to the dentist instead of just trying to avoid hot or cold foods.

Sore Jaw In The Morning

Finally, if you wake up with a sore or tense jaw, it’s a sign you may be having teeth problems in your sleep. A sore jaw can be an indication you grind your teeth at night, which can put abnormal wear and tear on your teeth and even lead to cracked or broken teeth. Regular morning jaw soreness should be discussed with your dentist at your next dental visit.

To schedule your next visit, reach out to the team at Smiles For Life Dental in Bloomington.

Hands holding a toothbrush and placing toothpaste on it in morning sunrise

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Toothbrush

You use your toothbrush daily, but odds are you don’t pay too much attention to that little utensil. We think the toothbrush is a pretty cool device, and we think you will too after you learn a little more about it. Below, we share five things you probably didn’t know about your toothbrush and your oral health.

Five Fun Facts About Your Toothbrush

Here’s a look at five things we bet you didn’t know about the toothbrush.

  1. It’s over 5,000 years old – The toothbrush has been around a lot longer than you probably imagined. Although it has had different forms, ancient civilizations first began using “chew sticks” to remove food from between your teeth 5,000 years ago. Over time, toothbrushes were crafted from bone, wood, and ivory handle using stiff bristles from some animals. The first modern-styled toothbrush created in 1938.
  2. The first mass-produced toothbrush was created in prison – Back in 1770, an Englishman named William Addis was sent to jail for inciting a riot. He saw another inmate using a rag to clean his teeth and decided to create a better device. He saved an animal bone from dinner, put holes in it, inserted bristles and sealed it with glue. Following his release, he modified the prototype and started a company and manufactured his toothbrush. His company, Wisdom Toothbrushes, still operates in the United Kingdom.
  3. They Should Be Replaced Every 3-6 Months – Although toothbrushes have been around for 5,000 years, that doesn’t mean your current model should stick around too long. Get in the habit of replacing your toothbrush every 3-6 months, because the bristles can lose their effectiveness by this time. If you’re going to the dentist every six months as is recommended, replace your old toothbrush with the new one you receive after every semi-annual checkup.
  4. Manual or Electric, It Doesn’t Matter – When it comes to brushing your teeth and keeping them clean, it doesn’t matter whether you use a manual or electric option. Both types of toothbrushes can effectively and thoroughly clean your teeth, so find what feels best to you. As long as you’re brushing twice a day for two minutes each time, your teeth are going to be in great shape.
  5. Let Them Breathe, But Not Near Your Toilet – Finally, when you store your toothbrush, you want to keep it out where the bristles can breathe. Closed containers are more conducive to unwanted bacteria growth, so store it upright and where they can get some airflow. Dentists recommend you keep your toothbrush stored at least six feet away from your toilet so airborne microbes don’t reach your brush when you flush.

For more fun facts about toothbrushes, or to get your free toothbrush following a semi-annual checkup, contact our office today.