Brushing Teeth

Should I Brush My Teeth Before Going To The Dentist?

If you have a dentist appointment coming up, you’re probably a little more cognizant about caring for your teeth. After all, if the dentist is going to be looking in your mouth and cleaning your teeth, you want to give them the impression that you practice good oral hygiene. However, is it worth it to brush your teeth right before you leave for the appointment, or is it pointless because your dentist is going to give you a thorough cleaning anyways? Below, we share what we tell our patients who ask us this question.

Brushing Before The Dentist

So is it worthwhile to brush your teeth prior to the dentist appointment, or are you just making things easier for the dentist who is giving you the cleaning? When people ask us this question, we always respond that yes, we recommend that you brush, floss and use mouthwash before you leave to come to your dental appointment. You are making our job a little easier, but it also benefits you for a couple of reasons.

  1. Removes Surface Plaque – Brushing and flossing will help to remove any food particles and plaque from your teeth’s surfaces. This isn’t going to get all the tartar that has hardened and formed in hard to reach places, but it will help to remove bacteria and plaque. Aside from helping get rid of plaque that can serve to break down your teeth, this process is more helpful than spraying your car with a hose before heading to the car wash. By doing this, less plaque removal will need to be done by the dental tech, which in turn will reduce the amount of irritation and inflammation in the gums. You’ll likely find that your mouth is less sore or irritated if you give your mouth a nice clean prior to visiting the dentist.
  2. Reduced Time In The Chair – Although it won’t greatly reduce the time you spend in the dentist’s chair, if you help to remove plaque and food particles prior to the operation, it will take less time for the dentist to deep clean your teeth. If you don’t like visiting the dentist, you can try to reduce the time you spend there by giving your mouth a brush, floss and rinse before you head off to your appointment.
  3. Confidence – Finally, brushing, flossing and using mouthwash can give you a little bit of confidence heading into your appointment. Again, you’re not really going to be able to fool your dentist into thinking you always take such good care of your teeth by doing this, but it will show that you do at least somewhat prioritize your teeth health, which can help if you’re nervous about what the dentist might say (We know not everyone brushes and flosses like the American Dental Association recommends, it’s okay!). Also, caring for your teeth before the appointment can help to freshen your breath so that you’re not self-conscious that someone will be up close and personal for the next 20-30 minutes. If anything, brushing and rinsing will give you a clean feeling heading into your appointment.

So as you can see, brushing your teeth before you leave the house for your appointment has more benefits than meets the eye. We’re not going to shame you if you choose not to brush before visiting, but if you want to help reduce irritation and maybe spend less time in the chair, choose to brush, floss and rinse before you head off to your appointment! To schedule your next appointment, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Man snoring because of apnea lying in the bed

How Your Dentist Can Help With Your Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a health condition that involves the interruption of your normal breathing pattern while you’re sleeping. It is common for people who snore to have sleep apnea, but not every snorer also has sleep apnea. If you have the condition, you should have it examined by your doctor, because there are simple ways to help restore healthy breathing while you sleep. Below, we take a closer look at the condition and explain how your dentist can help with your sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea and Your Dentist

Before we explain how your dentist and doctor can help with your sleep apnea, let’s take a closer look at the condition. There are two main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea – Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common of the two forms, and it is the result of blocked airflow during sleep. It typically occurs when the soft tissue at the back of your airway collapses while you sleep. It is often brought upon by certain health conditions, including obesity.
  • Central Sleep Apnea – This is a rarer form of the condition, and it is caused by an issue with how your brain signals your body to complete the breathing process. Your airway is not blocked, but instead, the brain fails to send a signal for the muscles to breathe. This is commonly caused by more serious health conditions, like heart failure, brain tumors, brain infections or a stroke.

Sleep apnea is more common among men, especially those who are over 40, overweight, those who have large tonsils, a small jaw, a large tongue or those with a history of sleep apnea or allergies. Left untreated, sleep apnea can contribute to other health issues, including high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure and diabetes.

Treating Sleep Apnea

Treating sleep apnea may involve just a few small lifestyle changes, or it more be a more involved process, but oftentimes it can be successfully treated. For some people, simply adjusting their sleeping position so they are not on their back can be all the change they need. For others, more hands-on treatment may be needed. Some of those treatment options include:

  • CPAP Machine – A continuous positive air pressure machine helps to improve your breathing while you sleep by providing air and air pressure through the nasal passages.
  • Oral Devices – Your dentist may be able to provide you with an oral device that can shift or support your jaw in such a way that your breathing patterns improve.
  • Surgery – Some patients find relief from sleep apnea with upper airway surgery when other methods fail to rectify the issue. In many cases, the operation to address the airway can be performed on a minimally invasive basis.

If you have sleep apnea, be sure to bring it up to your doctor or dentist at your next appointment to help learn about the best way to treat your individual case. For more information, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Vaping and Dental Health

How Vaping Affects Your Dental Health

Vaping has been marketed as a “safer” alternative to traditional tobacco use, but it’s not much better for your oral health than a standard cigarette. Kicking the habit will help to keep your smile white and protect it from issues like oral cancer and gum disease. Here’s a closer look at why vaping can be so detrimental to your oral health, and how to make healthier choices in the future.

Does Vaping Hurt Your Teeth

Although vaping doesn’t produce tobacco smoke, it’s still harmful to your health. Contrary to popular belief, the device doesn’t just lead to the production of water vapor, you’re actually exhaling an aerosol that contains fine particles. These particles are harmful to your health because they contain toxic chemicals that have been linked to all sorts of medical issues, like cancer, heart disease and respiratory issues.

But vaping doesn’t just affect your overall health, it also negatively impacts your dental health. The nicotine delivered to your system through these electronic cigarettes:

  • Restricts the amount of blood that can flow through your veins, depriving your mouth and gums of essential nutrients and oxygen.
  • Inhibits saliva production, which can contribute to dry mouth and tooth decay.
  • Can make other mouth conditions worse, like teeth grinding (bruxism). Left untreated, bruxism can lead to worn enamel, cracked teeth or jaw issues.
  • Increases your risk of developing gum disease or gum line recession.
  • Can lead to halitosis or bad breath.

At the end of the day, it’s just not worth it to smoke cigarettes or their “safer” alternative e-cigarettes. You’re still delivering unhealthy amounts of nicotine to your body, and you’re damaging the health of your teeth and your whole body. Your dentist is going to notice the signs, so don’t try to lie about it at your next visit. We’re not going to condemn you for smoking, but if you’re interested in quitting, we’d be happy to connect you with some resources to make it easier.

As we talked about in another post on smoking and your dental health, it’s never too late to kick the habit and work towards a healthier smile. The effects of cigarette and electronic cigarette use begin to reverse as soon as you stop smoking, and coupled with a coordinated dental hygiene plan with a dental professional, you can begin to turn back the clock on your dental health. For more information, or for resources to help quit tobacco and nicotine, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.


My Employer Changed Dental Plans, Now What?

Nobody likes dealing with insurance companies, but employers are always looking to get a better deal on their insurance, so it’s not out of the ordinary for us to hear that someone’s employer changed their coverage options. So what should you do in the event your dental plan changes? We can help.

For starters, it’s our goal at Smile for Life Dental to help as many patients as we can, so we do as much as possible to accept as many different types of insurance plans as we can. We also try to keep our prices low, so that if you’re not offered dental protection or you choose not to carry dental insurance, paying your bill won’t be like pulling teeth.

Questions About Changing Dental Insurance

There are a couple of ways to learn more about your insurance coverage. For starters, calling the number on the back of your insurance card is probably the best bet, as they can share with you a list of providers or determine if a certain dentist is in your coverage network. Another great resource is your human resources department. Finally, we will do our best to answer any questions you might have, but we may not have all the answers. We can tell you what types of insurance we accept, but we won’t know the extent of your coverage.

If, during the open enrollment period, you find that your old dental care options are no longer available, you probably want to do some more research to determine which plan is best for you and your family. For reference, here’s a list of questions provided by the American Dental Association. Ask yourself these questions, and based on your answers, you may be able to determine which plan is best for you. Some sample questions include:

  • Does the dental plan allow you to pick your own dentist?
  • Will the plan allow you to stay with your current dental provider?
  • What type of routine and major dental care do you expect to need?
  • How are specialists covered under your new plan?
  • Is emergency treatment covered?
  • What is the max out-of-pocket limit?

Again, these questions just help to determine which necessities you’ll want to have, and which luxuries you can afford to skip. Importance will vary from family to family, but the majority of patients are most concerned about which providers are in network, and if they’ll be able to keep their dentist. If you have questions about whether a provider is in or out of network, look on the insurance company’s website to see if they list their providers, or contact them directly, as they’ll know exactly who is and who isn’t in network.

We never want to surprise you with a bill, so we’ll help as much as possible when it comes to dealing with your insurance company and figuring out your coverage. For more information, or to set up your next appointment, contact Dr. Brooks’ office today.


How To Find A New Dentist

If you’re new to the area, you’ve probably got a lot to sort out while you get acquainted to your new home. Whether you’re starting a new job or school, or simply trying to figure out where the nearest grocery store is, settling into a new area can take some time. Once you’ve got the daily and weekly necessities figured out, it’s time to start thinking about some of the other things you’ll want to be familiar with, like where’s the closest urgent care, or picking out a new dentist.

That’s where we come in. We want to be your source for dental care in the Bloomington and greater Twin Cities area. So when picking out a new dentist, don’t just head to google and search “dentists near me,” do some research and look for a few important qualities that suggest that team would be a good fit for your family. We share what you should look for in a dentist, and why we think we check all of those boxes in today’s blog.

What To Look For In A New Dentist

So what important qualities should you look for when choosing a new dentist for your family? Well for starters, be sure that they are accepting new patients (like we are). From there, take a look at their experience. As you can tell from our Meet The Team page, our team at Smiles For Life Dentistry has nearly 100 years of experience treating and protecting teeth! That type of experience cannot be understated.

Another thing you’ll want to look at is their breadth of experience. Are they providing basic dental services, or can they go above and beyond to give you the best experience possible. For example, Dr. Brooks has extensive experience not just with teeth cleaning and decay prevention, but also with creating invisible braces, porcelain veneers and custom bridges and crowns using CEREC 3D technology.

Another area you’ll want to check out before moving forward with a new dentist is to check their reviews. We have a bunch of great reviews here on our website, but since most dental offices control the content of their website, you’re probably not going to see any criticism by just reading reviews on their personal site. You’ll also want to check out their Facebook page and their Google page, because these reviews can’t be manipulated or hidden. These pages really help to show what people are saying about your new dentist!

Finally, you’ll also want to make sure that your insurance is accepted. We accept most major dental insurance plans, but due to always changing regulations, we don’t have a comprehensive list on our website. Instead, you can give us a call and we’ll try to confirm if we accept your insurance, or you can give the number on the back of your insurance card a call to see if we are covered under your plan. If you want to reach out to our office, give us a call at (952) 888-3000 and we’ll try to provide you with answers.

If you are planning to use insurance, you should check to see if we are in network. However, many of our patients choose to come to us out of network and pay a slightly higher fee.

So whether you’re just looking for a new place to get regular cleanings, or you want assistance with more hands-on issues like root canals or addressing sleep issues, Dr. Brooks and his team can do it all. For more information or to see what we can do for you, contact our office today.

Dental Space Maintainers

What Are Dental Space Maintainers?

A space maintainer is a dental tool that helps to keep nearby teeth developing in the correct location in the event that a tooth has fallen out or has needed to be removed. Space maintainers are usually used in children who lose a baby tooth ahead of schedule to keep the other teeth from crowding into the now open nearby space.

Types of Space Maintainers

Because of the nature of the device, space maintainers are custom made by a dentist or orthodontist in acrylic or metal material. They can be removable or may be a permanent fixture until neighboring teeth have reached an appropriate stage. Here’s a closer look at each type of device:

  • Removable Space Maintainer – These removable space maintainers are usually made of acrylic and may even include an artificial tooth to fill the space left by the lost tooth.
  • Fixed Space Maintainer – Dentists use one of four different types of fixed space maintainers; crown and loop, distal shoe, linguar and unilateral.

Unilateral and crown and loop space maintainers are placed on one side of a person’s mouth to hold space open for a missing tooth. A unilateral space maintainer wraps around the outside of the tooth and is connected to a metal loop that prevents the space from becoming infringed upon. As for the crown and loop, there is a crown that covers the tooth that is attached to a loop to maintain space for the emerging tooth.

Distal shoe space maintainers are primarily used to keep space for unerupted permanent molar teeth. It is a little more complex than other space maintainers because part of the piece is inserted into the gumline to keep the open space from closing. Bilateral space maintainers are usually cemented to molar teeth and connected by a wire on the inside of the lower front teeth, and is more commonly used when more than one tooth is missing. Regardless of what type of space maintainer you receive, your dentist will regularly inspect the device and your mouth to ensure the permanent teeth are developing as expected.

Wearing A Space Maintainer

It may take a few days to get used to the space maintainer, but wear it as instructed by your dentist or orthodontist. Your dentist will also walk you through cleaning instructions for both your mouth and the device. Continuing to have good oral hygiene is very important if you have a space maintainer.

Finally, you’ll also need to be cognizant of the foods you are eating if you have a fixed maintainer. Sugary or overly chewy foods should be avoided, as they can get stuck to the device and become difficult to clean. You should also avoid pressing on the device with your tongue or teeth, as this can damage the space maintainer and lead to irritation.

Similar to braces or a retainer, a space maintainer will take some getting used to, but know that it’s not a permanent device and that it is important in ensuring you have a healthy smile with your adult teeth. If you have concerns about your child’s teeth or how they can best use their space maintainer, be sure to reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Dental Medical History

Why Your Medical History Matters To Your Dentist

Every once in a while, we notice that a patient is a little annoyed when we ask about their full medical history. After all, why does it matter that you are taking medications for an unrelated health condition? The fact is that a lot of health conditions, or the medications that are used to manage them, can have an impact on the dental procedure we are trying to perform, or certain procedures can increase your risk for complications if you are taking specific medications.

We wouldn’t ask you for this information unless it was absolutely necessary, and we’re only asking for it so that we can ensure we provide you with the best dental care possible. Below, we’re going to give some examples of why your full medical history is important when visiting the dentist so that you can see why we’re always asking about it.


Research shows that if you’re a smoker, your dental implant procedure is 10 times more likely to fail than that of a non-smoker. Smoking can also inhibit healing or increase your risk of dry sockets if you are having dental work performed. Smoking also greatly increases the probability of periodontal disease.

Osteoporosis Medication

Biphosphonates, which is the type of drug used to treat osteoporosis, can cause jaw issues after tooth loss or a tooth extraction procedure.


Diabetes can affect your saliva and in turn increase your risk of developing periodontal disease.


Certain dental anesthetics or procedures can increase the risk of potential complications for you or your future child, so some dental surgeries may be postponed if you’re pregnant. Regular dental cleanings and minor work can still be performed even if you are pregnant, but still let your dentist know.

Blood Pressure Medications

Certain blood pressure medications can affect your gum health, and having high blood pressure can put you at added risk for kidney issues during certain dental surgeries.

Disease or Allergy Medications

If you are taking medications to combat conditions like liver disease, heart disease, kidney disease or everyday allergies, let your dentist know. If a dental procedure leads to an infection, it can have grave consequences for individuals with these health conditions, so your doctor will make a judgment on whether a procedure is in your best interest.

Heavy Alcohol Use

Heavy alcohol use can damage oral structures and leave you at a greater risk for oral cancer.

These are just a few examples of why it is so important to be an open book when it comes to explaining your medical history to your dentist. We only ask because we want to ensure all our work goes exactly as planned and you get the best care possible. For more information or to set up your next appointment, reach out to Dr. Brooks’ office today.

Joint Replacement Antibiotics

Joint Replacement Antibiotics & Dental Work

Dental medicine is always improving in hopes of continuing to provide our patients with the best care possible. Most of the time this involves new innovations, but positive changes can also come from reviewing old ways of thinking and seeing if they still have a place in modern medicine. One such idea that has undergone review in the past decade is the need to take certain antibiotics before a dental procedure if you’ve had joint replacement surgery in the past.

Not too long ago, patients who had joint replacement operations were told that they needed to take antibiotic prophylaxis prior to their dental operation. Antibiotic prophylaxis, sometimes referred to as premedication, is an antibiotic taken before a dental procedure to help prevent against the risk of an infection. Dental procedures like tooth extractions, root canals, and deep cleanings can increase the risk of bacteria entering the bloodstream. Sometimes this bacteria can cause infections in other areas of the body, and the understanding in the medical community was that this risk may be elevated in individuals who have had joint replacements.

Although this was the common belief, there was very little scientific evidence to back up this claim. Antibiotic prophylaxis could help to prevent infections, but there was no hard evidence that patients with artificial joints were at an increased risk than the normal population, and this risk can be greatly controlled by a skilled dentist and a thorough aftercare plan.

Updated Understanding

Things officially changed in 2012 when the American Dental Association and the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons published updated care guidelines that said dentists “might consider discontinuing the practice of routinely prescribing prophylactic antibiotics,” and the ADA’s Council of Scientific Affairs echoed these same guidelines in 2015 when discussing caring for patients with joint implants.

While antibiotic prophylaxis are no longer the standard, it’s important that you still let your dentist know that you have had a joint replacement operation if you are undergoing dental surgery, because in some cases, medications may still be considered. If you have a compromised immune system, or if you have conditions like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, be sure to let your doctor know, because premedications may be in your best interest.

It’s also a good idea to let your dentist know of any medications you might be taking, as these can put you at elevated risk for complications or they may interfere with any medications prescribed after your procedure.

For more information on antibiotic prophylaxis, or to set up your next appointment with Dr. Brooks, reach out to his office today.

DDS Definition

What’s The Difference Between DDS and DMD?

You may have noticed when you’re inside a dentist’s office that their degree is hanging on the wall. If you look closely, you may see that they’ve received their degree in either “Doctor of Dental Surgery” or “Doctor of Dental Medicine.” Are those two degrees different, and if so, which type of dentist should you see for your mouth? We answer those questions in today’s blog.

Difference Between DDS and DMD

As we noted above, DDS stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery. DMD actually stands for a Latin phrase “Dentariae Medicinae Doctoris,” which translates tor Doctor of Dental Medicine. So while they are two different degrees, is one degree more coveted than the other?

According to the American Dental Association, the answer to that question is no. There is no difference between a degree in DDS or DMD. Dentists with either degree have graduated from an accredited dental school and have passed all necessary tests. Both a DDS degree and DMD degree offer the same type of dental training and both fulfill the curriculum requirements set forth by the American Dental Association. Whether they offer a DDS or DMD program is determined by the dental school.

Why The Confusion?

To understand why we have two essentially identical degrees in the US, we have to take a short history lesson. Back in the day, the only dental degree offered in the US was a DDS. That all changed back in 1867 when Harvard decided to add a dental school. In keeping with tradition, Harvard wanted to offer a degree named after a latin phrase. The phrase Doctor of Dental Surgery translates to “Chirurgae Dentium Doctoris,” which means the degree they would have offered would have been a CDD.

However, Harvard didn’t really feel that Chirurgae Dentium Doctoris rolled off the tongue or that it gave off an impressive tone, so after some deliberation, they settled on the abbreviation DMD, which stands for “Dentariae Medicinae Doctoris” in latin. Nowadays, it’s the school’s preference whether they offer the DMD or the DDS program.

So no, it doesn’t matter whether your doctor received his DDS degree or his DMD. They are both the same, and you can trust that if they have either hanging on the wall in the office that you are in good hands. To set up an appointment with Dr. Brooks, contact his office today.

Regular Dental Visits

Why Regular Dental Visits Are Essential

When you leave your dental appointment, you’re probably asked by the front desk if you’d like to schedule your next appointment, which is likely six months down the road. Why should you get a dental exam every six months, and what should you be doing between visits to help keep your mouth healthy? We explain why regular dental visits are essential in today’s blog.

Regular Dental Visits

Regular dental visits are important because there’s a lot that goes on during a routine exam. For example, a dentist will likely:

  • Evaluate the health of your gums
  • Perform a head and neck examination
  • Check for signs of oral cancer, diabetes or vitamin deficiencies
  • Examine your bite
  • Check your jaw joint movement
  • Take images like X-rays
  • Checking for loose teeth
  • Examine your tongue

All of these things happen in conjunction with the actual cleaning, which involves cleaning and polishing the surface of the teeth, removing any plaque or tartar buildup between teeth, checking for signs of tooth weakness or cavities and applying sealants or other enamel-enforcing substances. They’ll also take a look at any dental hardware that has previously been installed, like braces, crowns, caps or fillings.

Why Every Six Months?

Having a dental exam every six months may seem pretty frequent, but when you think of what your mouth is tasked with on a regular basis, it’s not that frequent at all. It’s tasked with crunching, crewing and helping start the digestive process for three meals a day with snacks in between, and it also has to hold up against sugary sodas or dark liquids like coffee. And it does this on a daily basis, which means if you go six months between visits, that’s more than 500 meals and countless snacks between thorough dental cleanings!

Because of this, it is very important that you take good care of your teeth between visits. Some ways you can do this include:

  • Brushing your teeth at least two times a day
  • Flossing daily
  • Checking for redness, swelling or inflammation in your gums
  • Drinking plenty of water and avoiding excessive sugary sweets
  • Scheduling an appointment if you notice pain or tooth sensitivity

Another reason why six months is seen as the standard is because outside of traumatic injury, changes to your teeth are usually pretty slow in nature. This means that six month intervals are good places to check for new potential problems and stop other conditions before they spiral out of control. However, if you feel that something isn’t right or are dealing with tooth pain, don’t wait until your next semi-annual visit, contact Dr. Brooks’ office and set up an appointment right away.