What Causes Gum Disease?

Serving Chicago, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, and surrounding areas in Illinois

Aside from cavities, gum disease is the most common dental issue, affecting an estimated 80% of American adults at some point in their lives. Also known as gingivitis, if gum disease isn’t detected and treated in a timely manner, then a patient could end up developing periodontal disease which eventually causes additional oral health issues such as tooth loss. Although gum disease is treatable, it is better to be informed about what causes it in the first place so as to avoid developing the issue entirely.

Common Causes of Gum Disease

  • Lifestyle. Drinking alcohol, smoking, or chewing tobacco are all causes of gum disease. Alcohol inhibits your body’s ability to kill off plaque and other bacteria that cause gum disease, while tobacco products are essentially poisonous to healthy gum tissue.
  • Diet. Low water intake, a diet high in carbohydrates and sugar all attribute to the development of gingivitis. Eating fibrous fruits and vegetables can help clear away plaque from the surface of teeth while drinking water consistently throughout the day flushes away bad bacteria.
  • Infrequent Dental Cleanings. This is a major culprit! Since gum disease rarely shows signs and symptoms, most individuals don’t realize they have it. Seeing your dentist on a regular basis is important to improving and maintaining your oral health.
  • Genetics. Sometimes luck just isn’t on our side when it comes to oral health (though that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause!). If you are prone to dry mouth symptoms and poor saliva production, stress, mouth breathing or diabetes mellitus then you may be at risk for developing gum disease more easily than those without these predispositions.
  • Poor Bite. Those with a misaligned bite, crooked, or crowded teeth may develop gingivitis. The reason is due to the increased hiding places for plaque and bacteria to build up throughout the day. It is generally recommended to brush after each meal and floss at least once a day to remove any remaining food particles from between the crowded spaces. Luckily common cosmetic dentistry procedures can fix a misaligned bite and reduce the chances of gum disease.

If you are experiencing pain while brushing your teeth, notice that your gums are bleeding after brushing or flossing, or can see that your gums are inflamed, then it’s important to book an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible to determine whether or not these symptoms are related to gum disease.

Dr. Alfe To Retire From Clinical Dentistry After 25 Years

Serving Chicago, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, and surrounding areas in Illinois

Dear friends and valued patients,

After almost 25 years, I have decided to retire from clinical dentistry.  It is with a heavy heart that I made this life decision.  As many of you know, my mom passed away suddenly over the summer.  With my father and remaining family in Boston, I wanted and needed more flexibility to spend as much time with them as possible.  Therefore, at the end of December 2017, I will no longer be practicing clinical dentistry at Chicago Smile Spa.  

I was lucky to find a wonderful, customer service oriented group to continue the high quality care that I have given each of you over the past 13 years.  I will still be at the office through the end of the year to help with the transition.  I will complete any ongoing treatment for my patients until you are finished, even if it carries into next year.  

For those of you who need treatment, I am excited to introduce you to my successor, Dr. Mira Egbaria.  Dr. Egbaria graduated from the University of Michigan and completed a prestigious General Practice Residency at Northwestern University in Chicago.  Dr. Egbaria is a wonderful person and will treat you with the same compassion and high quality care you are accustomed to at Chicago Smile Spa.   I have always considered myself fortunate to have such wonderful patients.  I’ve loved taking care of each and every one of you.  I know Dr. Egbaria will continue that type of loving care.  Please help me welcome her to the practice.  

If you have any questions about your upcoming appointments or outstanding treatment, feel free to email us or call the office 773-348-2704.  I will be available at certain times throughout the day to email or chat with any of you.  I wish you and your families the best that life has to offer.  


Dr. Gerilyn Alfe


What to Expect During a Dental Cleaning

Serving Chicago, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, and surrounding areas in Illinois

Although you may be on top of your routine brushing routine at home, it’s still important to see your dentist every 6 months. Even with diligent brushing and flossing at home, you may end up missing signs of dental problems that could end up being costly to fix down the road. We urge Chicago residents not to be afraid of heading to the dentist! Once you book an appointment, there are a few routine things you can expect to happen once you’re in the chair.

  1. Quick Chat. Since you only see your dentist twice a year, expect to be asked if you’ve noticed any issues with your teeth, gums, tongue and other aspects of your oral cavity that you’d like to address. Now would be the time to mention any issues such as bad breath, bleeding gums, sore teeth and headaches.
  2. Assessment. At this point you can sit back and get comfortable as your dentist makes a general assessment of your teeth and gums before the cleaning process begins. Checking for cavities, signs of gum disease, tooth decay, clenching, or grinding using advanced dental technology are just a few items on your dentists’ checklist during this assessment.  All new patients are screened using OralID — a device that detects oral cancerous or pre-cancerous tissue.  
  3. Cleaning. This is the part we all know well. Your dentist or hygienist will use a scaler to remove plaque and tartar from around your gumline and between your teeth. An ultrasonic device called a Cavitron, that melts off plaque and tartar, is usually used as well. Next, a paste is applied to the surface of your teeth using a polishing tool in order to make your teeth really sparkle and shine! Finally, a thorough flossing finishes up the cleaning process.  We offer an in-office fluoride treatment for patients who are at higher risk for cavities.

Chicago Smile Spa is known for having a relaxing and inviting atmosphere in order to help make patients more comfortable during their routine cleaning. Schedule your dental cleaning today!

Best Solutions for Tooth Sensitivity

Serving Chicago, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, and surrounding areas in Illinois

There’s nothing like enjoying a hot cup of coffee in the morning, ice water after you’ve hit the gym, or biting into an ice cream cone — unless you suffer from tooth sensitivity. Having sensitive teeth is more common than you think, but many people dismiss it as something that “just happens” as we age. At Chicago Smile Spa, our goal is to inform our patients that tooth sensitivity is a problem that can be addressed and solved!

What Makes Teeth Sensitive?

Your teeth are comprised of two organic materials: dentin and enamel. Dentin is found in the center of the tooth and is surrounded by the enamel which serves as a protective layer against anything your teeth come in contact with. Depending on what your teeth are exposed to and for how long, this exterior coating can erode and expose the sensitive dentin, causing pain and discomfort whenever you eat or drink hot or cold beverages. One of the most common causes of exposing this dentin is gum recession due to poor brushing technique, clenching, or grinding as well as a diet of highly acidic foods.

Preventing Tooth Sensitivity

It’s important to understand that enamel doesn’t grow back, which means the damage that’s been done is unfortunately irreversible. However, you can take steps to prevent the rest of your enamel from wearing away.

  • Soft-Bristled Brush. Ask Dr. Alfe or your dental hygienist for a soft-bristled brush. When you’re brushing your teeth, try to use less pressure and a more circular motion. Electric toothbrushes are also a great solution as they can mimic this circular cleaning motion. Don’t forget to ask for recommendations for purchasing a specialized toothpaste designed to strengthen your existing enamel.
  • Reduce Acidic Foods. It may be difficult to say goodbye to coffee or tomatoes, but if you can try to limit acidic foods or at least reduce your intact of them significantly. Over time, the acidic compounds in citrus juice or coffee can wear away your enamel.
  • Be Mindful of Teeth Clenching. If you’ve noticed that your jaw is sore in the morning or you’re experiencing headaches on a routine basis, you could be clenching your teeth to the point that your gums are receding and exposing the dentin. We recommend contacting our Chicago cosmetic dentist Dr. Alfe if you suspect teeth clenching or grinding is involved. Dr. Alfe will recommend either Botox injections or an NTI night guard.

If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort when eating hot or cold foods, contact Chicago Smile Spa today so that we can determine the best course of treatment for your teeth sensitivity!

Why Do I Need Repeated Botox Injections?

Serving Chicago, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, and surrounding areas in Illinois

Those who suffer from severe TMD/TMJ symptoms – such as lock-jaw, headaches, migraines, teeth clenching and grinding — are often recommended Botox injections by Dr. Alfe. Botox is a toxin that is used to relax the surrounding jaw muscles that are responsible for overreacting, causing you to clench your teeth.

How Botox Works

One interesting characteristic about the Botulinum toxin is that, when administered in the proper dose, it lasts no longer than 3-4 months. The effect on the nerve/muscle junction at the molecular level reduces over time and the muscle that was once relaxed now contracts in abnormal movements again, thus the need for repeated injections.

Routine Injections Are Harmless

The most common question cosmetic dentists such as Dr. Alfe get from patients before a Botox injection is what will happen if they continue to repeat the procedure? Repeated Botox injections are perfectly harmless because the side effects (no TMJ and no headaches) eventually wear off. What most people find is that when they use Botox over time to treat an ailment such as TMJ they can go longer between visits. For example, someone who has been receiving Botox injections for 20 years may have started off going every 4 months, but now they go every 5 or 6. For patients who suffer from TMJ/TMD pain, repeated Botox injections have shown to reduce painful symptoms over time.

If you’re interested in getting rid of your TMJ/TMD symptoms, schedule a consultation with Dr. Alfe to determine if a Botox injection is right for you!

Call Dr. Alfe!