Professional Answers to Common Dental Questions

Browse through our list of frequently asked questions regarding all cosmetic dentistry topics, including Six Month Smiles, Invisalign, Smile Makeovers, Porcelain Veneers and more.

Should I Replace My Porcelain Veneers?

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

Porcelain veneers are a wonderful option for individuals who want to fix gaps between their teeth, cracks or chips, as well as change the shape of their teeth. Keep in mind that just like all dental work, porcelain veneers don’t last forever, which means at some point you’ll need to replace your veneers.

When properly taken care of by the patient and installed correctly by a professional cosmetic dentist, porcelain veneers can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years. Yet over time wear and tear can occur. At Chicago Smile Spa, we want to make sure you’re aware of the signs that point to the need to schedule an appointment for replacement veneers.

When replacement veneers are necessary

  • Chips and cracks are found. Porcelain is a great option because it’s durable and mimics the look and feel of real enamel. However, it isn’t as strong as enamel. If you accidentally bite into something and chip or crack the veneer, it’s important to get a replacement as soon as possible. Also porcelain can wear down and may begin to expose the tooth behind it.
  • Tooth decay sets in. Just because there’s a layer of porcelain on the front of your tooth that’s immune to cavities and decay, doesn’t mean the natural tooth behind it is. Patients with porcelain veneers should always thoroughly brush and floss their teeth to avoid tooth decay. If tooth decay does set in, the veneer will need to be taken off and replaced after Dr. Alfe treats the original tooth.
  • Receding gums occur. Gum recession is caused by a multitude of reasons, include poor dental hygiene and even genetics. If you’ve had porcelain veneers placed on your teeth and over time notice that the edges of the veneers are showing, this is a sign of receding gums. Dr. Alfe will need to remove and replace the existing veneer with one this is refitted to match the shape of your tooth.

If you’ve opted for porcelain veneers from another cosmetic dentist, there may be a chance that they were installed improperly or that they weren’t the right size for your tooth to begin with. After an initial consultation and assessment from Dr. Alfe here at Chicago Smile Spa, she’ll be able to tell you the possible cause as to why you need a replacement. Schedule your consultation today!

How to Find the Best Dentist in Chicago

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

Have you recently moved to Chicago for school or a new job? As you’re settling into your new life here in the Windy City, don’t forget to find new doctors for all your health care needs. One of the most important doctors you need to find within the first few months is a dentist.

It can be daunting trying to find a dentist on your own, which is why we’ve provided an expert guide for you on how to go about researching for the best dentist in Chicago.

  1. Ask for referrals. Whether you’ve moved already or not, you can always reach out to your current dentist and ask if they know of any dental offices in the Chicago area that they would recommend. If you approved of your previous dentist, chances are they will recommend a dentist with similar values and techniques. You’d be surprised how many dentists have business connections to other practices throughout the state or even the country due to being members of the same organizations or study clubs. For instance, Chicago Smile Spa’s Dr. Alfe frequently attends and speaks at cosmetic dentistry focus groups which cover case studies as well as review new dental technology.
  2. Family or friend recommendation. One of the best ways to find a reputable dentist in Chicago is asking friends and family members in the area who they see for their routine cleanings or cosmetic dentistry work. If you don’t have friends and family in the area, don’t hesitate to reach out to your new coworkers for recommendations. Many of Dr. Alfe’s patients came from friend and family referrals; there’s nothing more trustworthy than this type of recommendation!
  3. Consult your insurance company. If you’ve started a new job in Chicago, chances are you’re on a new insurance plan as well. Be sure to get in touch with your insurance company’s representative to discuss your options and go over the list of dentists that are available to you under your new plan. It’s also important to ask if there’s an out of network option in case you need cosmetic dentistry services in the future. Cosmetic dentistry work is oftentimes not covered by most dental insurance plans. At Chicago Smile Spa, we do our best to help our patients cover the cost of their cosmetic dentistry work by providing a number of financing options.
  4. Take to the Internet. We’re on our phones and in front of computers all day anyways, so why not use those devices to find a dentist? Even if you’re not ready to commit to a new dentist just yet, browsing the Internet and doing your research is oftentimes the best way to start. Be sure to check out third party review sites such as Yelp or Angie’s List to find past patient reviews about a particular dentist. If you like what you’re reading, give the office a call to schedule an initial consultation!

Are you looking for a professional dentist that’s located in Chicago? Contact our office today at (773) 348-2704 to schedule an initial appointment!

What are the Risks of Sleep Apnea?

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

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder among Americans and can affect those of all ages. The disorder is characterized by consistent interruptions in one’s sleep cycle due to an obstructed airway. For those who have weak airway muscles, a large tongue, or are overweight, the airway is more likely to collapse and cause apneas.

Although sleep apnea is common, many people don’t realize they have this disorder. In fact, it can go un-diagnosed for months or even years. 

Risks of Un-Diagnosed Sleep Apnea

If sleep apnea goes untreated, there are health risks involved that range from mild issues to severe long-term problems. Since sleep apnea disrupts the sleep cycle, people often complain about their low energy levels and inability to concentrate on even the simplest of tasks. Sleep deprivation caused by this disorder can also lead to traffic accidents due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel. In 2000, more than 800,000 traffic accidents were sleep apnea related. High blood pressure is also a common symptom and side effect of this sleep disorder.

The more serious and long-term health issues of sleep apnea include an irregular heartbeat, heart disease, stroke or heart attack and Type 2 Diabetes.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

Luckily sleep apnea is easy to diagnose and there are a handful of treatment options available depending on the severity of symptoms. Dr. Alfe will first recommend you see a sleep specialist for further testing after you’ve taken the Sleep Observer survey. After you’ve consulted with a sleep specialist and they’ve determined you only have a mild case of sleep apnea, Dr. Alfe will usually recommend the NTI nightguard. Other solutions include a Respire, SomnoMed MAS or Oral/Nasal Airway System (OASYS).

If you believe you have sleep apnea or have not sought treatment for sleep apnea yet, please contact Dr. Alfe at Chicago Smile Spa today to learn more about your treatment options.

I’ve Had Previous Cosmetic Work Done, Can I Still Whiten My Teeth?

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

As we age, our teeth naturally begin to fade and discolor due to our eating habits, oral hygiene and other factors. As a quick fix, adults are turning towards teeth whitening procedures from cosmetic dentists. Light enhanced teeth whitening from a professional such as Dr. Alfe is much faster and more effective than over the counter whitening products. However, many of Dr. Alfe’s patients have also had previous cosmetic dental work done and are often concerned about whitening their teeth.

Potential Risks

As with any cosmetic dental work, there are a few (minor) risks involved with teeth whitening. One problem that should always be taken into account is that if you’ve undergone procedures such as dental bonding or tooth colored fillings, then whitening your natural teeth can make these cosmetic changes stand out. The dental bonding or tooth colored fillings were most likely made to match the current shade of your teeth. Unfortunately, these materials won’t change color when you whiten your teeth. Natural teeth have an enamel coating that responds well to the chemicals used in teeth whitening, whereas bonding or fillings consist of a type of dental cement.

Solutions to These Risks

Luckily with Dr. Alfe’s knowledge of cosmetic dentistry, there are a couple solutions for those with previous dental work who still want to whiten their teeth.

  1. Replace Bonding & Fillings. Although this is a more tedious process, Dr. Alfe can remove and replace the bonding and tooth colored fillings after you’ve achieved your desired shade of white. You can determine whether or not the color difference is significant enough to warrant a replacement.
  2. Porcelain Veneers. Another option that can improve your smile even more is porcelain veneers. Porcelain veneers are a thin porcelain layer that covers the front of your existing teeth. These veneers can be designed with any shade of white in mind, and they work to correct any chips or gaps in your teeth that dental bonding or fillings would normally fix.

We understand that an evenly-colored smile is important to our patients, which is why we encourage those with existing cosmetic dental work to contact our Chicago office today to discuss your teeth whitening options with Dr. Alfe!

What Causes a Gummy Smile?

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

Gummy smiles are one of the most common complaints that Dr. Alfe gets at her Chicago cosmetic dental office. A gummy smile causes the individual to be self-conscious and unhappy with their smile. In fact, many believe that there isn’t any type of treatment for a gummy smile in Chicago at all.

Luckily Dr. Alfe and her team are more than capable of correcting this cosmetic dental problem for Chicago area residents. In order to correct a gummy smile, it’s important to know the root cause of the problem, and in this instance there can be multiple causes.

  • Excess gum tissue. This cause is mostly genetic and occurs when more than 4 mm of gum tissue are displayed when the person smiles. Excess gum tissue is easily correctable with laser dentistry techniques. Dr. Alfe most often uses laser dentistry to treat gum disease and it is a conservative, relatively pain-free way to fix a gummy smile.  That works best for patients who show only a minimal amount of excess gum.  For those who show a lot of their gums, the other option is periodontal plastic surgery (also called crown lengthening), which involves reshaping the excess gum tissue and bone to reveal more of the tooth.
  • Tooth wear. Many patients understand that grinding or clenching their teeth isn’t good for them, but what they might not know is that down the road it can cause a gummy smile. Excessive tooth wear causes the gum to tooth ratio to change. What happens is your teeth actually shift in order to compensate for the loss of bone structure, but the gums shift as well, causing them to protrude more and become prominent in your smile. This issue can be corrected with Dr. Alfe’s Six Month Smile program followed by porcelain Veneers.

Gummy smile correction procedures at Chicago Smile Spa may also entail Botox treatment. Botox works to relax the muscles in the face, and by injecting a small amount of Botox into the upper lip, it can work to relax the muscles so that the upper lip does not pull tightly against the gums when you smile.

There are multiple treatment options for correcting a gummy smile! Contact our Chicago cosmetic dental office today at (773) 348-2704 to discuss your concerns and options with Dr. Alfe.

Can You Naturally Repair a Cavity?

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

Let’s say you’ve gone to the dentist and your dentist has mentioned to you that they’ve noticed the beginning of a cavity. “Is it bad? Do I need to get this fixed now?” you ask. Depending on the stage that the cavity is in, your dentist will either say yes or no.

For those who have just a small cavity forming (we call that incipient decay), your dentist may tell you to wait about six months to see what happens. This is your queue to be extra diligent with your oral hygiene. Your dentist will most likely recommend preventative dentistry methods, such as an enamel building toothpaste and accompanying enamel strengthening mouthwash — both with Fluoride as the active ingredient. Fluoride is a mineral that prevents tooth decay from getting worse, and using products with this mineral included, along with regular brushing and flossing routines as well as reducing sugar intake can sometimes reverse these early stage cavities.

Keep in mind, however, that this reversal process is slow and arduous and often does not work for some patients even with improved dental hygiene. Fully developed cavities are a permanent damage and must be fixed by a dentist or cosmetic dentist.

Oftentimes if cavities aren’t filled in a timely manner by a professional dentist, the end result can be extensive tooth decay. Patients with tooth decay are often told that they will need the tooth in question removed, and a new synthetic tooth, called a dental implant, will be placed in its stead. At Chicago Smile Spa, Dr. Alfe provides full mouth reconstruction for those whose teeth are affected by tooth decay. Our cosmetic dental office focuses on conservative dentistry, which means Dr. Alfe will do everything she can to save your existing teeth. The first step to a health, beautiful smile is to repair the damage that’s been done, then improve the look and function of the teeth using cosmetic dentistry techniques such as porcelain veneers, crowns, and bridges.

If your family dentist has told you to seek the opinion of a local cosmetic dentist for options regarding how to save and improve your smile, contact Chicago Smile Spa today for a free initial consultation.

Why Are Some People More Prone to Getting Cavities Than Others?

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

Life just isn’t fair sometimes — especially when your dentist breaks the news to you that you have a cavity.

“How can this be?” you say to your cosmetic dentist as you start going through the five stages of grief right there in the dental chair.  “I brush and floss regularly!”

According to Joel Berg, President of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Foundation, there are a number of different factors to blame for the development of dental caries, some of which you can control and some you can’t.

Factors You Can’t Easily Control in Cavity Formation

  • Salivary flow and composition. The enzymes within saliva actually work as a natural debridement to clean the surface of your teeth and kill off cavity-causing bacteria and the acid those bacteria produce. If you don’t produce enough saliva or it is too viscous, then it may not effectively clean the surface of the teeth.
  • Tooth morphology. Cavity formation and progression also depends on how deep the grooves are in your teeth (your molars specifically). For those who have deeper grooves, food particles are more likely to get trapped there.  The bacteria in your mouth eat these particles and produce acid compounds which eventually wear away at your enamel.
  • Bacterial Strain. Not all bacteria found in the human mouth are the same. In fact, a single type of bacteria may have dozens of different strains each with a different cariogenic — or cavity causing — level. It’s important to understand that it’s not just the amount of plaque buildup, but the type of strain causing the plaque.

Factors You Can Control in Cavity Formation

  • Diet. According to research, cavity-causing bacteria prefer sucrose (a type of sugar) as their energy source of choice. Unfortunately for us, the American diet is largely revolved around highly processed foods that include sucrose as a main ingredient. It isn’t the quantity of sugar consumed in one sitting, it’s the frequency at which it is consumed. And for the vast major of us, that’s on a daily basis.
  • Oral Hygiene. Dr. Alfe from Chicago Smile Spa doesn’t talk just for her health when she tells her patients to brush and floss regularly! In order for oral hygiene to be an effective preventative measure, brushing and flossing should occur every day, twice a day, to remove bacteria. Dr. Alfe recommends using a fluoride mouthwash to stimulate remineralization of your enamel.

When to Call Our Chicago Cosmetic Dental Office

If you notice pain or sensitivity to hot or cold food and beverages, can visibly see a cavity, or are experiencing symptoms of tooth decay, contact Dr. Alfe at Chicago Smile Spa so we can set up an appointment as soon as possible! It’s best to catch these oral health issues before they become major problems.

What is a Six Month Smiles Treatment?

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

According to the ADA, a person’s smile outranked eyes, hair and body as the most important physical feature. For adults, a great smile is what makes us confident in all aspects of our lives. One way to achieve the smile you’ve always wanted is choosing Six Month Smiles at Chicago Smile Spa.

How Six Month Smiles Works

The Six Month Smiles program works to correct crooked or crowded teeth, gaps, and misalignment. Unlike conventional 2-year long braces (which can be somewhat painful), Six Month Smiles was designed by dental industry professionals to move teeth efficiently but with less pressure. The wire’s unique arch works to straighten your teeth in four to nine month’s time, with six months being the average treatment time.

Benefits of Six Month Smiles

Regular braces can often take up to two years for a patient to see results, but with Six Month Smiles, results are noticeable within just two months! This adult orthodontics program is also designed to be convenient for you. At Chicago Smile Spa, we understand life gets in the way and there isn’t much time to come into the office, but with Six Month Smiles you only need to stop in once every 30 days.

Let Dr. Alfe help you achieve that perfect smile you’ve always wanted by opting for Six Month Smiles. After contacting us, we will schedule you for an initial appointment during which you can discuss with Dr. Alfe your dental wants and needs — then we will begin the adult orthodontic program!

I Read That Flossing Isn’t Necessary, Is This True?

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

Did you know that your teeth are the hardest substance in your body? Our teeth endure grinding, chewing, clenching and are even used for purposes such as ripping open packaging (to the dismay of your dentist). In order to keep our teeth and gums healthy for these purposes, it’s important to brush and floss consistently.

The Argument Against Flossing

Earlier this week, the American Academy of Periodontology recognized that flossing “has not been shown to prevent cavities or severe periodontal disease,” the New York Times stated. However, this statement was only made because researchers failed to enlist a sufficient amount of test subjects for a long term study. With no long-term research to back either claim, the jury is still out on whether or not flossing is useful for our oral health.

However, the dental industry believes that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The Argument For Flossing

Other studies have shown that regular flossing has proven to reduce bloody gums and inflammation. Above all else, dentists such as Dr. Alfe at Chicago Smile Spa recommend flossing regularly as a preventative measure when gingivitis is concerned. Brushing alone will only cover three out of five sides of every tooth (front, back, and top). With flossing, we are guaranteed to clean the right and left side of every tooth.

For those with receding gum lines, it’s even more important to floss. As our gums recede from our enamel, gaps and pockets are created where food is more likely to wedge itself into. A simple brushing job alone may not do the trick, especially in those hard to reach areas towards the back of your mouth. Flossing can also prevent bad breath by dislodging food particles and foul-smelling bacteria.

When to See Your Chicago Dentist

It’s important to see your dentist on a regular basis for routine cleaning. However, if you notice any significant and persistent gum bleeding, puffiness or irritation while brushing or flossing, this may be an indication of gingivitis. Dr. Alfe’s Chicago cosmetic dental office uses proven techniques and state-of-the-art industry technology to help detect gum disease and other oral health issues. Contact our office today at 773-348-2704 to schedule an appointment!

I’ve Chipped My Tooth! What Do I Do?

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

It’s a situation no one wants to be in, but getting a chipped tooth happens to the best of us sometimes. The culprits could be a sports activity, biting a piece of hard candy or ice, or a slip and fall. But what do you do afterwards?

See Your Dentist ASAP

Don’t wait around if you’ve chipped, broken or fractured your tooth. Call up your dentist, such as Dr. Alfe from Chicago Smile Spa, as soon as you can. Chicago Smile Spa is a Chicago-based cosmetic and general dentistry office, and Dr. Alfe will be sure to schedule a visit for you as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your mouth. It’s also important to see a dentist to avoid possible infection, as you may have bitten through your tongue or lip in the process.

What to do in the meantime

  • Take some Ibuprofen if you are in pain and you can gently rinse your mouth out with salt water
  • If your chipped or broken tooth has left a jagged edge, cover it with a piece of wax or sugarless gum to prevent cutting your mouth.
  • Do not eat foods that require ripping or tearing, as this can further damage the tooth. Drink through a straw and choose soft foods instead.

Cosmetic Dental Solutions

When you arrive at Chicago Smile Spa, Dr. Alfe will determine the extent of the damaged tooth. If it isn’t severe, then she can sometimes just polish the rough area.  If the chip is a little more extensive, it may involve using a dental bonding technique. If the tooth is cracked, then a porcelain veneer, or porcelain crown or onlay that can be color-matched to the rest of your teeth is a great, conservative dentistry option.

Whether or not you’ve recently damaged your tooth or if you need a replacement for a previously fixed tooth, Dr. Alfe can help you restore your smile! Contact our office today at (773) 348-2704.

Call Dr. Alfe!