The Relationship Between Exercise and Oral Health

on January 2, 2021

Happy New Year! At Stephens Dentistry, we’ve been hearing about our patients’ New Year’s Resolutions for some time now. As you might expect, many people are including better exercise routines as part of their goals for 2021. While getting in better shape can have a profoundly positive impact on a person’s physical health, there are some details to consider when it comes to the effect on your teeth.

Teeth Clenching and Grinding

Those engaging in intense physical activity may have a tendency to clench or grind their teeth through the exercise. This is especially common in weightlifters, who may be unconsciously clenching as they exert energy. Clenching and grinding can lead to moderate to severe dental damage over time, including chips and fractures. Depending on your sport, you may benefit from a specialized oral appliance which separates the upper and lower teeth.

One of the first signs of damage is dental pain. If you are experiencing dental pain in Evanston, make an appointment with our dentist for a thorough examination.

Accidents on the Field or Court

Mouthguards are especially important for athletes who engage in team sports. Rough play on the field or court can result in teeth being fractured, knocked out, or otherwise damaged. There are many different types of mouthguards, from custom-made mouthguards to ‘boil-and-bite’ mouthguards which can be purchased at a sporting goods store. Make sure that your mouthguard fits comfortably so that it won’t become a distraction during play.

Cavity Formation

Research has shown a correlation between excessive exercise and the development of cavities. One possible reason for this is that your saliva’s chemical composition changes while you exercise. While you can’t control this, drinking water may help rinse your teeth clear of harmful chemicals. Excessive mouth breathing while working out can also lead to dry mouth, which may increase your risk of cavities.

Many athletes turn to sugary sports drinks, protein shakes, and power bars to replenish their energy reserves during or after exercise. Be careful to check the nutrition labels on these items and rinse with water or brush your teeth after enjoying them. Leaving food debris or sugar behind in your mouth can also contribute to tooth decay.

The Bottom Line

While exercising more might have some potential drawbacks when it comes to your oral health, it’s possible to take precautions to protect your smile. Our dental team is here to help make sure your teeth are looking and feeling their best. If you are due for a checkup or are experiencing any kind of dental pain in Evanston, please reach out today to make an appointment.

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Tooth-Friendly Tips for the Holidays

on December 14, 2020

With the holiday season in full swing, most people are looking forward to celebrating with their favorite sweets, traditions, and people—even if things look a little different this year! Our family dentists in Evanston have tips to help keep your teeth in good shape over the holidays.

Tip #1: Don’t use your teeth to open packages

No matter how excited you are about opening presents, it’s never a good idea to use your teeth as a tool. Many people experience chips, fractures, or more significant dental damage as a result of trying to open packages or bottles with their teeth. We recommend grabbing gift-opening supplies before getting started—it could save you a trip to the dentist over the holidays!

Tip #2: Avoid chewy, sticky snacks

As experienced dentists, we know that it’s not realistic to ask our patients to avoid candy altogether, especially around the holidays. Instead, we suggest avoiding snacks with certain textures that are particularly rough on teeth, such as taffy, caramel, hard candy, and peanut brittle. Snacks that are very sticky or tough to chew can loosen or dislodge dental work like fillings and crowns. Sticky candies can also linger on your teeth beyond a thorough brush, encouraging cavities.

Tip #3: Don’t bite your nails

Nail biting is a habit many people indulge in year-round, but for some increases around the holidays with anticipation and anxiety. Cutting back on this habit can help you avoid developing (or worsening) wear-and-tear on your teeth, jaw problems, or facial pain related to tooth grinding. When you feel the urge to chew on your nails, try to distract yourself! Some companies make bitter-tasting nail products to help curb this bad habit.

Tip #4: Keep up with brushing and flossing

Time flies when you’re having a good time. When you’re snuggled up on the couch with friends or family around the holidays, it may be tempting to let yourself drift off without taking care of your teeth. This is never a good idea—even for one night! We recommend taking care of your smile before settling in for a long movie to help avoid this problem.

Tip #5: Choose light-colored beverages

Red wine and pomegranate juice are two drinks that are often seen at holiday celebrations. Tasty as they may be, drinking them can contribute to stains on your teeth. If keeping your smile bright is important to you, opt for white wine, water, or another light-colored or clear beverage instead!

Visit Us for Restorative and Preventive Services

Stephens Dentistry is a family dentistry practice located in Evanston, IL. Our dentists provide a wide range of dental services, including cosmetic, restorative, and preventive services. We want to help you achieve your greatest dental health! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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Eating Right for a Healthy Smile

on November 16, 2020

When it comes to taking care of your smile, you probably already know the basics about brushing and flossing. You may even know what foods are harmful to your teeth—sugary drinks and foods being at the top of the list. But, do you know what foods can actually help strengthen and improve the health of your teeth? Today, we’ll look at tooth-friendly foods and nutrients which can support healthy teeth and gums.

The Nutrients Your Teeth and Gums Crave

A balanced, healthy diet is one of the most important factors in securing a long and healthy life. In fact, the beauty and long-term functionality of your teeth depends on it! When combined with a carefully followed daily care regimen and visits to a professional dentist, the foods below can help keep your teeth and gums looking great.


People of a certain age may recall the 90s ad campaign that taught us that milk supports strong and healthy bones. Indeed, a diet that includes good sources of calcium can help keep your teeth strong. Low-fat or fat-free dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, can provide good sources of this mineral. Dark green leafy vegetables, fortified soy drinks, tofu, and canned salmon are other examples of calcium-rich foods.


Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral found in the human body, responsible for approximately 1% of a person’s weight. Much of it can be found in bones and teeth. To keep both in good shape, it’s important to incorporate foods like lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and beans into your diet. Certain whole grains, fruits, and oils also provide this essential mineral.

Vitamin C

It’s not all about your teeth; especially as people age, their risk for gum disease increases. Enjoying foods that provide good sources of Vitamin C can help strengthen and defend your gums. Most people associate this vitamin with citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and limes—but there are many other ways to add Vitamin C to your diet! Potatoes, leafy greens, peppers, and certain berries also provide this vitamin.

Looking for a Dental Clinic Near Evanston?

Taking great care of your teeth at home and eating a healthy, balanced diet are two things that you alone can control when it comes to your overall dental wellness. In addition to these, it’s really important that you visit a dentist regularly for exams and professional cleanings. If it’s been five months or longer since your last visit, it may be time to book an appointment. Our dental clinic near Evanston is currently accepting new patients. Schedule your visit today!

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What’s Causing the Rise in Cracked Teeth?

on October 26, 2020

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, dentists across the country are continuing to report a steady stream of patients visiting for care. In the initial stages of the Illinois lockdown, dentists and other medical professionals were only able to see patients for ongoing treatments and emergency procedures. Since then, the State has allowed healthcare providers to see all cases with the addition of heightened precautionary measures, and as your dentist in Evanston, we are here to care for your oral health.

Many dental practices have reported an increased rate of emergency calls during this time—with a significant portion involving cracked teeth. What could be causing this spike? The answer seems clear: most people are experiencing heightened levels of stress, and this is affecting their dental health.

Contributing Factors

While tooth grinding (or ‘bruxism’) is a problem that predates the pandemic, an uptick in cases may be connected to heightened stress caused by current events. Some potential factors include:

Daily Anxiety

Understandably, many people are spending time ‘doomscrolling,’ looking for a new job, and worrying about the health and wellbeing of their friends and family. Without realizing it, these stress-inducing activities may be causing unconscious grinding of the teeth or jaw clenching.

Poor Ergonomics

With more people working and learning remotely than ever before, lots of DIY workstations have had to come together. Using furniture from around the house and random objects can lead to a lot of less-than-ideal body positions, causing poor posture. Poor posture doesn’t just affect your back; it can also contribute to tooth grinding.

Inadequate Restorative Sleep

When so much is on your mind, it may be difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or rest deeply. Restorative sleep helps us perform our best and feel well during the day. Restlessness can also contribute to tooth grinding or jaw clenching while asleep.

Symptoms of Bruxism

Because many people engage in tooth grinding or jaw clenching unconsciously (either during sleep or while focusing on something else), it can be challenging to identify. Common symptoms which may signify this condition can include:

  • Pain or stiffness in the face, jaw, or neck
  • Headaches or earaches
  • Cracked teeth or fillings
  • Worn-down teeth
  • Sleep disruptions

Treatment for Tooth Grinding at Your Dentist in Evanston

Through the difficulties of this year, it’s important to remember the importance of self-care. Visiting with a mental health professional may be able to help you cope with extra stress. When it comes to your teeth, the professionals at Stephens Dentistry can provide you with effective bruxism treatments. Contact your dentist in Evanston at Stephens Dentistry today to schedule an appointment!

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How Long Does Invisalign® Take?

on September 22, 2020

As of this month, our own Dr. Angera Ma is now Invisalign® certified! We’re very proud of her achievement and excited to take on more patients looking to straighten their smile at our Evanston dental clinic. Invisalign® continues to be a preferred orthodontic choice for people of all ages, largely because it’s virtually invisible and easy to use. Today, we’ll be answering one of the questions we hear most often from curious patients: how long does Invisalign take?

The Length of Treatment Can Vary

Most patients who undergo treatment with Invisalign® will complete their treatment within 12-18 months. Upon examining your smile in person, Dr. Angera Ma will be able to give you a timeline more specific to your own potential treatment. Some of the factors that can influence your treatment may include:

  • Dental Crowding. Patients with smaller jaws may owe their misalignment to overcrowding. On the low end, minor crowding may be reversible in as little as 6 months. Those with very extreme crowding may even need additional orthodontic treatment before starting Invisalign®.
  • Gaps in Teeth. Also known as diastema, dental gaps may be caused by tissue overgrowth. Gaps may also appear when the teeth are small compared to the patient’s jawbone. Those with moderate to severe gaps in their teeth can expect to spend at least 12 months wearing Invisalign®, with treatment extending further depending on their body’s responsiveness to the aligners.
  • Your Age. Teens and adults alike can wear Invisalign®. In fact, it’s becoming more and more common for adults to straighten their teeth, whether they once had braces or never underwent orthodontic treatment. Teens will usually experience shorter treatment periods as adult teeth tend to be more solidified in place.
  • Compliance with instructions. Most patients find it relatively easy to adjust to life wearing aligners, but for others it can be a challenge. An individual’s ability to follow instructions and keep track of their aligners can be major factors in terms of the timeline. Some patients who fail to wear their aligners the designated amount of time may even see their teeth begin to shift back into their original place—not ideal!

Book a Consultation at Our Evanston Dental Clinic

Are you ready to improve your smile with Invisalign® clear aligners? We’re now booking appointments with the newly certified Dr. Angera Ma. Contact us today to get started with a consultation. We hope to hear from you soon!

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Is Water Flossing Right For Me?

on August 24, 2020

If visiting a dentist twice per year is already part of your dental care regimen, you probably already know that you should be flossing daily. Flossing is widely regarded as an essential complement to brushing, as even the most diligent tooth-brusher will miss areas between their teeth.

Traditional string floss isn’t a perfect solution for everyone; fortunately, water flossing is a highly effective alternative. Water flossing devices (such as the WaterPik) are also referred to as oral irrigators or pulsing oral irrigators. Today, we’ll discuss the practical uses of this kind of machine and who it may benefit.

Using a Water Flosser

Water flossers are intended to be used to clean between your teeth, along your gum line, and below dental restorations such as bridges and implants. Water flossers include three main components: the reservoir, the handle, and the tip. Depending on your model, several tips and system settings will be provided; follow instructions provided by the manufacturer and your dentist to determine which will work best for you.

To use the device, you will fill the reservoir with warm or lukewarm water, select a pressure setting, and then hold the handle while angling the tip along your gum line. You will want to lean over the sink with your mouth open slightly to allow water to drain as you work along your teeth. The pressure from the device blasts plaque and debris away, providing a deep-clean feeling similar to traditional flossing.

Who is a Good Candidate for Water Flossing?

If you have difficulty using string floss or floss picks, you may be a good candidate for this modern alternative. Our Evanston dentists sometimes recommend this as an alternative to patients who visit our office. Good candidates may include:

  • People with arthritis who have trouble maneuvering string floss
  • People with braces that are unable to work dental floss through their teeth
  • People who currently have or have a history of gum disease
  • People who have characteristically dry mouths
  • People with dental implants or bridges

Are Water Flossers Better than String Floss?

If you are able to use traditional floss, our Evanston dentists may not recommend water flossing exclusively. Traditional string floss is still considered the most effective solution for cleaning between the average person’s teeth. String floss can scrape up and down each of your teeth and more effectively break down hardened buildups of plaque. Water flossing does provide more below-the-gumline cleaning power, which can make it a preferable option for certain patients with relevant conditions.

Contact Our Evanston Dentists

Taking great care of your teeth will help them look their best for years to come. If you are seeking to improve your dental hygiene regimen, we would love to help! During your next teeth cleaning, our Evanston dentists can answer your questions and provide you with personalized solutions for your unique smile. Our team is experienced and knowledgeable in many practice areas including restorative and cosmetic dentistry. Contact us today.

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What Causes Tooth Staining and Discoloration?

on July 28, 2020

Everyone wants to be able to flash a healthy, white smile. However, if you look in the mirror only to see stained or discolored teeth, you may be tempted to hide your smile. That can have a negative effect on every aspect of your life, from social to professional. There are many reasons why your teeth may be darker than you’d like – some that are within your control, while others are not.

Stains Caused by Lifestyle Habits

Eating certain foods like pasta, potatoes, and other starchy foods can create conditions that cause staining. Additionally, drinking colas, coffee, tea, and wines are also notorious for turning our pearly whites various shades of beige and gray. Smoking and chewing tobacco also stains our teeth.

Dental Health Issues

Stains can easily build up if we forget to brush and floss our teeth regularly. Skipping regular, professional dental cleanings also allows stains to form and darken. Some diseases can prevent the normal development of dentin (the core beneath the enamel), as well as the tooth enamel itself (the white exterior), leading to tooth discoloration.

Medical treatments and certain medications can also be problematic. Neck and head radiation, chemotherapy, and certain drugs like antihistamines, antihypertensive medications, and antipsychotic drugs cause tooth discoloration. It is also well documented that certain antibiotics can interfere with enamel formation in children under the age of eight. Additionally, when a pregnant mother suffers from certain infections, it can affect their baby’s enamel development and cause discoloration of the baby’s teeth.

Dental fillings may also be the cause of discolored teeth. Silver sulfide materials, which are present in some amalgam restorations, can stain and lend a grayish cast to the restored teeth, as well as the surrounding gum tissue.

Culprits Beyond Our Control

As we age, the outer layer of enamel wears thinner, exposing the yellow dentin (which also happens to grow thicker as we get older). This reduced translucency makes teeth appear darker. Environmental factors including being exposed to too much fluoride while our teeth are forming, and genetics that lead to thicker enamel running in some families, can affect how white our teeth remain as we get older.

Children younger than eight can suffer disruption to enamel formation if they experience trauma to their mouth, like being hit in the face during sports participation. Trauma caused by a sports injury or other impact can also cause adult teeth to become discolored due to reduced blood flow or nerve death.

Cosmetic Dentistry in Evanston

We all care about having healthy, white teeth. In fact, according to the American Academy for Cosmetic Dentistry, 99% of us consider our smile to be our most important social feature. If you are looking to improve the whiteness and brightness of your smile, reach out to the experts at Stephens Dentistry, where we specialize in cosmetic dentistry in Evanston.

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The Role of Dental Hygiene in Disease Prevention

on June 15, 2020

It’s undeniable that COVID-19 has changed the way we think about our health as individuals and as a collective. At Stephens Dentistry, we know that maintaining excellent oral health is an important piece of the puzzle. Today, we’ll explain the relationship between your teeth and your immune system, and provide suggestions on how to improve your practice.

Neglecting to care for one’s dental health affects much more than just your teeth. Your mouth is an entry point to the outside world; anything that passes through it has direct access to your lungs and stomach. In addition to washing your hands and maintaining a safe distance from others, special care for your teeth can help you avoid contracting the Coronavirus.

What You Can Do

1. Continue to Brush and Floss

With so much going on, sticking with your dental care regimen may more easily fall by the wayside. The most important aspect of maintaining dental health is to prioritize your care routines, including brushing twice and flossing once per day.

2. Limit Sugary Snacks and Drink Water

Limiting the amount of sugary snacks and beverages you have can drastically reduce the amount of plaque buildup in your mouth. Try to meet your daily water intake each day. Drinking water is not only essential for your dental health, it will also benefit your overall health and mood. If you do decide to have a sweet treat, be sure to rinse with water.

3. Stop Sharing Dental Products

If you typically share toothpaste, floss, or any other dental product with roommates or family members, now is the time to stop. Avoiding sharing these essentials eliminates the possibility of transmitting the Coronavirus (and any other germs and bacteria) through these forms.

4. Clean Your Dental Appliances Thoroughly

Those who have dentures, Invisalign trays, retainers, or mouthguards should be extra careful to clean their dental appliances during this time.

5. Keep Up With Your Checkups

It’s recommended that everyone visit the dentist at least twice per year. Skipping these appointments could mean missing an opportunity to diagnose a worsening condition. As a premier Evanston dentists, we are following strict protocols so that you can visit our office safely.

Contact Our Evanston DDS

Because of closures during the pandemic, many people have fallen behind on their regimen of care. Please feel encouraged to reach out to us and make an appointment with our Evanston dentists. Our trained dental experts will help you get back on track! Contact us today.

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Answering Your Dental Inlay Questions

on May 20, 2020

If you’ve had a dental cavity as an adult, you’re far from alone. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 92% of adults between 20 and 64 have had dental cavities in their permanent teeth. Dentists have several options to choose from when deciding how to restore a patient’s tooth after removing a cavity, including fillings, inlays, and onlays. Today we will answer some of the most common questions we receive regarding the dental inlays at our office.

What’s the Difference Between a Dental Inlay and Filling?

Though both can restore a tooth after a cavity has been removed, fillings are better for more minor cases of tooth decay compared to a dental inlay. FIllings are made on-the-spot in the dentist’s office in a single visit. In cases where dental decay is more advanced, an inlay may be recommended. Dental inlays can also be used to repair a broken or fractured tooth in instances where the cusp of the tooth is unaffected.

How Are Dental Inlays Created?

In order to create a dental inlay, many offices take a mold of the affected tooth and have an outside lab fabricate a one-piece inlay. This process is called ‘indirect fabrication.’ At Stephens Dentistry, we use our CEREC machine to fabricate inlays so that they can be placed the same day. The application process is also a bit different from traditional fillings, with the inlay requiring a special dental cement to be applied.

What Are Dental Fillings Made Out Of?

Dental inlays are most commonly made from tooth-colored ceramic, porcelain, or a specialized dental composite. Though all restorative dental procedures carry some degree of risk, dental inlays are generally considered to be safe.

How Can I Help My Dental Inlay Last?

Though many people will eventually need to replace their dental inlays, excellent daily care and regular visits to your dentist can help keep it looking and feeling its best. Here are some additional tips to keep your dental inlay in good shape:

  • Don’t use tobacco products
  • Choose water over sugary or acidic beverages
  • Avoid sugary, sticky, or hard foods (including chewing on ice)
  • Limit the amount of staining beverages you drink (tea, coffee, red wine)

We Provide Inlays in Evanston

Stephens Dentistry has been serving patients from Evanston, IL and the surrounding areas for over 60 years. Our team is highly trained to provide a number of restorative dental services, including bonding, filling, bridges, dentures, and inlays in Evanston. Contact us today.

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How to Respond to a Dental Emergency

on April 25, 2020

Dental emergencies are an unfortunate fact of life. Excellent preventative and daily care can help prevent many serious dental conditions, but accidents can happen anywhere. Knowing the facts and being prepared to respond can help you prevent the worst results in case of emergency. Today we’ll be discussing common emergency situations and best to respond.

If you find yourself experiencing extreme dental pain, please do not hesitate to contact our Evanston dentist for help!

Recognizing an Emergency

Most people will recognize a knocked-out tooth as a dental emergency, but it’s important to treat unseen pain just as seriously. Any kind of significant dental or gum pain should be communicated to your local dental office as soon as possible. If you are experiencing a dental emergency, most offices (including our Evanston dentist), will see you immediately. In many cases, early treatment can be the key to a speedy recovery!

Common Emergencies

Dental Traumas: Avulsions

Commonly referred to as a knocked-out tooth, dental avulsions need proper and swift response to be corrected. You may be able to save your tooth if you pick it up by the crown (never the root), rinse the tooth without scrubbing it, and attempt to insert it back into the socket before seeing your dentist. If you cannot reinsert it, you can try storing it between your gum and lip on your way to the office or transporting it in a small container of milk.

Dental Traumas: Chipped, Cracked, or Broken Teeth

We won’t sugar-coat it—as dentists, we advise against sugar-coating in general—the pain of a chipped, cracked, or broken tooth can be unbearably painful. Many people will reach for any pain medicine they have on hand to try to manage their discomfort. If you experience dental damage, be advised to only use acetaminophen and a cold compress (on the affected area of your face). Other medications, as well as numbing gels, can interfere with your dental work when you arrive at the office.

Dental or Gingival Abscess

Severe throbbing, swelling, temperature sensitivity, and fever are symptoms that come with dental and gingival (gum) abscesses. Some people may be able to see their abscess in the mirror as an irritated bump in the affected area. It’s very important to contact a dentist in these cases so that the infection is not allowed to spread.

Acute Pulpitis

Acute pulpitis is a painful dental condition that causes the inner pulp of one or more teeth to become inflamed. Caused by invasive bacteria, the condition may be reversible when you visit a dentist during the early stages. Left untreated, a person with acute pulpitis may develop a periapical abscess or experience a spread of infection to other parts of the body. Symptoms include dull but continuous tooth pain, sensitivity in the jaw, swelling of the jaw or face, and/or a fever.

Contact Our Evanston Dentist

During these difficult times, Stephens Dentistry continues to see patients in need of emergency dental care. Please do not suffer while our skilled and compassionate team stands by to help! We can help remedy what ails you. Contact us today.

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