Mouth Wash 101

on May 15, 2014

It’s hard to imagine that something you just swish and spit can really benefit your dental health. The RIGHT mouthwash can be one of your BEST defenses against bad breath and tooth decay. With so many varieties, focus on the ingredients when shopping for your mouth wash. While all washes freshen your breath, some do a better job than others. Antibacterial washes containing chlorhexidine or chlorine dioxide-help kill the bacteria that cause bad breath. Unfortunately, chlorhexidine is only available in the US by prescription and long term use can cause your teeth to stain. Other readily available over-the-counter mouth washes can also do the trick. For instance, Listerine, or its generic drugstore equivalent, is great at temporarily killing odor-causing bacteria. Just make sure the active ingredients include: menthol, thymol, methyl salicylate and eucalyptol. In combination, these four oils have an antiseptic effect, and in an ethanol alcohol base, they can break through plaque.

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SDManageMouth Wash 101

BreathRX – A Simple Solution to Halitosis

on May 15, 2014

Each of us have suffered from bad breath at one time or another. But it is estimated that forty million Americans suffer from bad breath that never goes away. The medical term for this condition is halitosis. Surprisingly, most people with halitosis are not aware of their problem breath. That’s because our sense of smell has an amazing ability to adjust to odors. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for 90% of oral halitosis. It requires long-term control and management of this condition.

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SDManageBreathRX – A Simple Solution to Halitosis

Starting in the World of Dentistry

on April 30, 2014

If you would have asked me 5 years ago if I have ever thought about working in a dental office, I probably would have laughed in your face. I never considered the field in all my years of random jobs ranging from: cleaning locker rooms, shampooing hair, taking dry cleaning orders, making appointments at a barber shop or even in my 6+ years in design and marketing. However, after losing my job with an advertising agency in January, all of that changed.

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SDManageStarting in the World of Dentistry

Youth Sports Safety Month – Mouth Guards

on April 2, 2014


In honor of Youth Sports Safety Month we want to discuss mouth guards and their use for children participating in spring sports. 84% of children don’t wear a mouth guard while playing organized sports. Last year, the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation* forecasted that more than 3 million teeth would be knocked out in sporting events. We understand asking children to wear a mouth guard during physical activities can be challenging to a parent. But it is worth the effort.

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SDManageYouth Sports Safety Month – Mouth Guards

This is Carin, Signing off

on February 12, 2014

I have been working at Stephens Dentistry for the past seven years. Through these years I have made wonderful friendships and have learned so much. Leaving Stephens is bittersweet. I will miss my wonderful bosses, co-workers, and patients, but I am looking forward to my future endeavors.

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SDManageThis is Carin, Signing off

Soft vs. Medium bristled toothbrush

on February 5, 2014

ToothbrushesWith all of the different toothbrushes on the market, you may wonder which one to choose. We are here to help you choose which manual toothbrush is the best for you.

Purpose of Toothbrush

Your toothbrush is the number one way to remove bacteria and plaque from your teeth and gums. The mechanical motion of brushing your teeth is the main mode of removal. Removing the plaque and bacteria helps protect your teeth against tooth decay and periodontal disease. To that end, choosing a toothbrush that maximizes the plaque removal is ideal.

Bristle Strength

There are several different strengths of toothbrush bristles, the most widely used are extra soft, soft, and medium. In a study from Franciscan University Center in Santa Maria, Brazil, researchers found that medium bristled toothbrushes remove more plaque than soft bristled brushes. However, they also found that medium bristled brushes do more damage to your gums. In order to achieve whole mouth wellness, our Evanston dentists recommend using extra soft or soft bristles.


Some toothbrushes have added features such as floss action or rubber cups. Although these features may increase the effectiveness of your brushing, they do not replace the action of flossing as they cannot reach between your teeth. The rubber bits work well to remove additional staining from your tooth. If you are someone who eats and drinks a larger amount of staining foods – blueberries, coffee, red wine – these toothbrushes may help you keep your teeth whiter when used in conjunction with other whitening products.

Ideal Choice

The ideal choice for a toothbrush will be different for everyone. Choosing a brush with soft or extra soft bristles is a good starting point. After that consideration, choose a brush that is comfortable for you to use. It is important to choose a toothbrush that you feel comfortable using to ensure that you brush your teeth twice a day. If you find electric toothbrushes too complex, feel free to use a manual toothbrush with a toothbrush timer. Always aim for two minutes of brush time.

Choosing a toothbrush can be a personal decision, but no matter which brush shape and add-ons you choose, choose a soft or extra soft bristled brush to keep your gums healthy.

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SDManageSoft vs. Medium bristled toothbrush

Looking for Dental Insurance?

on January 29, 2014

Several patients have been looking for dental insurance for the new year; so we thought it was time to write another blog about dental insurance.

Where to Look

The first place to look for dental coverage is through your employer. Often companies can get better rates for dental insurance for their employees because they contract for a large group of people.

If your employer does not offer dental insurance, or you are self-employed, you will have to search to find either a medical plan that includes dental, or a stand-alone dental plan. In years past, stand-alone dental insurance was difficult to find for individuals. These days, an internet search for dental insurance will bring up several different places you can shop online for dental insurance, such as Additionally, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, you can enroll in stand-alone dental insurance through

What to Look For

With these and other similar websites, you will be presented with many different options for dental insurance. This may be a bit overwhelming, but our Evanston dentist office is here to help!

There are three types of dental insurance: HMO (sometimes DMO), PPO (sometimes DPO), and indemnity.

  • HMO insurance requires you to go to an in-network dentist to get coverage. If you already have a dentist that you enjoy seeing, such as Dr. James or Dr. Robert, then it is best to contact your dentist to find out if they are in-network before purchasing an HMO insurance.
  • PPO insurances allow more flexibility, as you can see any dentist that you would like to see. These insurance plans provide different coverage for visits to in-network and out-of-network providers.
  • Indemnity plans allow for the most flexibility. These plans allow you to see any dentist that you would like to see without any changes in coverage.

Additionally, you should look at the maximum benefits. Unlike medical insurance, where you pay for your portion up to the maximum and then insurance covers everything after; dental insurance covers you at your contracted rate until you reach the maximum benefits, then you are responsible for the costs of any treatment above the maximum. So, a dental plan with a maximum of $500 wouldn’t cover as much as a dental plan with a maximum of $3,000.

Finally, look for an orthodontic option. Some insurance plans include an orthodontic option that you can opt in or opt out. If you are not planning on having orthodontic work – such as braces or Invisalign – you may opt out of this option to save yourself some money. If you are planning on orthodontic work or are unsure, it is best to opt-in. However, make sure it is a benefit and not a discount option. Your dental office may not participate in a discount plan, especially if they are out-of-network.

Things to Watch Out For

There are several different things to watch out for when you are purchasing dental insurance. The first thing to be aware of is a waiting period. Some insurance plans will have a waiting period before they will cover basic or major services. If you are looking for dental insurance because you have treatment you pending, look for a plan that does not have a waiting period.

Secondly, some insurance plans may have a ‘missing-tooth’ clause. This is similar to the ‘pre-existing condition’ clause in medical insurance plans. With a missing-tooth clause, insurance will not cover a replacement for a tooth that was missing prior to you having insurance with them. In some cases, the missing tooth clause is waived after a certain period of time. Check your plan to see if there is a missing tooth clause, and if so, when it may be waived.

Finally, most insurance plans have a ‘replacement’ clause. On average, insurance will cover a replacement for a crown or bridge once every five years. You should peruse your insurance plan and see what the specific limitations are on replacement of restorations. If you are planning on having major restorations replaced – such as a crown, onlay, inlay, or bridge – find out the date when the restoration was originally placed so you are prepared when your insurance requests the information.


Purchasing dental insurance can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Take the time to learn what you are buying to make sure it works for your needs. If you have more questions about dental insurance, check out our other insurance blog posts. If you are purchasing insurance to use at our office, feel free to call our Evanston dental office with any questions. Our staff would be happy to help answer any of your questions.

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SDManageLooking for Dental Insurance?

How to choose your toothpaste

on January 29, 2014

Toothpaste AisleTrying to choose toothpaste from the wall of toothpaste at the grocery store can be intimidating. With all of the different types and brands you may be confused as to which one to purchase. Choosing a toothpaste shouldn’t be this hard, and it doesn’t have to be. We’re here to make it simple. 


No matter which brand, the goal of your toothpaste is to deliver fluoride to your teeth. There are many different ingredients in toothpastes, but they all fit into 8 categories of ingredients:

Fluoride: Fluoride is found in toothpaste in the form of Sodium Fluoride. It helps prevent tooth decay by providing the fluoride to help remineralize and strengthen your enamel.

Water: Water is the base for the toothpaste.

Flavor, Sweeteners, and Dyes: These are used to make the toothpaste look and taste favorably. Common sweeteners are: glycerine, sorbitol, and sodium saccharine.

Thickeners: These materials, when added to water create the paste texture that provides the best delivery system for the fluoride. Common thickener agents include: cellulose gum and xanthan gum.

pH correctors: As their name suggests, pH correctors correct the pH balance of the toothpaste to create an alkaline (or basic) environment. This helps neutralize the acids in your mouth that are produced by decay causing bacteria. Sodium hydroxide is most often used for this purpose.

Abradants: Although most bacteria are removed mechanically with your toothbrush, these abrasive agents are added to toothpastes to provide additional cleaning power and to help remove surface stains. Common abradants are: hydrated silica, titanium dioxide, and mica.

Mixing agents: These include emulsifiers and surfactants which help give the toothpaste a uniform consistency by keeping the different ingredients mixed together. There is a wide range of mixing agents that are used in toothpastes, including propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, and cocamidopropyl betaine.

Detergents: The foam that forms when you brush your teeth is a result of the detergents in your toothpaste. The most common detergent is sodium lauryl sulfate.

Most toothpastes contain at least one ingredient from each category, although there are some that only contain ingredients from a couple of categories – most often leaving out detergents.

Sensitivity Pastes

Sensitivity toothpastes contain potassium nitrate as a desensitizing ingredient. This helps calm the nerve and prevents the transmission of painful stimuli. If you suffer from sensitivity when whitening, these toothpastes will help. For long term issues with tooth sensitivity it is best to discuss with your dentist to verify there isn’t a more serious underlying cause for your sensitivity.

Whitening Pastes

Whitening pastes often contain more abradants than normal toothpaste to aid in removing stains. If you do use whitening toothpaste, it is best to use them in conjunction with a fluoride mouthrinse. The mouth rinse will help remineralize your enamel after brushing. Additionally, take special care to wait a half hour after eating when using whitening toothpaste as the acidic environment created after eating would add to any enamel erosion that may be caused by the additional abrasive qualities of whitening toothpaste.

Prescription Strength

There are some prescription strength fluoride toothpaste that contains more fluoride than over the counter products. These toothpaste are recommended for patients who are at a higher risk for dental caries. If you believe that you would benefit from prescription strength toothpaste, speak to your dentist.

Fluoride Free

These are often referred to as training toothpastes, as they are best used for small children who swallow their toothpaste. Additionally, fluoride free toothpaste can be used to encourage kids to brush their teeth. The fruity flavors and foaming action makes toothbrushing time more fun.

Our Evanston dentists do not recommend fluoride free toothpaste for adults, as the main benefit for toothpaste is to supply fluoride for your teeth.


You may notice that we have not named a specific brand of toothpaste for you to use. This is because any fluoride toothpaste is good toothpaste. Let us know in the comments if you have a favorite toothpaste and why. Brushing your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste is one of the best steps you can take to ensure good oral health.

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SDManageHow to choose your toothpaste

Dental Insurance: An Overview

on January 29, 2014

Dental Insurance FormLast week’s blog discussed what to look for when searching for dental insurance. This week we help you understand your dental insurance.

Usual and Customary

When looking at your dental insurance coverage, there is usually a breakdown of coverage into different percentages. The thing to remember is that you are not covered at that percentage of the dentist fees, but instead, you are covered at that percentage of the insurance company’s usual and customary fees. The insurance company uses different surveys to determine their usual and customary fee. These surveys may be of dentists over the whole country or of dentists in your particular area. Depending on what data the insurance company uses for the survey, the fees that they deem ‘usual and customary’ may be either equal to your dentist’s fees, or lower. In some cases, the usual and customary fees are much lower than your dentist’s fees.

Here is an example of what the insurance breakdown would look like if your dentist charges $100 for a prophy and insurance has a usual and customary fee of $90 and coverage of 90%:

Example E.O.B.

Deductibles & Maximums

Deductibles and maximums are defined by your insurance plans. Deductibles may be as low as $25 for dental insurance. Some insurance plans do not apply the deductible to preventative care – such as your routine hygiene appointment. In this case, the deductible is instead applied to any basic or major treatment that you need.

All dental insurance plans have a maximum benefit. This benefit defines the maximum dollar amount that your insurance will pay for your dental care during your coverage year. At the end of your annual coverage year, you lose any remaining benefits and your maximum is reset. Often a coverage year is the same as a calendar year, but not always. It is best to read through your benefits so that you are aware of your maximum and your coverage year. This will allow you to schedule your treatment in order maximize your insurance benefits.

Frequency Limitations

Dental insurance plans have frequency limitations for different procedures. Some examples of insurance frequency limitations are: one prophylaxis (dental cleaning) every 6 months, one panoramic x-ray every 3 years, one set of bitewings every 12 months. In the case of prophylaxes, sometimes insurance plans change the frequency limitations and state that a prophylaxis is limited to two during one calendar year. In this case, you may have two cleanings throughout the year, no matter how far apart. It is important to pay attention to frequency limitations, especially when scheduling your hygiene appointments. At our Evanston dentist office, we try to schedule everyone 6 months and one day from their last cleaning to avoid any issues with frequency limitations. If a patient asks to schedule earlier, we will do so, but recommend that they contact their insurance company to make sure they will be covered. Reading through your insurance plan to learn your frequency limitations as well as any treatment limitations will help you avoid losing insurance dollars.

Alternate Benefits

Some insurance plans consider tooth colored restorations on your posterior (back) teeth to be cosmetic. If this is the case, your insurance may choose to cover the treatment at an alternate lower benefit. In some cases your insurance may choose not to cover it at all.

Here is an example of an alternate benefit: you have a porcelain/ceramic crown done on a molar. Your insurance company deems this treatment to be cosmetic and instead pays for the crown as if it was a porcelain over metal crown. The benefits would be determined using the usual and customary fee for the porcelain over metal crown instead of the fee for a porcelain/ceramic crown.

By reading through your insurance benefits and understanding if they have alternate benefits or if the deny coverage for procedures; you will be able to save yourself from having to pay out of pocket for treatment.

Orthodontic Benefits

For most people there are a variety of different orthodontic benefits available through your insurance. In some cases, these benefits are only available for patients under the age of 18. Often adult orthodontic benefits are covered only once in a lifetime. If you are unsure of your orthodontic benefits, the dentists at our Evanston office would be happy to submit a treatment plan to your insurance to find out what your coverage. Alternately, you can contact your insurance company directly to learn more about your benefits.


Dental insurance can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Your insurance plan is a contract between you and your insurance company. Read through your benefits to make sure you understand what you are paying for. If you have any questions about your coverage, do not hesitate to bring your questions to our team. As always we are happy to submit any recommended treatment to your insurance for a pre-treatment estimate so that you may understand your coverage before you get started.

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SDManageDental Insurance: An Overview

Veneers – A simple way to a new smile

on January 21, 2014

When you are looking to improve your smile there are many different directions you can take. In today’s post we will be exploring one of the options available at our Evanston dental office to maximize your smile potential. Whether you are looking to correct worn teeth, discolored teeth, or a gap in your teeth, veneers may be the option for you.

A veneer in dentistry is a restoration that covers your original tooth. Unlike crowns, veneers allow you to retain the majority of your original tooth structure. Veneers can be a cosmetic solution, but in some instances veneers can be used in a restorative manner. There are several different options for veneers. At our office we offer one visit veneers using our CEREC milling machine and contact lens thin Lumineers®.

Dr. James Stephens has used Lumineers to restore an older, worn smile to a beautiful white smile:

Before Lumineers After Lumineers

Before                                                   After


He has also used Lumineers to correct a gap between front teeth:

  Before Lumineers After Lumineers

Before                                             After


In both cases, multiple veneers were used to preserve the color and look of the patient’s smile. Traditionally 6 or 8 veneers are done at the same time depending on how wide your smile is.

If you are interested in finding out if veneers are right for you, contact our office. We even have a special going on at our office right now! (Visit our Facebook page for more details.) Drs. James and Robert Stephens would be happy to sit down and go over your smile options with you.

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SDManageVeneers – A simple way to a new smile