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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SDManageWhat Causes Tooth Staining and Discoloration?

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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Life with Dentures

on March 31, 2020

If you’re considering your restorative dentistry options for dealing with tooth loss, you may be wondering what life with dentures is like. Surely, several aspects of life will be different, including speaking, conducting oral hygiene, and eating. For many who get dentures, there is an adjustment period as facial muscles adjust to the new appliance. Following special dietary guidelines can make this process easier.

Speaking with Dentures

As you adjust to your new smile, you may find that certain words or sounds come out differently or are difficult to pronounce. Oftentimes, individuals may have trouble with ‘f’ and ‘s’ sounds. Due to the change in your mouth’s anatomy, you may notice that your voice sounds louder than before. Both issues are likely to recede with time and practice. Some people find that practicing in front of a mirror, perhaps by reading aloud, helps them adjust more quickly.

If you notice your dentures shifting out of position as you speak or laugh, you can gently bite down to help set them back into position. It’s important to remember to go easy on yourself while you get used to wearing your dentures. If you find yourself getting frustrated, try taking a deep breath and see if you can find your way back to a smile.

Eating with Dentures

Start with a Mechanical Soft Diet

Immediately after you get new dentures, your dentist will recommend you follow what’s called a mechanical soft diet. This diet includes foods that need minimal chewing, with crunchy foods out of the picture entirely. Think pudding, eggs, and mashed potatoes. During this time, you should also take care to test the temperature of your food before eating it; dentures have an insulating effect that makes it difficult to detect extreme hot or cold. It will be best to avoid spicy foods as well to minimize any irritation.

Move on to Solid Foods

The next step in the adjustment process includes a return to some solid foods. The ones you will want to avoid include hard-to-chew meats and sticky or gummy foods. Even when consuming foods that do not meet these descriptions, you will want to cut your food into small pieces and give yourself ample time to eat. This is not a time to rush or catch a ‘meal-on-the-go,’ rather a time to chew slowly and mindfully on both sides of your mouth.

A New Normal

Once you have fully adjusted to life with dentures, you will be able to eat just about anything you would have with natural teeth. Still, you cannot forget you are wearing them altogether. Continue to take special care when eating certain foods, including foods that are hard, sticky, or very particulate. Some of the foods you should continue to eat carefully are crunchy or raw vegetables and fruits, crusty bread, tough meats, sticky candy, popcorn and whole nuts.

Restorative Dentistry in Evanston

Moving forward with full or partial dentures might be what you need to smile, eat, and laugh with confidence. This is one of several restorative dentistry services our office in Evanston offers. You can read more about the process at our office, or reach out today to discuss beginning treatment with a friendly member of staff.

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Make Dental Care Your 2020 Resolution

on January 22, 2020

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, most people opt for things like losing weight (difficult), starting and sticking to an exercise routine (more difficult), or sorting through the 44,000 emails that are cluttering up their inbox (impossible). However, if you’d like to take on a manageable resolution for 2020 that is as vital to your overall health as exercise, make it prioritizing your dental care.

By following the simple suggestions listed below, you will likely find it quite easy to stick to your resolution.

Food and Drink Choices

This tip will also assist those of you resolving to lose weight in 2020. Various foods contribute to both an increase in your waistline and tooth decay. By staying away from potato chips, bread, soda, and candies with refined sugar, you will help eliminate calories as well as the acid and sugar that can damage tooth enamel. Try substituting fruits and vegetables for snacks and drink more water in place of soda when you can.

Better Brushing Habits

Commit to brushing your teeth at least twice daily; and to get the most out of brushing, make sure to keep the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle. Use small circular movements that help dislodge particles from between teeth instead of wide back-and-forth motions. Floss at least once a day and don’t forget to replace your toothbrush every three or four months.

Brighten Your Smile

If you already drink plenty of water, brush twice daily, floss regularly, yet your smile is less than dazzling, consider visiting an experienced dentist near Evanston to discuss whitening options. These include over-the-counter agents and in-office treatments.

Contact Stephens Dentistry

At Stephens Dentistry, we are here to help make sure you enjoy a happy and healthy 2020. We hope you have made a resolution to improve your oral health – and if you have – we suggest making an appointment with our dentist near Evanston for professional teeth cleaning and evaluation to get you started off right.

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Caring For Your Teeth During The Winter

on December 17, 2019

Two things happen in winter that tend to cause problems with your teeth. First, the weather gets cold—which makes your immune system far more susceptible to infections. Second, holiday dinners and parties start happening. And at these holiday dinners and parties, we tend to eat a lot of unhealthy, often sugary foods.

Fortunately, as a dentist in Evanston, we know how to help you keep your teeth healthy this winter.

Protect Your Teeth from Sugar

We won’t tell you to avoid sugar altogether, but if you do indulge, there are some preventive measures you can take. Because sugar causes your mouth to become more acidic, your teeth are vulnerable for the 30 minutes following sugar consumption. What that means is you actually want to avoid brushing your teeth for 30 minutes after eating something with a lot of sugar.

Otherwise, you may wear away some of your tooth enamel, which is not a good thing. Wearing away tooth enamel is a surefire way to land yourself in a dentist in Evanston’s office with tooth problems.

Strategically Eat Your Sugary Treats

Believe it or not, there’s a right way and a wrong way to consume sugar. To avoid exposing your teeth to sugar for an extended period of time, it’s best to eat sugary snacks all at once rather than throughout the day. In other words, if you’re going to eat things with high sugar content, do it at mealtime and avoid it otherwise.

Stay on Top of Regular Dental Visits

As a dentist in Evanston, we know just how busy the winter season can get. That said, there’s no better time than the winter months to get into your dentist’s office for a cleaning and checkup. And that’s true whether you plan to eat lots of sugary treats or not. So give Stephens Dentistry a ring and schedule your next visit.

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All About Dr. Ma

on November 12, 2019

The Basics

Did you know that Dr. Ma is originally from Zanesville, Ohio? In her youth, her parents moved her and her sister to North Carolina. Dr. Ma was able to receive her high school diploma, undergraduate degree, and graduate degree all in North Carolina, but from there she began practicing dentistry in a few different states. 

Education And Practice

After receiving her undergraduate degree at North Carolina State University and her graduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Adams School of Dentistry, Dr. Ma moved to practice in Boston, Massachusetts and began her career as a dentist. 


Dr. Ma found Stephens Dentistry when she moved into town with her family—her husband is a dentist for the United States Navy, where he received orders to work at Great Lakes Naval Base, which is what brought them to Illinois in the first place.

Dr. Ma At Work

Many times, Dr. Ma has been told by her patients that she has a calm, gentle, and laid back demeanor. This helps put her patients at ease, making them feel and stay comfortable in her dental chair. She is aware of the common misconception that dental offices are fearful environments. Not only does Dr. Ma disagree with this statement, but she also knows that she wants to be transparent with her patients, always available to discuss which of the different treatment options will work for each person who sits in her chair. She makes sure you are heard.


In 2014, Dr. Ma, was awarded the Top Clinician Achievement Award: Gentle Dental Association Achievement. Due to her clinical excellence, Dr. Ma received this award based on the merits that she was a top provider among 42 branches of Gentle Dental New England. 

Life In Evanston And Chicago

Dr. Ma married her high school sweetheart and together they have a wonderfully mischievous toddler boy, Ethan. When she isn’t working, Dr. Ma enjoys tapping into her artsy side, checking out the local galleries, especially when her patients showcase their work. Dr. Ma also likes to explore downtown Chicago with family and friends. Her visits consist of stopping at museums and galleries, enjoying a sports game, and eating great food at many different restaurants. 


Get to know more about Dr. Ma when you come in for your bi-yearly professional dental cleaning at our office in Evanston Dentist. She’ll make it a point to listen to your needs so you can get the treatment that’s right for you. 


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