Dr. Ray Alavanja
Dr. Robert Pieters

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Why Don’t Cavities Hurt? Answers to Common Questions About Dental Caries

Written by Schererville Family Dentistry on . Posted in Uncategorized

Since childhood, you have seen constant warnings about cavities. Your favorite TV shows likely featured them a few times. You probably learned about them in school, and your dentist probably explained them to you during one of your first checkups.

Luckily, you have never had to experience a cavity before. Your teeth have stayed healthy for years because of your close attention to dental hygiene. However, you’ve recently noticed some strange spots on your teeth, and you wonder if you have developed a cavity.

Below, we will tell you how to assess whether or not you have one of these dental caries. We will also answer several common questions our patients have about cavities.

  1.  What Are Cavities?

The term “cavity” refers to a hole in your teeth’s enamel. That hole forms because bacteria make the enamel decay. These holes start small at first, and you may not notice them. But as they develop, they can eat away at your enamel until they reach the dentin and pulp underneath. They may even cause a painful condition called an abscess, which we will outline later.

  2.  How Do Cavities Develop?

Bacteria cause tooth decay or cavities through their metabolic process. When they eat the sugars and carbohydrates that enter your mouth, they secrete an acid as a byproduct. And because these bacteria coat your teeth in the form of plaque or tartar, that acid goes directly onto your tooth enamel. Over time, the acid erodes the enamel away.

When the acid reveals the dentin underneath the enamel, the bacteria has a new food source. It settles into the dentin and other soft tissues, like the pulp that contains the nerves and blood vessels, and it causes an infection. At this point, the cavity has reached its most advanced stage.

  3.  How Do You Tell If You Have Cavities?

You might not always have the ability to spot a cavity. Small cavities may not exhibit any signs, and only your dentist’s trained eye would catch them at this early stage. But as they develop, you may notice symptoms like sensitivity as the dentin becomes exposed. You may also notice dark spots or even bright white spots. Eventually, your entire tooth may appear dark.

Additionally, as the cavity progresses, you may also notice these symptoms:

  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Holes

You develop these symptoms as a result of the decay. If you notice any of the indicators listed in this section, see your dentist for a checkup right away!

  4.  Where Do Cavities Usually Form?

Cavities can form on any of the teeth in your mouth. However, they tend to form most often in these areas:

  • The back teeth-these teeth have more grooves, and they come into contact with food more often
  • The surfaces where teeth touch each other-food can become trapped here, and you may forget to floss
  • The backs of your teeth-these surfaces often receive less attention than they should

You probably can’t assess these surfaces well if you suspect you have a cavity. You don’t have the small mirror or pick that a dentist uses to check for cavities. Luckily, your dentist checks all of these areas at each checkup, so he or she will notice if you have tooth decay.

  5.  Why Don’t Cavities Hurt?

Many people assume they don’t have a cavity because they don’t feel anything. However, cavities don’t cause pain-at least not in the early stages. When they do start to cause pain, you have waited too long, and you will have to pay for more extensive treatments instead of quick and convenient ones. After all, you won’t feel pain until the cavity reaches the pulp in the center of your tooth. At that point, an abscess, or an infected hole could form around the tooth’s roots.

Abscesses don’t just cause pain. They can also spread bacteria to neighboring teeth or even other areas throughout the body. So don’t wait for treatment if you have a cavity.

  6.  What Treatment Options Do You Have?

Your treatment options depend on what stage the cavity has reached. If you catch it early, your dentist will simply remove the decayed material and give you a filling. This procedure is quick and cost-effective.

But if the cavity reaches an advanced stage and infects or kills the pulp, you may need a root canal and a crown. During a root canal, your dentist accesses and removes the pulp. Then, he or she seals the opening to prevent further decay.  He or she then files the tooth’s remaining structure and creates a mold for a crown. The crown replaces the damaged tooth structure. Despite the cavity’s effects, you will have a full smile again.

  7.  How Can You Prevent Cavities in the Future?

Good oral hygiene, regular dental checkups, and a low-sugar diet represent the best ways to avoid cavities in the future. If you have any questions about your personal approach for cavity prevention, ask your dentist.

How Does Diabetes Affect Your Mouth?

Written by Schererville Family Dentistry on . Posted in Uncategorized

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29 million American adults suffer from diabetes. And an additional 86 million adults have prediabetes. Without a healthy lifestyle, 15 to 30 percent of prediabetic people will develop the condition within 5 years.

During its early stages, diabetes can cause symptoms such as excessive thirst, fatigue, weight loss, and blurred vision. If left unchecked, diabetes can damage nearly every organ in the body, including the heart, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.

But did you know that diabetes can affect your mouth as well?

Common Oral Problems Associated with Diabetes

Diabetes puts you at risk for a variety of dental problems. Some of the most common include the following:

Dental Caries (Cavities)

Your mouth houses millions of bacteria. When you eat carbohydrates, the bacteria digest the sugars from these foods and create a sticky film on your teeth-plaque. The acids in the plaque erode your teeth’s enamel, leaving them vulnerable to decay.

Those with higher blood sugar levels supply bacteria with a greater amount of sugars and starches, resulting in more acid and more tooth decay.

Gingivitis (Early Gum Disease)

Higher blood sugar levels make it difficult for your body to fight the bacteria in your mouth. And if you don’t remove the plaque buildup, it will harden into tartar, or calculus. The longer the calculus remains on your teeth, the more the substance irritates the gums along the base of your teeth. This can lead to swelling, inflammation, redness, and even bleeding.

Periodontitis (Advanced Gum Disease)

If left untreated, gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, or advanced gum disease. Periodontitis causes all the same symptoms as gingivitis, as well as:

  • Gums that pull away from the teeth
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Changes in bite or denture fitting
  • Pus between teeth and gums

Because diabetes slows circulation and reduces the body’s ability to fight infection, individuals with diabetes are more likely to contract this condition. In fact, studies show that people with poor blood sugar control suffer gum disease more often and more severely than those with good control.


In addition to housing a multitude of bacteria, your mouth harbors a fungus known as candida albicans. Typically the immune system keeps small amounts of this fungus in check. But because diabetes weakens the immune system, the fungus may start to grow out of control.

As the fungus grows, you may develop white lesions or patches on your tongue, inner cheeks, and soft tissues of your mouth. These patches can turn into open sores, which may bleed when scraped.

Dry Mouth

Saliva plays a key role in maintaining your oral health. It regulates your mouth’s pH levels, and it deposits important minerals on your teeth to protect your enamel. Furthermore, saliva controls the level and activity of bacteria in your mouth. And it provides lubrication, so the friction between your teeth and soft tissues won’t cause painful sores.

Unfortunately, many individuals suffering from diabetes also experience dry mouth, or xerostomia. This condition occurs when the salivary glands cannot release enough saliva to fight bacteria or protect the mouth. In addition to causing a dry, rough feeling in the mouth and cracked lips, this condition can increase the likelihood of experiencing tooth decay and gum disease.

How to Care for Your Teeth If You Have Diabetes

Because diabetes leads to a variety of health conditions, you should do everything you can to control it and its side effects. You’ll want to follow your doctor’s instructions for managing your blood sugar levels, and you’ll want to report any signs of gum disease to your dentist.

Once you have your blood sugar levels in check, use the following tips to keep your mouth healthy:

  • Brush twice a day. Brush your teeth after you wake up in the morning and again before you go to sleep at night. Ideally, you’ll want to brush 30 minutes after meals and snacks as well. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid irritating your gums. Floss once a day. Although inflamed and irritated gums may make flossing painful, you’ll want to floss regularly to remove plaque buildup between your teeth.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Diabetics should avoid foods that cause spikes in blood sugar levels, especially candy, cookies, and soda.
  • Instead, aim to include foods that have a low glycemic index, such as beans, dark green leafy vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke and you have diabetes, use your health as a reason to stop smoking now. Smoking increases the risk of diabetic complications, including gum disease. Talk to your doctor about ways to kick the habit.


Diabetes presents plenty of problems to those who suffer from the condition. However, you don’t have to let it ruin your health. With careful management and a solid oral regimen, you can keep diabetes and its complications in check.

Myth or Fact: The True Benefits of Teeth Whitening

Written by Schererville Family Dentistry on . Posted in Uncategorized

You’ve considered whitening your teeth for some time. You haven’t loved your smile in weeks, months, or years. You know that you want a brighter, whiter smile-like the smiles on TV or like your office pals. But you’ve been a little hesitant to book an appointment with your dentist.

After all, you’ve heard negative stories from friends or websites about the side effects of teeth whitening. You’re not sure if you want to take any risks for a whiter smile. But whether you’re scared to whiten your teeth or you believe that teeth whitening is crucial for your success, you can find the truth below.

We’ll debunk the common myths about teeth whitening so you won’t feel afraid or worried. We’ll also tell you all the facts and benefits you need to know to make the best decision for you and your smile.

8 Common Myths About Teeth Whitening

  1. All whitening products give the same results. You can choose from a vast array of teeth whitening products. However, this does not mean that they all work just as effectively. Different products contain different levels and concentrations of cleaning agents. If you whiten at home, your smile won’t look as white as someone who went to the dentist.
  2. Anyone can whiten their teeth. Whitening is not appropriate for everyone. People who cannot whiten their teeth include:
  • Adolescents 16 and younger
  • Pregnant or lactating women
  • Individuals with highly sensitive teeth
  • Anyone with peroxide allergies
  • Persons with exposed roots, gum disease, untreated cavities, and worn enamel
  1. Whitening causes pain. Lots of Pain. Modern technology makes teeth whitening completely painless and safe. Your dentist uses a unique gel to protect your gums from the cleaning agents found in whitening gel. You may experience temporary sensitivity or discomfort after the procedure.
  2. Whitening damages tooth enamel. Whitening will not harm or damage your tooth enamel. In fact, the American Dental Association conducted a study and determined that teeth whitening does not damage the tooth enamel.
  3. Whitening gives you a “Hollywood smile.” If you want your smile to look as white as your favorite Hollywood star, you might feel disappointed after you whiten your teeth. Teeth are not naturally white. Teeth are usually a shade of brown, gray, or yellow. Normal whitening just removes any stains on your teeth and makes them look naturally healthy. It only brightens them past the natural shade if you want it to.
  4. Whitening gives you oral cancer. People affiliate chemicals with cancer. Since whitening agents contain chemicals, people mistakenly think that teeth whitening causes oral cancer. Dentists regularly study, analyze, and test whitening products. These tests prove that the chemicals in whitening agents do not cause oral cancer.
  5. Whitening is permanent. Teeth whitening is not permanent. Many foods and drink such as marinara sauce, coffee, and Coke stain your teeth over time. Visit your dentist regularly to keep your smile as white as possible.
  6. Whitening makes your teeth sensitive. Some people believe that their teeth will feel permanently sensitive once their teeth are whitened. However, your teeth will be sensitive one to two days after whitening, but they won’t remain sensitive forever. Your dentist will even prescribe you a gel to reduce sensitivity if needed.

Facts About Teeth Whitening

Professional Whitening

If you want immediate results, visit your dentist for a professional zoom whitening treatment. The entire process takes roughly an hour, so you don’t have to wait long for amazing results. In-office, your dentist applies a protective gel to your gums. Afterward, he or she spreads another specialized, light-activated gel on your teeth. He or she then uses a specially designed light to activate the whitening gel.

If you want a more cost-effective method, ask your dentist about tray whitening to enhance your smile. Your dentist will take a mold of your teeth to create a custom tray for you. Your dentist will then instruct you on proper use and tell you how long to use your whitening trays.

At-home treatments are also incredibly affordable, so you can whiten on a regular basis without spending a lot of money. On the other hand, in-office whitening is incredibly fast and safe for eligible patients. But that doesn’t mean in-office treatment costs a fortune. A professional whitening is also more affordable than you think.

Don’t rely on myths and rumors to make an informed decision. Remember the facts about and benefits of teeth whitening when you decide to brighten your smile.

Do You Grind Your Teeth? How to Find Out and What to Do About It

Written by Schererville Family Dentistry on . Posted in Uncategorized

When you wake up in the morning, do you have a sore jaw or pounding headache that a good night of sleep can’t explain? Perhaps your partner or roommate complains of strange noises coming from your side of the room. Maybe your teeth and gums feel oddly sensitive in the morning.

If you experience any of these symptoms and don’t know why, you could be grinding your teeth at night. Tooth grinding, or bruxism, affects many American children and adults, but it can be hard to diagnose in people who sleep on their own. Unless a partner or roommate points it out to you, you could go on grinding your teeth for years and never know-until it gets so loud that you wake yourself up, or a dentist notices telltale signs of wear on your teeth.

In our blog below, we’ll tell you more about what bruxism is, why it can hurt your teeth and damage your overall health, and how you can manage it.

Primary Causes

  • Tooth grinding can happen for one of several reasons, or from a combination of causes:
  • Misaligned teeth (malocclusions) or overbites
  • Stress, anxiety, or frustration
  • Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea
  • Diseases like acid reflux, Parkinson’s, or Huntington’s
  • ADHD or hyperactivity, especially in children
  • Pain from earaches or headaches, especially in children

Some people suspect that drinking caffeine before bed increases tooth grinding at night, as does chewing on pencils, ice, and other non-food materials. Some medications, including antidepressants, can make you more prone to grind your teeth at night.

While bruxism is more common in children, it can often develop in adults, especially as life circumstances change and become more stressful.

Primary Symptoms and Detection Methods

Along with the symptoms mentioned above, people with bruxism might notice:

  • More frequent earaches and headaches
  • Flattened teeth and worn enamel
  • Facial pain and tension
  • Popping in the jaw

If you’re a parent and your child complains of one or more of these problems, peek into their room after they fall asleep. You can also place an old baby monitor in their room to listen. Over half of children with bruxism grow out of the habit, but that doesn’t mean it won’t cause damage in the meantime. Talk to your child’s dentist about age-appropriate treatment plans.

If you’re an adult who typically sleeps alone, you might have a hard time identifying your tooth grinding habits. If you notice bruxism symptoms, ask your dentist if he or she notices any wear on your teeth. You can also use an app like Sleepbot to record any noises you make at night, including sleep talking, snoring, and tooth grinding.

Bruxism-Related Problems

Why do you need to diagnose and control your bruxism? Apart from the painful symptoms mentioned above, tooth grinding can cause long-lasting problems in both kids and adults. In its most extreme form, bruxism can cause your teeth to loosen and fall out. However, this usually happens only if you have an extreme case of bruxism that goes undetected for years.

Milder bruxism-related dental problems include the wearing down of enamel, which can increase tooth sensitivity and cavities.

Over time, the increased pressure on your teeth might cause them to fracture or break, which means you need veneers and crowns. Bruxism can also cause temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders like TMD, which results in jaw pain, headaches, dizziness, and earaches.

Perhaps most importantly, stress-related bruxism indicates a lower quality of life. If you experience too much stress, anxiety, and frustration in your everyday life, you’ll get a less restful sleep along with the health and dental problems bruxism causes. Learning coping skills to deal with your anxiety will keep your teeth healthier, and it will make you happier as well.

Common Bruxism Treatments

  • The treatment your dentist or doctor recommends often depends on the underlying cause of your tooth grinding:
  • If you have acid reflux problems, your doctor might recommend antacids or dietary changes.
  • If you have misaligned teeth or an overbite, orthodontic treatments will eventually realign your teeth or jaw and solve the problem.
  • If you have undiagnosed ADHD, Parkinson’s, or Huntington’s, certain medications can treat the underlying problem.
  • If medication causes your problem, your doctor might change the dosage or the medication.
  • If you have stress-related bruxism, your doctor or dentist might recommend therapy, counseling, or biofeedback tactics to help you manage the stress in your life.

Regardless of the cause, your dentist will likely prescribe a custom night guard that protects your teeth. If you have a night guard, your teeth grind against plastic instead of against each other. Your partner or roommate might still complain of a strange noise, but the noise on the plastic should be quieter and less grating than the sound of teeth against teeth.

If you have further questions about bruxism, talk to your dentist. He or she can examine your teeth, talk to you about symptoms and underlying causes, and recommend the right treatment. With a little help, you’ll soon be enjoying a quieter night and a more peaceful sleep.

Schererville Family Dentistry

1050 Caroline Ave
Schererville, IN 46375
Call or text us: 219.322.3232