All posts by Area Dental Clinic

Is my tooth infected?

Dentist is treating patient with tooth infectionIf you ask us if you have infection in your tooth, the conversation is probably going involve the term “abscess.” When a tooth is infected, an abscess forms around the infected tooth. An abscess is a sac of pus that forms from an infection.

How can you tell if you have an abscess?

Unfortunately, and abscess is usually very painful and may feel like a throbbing toothache. You may also notice a bump that resembles a pimple in your mouth. Other signs of an abscess could include red gums, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, pain that extends to the jaw, sensitivity to hot or cold foods, or tender lymph nodes. Schedule a dentist appointment immediately if you notice any of these symptoms (remember to call, don’t e-mail in cases of an emergency).

An abscess could also cause swelling or trouble breathing. If you experience either of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately.

How is an abscess diagnosed and treated?

If an abscess if not treated, an abscess does not clear up on its own. To the contrary, an abscess can progress into a life-threatening condition.

If diagnosed early, an abscess can be treated and the tooth saved. A dentist can diagnose an abscess with x-rays. Once diagnosed, a dentist can drain the abscess, remove the infection, and, if possible, repair the damage with a root canal. Your dentist may prescribe medication to treat the infection.

How can I prevent an infection and abscess?

The source of a tooth infection is usually tooth decay. For that reason, the steps to prevent an infection are similar to measures taken to prevent tooth decay and cavities.

  • Establish a regular oral hygiene routine. Brush and floss twice a day, every day. If you drink soda (or another sugary drink) or eat a lot of sugary or starchy foods, make sure you brush and floss as soon after as possible.
  • Use mouthwash. Purchase a mouthwash that strengthens your tooth enamel (other ways to strengthen enamel are listed here), loosens plaque, and removes the harmful bacteria that causes tooth decay and cavities.
  • Schedule regular cleanings. A professional dental cleaning removes plaque and tartar that can lead to tooth decay and cavities. Schedule a dental cleaning twice a year.
  • Eat a diet low in sugar and starches. Sugar and starches are one of the chief causes of tooth decay. Choose your snacks and meals carefully to minimize your risk for cavities.
  • Drink water. Water is a healthy drink for your body, especially your teeth. Fluoridated water strengthens tooth enamel, washes away small pieces of food, and helps avoid dry mouth which can leave your teeth vulnerable to decay. Avoid drinking a lot of soda, which has been connected to higher rates of tooth decay. If you do drink a soda, follow it up with a glass of water, brushing, and flossing.

6 Brushing Mistakes NOT to Teach Your Kids

Little girl in pink pajamas in bathroom brushing her teethJust as with many things in life, it’s really easy to pass on the bad with the good lessons—even when teaching them the basics of brushing teeth. Here are some common mistakes you should try NOT to pass on to your kids.

Brushing too hard

“You gotta brush really well!” is a well-meaning saying that can be easily misunderstood—and turn into a brushing mistake. While you want your kids to reach all those hard-to-reach places (what you mean), make sure your kids don’t interpret those words into brushing really hard. If kids brush too hard, it can lead to sore (or bleeding) gums—and kids who don’t want to brush the next day.

Not flossing

Parenting can seem like a game of Monkey See, Monkey Do. If you want your kids to floss, show them how to do it AND do it yourself. Be a good flossing role model whenever they’re around; floss before or after you brush (it doesn’t matter when as long as you do it). When your kids brush on their own, don’t just ask your kids if they brushed. Ask if they flossed their teeth, as well, to reinforce the importance of this healthy habit. If they are still afraid to floss, ask your dentist how to make flossing fun at home. Your dentist can also talk to them about the importance of regular flossing; flossing helps decrease cavities, tooth decay, and the chance of developing gum disease (all of which you don’t want your kids to deal with!).

Not brushing long enough

Have you ever seen a kid head into the bathroom to wash their hands, only to rinse their hands for a second and then head out yelling “I washed my hands”? Avoid the same kind of ineffective tooth brushing! Set a timer for two minutes or play a two-minute song to ensure that your kids are thoroughly brushing their teeth. Teaching your kids the right way to brush now (use these ideas for teaching kids to brush) can lead to less dental problems as they grow and keeps their baby teeth healthy (here’s why healthy baby teeth are important).

Not brushing enough

Kids (and adults) should brush twice a day. When life gets hectic and crazy, it can be hard to find the time to squeeze in a good tooth brush. Don’t let your kids skip even one time. Bring a tooth brush and tooth paste along if you think your kids are going to fall asleep on the way home. Make sure you remind your kids to brush even when they are on vacation (and out of routine). If your kids are still being stubborn about skipping brushing, ask your dentist to talk to them about the importance of teeth brushing at their next dentist appointment.

Letting them brush on their own

Brushing teeth is a great first step of independence. Your kids love showing you can do it—but that doesn’t mean they should be brushing entirely on their own. Because their motor control and dexterity is still developing, do a quick check of their brushing after their done—and don’t be afraid to do a quick touch-up with their toothbrush.

Not swapping out brushes

This is a mistake that you can directly control. While your family doesn’t need new tooth brushes every time you get sick, but your family should replace everyone’s tooth brushes every 3-4 months. Take your kids shopping with you to pick out new tooth brushes (and tooth pastes) that they can’t wait to brush with the next morning or night.

5 Tricks that’ll Make Teeth Brushing Fun for Your Kids

Father and son smiling while brushing teeth in bathroomHealthy teeth are important for a number of reasons: they’re better for your overall health, cheaper (less charges for dental work!), and can make your smile look great. They’re also a lifelong endeavor that should start at a very early age. The American Dental Association recommends that parents start brushing their kids’ teeth as soon as they are in and take them to visit the dentist after their first birthday.

How do you make all that work “stick”? How do you keep your kids want to brush their teeth? How can you help your kids have a healthy smile for life? This is one case where taking away TV privileges or sending them to their room won’t work—and can lead to a fear of the dentist as they get older.

Instead, make it your goal to make teeth brushing fun for your kids. Use these tricks to make your kids look fun to brushing their teeth—and make it a lifelong healthy habit.

App-ly the fun.

Make tablets and computers a tool in your quest to make brushing fun for your kids. They are, after all, a source of fun to your kids! Use these fun videos or download one of these cool apps to make brushing for two minutes fun.

Make it a game.

Brushing teeth should never feel like a chore. If you have a toddler or a preschooler, use games to make brushing a fun part of the routine. Use an egg timer to make brushing teeth exciting (gotta make it until it goes off) and ensure that your kids are brushing for a full two minutes. If you don’t have a timer, use a radio or music player with a funny two-minute song to get them brushing.

Another fun brushing game involves both of you (and gives you the opportunity to model good brushing habits!). It’s an incredibly simple game: you brush a little, then your child brushes. Put another way, “I brushed here, how about you?” Continue challenging your child until you’ve both brushed every part of your mouth.

Get their favorite stuffed friend in on the fun.

When that game is done, include their favorite stuffed animal in their nightly routine. Use another toothbrush (without toothpaste) to brush their favorite teddy bear, doll, penguin, or any other stuffed animal in on healthy teeth. When it’s time to head to the dentist, bring that stuffed animal along to the visit (and make sure you choose a kid-friendly dentist that allows them to come along).

Make it a life lesson.

Reading is for kids’ minds. Brushing is good for their teeth. Accomplish both goals by picking up fun books about visiting the dentist and teeth brushing. Include those books into your book line-up for a sneaky (and enjoyable!) life lesson.

Take them shopping.

Kids tend to get more excited about activity when they play an active role in it. Talk your kids shopping with you to choose tooth brushes, tooth pastes, and flossers that they want to brush in. Your kids’ll love to pick out tooth brushes and tooth pastes with their favorite characters and colors.

Should I go to the dentist when I’m sick?

Young sick woman sneezing in tissue sweating from flu fever deciding whether to go to dentistOn the day of your appointment, you have a headache. The stomach flu. A bad virus. You’ve caught the flu during a widespread flu outbreak. Or you panic when you see a dentist appointment coming up. What are you going to do about your epic cold? Or the fact that you can’t stop sneezing from allergies?

We’ve all been there. We’ve all asked the question at one time or another: should I still go to my dentist appointment? Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that doesn’t have a clear answer. You can come to a clear answer just by asking yourself these easy questions.

How sick am I?

Make an honest evaluation of your condition before you head out the door. How do you feel? Do you feel somewhat well? If you were able to work and get through the day okay, you can probably make it through the dentist appointment. Depending on the medication and procedure, you may still be able to be treated by the dentist if you have taken medicine for your illness or pain (if you have any questions about whether your medication could impact the success of your dentist appointment, don’t hesitate to contact your dentist). On the other hand, if you can barely make it out of bed to drive to the appointment, it may be time to call and reschedule the dentist appointment.

Am I going to make everyone else sick?

You can’t wear a mask when you’re in the dentist chair. If there’s a possibility you are contagious and could pass your illness to your dentist, staff members, or other patients, it might be best to stay home. Remember, just one sneeze in the waiting room can spread the illness to many different people. If there’s any chance you could have influenza (i.e. body aches, chills, congestion, headache, sneezing), head to the doctor to get tested and treated instead of the dentist to prevent the spread of the flu.

What is the appointment for?

In most cases, routine dental procedures can be done whether you are sick or not. If your procedure is for a more complicated procedure, such as a tooth extraction, contact the dentist office to see if you can still have the procedure done. If the appointment can still happen, give your dentist a list of all the medications you are taking to fight your illness (as well as regular prescriptions).

Can I sit through the dentist appointment?

All your questions boil down to whether or not you feel comfortable sitting through the appointment. If you are vomiting or have severe abdominal pain, a dentist appointment is going to feel excruciating. A migraine is going to deliver the same uncomfortable experience. Remember, dentist appointments should be pleasant, not a painful experience because you are so sick.

6 Ways to Keep Those Nasty Cold & Flu Bugs at Bay

dad with sick boy who has a feverStomach bugs. Bad colds. That nasty flu you hear about on the news. It’s hard to not feel surrounded by sickness—and that you and your family are going to be next ones collapsed on the couch or in bed for the duration. Don’t worry. There is hope in the battle to keep all those nasty illnesses out of your home (and your body!).

Don’t rush through hand washing.

No matter how busy you are, take the time to wash your hands properly every time you touch a door, shake hands, or before you eat. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds each time. Teach your kids to do the same, and use fun timers and songs (i.e. ABC’s or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star) to make it fun. Take your kids to the bathroom before they eat and supervise the hand washing as closely as possible to make sure everyone washes the germs away.

Keep hand sanitizer with you.

When you can’t wash your hands, hand sanitizer is the next best thing. Carry hand sanitizer in your jacket or purse at all times, and use it after you blow your nose, before you eat, and when you touch any common surfaces. Have your kids use the sanitizer as well, and try to keep their hands out of their mouth after using it.

Keep your doctor and dentist appointments.

Preventative care can be one of the most effective ways to ward off illness. Schedule an annual exam with your dentist and doctor to keep your body healthy and catch any issues that might arise in the future.


Working out is a great way to keep your body in top shape, but really challenging to do when Wisconsin temperatures hit sub zero. When you can’t get outside, find other ways to get your body moving. Ask friends and family to take on the challenge with you; it’s a lot easier to keep to a routine when you have a partner to exercise with.

Keep the germs to yourself.

If you do get sick, try to keep your illness to yourself by avoiding dinners, business meetings, and the workplace. Do the same for friends and families; as much as you want to bring them chicken soup, do both yourselves a favor and leave it outside their door (and wash your hands after!). Don’t share drinks, even when you’re healthy.

Keep your hands to yourself (but don’t bite them!)

Hands are a wonderful part of your body, but they are also a key transmitter of germs. Even when you wash your hands, avoid touching your face with your hands. Don’t bite your nails, which can also pass germs into your body. Find other ways to relieve your stress so you don’t end up with one of those nasty bugs that everyone is passing around.

I’ve got a toothache! Should I call a dentist?

man grimacing in pain from a broken tooth“Ouch” and “hurt” are not strong enough words to describe an excruciating toothache. When your tooth or jaw hurts, all you want to do is make the pain go away. Here’s how to know if you have a toothache, how to treat the pain at home, and when you should see a dentist so you can start to feel better and make that toothache (and the pain) a distant memory.

What are the symptoms of a toothache?

Pain is just one symptom of a toothache; there are other reasons why your teeth hurt. Toothaches can be caused by a variety of oral problems, such as an infection, decay, or tooth fracture. Depending on the source, other symptoms of a toothache may include a fever, swelling, or an odd taste in your mouth. The pain can be sharp or throbbing, and usually only occurs when pressure is applied to the tooth.

How can I make the toothache pain go away?

Because there could be a host of different issues causing your toothache, don’t try to diagnose the cause of the toothache. Instead, treat the pain with these tips that’ll make the pain subside.

  • Apply an ice pack to the cheek on the side of your toothache.
  • Because your toothache could be caused by an infection, do not use heat as it could make the problem worse.
  • Don’t eat or drink anything that makes the toothache more painful.
  • Avoid anything that can vibrate your teeth and make it feel worse.
  • Purchase and use over-the-counter medications that can treat the toothache, but make sure follow the directions on the label exactly.

When should I call the dentist about my toothache?

Don’t hesitate to contact a dentist if:

  • The pain persists for more than a day and does not get better with over-the-counter medications.
  • You had a tooth pulled in the past 24-72 hours. Your pain could come from a condition called dry socket which needs to be treated by a dentist.
  • There is discharge or excessive swelling.
  • Your toothache is accompanied by a fever. This symptom could be a sign of an infection or abscess which needs to be treated with antibiotics.
  • The pain is occurring because a permanent tooth has been knocked out (here are a few ways to tell if it is a baby or permanent tooth).
  • There is pain when swallowing or breathing.

When you need attention for a toothache, don’t e-mail your dentist. Call the dentist (even during off hours), explain your symptoms, and ask for an emergency appointment that can get you on the way to recovery.

Healthy Habits You Shouldn’t Let Slide Over the Holidays

people having fun at holiday partyThe holidays are a fun and busy time. Between parties, family get togethers, gift shopping, and decorating, it can be really easy to skip and ignore all the healthy habits you’ve kept up throughout the year.


Holiday treats (sugar cookies and candies, we’re looking at you) can bathe your teeth in sugar. No matter how late you get home from holiday parties or how much in a hurry you are to get the kids to bed, make sure everyone brushes their teeth (teach your kids to brush well using these tips). Brushing removes small particles of food that can get lodged in your teeth and cause tooth decay. Don’t rush; you should brush for about two minutes. Use an alarm on your phone or timer to make sure you brush thoroughly (and use these tips for healthy brushing habits).

Healthy Eating

Office holiday parties and family gatherings are full of temptations. How do you resist all those holiday goodies? Do your best, and use holiday eating habits when you’re not facing trays full of treats. Stay hydrated during the day and at parties; drinking water after eating can wash away food particles and sugar that can cause tooth decay (just one of many benefits of drinking enough water). Avoid soda, which can cause cavities (if you do enjoy a soda, use a straw and drink water after). Eat healthy meals as much as possible. At gatherings, don’t just mindlessly eat; track what you eat and how much so you can avoid overeating this holiday season.


Flossing may be the last thing on your mind this holiday season, but it’s truly the gift that keeps giving. It doesn’t matter if you floss before or after you brush; what matters is that you keep flossing.


While you might not be able to keep up your regular exercise routine over the holidays, don’t abandon it either. Stick to your exercise routine as much as possible. If the cold weather is an interruption, head indoors to your treadmill or local gym so you can still reap the benefits of a strong exercise routine (and burn off some of those holiday treats).

Doctor & Dentist Appointments

As busy as your holiday schedule gets, keep your holidays merry (and bad news free) by making and keeping your doctor and dentist appointments. Schedule your doctor and dentist appointments well in advance to ensure you can get an appointment. After a busy holiday season, make an appointment to get an after-holiday teeth cleaning (if it is around your scheduled time). At the very least, you should schedule biannual teeth cleanings and an annual physical to make sure you keep your body and teeth healthy.

Bad Breath Be Gone: (At Home) Ways to Freshen Your Breath

A young man holds or pinches his nose shut because of bad breathBad breath can leave you feeling self-conscious and anxious. It’s also a condition tied to your oral care, which means the efforts to ward off bad breath can lead to a healthier mouth your dentist can appreciate at your next dentist appointment.

Brush, brush, brush.

One of the main causes of bad breath is bacteria, which can get caught in built-up plaque and food debris. If you want to get rid of the bacteria and the bad breath, brush at least twice a day (and avoid these mistakes when you brush your teeth). Bacteria can build up on your tongue in a coating, so make sure you include it in your daily brushing; if you can’t reach it with your brush, use a tongue scraper.

There is a note of caution: make sure you don’t overdo your brushing. Too much brushing or brushing too hard can wear down your teeth enamel.

Use a mouthwash.

A mouthwash with fluoride can strengthen your teeth AND can wash away bacteria that causes bad breath. Choose your mouthwash carefully; you want a mouthwash that removes the bacteria that causes bad breath, not just covers it up.

Avoid the causes of bad breath.

To keep your breath fresh, avoid foods that cause bad breath. You know the foods we’re talking about: tuna, garlic, onions, coffee, spicy foods, etc. If you do indulge in a treat that causes bad breath, brush as soon as possible and rinse out your mouth.

 Don’t let your mouth go dry.

You’re more likely to have bad breath if your mouth does not have enough saliva. Saliva naturally removes plaque and keeps bad breath at bay. If you have dry mouth, drink water and chew gum to stimulate saliva.

Stop smoking and chewing.

Tobacco not only stains your teeth and causes gum disease; it’s also one of the chief causes of bad breath. The simplest way to avoid the bad breath caused by tobacco is to quit. Use these tips to help you quit your tobacco habit, and get rid of smoker’s breath. If you’re not ready to quit, drink a glass of water after each cigarette and use brushing, mouthwash, and gum so people can’t smell the tobacco on your breath.

Curb your gum disease.

Bacteria from gum disease can cause bad breath, making this common dental condition the enemy. Take extra steps at home to care for your gums, and schedule a dentist appointment to develop a treatment plan that can address the disease. Between you and your dentist’s efforts, you can treat your gum disease and duck any of the negative reactions to your bad breath.

Ways to Make (and Keep) Your Teeth Strong

woman with strong teeth enamel smiling with toothbrushStrong teeth. They’re everyone’s goal—and not as hard to get as you might think (but it is really easy to weaken them!). Here’s how to make and keep your teeth strong easily.

Eat calcium-rich foods.

One of the easiest ways to strengthen your teeth is to make sure you have plenty of calcium-rich foods in your diet. Dairy foods like yogurt, milk, and cheese can strengthen your enamel. If you need to avoid dairy, almonds, kale, and sardines can also contribute to making your enamel stronger.

Stay hydrated (but not with soda or sugary drinks).

Acid is the enemy of teeth enamel, which is why water is a key ingredient in strengthening your teeth. Water washes the acid away from your teeth (and, as a bonus, is calorie free!). On the flip side, avoid soda or other sugary drinks that can weaken the enamel. If you do enjoy a soda, drink water as soon as you can after you are done.

Be gentle when you brush.

Hard brushing may seem like the best way to get your mouth completely clean, but it can also damage your enamel. Brush gently on your teeth and gums to keep your teeth strong (more tips for good brushing here), and make sure you floss before or after.

Schedule regular dentist appointments.

Your dentist can have a large input in the strength of your teeth. In addition to regularly cleaning and keeping your teeth healthy, your dentist also can help you spot any enamel issues before they become a problem at dentist appointments—and give you ways to fix it.

Add fluoride in to your routine.

Flouridated toothpaste, water, mouthwashes, and other products can strengthen enamel and lessen the effects of acid in your mouth. To strengthen enamel, add a product with fluoride to your routine to make your teeth stronger and less susceptible to decay.

Treat the grind (and the acid reflux).

Teeth grinding, called bruxism, occurs when a person clenches their jaw and grinds their teeth (more information about teeth grinding here). A person with bruxism may not even know it, such as when it happens at night. Common symptoms of bruxism are a dull headache or soreness in the jaw. Bruxism can damage your teeth enamel, and it’s not the only culprit. Acid reflux can also damage your teeth enamel, so make sure you keep these conditions in check for the good of your teeth (especially your enamel!).