Family Dentistry | Valparaiso & Merrillville
Drs. Catherine Wong and John Smolnicky welcome you and your family to Heritage Lake Dental, with convenient locations serving Valparaiso, Merrillville, and the surrounding Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana communities. At our practice, you can expect quality, conservative dentistry, including general oral exams, teeth cleanings, composite fillings, crowns, veneers, root canal therapy, TMJ diagnosis, and dental implant restorations. Our dentists are warm, friendly, compassionate, and skilled — caring professionals who are great listeners and have your and your family’s best interests in mind.
We know that searching for a family dentist you can trust can be difficult, and we hope to make your selection easier by explaining our unique, whole-body approach to family dentistry.
A Whole-Body Approach to Family Dentistry
Your mouth is part of a complex biological system that influences the health of the rest of your body. For example, the infection that causes gum disease can lead to a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.
Your body’s internal systems are intertwined in intricate ways, which is why it’s so important to take a whole-body approach to family dentistry. In short, family dentistry is about more than just taking care of a patient’s teeth.
At Heritage Lake Dental, we also believe that great oral health can only be achieved if you’re giving your body the right ingredients to heal and repair itself. Next time you visit our practice, ask about the line of nutraceuticals we recommend and hear what they can do for your oral and total body health.
What to Expect During Your Dental Appointment
A comprehensive dental exam will be performed by your dentist during your initial dental visit. Then, at regular check-up exams, your dentist and hygienist will perform the following:
- An examination of diagnostic X-rays, which are essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and
bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
- Oral cancer screening, including a check of the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for
any signs of oral cancer.
- A gum disease evaluation, wherein the dentist will check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
- An examination of tooth decay, where all tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with
special dental instruments.
- An examination of existing restorations, including current fillings and crowns.
Professional dental cleanings are performed by our Registered Dental Hygienists. Your cleaning appointment will include a dental exam and the following:
- Tartar removal; tartar is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for
some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Tartar forms above and below
the gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
- Removal of plaque, which is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a
growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums and is the start of periodontal disease.
- Teeth polishing, to remove stains and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary x-rays based on your medical and dental history, dental exam, signs and symptoms, age consideration, and risk for disease. For new patients, we recommend a full-mouth series of dental X-rays. A full series is usually good for three to five years. Bite-wing X-rays (X-rays of top and bottom teeth biting together) are taken at check-up visits and are recommended once or twice a year to detect any new dental problems.
Dental x-rays are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you time, money and unnecessary discomfort. X-rays may reveal abcesses or cysts, bone loss, cancerous or non-cancerous tumors, decay between the teeth, developmental abnormalities, poor tooth and root positions, and problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.
Dental X-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered safe. Dentists take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation when taking dental X-rays. These precautions include using lead apron shields to protect the body and modern, fast film that cuts down the exposure time of each X-ray.
Dental Care at Home
A beautiful, healthy smile that lasts a lifetime is our ultimate goal when treating our family dentistry patients. Your personal home care plays an important role in achieving that goal, including: eating balanced meals, reducing the number of snacks you eat, and correctly using the various dental aids that help control the plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease.
Brush Your Teeth
Brush your teeth at least twice a day (especially before going to bed at night) with an ADA approved soft bristle brush and toothpaste.
- Place the brush at a 45 degree angle to the gums and gently brush using a small, circular motion, ensuring that you always feel the bristles on the gums.
- Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth.
- Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside of the front teeth.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
Electric toothbrushes are generally recommended by dentists because they are much more effective than manual brushes. The vibrating or rotary motion helps to easily dislodge plaque and remove food particles from around the gums and teeth. The same results can be obtained using a manual brush, but much more effort is needed to do so. If you choose to use a manual toothbrush, they should be replaced every three months because worn bristles become ineffective over time. Soft bristle toothbrushes are far less damaging to gum tissue than the medium and hard bristle varieties.
Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gumline. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone. Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss.
- Take 12-16 inches of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers,leaving about 2 inches of floss between the hands.
- Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion.
- Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gumline. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.
Rinse After Meals and After Brushing
It is important to rinse your mouth with water after brushing and after meals if you are unable to brush. If you are using an over-the-counter product for rinsing, it’s a good idea to consult with your dentist or dental hygienist on its suitability for you. There are two basic types of mouth rinse available: cosmetic rinses which are sold over the counter and temporarily suppress bad breath, and therapeutic rinses which may or may not require a prescription. Most dentists are skeptical about the benefits of cosmetic rinses because several studies have shown that their effectiveness against plaque is minimal. Therapeutic rinses however, are regulated by the FDA and contain active ingredients that can help reduce bad breath, plaque, and cavities.
Use Interdental Cleaners to Clean the Contours of Your Teeth
Many hygienists and periodontists recommend interdental brushes in addition to dental floss. These tiny brushes are gentle on the gums and very effective in cleaning the contours of teeth in between the gums. Interdental brushes come in various shapes and sizes.
Flush Out Bacteria and Food Particles With Oral Irrigators
Oral irrigators, like Water Jets and Waterpiks have been created to clean debris from below the gum line. Water is continuously sprayed from tiny jets into the gum pockets which can help remove harmful bacteria and food particles. Overall, oral irrigators have proven effective in lowering the risk of gum disease and should not be used instead of brushing and flossing. Professional cleanings are recommended at least twice annually to remove deeper debris.
Use a Rubber Tip Simulator to Remove Plaque
The rubber tip stimulator is an excellent tool for removing plaque from around the gum line and also for stimulating blood flow to the gums. The rubber tip stimulator should be traced gently along the outer and inner gum line at least once each day. Any plaque on the tip can be rinsed off with tap water. It is important to replace the tip as soon as it starts to appear worn, and to store the stimulator in a cool, dry place.
Remove Bacteria With Tongue Cleaners
Tongue cleaners are special devices which have been designed to remove the buildup of bacteria, fungi and food debris from the tongue surface. The fungi and bacteria that colonize on the tongue have been related to halitosis (bad breath) and a great many systemic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease and stroke. Tongue cleaners can be made from metal, wood or plastic and shaped in accordance with the contours of the tongue. Tongue cleaning should be done prior to brushing to prevent the ingestion of fungi and bacteria.