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​Are Dental X-Rays Safe While Pregnant?

November 8th, 2018

pregnant at dentistThere are a lot of things that a pregnant woman shouldn’t do, such as smoke, drink, or engage in heavy physical work. The health and well-being of the baby are dependent upon the choices that Mom makes while she is pregnant.

When it comes to dental X-rays and pregnancy, many women are naturally concerned about radiation and whether it could harm their baby. While it’s ideal to forgo any unnecessary medical treatments/diagnostics until the baby has been delivered, sometimes emergencies will arise, and plans will need to change accordingly.

We’re going to look at traditional and digital X-rays and whether or not they’re safe for pregnant women and their unborn children.

Traditional X-rays

Since the late 1800’s, X-rays have been used by doctors as an invaluable diagnostic tool. When they were first invented, scientists weren’t aware of how dangerous X-rays were, and some early pioneers died from radiation poisoning.

As the decades went by, traditional X-rays became safer and safer such that a person would get a higher dose of radiation from flying from Los Angeles to Boston than they would with a single dental X-ray.

If a pregnant woman were to have a traditional dental X-ray, the beams would be focused on her jawbone area, not her belly. This, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is very low-risk. However, that’s not to say that there isn’t some form of risk with a traditional dental X-ray and pregnant women.

Digital X-rays and Pregnancy

If the FDA has stated that traditional X-rays are safe for pregnant women, then digital X-rays are even more reliable because they emit but a fraction of the radiation that traditional ones do.

Traditional X-rays require a higher dosage of radiation because they use old-school film that needs to be developed after it has been taken. Digital X-rays operate in the same mannerism as the camera on your cell phone. Instead of a film being used to create the X-ray picture, a digital image is stored on a computer.

When Not to Get a Dental X-ray?

Women who are in their third trimester might find it difficult to lay down for a dental X-ray. Other than that, there is no reason for a pregnant woman not to get a dental X-ray if her dentist advises it.

Dentists are keenly aware of the potential risks to unborn fetuses and will go out of their way to avoid any unnecessary procedures or surgeries until the baby is delivered.

This isn’t to say that pregnant women shouldn’t keep their dentist appointments. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant women pay close attention to their oral health when pregnant. This means making and keeping all dental appointments.

When a pregnant woman has bad oral health, all of the bacteria in her mouth can easily be transmitted to the baby through her bloodstream. This can cause issues such as low birth weight and other complications. It’s safe to say that the rewards of getting teeth cleaned while pregnant far outweigh the risks.

What to Do if You’re Pregnant and Need Dental Work?

You should always tell your dentist if you’re pregnant or you think you might be pregnant. Even if it turns out that you’re not pregnant, it’s still better to be safe than sorry.

When being led into the X-ray room, it couldn’t hurt to remind the dental assistant who is setting up the machine that you’re pregnant. If you have any concerns, now is the time to express them.


As a pregnant woman, the choice whether to get an X-ray is ultimately up to you. There is a lot of misinformation out there on the internet regarding X-rays. Medical advice should not be taken from well-meaning friends and family members on Facebook.

Listen to your dentist and take his advice seriously. If he recommends a teeth cleaning or other procedure, it’s in you and your baby’s best interests to follow through and get it done.

Dental X-rays are beamed at the mouth and facial area. A lead vest is placed upon the chest of the patient to prevent any errant radiation from entering other parts of the body. The chances of a fetus getting even a slight dose of radiation are very slim. If the dental office is using a digital X-ray machine, the chances are even slimmer than a traditional X-ray.

Safe Dental Work for Pregnant Women in Chicago

At Water Tower Dental Care, we use state-of-the-art digital X-ray machines which put out 80% less radiation than a standard X-ray machine. Our dentists have decades of experience and know how to give oral care to pregnant women such that both they and their unborn child are entirely safe.

If you’re pregnant or think you might be, give us a call at (312) 787-2131 or schedule an appointment on our website. Our caring and gentle doctors will work hard to ensure that you have the very best oral care for both you and your baby!

​Safety Tips for Trick or Treating with Your Kids This Halloween

October 25th, 2018

trick or treat tips halloweenIt’s that time of year again. Ghouls, goblins, and fairy princesses will be haunting our sidewalks and front porches for a few hours on the evening of October 31st.

While the vast majority of children will have a fun and memorable time, we’d like to take this opportunity to provide some safety tips for parents who are trick-or-treating with their younger children.

Before we get into the tips, we wouldn’t be doing our job as a dental clinic if we didn’t take a few sentences to warn you of the dangers of your kids eating too much sugar.

While a couple of candy bars probably won’t hurt, if you give your kids a huge bag of Halloween candy and leave it up to their better judgment as to when they should eat it, there’s an excellent chance that we’ll find a few new cavities during their next dental check-up.

Here are a few tips you can follow to ensure a safe and happy Halloween!


While that “Stranger Things” costume may be a hit with the friends and classmates of your kids, it could be a potential safety hazard. Make sure that your child’s costume fits them very well. If it’s too tight or too loose, they could trip and fall on a curb or the wet evening grass.

You can buy some cheap light-reflecting tape at the local Home goods store. Put a few strips on the back of your child’s costume. If a car should happen to drive down a dark street that your child is walking down, the reflective tape will catch the car headlights and shine very bright.


In addition to reflective tape, you can also buy and add glowsticks to your child’s costume. If you somehow become separated from your kids at a crowded house, you can easily find them in a crowd of costumes in the dark night.

You can also pick up a $1 LED flashlight from the local dollar store. Attach it to your kid's belt so that they can easily make use of it with only one hand. Their other hand is going to clutch their bag of candy tighter than a safe at Fort Knox.

Go Early

The “big kids” (those over 13 years old) tend to go out after 8 p.m. Most cities in the U.S. get dark around 6 pm, and this is the ideal time to take the young ones out trick-or-treating. After the sun immediately sets, there’s still enough light outside that you and your kids won’t be in the pitch-black dark.

Many houses that give out candy also have children themselves. They will be ready for the first early batch of trick-or-treaters as early as 5 pm.

Stick to Your Neighborhood

Avoid going to unfamiliar neighborhoods. Yes, the “rich houses” might give out full-size candy bars, but you and/or your kids could get lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood where you don’t know the neighbors that are giving candy to your kids.

You can easily lose track of your kids, especially at crowded houses. This is why adding a couple of glowsticks to their costumes is a great way to identify where they are from far away.

Candy Safety

Back in the 1980’s the big “scare” was crazy people putting razor blades in candy bars and giving them out to trick-or-treaters. Many hospitals in those days offered free X-rays of Halloween candy to make sure that they weren’t tampered with.

While taking your kids to the hospital to have their candy X-rayed may seem a bit excessive, there are other things you can do to make sure their candy hasn’t been tampered with.

Before you let your kids go buck wild with their candy loot, turn on the dining room light and put all of their candy onto the dining room table. Look for anything out of the ordinary, including:

  • Odd bumps or shapes
  • Metallic noises
  • Smells or odors
  • Candy that weighs more than it should

A quick visual inspection of each piece of candy should put your mind at ease. If you come across something that doesn’t seem right, throw it away. While it may seem like a waste, candy or treats that aren’t factory-sealed could have been tampered with.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. Only allow your children to eat candy that’s completely wrapped and sealed from the factory.

Talk to Your Children

One thing that parents tend to overlook is talking to their children about being safe on Halloween. Kids nowadays aren’t dumb. If you sit down with your children before you go out and explain your safety concerns, there’s an excellent chance that they will not only understand but listen and abide by your wishes.

If you feel that your child collected too much candy during Halloween, you can always confiscate the entire bag and dole out a few treats at a time. Be sure to find a good hiding spot because kids are resourceful and will find anything that isn’t locked up in a safe.

​What is the Difference Between a Dentist and Orthodontist?

October 18th, 2018

dentist vs orthodontistHave you ever wondered what is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

For the average person, the two words sound about the same. Both orthodontists and dentists can help fix your oral health. Both are doctors and went through many years of dental school and are certified by the state to perform oral care on patients.

But that’s where the similarities stop.

We’re going to look at both dentists and orthodontists and see how they’re different and when you might want to visit one over the other.

Schooling for Dentists

Dentists are required to attend and graduate from four years of dental school. Before being accepted, dental students must have received their bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.

Admission into dental schools is extremely competitive, and only the best and brightest get accepted. Dental schools also look at Dental Admissions Test (DAT) scores and select students based upon how well they performed.

In the first few years of dental school, students are required to take basic courses such as pathology, oral anatomy, and histology. In the latter years of their schooling, students will participate in clinical programs where they receive hands-on training by a qualified dental instructor.

Schooling for Orthodontists

Before someone can go to school to become an orthodontist, they must first graduate dental school. Orthodontics is one of many different specialties that some dentists pursue after graduating from dental school.

In addition to four years of regular college and four of dental school, orthodontic candidates must successfully complete another three years of orthodontic schooling and a residency, internship, or fellowship. In some cases, orthodontic schools will require their students to have at least two years of general dentistry practice before gaining admission.

The classes and hands-on experience that orthodontic students receive are more in-depth as they will need to understand how to guide teeth, perform oral surgery, and diagnose/treat problems that pertain to the face and neck.

Once the student has graduated from their orthodontic program, they will be required to pass an extremely challenging final exam. If the student is successful in passing the test, they will be awarded their orthodontics license.

Different Procedures

Dentists generally focus on basic oral care and provide services that pertain to:

  • Tooth decay
  • Root canals
  • Crowns
  • Bridges
  • Veneers
  • Teeth whitening
  • Gum disease

A dentist is the person you would initially see if you have a toothache. After the dentist has examined you, they may (or may not – depending on the services they offer) refer you to an orthodontist to help alleviate your condition.

An orthodontist has the same training as a dentist but has also undergone four years of orthodontic school. Their main specialty is the alignment of teeth and they provide services related to:

  • Overbites
  • Underbites
  • Crowded teeth
  • Wisdom teeth removal (surgical)
  • Face and neck issues (TMJ or sleep apnea)
  • Braces
  • Retainers
  • Invisalign

Some dentists may offer basic orthodontic services to their patients. There is nothing inherently wrong with this as they are a medically licensed and trained doctor.

For complicated cases, the dentist will most always refer the patient to an orthodontist as they have the training and experience necessary to diagnose and solve complex dental challenges such as crooked teeth.

Who Should I Visit?

Most people will see a dentist long before they will see an orthodontist. Regular checkups, dental cleanings, and fillings are all done from an early age. However, the American Association of Orthodontics strongly recommends all children visit an orthodontist for a specialized check-up no later than age 7.

This is the time in life when children should get braces and other orthodontic appliances to help fix their smile for adulthood. The longer a parent puts off taking their child to see an orthodontic specialist, the higher the chance for the overall cost of the procedure to increase dramatically due to the problem not being fixed at an early age.


If you have a toothache or need a deep cleaning, a dentist can help alleviate your suffering and improve your oral health. If you need braces, have an overbite, or would like to get Invisalign, you’ll want to seek out an orthodontist.

What if you don’t know an orthodontist?

Your dentist can give you a referral to a qualified orthodontist that they trust and have worked with for many years. The exact opposite is true as well. If you first saw an orthodontist, they can help recommend a good general dentist to keep your new teeth clean and healthy.

Both dentists and orthodontists specialize in helping people fix their oral and dental problems. A general dentist is good enough for getting your teeth cleaned and a root canal performed. An orthodontist is a highly trained specialist who can diagnose and solve complicated dental issues such as over/underbites, TMJ and sleep apnea issues, as well as help straighten crooked teeth via the usage of orthodontic devices such as braces or Invisalign.

​What is Dental Deep Cleaning and Do I Need It?

October 11th, 2018

dental deep cleaningDentists will often recommend a deep dental cleaning for people who don’t brush and floss regularly or for those who have missed several dental check-up appointments.

While it may sound like another way for the dentist to make money, the reality is that deep dental cleaning is an established procedure that is critical to the health and well-being of both you and your teeth.

Even with regular flossing and brushing, plaque and tartar can slowly build up on the teeth causing the beginning stages of gum disease. This is why dentists recommend that you go in for a checkup at least once a year (twice, preferably).

We’re going to look at what deep cleanings are, why they’re recommended, and how they’re performed.

Why Are Deep Cleanings Recommended?

The technical term for a deep cleaning is “root scaling and planing.” It’s an established dental treatment that’s been around for well over 70 years. When you sit down in the dental chair, and the dentist starts to examine your mouth, he will use a small metal probe to measure the areas around your teeth.

He’s specifically looking to measure the depth of the gum tissue between the teeth and gums. If the depth goes beyond five millimeters, it’s referred to as a “pocket,” and this is the area where bacteria will form and live. Healthy pockets measure no more than three millimeters deep. Anything deeper and you have the beginning stages of gum disease.

Deep pockets are caused by an overabundance of bacteria and can form if the teeth aren’t regularly cleaned. While brushing and flossing on a daily basis can help remove the majority of food debris in your mouth, sometimes minute particles will be left behind. Only a dental checkup can eliminate the areas of plaque and tartar that can build up over the course of a few months.

What Does a Dental Deep Clean Entail?

dental deep clean usually requires a separate appointment as it can take upwards of 45 minutes per quadrant in your mouth. There are four quadrants that need to be cleaned: lower left, lower right, upper left, and upper right. Depending on the extent of the cleaning that needs to be done, it may require multiple appointments to treat all four quadrants.

The dentist will use a set of small surgical grade metal probes and scrapers to physically remove the tartar and plaque from your teeth and gums. He will carefully poke and prod and scrape until he’s confident the tartar and plaque have been removed from the area.

If the process sounds a bit uncomfortable, well, it kind of is. This is why dentists will use a local anesthetic to numb the areas where he will be cleaning.

If the patient suffers from anxiety issues or would like something to make the procedure a bit more bearable, the dentist can prescribe specific medication to help alleviate the unpleasantness of the cleaning process.

What Happens if You Don’t Keep Dental Appointments?

Root scaling and planing is a necessary process. It’s the last line of defense people have before their early stages of gum disease turn into a much more serious condition called periodontitis. If this condition occurs, their immune system will start to attack bone and tissue in the mouth because the inflammation of the gums is so severe.

If the periodontitis worsens, it can result in massive toothaches and teeth needing to be pulled. While a dental deep cleaning can temporarily halt that process, the plaque and tartar will return if the person doesn’t take a more proactive role in their dental hygiene.

Periodontitis causes irreversible bone loss which can give bacteria even more places to hide and grow. Regular brushing and flossing will completely miss these areas. This is why some people will require multiple deep cleanings over the course of several months. In some situations, the dentist may require more than one deep cleaning per year until the situation has stabilized.

How Much Do Deep Cleanings Cost?

The only downside to deep cleanings is that they require heavy manual labor on the part of the dentist. There are no shortcuts, nor automated machines that can speed up the cleaning process. Scraping plaque and tartar off teeth is not easy, and this is why it can take upwards of 45 minutes for each of the four quadrants of your mouth.

It’s impossible to say what the deep cleaning will cost until the dentist has evaluated the patient's mouth and determined a plan of action. The good news is that most dental insurance plans will cover a portion of the deep cleaning. Once the dentist has given you a treatment plan, you can take that information back to your insurance company, and they will tell you exactly what they will cover.

Dental Deep Cleanings in Chicago

If you haven’t had a checkup in over a year, or you have been lax on keeping up with brushing and flossing, you owe it to your health to make an appointment for a dental deep cleaning.

Give us a call today at (312) 787-2131 to schedule an appointment for your dental deep cleaning. At Water Tower Dental Care, our gentle and caring dentists will help clean your teeth and make your smile look like a million bucks!