My Blog

Posts for: June, 2017

By Hillis Family Dental
June 20, 2017
Category: Dental Procedures

Pain, sensitivity and tooth movement are common signs of a cracked tooth. However, some people with teeth fractured by accident, cracked toothexcessive decay, big fillings or dental abscess show absolutely no symptoms. Only your St. Peters, MO, dentist, Dr. Amanda Hillis, can tell for sure if your tooth has this common problem. Also, she has the expertise to repair fractured teeth so they stay in place and function for many additional years.

Cracked Tooth Syndrome

It's also called CTS, and it can happen suddenly, in a car accident for instance, or over time when multiple fillings, acid erosion or other enamel-thinning conditions weaken tooth structure. Unfortunately, if not diagnosed and treated promptly, a cracked tooth may need extraction and replacement with fixed bridgework, a partial denture or dental implant.

So, your St. Peters dentist advises her patients to be aware of what is happening in their mouths. Signs of a cracked tooth include:

  • Discoloration of tooth enamel
  • A sudden, sharp pain when biting down or when releasing pressure on a tooth (this is rebound pain)
  • Tooth mobility
  • Loss of tooth enamel or a filling
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures or sugar-laden foods (such as cake frosting or soda pop)

If you sustain a blow to the mouth, habitually clench or grind your teeth or observe any of the above signs, please contact Hillis Family Dental. Neglecting a cracked tooth often leads to decay, abscess or even tooth loss.

Treatments for a cracked tooth

To determine if you have a cracked tooth, Dr. Hillis will look at your tooth and take digital X-rays. Also, she will use a small handheld instrument called an explorer to detect any enamel defects or problems with crowns or fillings.

Depending on the damage, she may:

  • Remove old filling material and decay and place a tooth-colored filling
  • Repair minor damage with composite resin, a natural-looking blend of acrylic and glass that bonds directly to tooth structure
  • Cover and protect healthy tooth structure with a dental crown or porcelain veneer (for the front side only)
  • Perform root canal therapy to remove diseased soft pulp and cover the tooth with a crown
  • Extract the tooth if the fracture is too extensive to repair

Preventing cracks and other damage

The American Association of Endodontists says that both children and adults can avoid many instances of cracked teeth. Dr. Hillis agrees and advises her patients to:

  • Contact her office right away if you are experiencing any kind of oral discomfort
  • Brush twice daily and floss once a day as the American Dental Association recommends
  • Wear a customized night splint (mouth guard) if you grind your teeth
  • Get semi-annual check-ups and cleanings to remove damaging plaque and tartar and to spot problems before they become painful or complex to repair

Are You Worried about a Tooth?

If you suspect you have a cracked tooth or other oral health problem, please contact Hillis Family Dental in St. Peters, MO, for an appointment. Acting right away can save your precious tooth! Call (636) 970-7902.


It's no secret that many of Hollywood's brightest stars didn't start out with perfectly aligned, pearly-white teeth. And these days, plenty of celebs are willing to share their stories, showing how dentists help those megawatt smiles shine. In a recent interview with W magazine, Emma Stone, the stunning 28-year-old star of critically-acclaimed films like La La Land and Birdman, explained how orthodontic appliances helped her overcome problems caused by a harmful habit: persistent thumb sucking in childhood.

“I sucked my thumb until I was 11 years old,” she admitted, mischievously adding “It's still so soothing to do it.” Although it may have been comforting, the habit spelled trouble for her bite. “The roof of my mouth is so high-pitched that I had this huge overbite,” she said. “I got this gate when I was in second grade… I had braces, and then they put a gate.”

While her technical terminology isn't quite accurate, Stone is referring to a type of appliance worn in the mouth which dentists call a “tongue crib” or “thumb/finger appliance.” The purpose of these devices is to stop children from engaging in “parafunctional habits” — that is, behaviors like thumb sucking or tongue thrusting, which are unrelated to the normal function of the mouth and can cause serious bite problems. (Other parafunctional habits include nail biting, pencil chewing and teeth grinding.)

When kids develop the habit of regularly pushing the tongue against the front teeth (tongue thrusting) or sucking on an object placed inside the mouth (thumb sucking), the behavior can cause the front teeth to be pushed out of alignment. When the top teeth move forward, the condition is commonly referred to as an overbite. In some cases a more serious situation called an “open bite” may develop, which can be difficult to correct. Here, the top and bottom front teeth do not meet or overlap when the mouth is closed; instead, a vertical gap is left in between.

Orthodontic appliances are often recommended to stop harmful oral habits from causing further misalignment. Most appliances are designed with a block (or gate) that prevents the tongue or finger from pushing on the teeth; this is what the actress mentioned. Normally, when the appliance is worn for a period of months it can be expected to modify the child's behavior. Once the habit has been broken, other appliances like traditional braces or clear aligners can be used to bring the teeth into better alignment.

But in Stone's case, things didn't go so smoothly. “I'd take the gate down and suck my thumb underneath the mouth appliance,” she admitted, “because I was totally ignoring the rule to not suck your thumb while you're trying to straighten out your teeth.” That rule-breaking ended up costing the aspiring star lots of time: she spent a total of 7 years wearing braces.

Fortunately, things worked out for the best for Emma Stone: She now has a brilliant smile and a stellar career — plus a shiny new Golden Globe award! Does your child have a thumb sucking problem or another harmful oral habit? For more information about how to correct it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”

By Hillis Family Dental
June 11, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay   sugar  

We’ve waged war for decades against tooth decay through oral hygiene and the increasing use of fluoride, nature’s “super weapon” against this disease. And yet, tooth decay remains a significant health problem.

One major reason is refined sugar found in many processed foods. In the 1970s researchers raised concerns about the fat content of many processed foods, so manufacturers began removing fat from their products — along with much of the flavor. To compensate, they added sugar. Today, three-quarters of approximately 600,000 food products contain sugar.

This has increased average individual consumption to 90 pounds of sugar annually. The World Health Organization says we should consume no more than 20 pounds annually, or about 6 teaspoons a day. A single can of soda contains 4 teaspoons, two-thirds of the daily allowance.

High sugar consumption is an obvious threat to dental health: decay-causing bacteria thrive on it. But the trend has also been linked to serious health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

Hopefully, changes in public policy will one day modify the addition of sugar in processed foods. In the meantime, you can take action for yourself and your family to create a more healthy relationship with this popular carbohydrate.

Shop wisely. Learn to read and understand food labels: steer clear of those containing sugar or large numbers of ingredients. Become acquainted with sugar’s many other “names” like corn syrup or evaporated cane juice. And maximize your shopping on a store’s outer perimeters where you’ll find fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products, rather than the middle aisles with “boxed” processed items.

Avoid sugar-added drinks. Limit consumption of sodas, sports drinks, sweet teas or even juice to avoid added sugar. Make water or sugar-free beverages your go-to drinks. It’s much better to eat sugar naturally found in fresh fruits and vegetables, where fiber helps slow it’s absorption in the body, than to drink it.

Exercise. Depending on your condition, physical exertion is good for your overall health. It’s especially beneficial for your body’s ability to metabolize sugar. So with your doctor’s advice, exert your body every day.

It’s important to engender a proper relationship with sugar — a little can go a long way. Putting sugar in its rightful place can help you avoid tooth decay and increase your chances of greater overall health.

If you would like more information on sugar’s impact on dental and general health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Bitter Truth About Sugar.”