The key elements of effective oral health care are comprehensive dental exams and professional dental cleanings every six months. While most patients of the Chapel Hill, NC general dentist are aware of the importance of these appointments, but may not know exactly what is involved in a comprehensive dental exam and cleaning.

The following is a brief summary of the steps that we take during your six-month checkups.

Comprehensive Dental Exam

A comprehensive dental exam will be performed at your initial dental visit. At regular check-up exams, your dentist and hygienist will include the following:

  • Check for tooth decay: All tooth surfaces should be checked for decay or changes since the last visit.
  • Examine existing restorations: Check condition of current fillings, crowns, etc.
  • Gum disease evaluation: It is essential to check the gums and bone surrounding the teeth for signs of periodontal disease.
  • Digital x-rays: This step is essential for detecting decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. Digital x-rays will also help determine tooth and root positions.
  • Oral cancer screening: Your dentist will check your face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.


Professional Dental Cleaning

Professional dental cleanings (dental prophylaxis) will be performed by your dentist or a skilled dental hygienist. Appointments for cleanings include:

  • Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky film that coats your teeth and is made up of bacteria, food debris, and saliva. If plaque isn’t removed with oral hygiene and professional dental cleanings, it continues to feed on the sugars in your mouth and produces acid that attacks dental and causes cavities.
  • Removal of calculus (tartar): When plaque remains on teeth, it hardens and forms a hard deposit known as tartar or calculus. Since tartar is calcified and adheres to the teeth above and below the gum line, it can only be removed with special dental instruments.
  • Teeth polishing: Polishing is the final step in the process of your professional cleaning and removes stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.

Please call your Chapel Hill, NC General Dentist

If it’s time for your next routine exam and cleaning, please call Dr. Diane Hourigan to arrange an appointment.



Is your partner threatening to sleep in the guest room if you don’t do get your snoring under control? While it’s easy to make jokes, excessive snoring does affect relationships, but more importantly, it may be a sign of sleep apnea.

Fortunately, the Chapel Hill sleep apnea dentist offers treatment for patients who snore, bringing relief from symptoms and allowing everyone to get a good night’s sleep!

Why do I Snore?

Snoring isn’t just the result of a stuffy nose - it can also be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition that has been linked to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and other physical health issues. Patients who suffer from OSA actually stop breathing momentarily during sleep, which deprives their body of much-needed oxygen and restart with a loud snore.

Sleep apnea is frequently the result of a blocked airway and is more common in patients who are overweight or have enlarged tonsils. OSA is often undiagnosed, but there are several key symptoms that many experiences and that should be brought to the attention of your doctor or dentist:

  • Loud snoring- sometimes only noticed by family members
  • Morning headaches
  • Feeling groggy or unable to concentrate, even after a “good night’s sleep”
  • Sleepiness during the day or while driving
  • Insomnia or frequently waking up at night
  • A consistent sore or dry throat in the morning
  • How do You Treat OSA?

    The Chapel Hill sleep apnea dentist recommends oral appliance therapy for snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea. While a CPAP machine is usually the first line of treatment for OSA, oral appliance therapy can also be very effective. Most patients prefer a customized oral device for comfort, which also makes them more likely to use it consistently.

    OSA can be a debilitating health issue when unresolved, affecting daily life for many as well as posing health risks. Discuss your concerns during a consultation us and take the steps to restore your health with a better night’s sleep!


    If you are someone that grinds your teeth, you probably are quite exhausted by the residual pain and soreness that comes with the condition. Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding can wear down and damage teeth, leading to jaw pain and stiffness, sore gums, sensitive or loose teeth, and even headaches.

    Dr. Diane Hourigan sees patients every month suffering from this affliction, and all of them want to know the reasons behind their own grinding teeth. While there is no singular answer that applies to everyone, there are five common causes that can lead to bruxism:

    Stress and Anxiety

    While most bruxism occurs while people are sleeping, the most common cause for waking bruxism is stress and anxiety. While it may seem challenging at times to handle all of the stress you experience over the course of the day, the National Institutes of Health recommend reducing daily stress by participating in relaxation techniques such as mediation or calming breathing exercises. Working to relax your face and jaw muscles through these stressful situations can help, as well.

    Abnormal Bite

    According to the American Dental Association, having an abnormal bite also can cause bruxism, and that’s something that Dr. Hourigan can help correct. When teeth don’t fit well together, some correction to eliminate “high spots” on one or more teeth can help with the problem. In more serious circumstances, Dr. Hourigan may suggest more dramatic reshaping and/or reconstruction with inlays or crowns. The good news is that the problem is fixable in this instance.

    Face Muscle Spasms During Sleep

    While sleeping, the causes of bruxism can be more of a mystery. In some cases, uncontrollable muscle spasms while sleeping can lead your jaws to clamp together and your teeth to grind. Discovering what causes the spasms would be ideal in this situation to help remedy the problem.

    Medication Side Effects

    Anybody that ever has been on an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication knows that they can come with certain unpleasant side effects, such as grinding teeth. People taking antipsychotic medications or amphetamines may also experience teeth grinding. In most cases, these medications are essential to living everyday life comfortably, but if the teeth grinding is becoming unbearable, consider speaking with your doctor to discuss alternative medications.

    Neurological Conditions

    In some cases, the person experiencing bruxism may just have a neurological condition for which teeth grinding is an unfortunate side effect. Those with Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, for example, may experience the unpleasantness of teeth grinding, though unfortunately in these instances there isn’t much anybody can to fix it.

    Dr. Hourigan wants to help patients suffering from teeth grinding in any instance in which her services may be of assistance. If you are interested in getting to the root of your own bruxism, give us a call to set up an appointment with someone that has the power to help relieve you of the discomfort that typically accompanies this affliction. As frustrating as it may be, at least it’s nice to know that in some instances, there is something you can do about it.