Keeping all your teeth healthy and intact for a lifetime is not impossible if you follow a few simple steps!

We expect tooth loss in young children. In fact, we celebrate tooth loss with a visit from the tooth fairy! Of course, as an adult, tooth loss has a completely different impact on your life.

Many decades ago, tooth loss was considered normal as you aged. But today there is absolutely no reason to face unexpected tooth loss. Chapel Hill general dentist Dr. Diane Hourigan wants you to be fully educated about your dental health, so here are a few things to keep in mind if you want your teeth to last a lifetime.

5 Common Causes of Tooth Loss

There are many reasons why you might face unexpected tooth loss. Understanding the causes of tooth loss can increase your awareness about the state of your oral health and prevent problems that contribute to tooth loss.

Poor oral hygiene - If you don’t brush and floss daily, cavities and gum disease can occur, making tooth loss more likely. Our dentist recommends you brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. It is also advisable to visit your general dentist six months for check-ups and cleanings.

Poor nutrition - Foods that contain a lot of sugar, carbohydrates, and acids can damage your teeth and gums. Avoid a diet heavy with these types of foods to increase the longevity of your teeth.

Poor habits - Tooth grinding (bruxism) erodes and weakens your teeth over time. Severe grinding and clenching of the chaw can actually fracture a tooth. Smoking or chewing tobacco are two bad habits that aggravate gum disease that can ultimately lead to tooth loss.

Contact sports - Some kids, teenagers, or young adults play contact sports regularly. These include football, hockey, basketball, martial arts and so on. Wearing a mouth guard is very important to prevent trauma that can fracture or injure a tooth.

Dental Anxiety - Some people are so afraid of dental visits that they simply never go, even if they have a toothache. Avoiding dental visits is counterproductive because at some point you’re going to need dental work. At that point, you may be looking at much more complicated problems to fix.

We Can Help

If any of these situations apply to you, we encourage you to contact the Chapel Hill general dentist to arrange an appointment. We want you to enjoy the benefits of excellent oral health, and we can give you guidance on turning these bad habits around.


Plenty of Americans have experienced some sort of dental issue beyond the typical six-month cleanings that have required an extra trip to the dentist’s office. Sometimes, people decide to wait on reaching out to their dentist because they either don’t think their issue in an emergency or are feeling some anxiety about having the problem addressed. Either way, sometimes there are dental emergencies that flat-out cannot be delayed, and in those cases, the health of the tooth (or even infection) may depend on how quickly you are able to contact the office of Dr. Diane Hourigan for emergency dentist services.

The following are four dental emergencies that do not allow for delayed dental treatment:

Loss of a Permanent Tooth

It is not news that permanent teeth are meant to say inside your mouth for the entirety of your life, so if something happens to one of those permanent teeth where it no longer resides in your mouth, you need to contact Dr. Hourigan’s office immediately for treatment. The most common instances of this happening include extreme oral infections or an injury to the mouth, but even if a tooth does come out, they sometimes can be put back in to heal. Doing so, though, often is a matter of time, so the sooner you see a dentist, the better chance they will have to save your smile.

Cracked or Chipped Teeth

While cracked or chipped teeth aren’t salvageable in quite the same way, they also demand immediate dental attention because if they are left alone, they can be not only painful, but also dangerous. Bacteria can seep into the cracks and chips, causing the tooth to contract infection. When that happens, more invasive dental surgery could be required, and nobody loves a root canal. To avoid that, have those damaged teeth addressed immediately so the root canal isn’t necessary.

Severe Toothache

There are toothaches, and there are heart-stopping, severe toothaches that make everyday life impossible to live without excruciating pain. That kind of tooth pain typically is associated with severe decay or a nasty infection, and in either case emergency dental treatment may be required. Take some ibuprofen and apply a cold compress to help ease discomfort, but in this case, you’ll be glad to see a dentist as soon as reasonably possible.

Possible Infections

In most cases, it’s impossible to know whether you’ve got an infection, but there are a few telltale signs that this may be the case. Any sort of dental abscess—especially one emitting pus—suggests a serious infection that needs to addressed immediately. These painful bumps and leaky discharge are unpleasant on their own, but the bigger problems they can cause are even more so. Any infection should be treated quickly, but these symptoms are especially troubling.

Of course, if you have any questions about a tooth-related problem, just call Dr. Diane Hourigan’s office and we will be happy to answer any concerns you may have. We also are happy to get you in for an appointment to help heal a tooth and/or relieve some pain. Emergency dental care exists for a reason, so if you end up with any of these issues, make sure you use it!



Oral cancer can pose a significant threat to your oral health and your life. Today, your Chapel Hill general dentist shares the facts about oral cancer. 

While oral cancer is a small percentage of all cancers, about 50,000 Americans are diagnosed each year. Oral cancer cases that are diagnosed in the early stages of development have a significantly improved survival rate — up to 80 percent after five years.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

The following risk factors can’t be changed. But the Chapel Hill general dentist knows that awareness raises your vigilance so potential problems can be addressed early when outcomes are still favorable.

  • Heredity – There’s sufficient evidence to suggest that the probability of oral cancer can run in families even if no other risk factors like smoking or alcohol use are present.
  • Aging – More than 90% of all oral cancers occur in individuals over 40. However, the incidence among younger people has been on the uptick recently, perhaps related to lifestyle behaviors.
  • Race – African Americans have a higher incidence of oral cancer than Caucasians.

The following are risk factors that can and should be addressed:

  • Smoking and tobacco use – Smokers are at five to nine times greater risk for developing oral cancer
  • Alcohol use– Moderate to heavy drinkers are at three to nine times greater risk; the higher the alcohol content, the higher the risk
  • Chronic sun exposure – Often connected with lip cancers.

As part of your routine oral hygiene, you should carefully monitor any changes in your mouth that don’t diminish in a few days, e.g., ulcers, sores, or white or red patches on the tongue. We care about your overall wellness, so our dentist always performs an oral cancer screening as part of your regular check-ups.

Please Contact Us for More Information

We want to do everything possible to keep your oral health and your general health on track. Please contact our office to arrange your next exam, including an oral cancer screening by our dentist.