If you are sick with a cold or flu, your oral health probably isn’t your first priority. Depending on how sick you are, it can be an exhausting thought just to drag yourself out of bed, much less head to the bathroom to brush your teeth!

However, neglecting your oral hygiene at this time can, unfortunately, mean bad things for your teeth and gums. Your Chapel Hill general dentist doesn’t expect you to be an oral health superstar during this time, but taking care of yourself now can minimize the risk of developing cavities and other oral health issues.

Here are a few easy things you can do to protect your oral health, so look them over and be prepared the next time you get sick:

Put Floss on Your Nightstand

Daily flossing is critical for preventing gum disease, so keep floss on your nightstand. That way you will be more likely to use it while you are lying in bed with nothing else to do!

Combat Dry Mouth

It is common to get dry mouth when you are sick, but the lack of saliva promotes bacterial growth. Many cold medications are also dehydrating, so keep a bottle of water with you at all times. Sucking on sugar-free cough drops can also help stimulate the flow of saliva.

Don’t Skip Brushing

It may be the last thing on your mind, but brushing is just as important when you’re sick. You may be surprised at how brushing can help you feel refreshed, and it has the added benefit of removing decay-producing plaque and bacteria from your mouth.

Rinse Your Mouth with Water after You Throw Up

Unfortunately, throwing up often comes along with being sick. You will probably be tempted to brush immediately after to get rid of the unpleasant taste in your mouth. However, the acid levels rise in your mouth after vomiting, which can weaken dental enamel. But rinsing with water neutralizes the acid in your mouth and help stop erosion.

Please Call Our Office

If you have questions about caring for your oral health, please call the Chapel Hill general dentist. We will be happy to assist you and schedule an appointment for you if necessary!


The foundation for excellent oral health is preventive dental exams and professional cleanings. Most people know this (even if they don’t always follow through) but are often unaware of exactly what is involved in preventive dental exams and cleanings.

Here’s a step-by-step guide of what you can expect at our next routine appointment with the Chapel Hill general dentist.

Dental Exam

When you become a patient of Dr. Diane Hourigan, we will perform a dental exam that will include the following:


  • Visual exam: We check all tooth surfaces for decay and check the condition of existing fillings and dental restorations.
  • Review of diagnostic x-rays: This step is essential for detecting decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays will also help determine tooth and root positions.
  • Oral cancer screening: Your dentist should check your face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
  • Gum disease evaluation: It is essential to check the gums and bone surrounding the teeth for signs of periodontal disease.         

Professional Dental Cleaning

Professional dental cleanings (dental prophylaxis) should be performed by an experienced dental hygienist that involves:

  • Removal of calculus (tartar): When plaque is allowed to remain on the teeth it hardens and forms a deposit known as calculus. Brushing will not remove calculus since it is calcified and adheres to the teeth above and below the gum line; calculus can only be removed with special dental instruments.
  • Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. Plaque is actually a collection of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. These bacteria produce toxins that will inflame the gums and ultimately lead to periodontal disease.
  • Teeth polishing: Tooth 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. 

Call Us to Schedule Your Next Exam

Now that you know what’s involved with preventive checkups, you can see how invaluable they are for helping you maintain the healthiest smile possible. If it’s time for your next checkup, please call the Chapel Hill general dentist to arrange an exam and hygiene appointment.



On the one hand, dentists exist to make sure their patients have healthy teeth free of cavities. Keeping teeth in good working order and free from infection is, in a lot of ways, Dr. Diane Hourigan’s primary concern. However, there is another aspect of dentistry that can be every bit as satisfying and, frankly, every bit as important to patients: how teeth look.

Dental implants are one option Dr. Diane Hourigan has for making sure patients not only have a healthy, functional bite, but also an aesthetically-pleasing smile. They are, in many cases, one of the best options for people in search of a more beautiful smile.

What Are Dental Implants?

These days, dental implant repair is considered the standard of care for prosthetic replacement of missing teeth. Unlike dentures, dental implants require surgery that sets the implants into the jawbone, helping them act nearly identical to real teeth. The post that is surgically installed acts the same as a root does, holding the artificial tooth in place, while the artificial tooth is built to fit the size, shape, and color of the teeth surrounding it. For all intents and purposes, a dental implant will look and behave like a normal tooth. Most people won’t even be able to tell that it isn’t, in fact, real.

Who Would Need Dental Implants?

Theoretically, a patient could have a mouthful of dental implants, but most often Dr. Hourigan works with patients who are missing one or just a few teeth. Anybody with a gap in their smile of any size can enjoy the benefits of this surgery, which improves the function and aesthetics of a smile.

Dental implants obviously are not the only option for people with missing teeth. Dentures and fixed dental bridges also are common procedures, but certain factors might make implants more preferential for certain types of patients. The quantity and quality of jawbone available where the implant would be installed is one consideration, as is the location of the missing tooth or teeth. Also, invasive surgery of any sort typically is only recommended for patients in good standing health, and cost always is a consideration.

The bottom line is that people in search of a permanent, durable solution to replacing missing teeth will not find a better option than dental implants.

What is the Process for Dental Implants?

After an initial consultation with Dr. Hourigan, she will begin the process of determining next steps. Once the mouth is prepared for the implant, a post is installed into the jawbone, and patients are given a temporary denture during the healing process. When the post has solidified in place, an abutment is connected to the dental screw, and a crown is cemented or screwed to that abutment.

Schedule an Appointment

Once the process is complete, patients can enjoy a prosthetic tooth or teeth that look and act like the real thing. If you would like more information about dental implants, give our office a call and set up a consultation with Dr. Hourigan. She will happily set you on the right course toward having a smile you love.