Do you brush and floss routinely, avoid sugary foods and drinks, and see your dentist for scheduled appointments but still get cavities? Do you have friends who don’t follow healthy oral habits and don’t deal with tooth decay and wonder if there’s any fairness left in the world?

Your Chapel Hill general dentist understands your frustration! How is it possible to take care of your teeth and still get cavities? It turns out that your genes may be responsible.

It’s Not Just about Bacteria

Keeping your mouth free of harmful bacteria is essential if you want a healthy smile, but another significant factor is the resistance of your teeth. A recent study by two researchers from the University of Zurich shows a definite condition between defects in the gene complex that’s responsible for the formation of tooth enamel and the rate of caries (cavities).

What This Means for You

There’s a lot more study that needs to be conducted in this area to understand how these findings can change the way we approach oral health care. But whether or not your genetic makeup puts you at higher risk for tooth decay, there are always steps you can take:

  • Make sure your oral hygiene’s up to par – Brushing and flossing for decades does not make you an expert, and if you aren’t doing it properly, you may not be getting the benefit of your efforts. Talk to your hygienist to “brush up” on your oral hygiene for the best results.
  • Keep up with routine dental appointments – Prevention is the key to enjoying good oral health, making semi-annual exams and cleanings with your family dentist crucial. Decide if you’d rather take a couple of hours out of your week now or wait until you need costly and complex treatment!
  • Pay attention to what you eat and drink – Certain foods, especially those high in sugar and acid, are very damaging and weaken dental enamel which can lead to cavities.

Please Call to Arrange an Appointment

Your family dentist can offer you many helpful tips for keeping your smile healthy, regardless of genetics. If you would like to learn more, please call the Chapel Hill general dentist to arrange a convenient appointment.


Many people think of the dentist only as a place people visit to get cavities filled, but the reality is that most of a dental practice’s day is dedicated to routine cleanings designed to keep patients from ever getting cavities in the first place. While it seems like it should be common sense to get regular dental cleanings every six months, there are many people who ignore this recommendation. For the following reasons, all of Dr. Diane Hourigan’s patients should schedule an appointment with their Chapel Hill family dentist twice a year for cleanings:


#1 It Prevents Cavities


Even those people who brush and floss their teeth every single day can end up with the kind of plaque and tartar buildup on their teeth that can cause cavities. Professional cleanings help prevent this from happening, as trained specialists with specific dental tools can do a much better job clearing your teeth of plaque than anything you may own at home.


#2 Cleanings Cost Less Than Fillings


Something else to keep in mind is that many insurance plans cover two cleanings per year, which means they are essentially free for some patients. Even for those that don’t have dental insurance, the cost of a cleaning is considerably less than the cost of a filling or root canal. It’s better to prevent the damage than experience the pain and expense that comes with these types of cavities.


#3 Check for Oral Cancer


While most people will live their lives without oral cancer, the mouth isn’t an area that they are able to check easily without professional assistance. Dr. Hourigan can check not only your teeth but other areas of your mouth to perhaps identify cancer signs early enough for them to be treated in a timely manner.


#4 X-Rays Help Find Hidden Issues


While you can make a pretty good guess about the quality of your teeth from the outside, you cannot physically see what is happening underneath your gums and in your jaw without the assistance of an x-ray. X-rays are a routine aspect of biannual cleanings, and they can identify impending issues with wisdom teeth, your jawbone, and of course your teeth, where not all problems are visible on the surface alone.


#5 Boost Your Overall Health


Studies have long since proven that there is a direct correlation between dental health and overall health. Regular cleanings help improve your dental health, thereby preventing a lot of the other illnesses and infections that can occur as a result of a compromised immune system.


Schedule an Appointment

More than anything else, Dr. Hourigan wants her patients to be happy and healthy, all while sporting a great smile, and the best way she can help ensure that happens is to get those patients in for their regular dental cleanings. They save money, they improve overall health, and they make your smile look as great as it possibly can. Knowing all of this, why wouldn’t you want to get your teeth cleaned twice a year?


Two 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.

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 the 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.
  • 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.

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.