Health & Wellness


What is Gum Disease?

By | Featured, Health & Wellness

Did you know the National Institutes of Health estimates there are about 700 species of microorganisms, including bacteria, that live on our teeth, tongues, and gums? Some of these microbes are actually helpful in supporting the production of saliva and protects against cavities!

However, when bacteria settle in around your teeth and gums it could lead to gum disease. Let’s explore what this is and how you can prevent it.

Where does gum disease start?

Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease starts with bacterial growth and inflammation along the gum line. This is caused by an excess amount of plaque – a sticky, invisible film on the teeth.

The first stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. With early diagnosis, removal of any plaque buildup, and an evaluation of your oral hygiene routine, it is often easily reversible!

Periodontitis, the more serious stage of periodontal disease, occurs with ongoing gum inflammation and the hardening of plaque into tartar. If this condition continues, the gums separate from the teeth and form pockets. These can become infected and cause tooth decay, loss of teeth, and destroy the gum tissue and bone.

Other health conditions have also been linked to gum disease. These include heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s as well as smoking and tobacco use.

What does gum disease look like?

Healthy gums should be firm and snug around your teeth. If you examine your gums and/or note any of the following signs of periodontal disease, we encourage you to reach out to your dental provider.


Healthy Gums vs. Gum Disease


How do you treat gum disease?

In addition to seeing your dentist regularly, practicing good oral hygiene habits are a great way to prevent periodontal disease.

  • Brush twice a day
  • Floss daily
  • Rinse with mouthwash
  • Eat a balanced diet, especially foods rich in Vitamin C

If periodontal disease or gingivitis is diagnosed by your dentist, a professional dental cleaning paired with good home oral care can treat it. Advanced Hygiene Therapy (gum disease therapy) is also utilized to remove buildup from hard-to-reach spots and reduce gum inflammation.

While common, periodontal disease is preventable. Talk with your dentist about reducing your chance of developing gum disease with successful treatment.

Gum health. Cropped shot of a young woman showing healthy gums

Receding Gums: Symptoms, Consequences, and Remedies

By | Featured, Health & Wellness

We all have different teeth sizes, different gum colors, and some even have what we affectionately call “gummy smiles.” Our gums are important for keeping our teeth healthy and holding them in place. But when your smile starts to appear toothier looking, this may be indicative of receding gums.

How do receding gums start?

Gingival recession (receding gums or “long in the tooth”) refers to the progressive loss of gum tissue. When your gums pull away from your teeth, it leaves more of the tooth exposed, including the roots. It is a gradual process, commonly occurring in adults over 40 years of age. It can begin earlier, though, based on your family history, dental routine, hormonal changes in women, and smoking habits.

Signs of gum recession include:

  • Red, swollen gums
  • Bleeding after brushing or flossing
  • Teeth appearing longer or exposed tooth roots
  • Tender or painful gums
  • Sensitive and/or loose teeth

Healthy Gums vs. Receding Gums


What are the consequences of gum recession?

When gums begin to recede, bacteria can gather in between the exposed teeth and the gums. If left untreated, this causes the tooth to become loose and susceptible to decay, and even gum disease. Additionally, the longer the recession is allowed to progress, the more cosmetic compromise (such as the growing of gaps between your teeth) it can cause.

Will receding gums heal and how are they treated?

Daily brushing and flossing paired with regular dental checkups and cleanings are the best ways to stay on top of your oral health. They allow your dentist to monitor your gum health. If your dentist recommends seeking treatment for gum recession, they may indicate one of the following procedures depending on the severity:

  • Brushing correction – Aggressive or over-brushing can damage the enamel and your gums. Using a soft brush and a proper, gentle brushing technique helps protect your gum tissue.
  • Treating existing conditions – Fixing crooked teeth, teeth grinding, and a misaligned bite can help reduce the wear on your gums.
  • Treating teeth grinding – Bitesplints/biteguards can help prevent more gum recession and damage to the teeth.
  • Treating gum disease – This procedure goes below the gum line to clean hard-to-reach spots to remove buildup and reduce gum inflammation.

Are receding gums reversible? No, gums cannot grow back but the gum line can be restored with proper action. If you think your gums are receding, schedule an appointment with your dentist.

A man with toothache, periodontal disease in wisdom teeth

Teeth Grinding: Causes, Consequences, & Treatments

By | Featured, Health & Wellness

Much like chalk scraping on a chalkboard, something is jarring when you hear teeth grinding. The crunching, gnashing, squeaking noises. Gives you goosebumps thinking about it, huh? Often, though, those who grind their teeth do so unknowingly. Whether clenching during the day or at night, grinding your teeth can cause painful issues.

So, what’s teeth grinding?

Bruxism is the technical term for chronic grinding, clenching, or gnashing of teeth. And it’s common in both adults and children. Often, though, the teeth-grinding behavior with children is outgrown and doesn’t lead to long-term damage.

Bruxism can occur when you’re awake or asleep. If it happens during the day, it is usually tied to feeling anxious, angry, or stressed. Nighttime grinding is sometimes related to sleep apnea and acid reflux. Also, smoking, excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol, and illicit drugs can increase teeth grinding.

What are the symptoms of teeth grinding?

Chronic teeth grinding can lead to tooth sensitivity as well as dental and physical health problems if left untreated. Excessive tooth grinding can put added force on the jaw joint or muscles, leading to temporomandibular joint (TMJ/TMD) disorders. This is a group of conditions affecting the joint or chewing muscles. Other causes and signs you grind your teeth include:

  • Headaches
  • Facial and jaw soreness
  • Earaches
  • Painful, misaligned, or loose teeth
  • Chipped or fractured teeth
  • Tooth erosion
  • Gum recession

How can you stop grinding your teeth?

During regular dental exams, we will check for signs of bruxism. We will ask about your general dental health, daily routine, sleep patterns, and medications as well as look for the typical signs of teeth grinding, such as:

  • Tender jaw muscles
  • Ground, broken, or other obvious teeth abnormalities
  • Damage to the bone (observed through an x-ray)
  • Gum recession or tooth erosion

Once these are brought to your attention, you may be able to break the habit. If the problem persists or is severe enough, there are several approaches to treat teeth grinding.

  • Nightguards – Made from soft plastic or rubber, nightguards fit over your teeth (generally the upper teeth) to protect your teeth and gums. These absorb rubbing/biting forces and are often worn during the night.
  • Bite splints – These thin, hard or soft acrylic bite guards hold your teeth together and work to position the teeth and jaws. They are prescribed to someone with a TMJ diagnosis.
  • Dental corrections – If enough damage has been caused to your teeth, you may need crowns to reshape the biting surfaces of your teeth.
  • Alignment correction – If teeth are misaligned, crowded, and/or uneven it can put more pressure on certain teeth. Orthodontic treatment can help with alignment to evenly distribute your bite.
  • Stress/anxiety management – If your teeth clenching is related to anxiety, advice from a licensed therapist or professional counselor may help.
  • Address sleep-related issues – A sleep specialist can conduct tests, such as a sleep study to assess for episodes of teeth grinding, and determine if you have sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.

If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth or are interested in learning more, we encourage you to talk with your Smile team.

Is it safe to visit the dentist?

By | Grand Haven Blog Article, Grand Rapids Blog Article, Health & Wellness, News & Announcements, North Muskegon Blog Article, South Holland Blog Article | No Comments

WZZM 13 Interview | 11-06-20

Is it safe to visit the dentist? What about kids? Many people are concerned about the recent spike in COVID-19 cases throughout West Michigan. WZZM 13 reporter Catherine Berhendt spoke with Dr. Darren Riopelle of Smile Dental Partners about safety and dental visits during the pandemic. 

Clean Air at Smile

Before we clean your teeth, we clean the air you breathe.

By | Health & Wellness

Experts continue to recommend basic safety protocols to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19. These familiar safety measures have now become part of our daily routines—social distancing, face masks, hand washing, and temperature screening.

In spite of these precautions, the CDC recommends that “the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.”

That’s why we’ve invested in revolutionary technology that actually removes COVID-19 and other viruses from the air inside our dental practices.

UV-C pathogen control technology by UV Angel is different from a typical air filtration system. Using ultraviolet light—which kills fungi, bacteria, and viruses—we are able to neutralize 99.99% of pathogens from the air to provide you and your family with a safe, pathogen free environment.

Smile Dental Partners has installed UV Air technology at all four of our West Michigan locations—Smile Cascade, Smile Grand Haven, Smile North Muskegon, and Smile South Holland. Inside each practice, we’ve placed UV Air units in our entrance, waiting room, offices, and in the ceiling above every single dental chair. Our UV-C technology works 24/7 to remove harmful pathogens from the air and continuously circulate clean air into our facility. When you sit in one of our dental chairs and remove your face mask for dental treatment, you can rest assured that the air you are breathing is clean and safe.

Of course, we also carefully follow all the recommended health and safety guidelines everyone else is using. We use face masks, disinfect surfaces, and sterilize equipment. But Smile continues to be the only West Michigan dentist to also provide clean, pathogen-free air for our patients to breathe.

If you are nervous about scheduling a dental exam during the coronavirus pandemic, we hope Smile’s exclusive UV-C technology will alleviate those fears. If you are in need of dental care, please do not avoid or postpone treatment. We can provide a safe environment for your family’s dental needs.


Smile Safety Assurance™ featured on WZZM 13

By | Health & Wellness, News & Announcements | No Comments

WZZM 13 reporter Catherine Behrendt recently spoke with Dr. Darren Riopelle about new safety standards at Smile Dental Partners. Smile Safety Assurance™ is designed to create the safest environment possible for patients and employees alike. Among the new safety initiatives, Smile is the first dentist in the country to introduce UV-C pathogen control technology which removes viruses from the air and surfaces.


What you need to know about Dental Insurance

By | Featured, Health & Wellness, Uncategorized

At Smile Dental Partners, our Treatment Coordinators specialize in helping you reach your goals by estimating any investment you may have in your treatment.  We reduce surprises in your portion of payment by using the most comprehensive dental insurance software available to keep your insurance information up to date and creating financial treatment plans.

Insurance has become more complicated in recent years, and dental insurance is no exception.  There are thousands of different dental plans, and each policy has distinct benefits and rules of coverage that are determined by both the insurance company and your employer.

Policies can change your benefits and rules of coverage at any time.  Insurance companies do not notify dental offices of your changes.  While we attempt to update our information about your policies on an annual basis, we may only become aware of changes upon filing a claim on your behalf or if you tell us of any changes to your coverage.

By understanding your own insurance, we can work as a team with you to provide the most accurate financial estimates.  Below is some insurance “lingo” that may help you understand your coverage:

Participating vs. Accepting

This confuses most people.  If you call a dental office and ask is they “accept” your insurance, you are actually asking if they will bill your insurance company for you.  And the answer is almost always yes.  What you probably really want to know is if the dental office “participates” with your insurance?  This means that you will receive a discount for services covered by your plan, or the dentist office will “write off” a portion of the fee when applicable. Click here for a list of participating insurance companies at Smile.

Covered Services

At what percentage are your cleanings, exams, fluorides, x-rays covered?  How often will the insurance pay for these services? Are there waiting periods before they will pay for your treatment?


This is an annual amount you are responsible for before insurance coverage begins.


The percent split between insurance payment and your responsibility.


Some insurance requires permission for a procedure prior to receiving the service.  If these services are provided without pre-determination, the payment for services may be denied.  Pre-determination does NOT guarantee payment of your claim.

Benefit Limit

An annual (or lifetime) limit that an insurance company will pay for your care.

Primary Insurance

If you have more than one insurance policy covering you, the primary insurance is required to consider the claim for payment first.  For children whose parents both have insurance contracts, the primary insurance is determined by the month of each parent’s birthday (typically).

Secondary Insurance

A second insurance contract.  The secondary insurance contract may or may not cover costs that the primary insurance contract does not pay.


Smile Safety Assurance™ featured on WOOD TV 8

By | Health & Wellness, News & Announcements, Uncategorized | No Comments

As Michigan dentists prepare to reopen across the state, News 8 Reporter Justin Kollar recently visited Smile Cascade to speak with Dr. Darren Riopelle and pediatric dentist Dr. Cristian Brutten about exclusive new UV-C pathogen control technology. The new upgrades, which include air filtration and surface technology, have been introduced at all of Smile’s West Michigan locations as part of its new Smile Safety Assurance™.

Dentists go back to work Friday

Non-essential medical, dental and veterinary procedures are allowed to resume starting today.Dentists offices across the state are ready to accept patients, many have implemented a host of new safety procedures to keep patients and staff safe.Check out all that Smile Dental Partners have done to make the "new normal" safe and enjoyable.

Posted by Justin Kollar on Friday, 29 May 2020

Public Health

A public health message from Smile

By | Health & Wellness, News & Announcements

Dear Patients,

As your trusted healthcare provider, we are closely monitoring the public health concerns surrounding the coronavirus (2019-nCoV). We want to reassure you that Smile is taking the proper precautions to be sure that our practices are clean and continue to be a safe environment for you and your family.

For the safety of our patients, our employees, and our communities, we are committed to the following practices…

  • We follow the guidelines outlined by the CDC.
  • Our facilities are cleaned daily. This includes our standard practice of disinfecting all surfaces (including door knobs, light switches, handrails, countertops, computers/tablets, etc.) in accordance to Touch Point Cleaning best practices and Green Seal Certified Cleaning Program GS-42.
  • In between patients, treatment rooms and equipment are thoroughly cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant and all instruments are sterilized.
  • All Smile team members are required to wash their hands upon entering/exiting the office and prior to seeing any of our patients.
  • We will be providing hand sanitizer for our patients to use upon entering our office.
  • Smile team members will not report to work if they show signs of illness.

We kindly ask our patients who are showing signs of illness to please call and allow us to reschedule your appointment. 

Your safety is most important,

The Smile Team