Frequently Asked Questions
Select a category to see relevant questions. Select a question to reveal the answer.
Replacing Missing Teeth
What are dental implants and how do they work?
Dental implants, like “biomedical screws,” are substitutes for natural tooth roots and rely on the jawbone for support. Strategically placed, implants can now be used to support permanently cemented single teeth or bridges for multiple teeth, eliminating the need for a full or partial denture. Implants more closely resemble the “feel” and “function” of real teeth. You brush and floss them like your natural teeth. The cost tends to be greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble real teeth and will result in a longer lasting, more reliable result. Everyone’s implant surgery can vary in timeline and extent, depending upon many factors. Call today to schedule your complimentary implant consultation.
What are bridges and how do they work?
Bridges allow your dental team to replace one or more missing teeth when they those spaces have neighboring teeth on each side. The neighboring teeth are used to support a permanently attached floating tooth, which creates a “link” of three or more crowns. Bridges are cemented in and do not come in and out. They allow you to function naturally. Bridges do require you to floss underneath them. Bridges are excellent choices for patients that are not candidates for implants or do not want to undergo surgery.
Are there any alternatives to dentures?
Dentures are no longer the only way to restore a mouth that has no teeth remaining. Strategically placed support, by way of implants, can now be used to create more attached dentures, instead of the looseness of a denture that comes in and out readily. The cost tends to be greater, but the implants help to enhance the usability and retention of dentures. Dental implants are becoming the alternative of choice to dentures alone, but not everyone is a candidate for implants depending on the amount of bone available in your upper or lower jaws. Please call for your complimentary implant consultation.
Babies, Children, and Teenagers
At what age are my children supposed to see a dentist?
The general rule is between 18 and 24 months, but whenever they begin to get their first tooth can be appropriate. Some children require a bit more time to be comfortable, and these early visits are good behavioral stepping-stones. If an area of concern is noticed, then the child should see a dentist as soon as possible.
Why is it important to fix my child’s baby teeth that have decay?
“Aren’t they going to come out soon anyway?” It is very important to maintain the baby teeth because these teeth hold space for the future eruption of the permanent teeth. If a baby tooth decays or is removed too early, the space necessary for the permanent tooth is lost and can only be regained through orthodontic treatment. Infected baby teeth can cause the permanent teeth to develop improperly, resulting in stains, pits and weaker teeth.
What should I do if my child gets a tooth knocked out?
If the tooth is a permanent tooth, time is extremely crucial. Immediately stick the tooth back in the socket. Don’t worry about getting it in straight or having it turned backwards, just get it in the socket and immediately call your dentist. If you are uncomfortable placing the tooth in the socket, put it in a glass of milk and get your child to the dentist as quickly as possible. If the tooth is a baby tooth, do NOT put it in the socket because damage to the permanent tooth within the socket can occur. When in doubt, put the tooth in milk and see your dentist immediately.
When will my child lose his/her baby teeth?
Children will begin losing their teeth at approximately age 5. They will usually lose their front teeth first. Children will continue to lose baby teeth until the age of 12 or 13 when all of the permanent teeth finally erupt.
What do I do if my baby or child has a “lip tie” or a “tongue tie”?
If your child has a lip or tongue tie, your child may be a candidate for referral to get what is called a “frenectomy” procedure. If a tie is severe enough that it affects nursing, eating, and/or speaking of the baby/child, a frenectomy may be performed early on in life. However, if a lip tie is mild to moderate in nature, your dentist will likely recommend monitoring it. This is because, as a child loses baby teeth and gains adult teeth, spaces begin to close and gum tissues begin to move around. The lip tie may often correct itself spatially. However, if the lip tie is still present when your child’s adult canines begin to come in, a frenectomy may be indicated at that time.
What is silver diamine fluoride (SDF), and what is it used for in children?
SDF is a newer, non-invasive material in the dental world that helps to stop the progression of cavities. It is important to note that it does not erase the cavity; it just stops it from getting larger. This is particularly useful in children’s teeth, where we want to get the baby teeth by until they naturally fall out at the appropriate time. SDF is most effective on smaller cavities that can avoid being drilled on. SDF is also used deep inside a baby tooth when the cavity may be extremely large. This buys the baby teeth time. It is important to know that SDF is not a replacement for baby tooth fillings; it needs to be used in the right situation determined by your dentist. It is also important to understand that SDF ultimately stains black oftentimes due to its properties; therefore, the cavities may be stalled, but the baby teeth appear darkened in the areas that it is painted until the teeth are lost.
When does thumb-sucking become damaging to the teeth?
Generally, if the child has stopped sucking his/her thumb by age 5 there is no permanent damage. If the child is a vigorous and constant thumb-sucker, however, there can be moderate to severe movement of teeth and prevention of normal bone growth. There are possibilities for intervention, if needed, to avoid permanent growth problems due to thumb-sucking.
When is the best time to remove wisdom teeth?
When the removal of wisdom teeth is determined necessary, it is best done when the roots are approximately two-thirds formed, usually in the adolescent years. Removal at this time allows for an easier procedure and decreases the risk of damage to the nerves or other teeth in that area.
Should my child wear a mouthguard while playing sports?
It is strongly recommended that children wear a mouthguard while playing any contact sport. It is always better to prevent an injury than to repair one. The earlier a child begins to wear the mouthguard, the easier it is to become comfortable and continue to wear it as they get older.
How We Repair and Change Teeth
What is a crown (“cap”), and why do we use it?
A crown, or a “cap,” is made of porcelain and/or metallic material and its job is to protect the teeth. It covers a tooth that has cracking, that is already broken, that has a large cavity, that has a root canal done, or that has failing fillings. Instead of “stuffing” a tooth with more filling material from the inside, a crown protects the tooth from the outside and takes on the chewing force by sealing the tooth around the sides and the top. A crown is placed over your natural tooth, and it can be fully manipulated for color, shape, and size. You brush and floss a crown like a normal tooth.
What is a root canal?
A root canal saves a tooth that would otherwise be extracted. A root canal is a procedure done to save the damaged (infected from cavity or irritated by drilling) or dead (necrotic) pulp in the root canal of the tooth by cleaning out the diseased pulp and reshaping the canal. The canal is filled with gutta percha, a rubberlike material, to prevent recontamination of the tooth. The tooth is then permanently sealed with a rebuilding material and a crown, most often. This enables patients to keep their original tooth.
What are porcelain veneers and why are they used?
Porcelain veneers are ultra-thin shells of ceramic material, which are bonded to the front of the teeth. This procedure can be an ideal choice for improving the appearance of the front teeth by masking discolorations, whitening teeth and/or reshaping a smile. Veneers can be fully manipulated: new colors, new shapes, and new lengths. During the placement of veneers, some natural tooth structure may be removed to keep them appearing as natural as possible, however veneers are designed to be as conservative as possible.
Easing Your Dental Concerns
Are silver fillings/mercury, fluoride, or x-rays a danger to my health? What are the alternatives?
Dental amalgam, or “silver filling” material, is a mixture of mercury and an alloy of silver, tin and copper. The release of mercury in silver fillings is so small that it is much less than what patients are exposed to in food, air and water. It would take an amount of mercury far greater than that in silver fillings to create acute toxicity in the body. There are, however, other materials that can be used for restorations. These include gold, porcelain, and composite resins (tooth colored).
Fluoride is a compound of the element fluorine, which is found universally throughout nature in water, soil, air and in most foods. Fluoride is absorbed easily into the tooth enamel, especially in children’s growing teeth. Once teeth are developed, fluoride makes the entire tooth structure more resistant to decay and promotes remineralization, which aids in repairing early decay before the damage is visible or before it requires a procedure.
Radiographs, or X-rays, help your dentist determine the presence or degree of periodontal disease, abscesses, and many abnormal growths such as cysts and tumors. They can help pinpoint the location of cavities and other signs of disease that may not be possible to detect through a visual examination. All health care providers are sensitive to patients’ concerns about exposure to radiation. Your dentist has been trained to prescribe radiographs when they are appropriate and to tailor the radiograph schedule to your individual needs. By using state-of-the-art technology, such as digital radiography, and by staying knowledgeable about recent advances, your dentist knows which techniques, procedures and X-ray films can minimize your exposure to radiation. Most often, the amounts of radiation in our office are so low that they are equivalent to a day in the sunshine or less. You are exposed to more radiation when flying on an airplane, in fact.
Does teeth whitening damage the teeth?
Not when our patients are using known FDA approved whitening products. When carbamide peroxide, the active whitening agent, contacts water, we see hydrogen peroxide released that whitens the teeth. The intensity and efficacy of whitening products depends on the percent concentration of the bleaching agent. You can only get high percentage bleaching agents from your dental providers. Some online and in store products claiming whiter teeth are unlabeled and not FDA approved for use on humans, or they may not contain an effective percentage of whitening agent. Charcoal whitens teeth by abrasion, and this is NOT a healthy way to whiten your teeth; this is because you are sacrificing the natural layers of your teeth, which is an unhealthy long-term habit. With our prescription strength whitening gels—both in office and take home products—we are confident you will enjoy your bright new smile without worry.
What causes my jaw to pop when I open it?
There is a pad or disk that separates the jaw bone from the base of the skull. The primary cause of the “popping” occurs when you open your mouth too wide and the jaw bone “pops” off the pad or disk. Treatment is not required unless pain is associated with the “pop” or the jaw locks.
What can be done for ulcers or canker sores in the mouth?
Ulcers are very difficult to treat. There is no proven technique that will eliminate ulcers or speed the recovery time once they appear. There are a few medications that will give temporary relief from the pain, but they need to be started as soon as symptoms appear. Ulcers will generally diminish and disappear in 7-10 days without treatment.
How can I stop grinding my teeth at night?
Grinding your teeth can be very damaging to the teeth and also difficult to stop. If vigorous grinding occurs at night, teeth can be worn down to the gumline because the instinctive reflex to stop does not work while you are sleeping. Grinding due to stress can only be cured by removing the stress trigger. If grinding continues, a nightguard may be prescribed to prevent ultimate damage to the teeth.
How do I know if a lump or bump in my mouth is cancerous?
If you have a suspicion that you have something going on in your mouth that is abnormal, schedule to see your dentist. While cancer can be a rare condition in the mouth or jaws, your dentist can determine if you require a specialty evaluation or a biopsy. Many conditions in the mouth are benign or non-cancerous. It is important to remember that your dentist performs a preventive head, neck, and oral cancer screening whenever you get your check-ups; in this way, you are monitored consistently and anything that could develop is caught as early as possible.
Can sleep apnea affect my oral health?
Yes, sleep apnea manifests itself in many different ways in the health of your mouth. Sleep apnea patients show a strong correlation to exhibiting habits of grinding (bruxism) and acid reflux. Grinding can wear and tear on the teeth, causing heaving damage or breakage of teeth that leads to expensive treatments. Acid reflux can cause acidic erosion of the teeth, leading to loss of the outer protective layer of enamel. Sleep apnea patients may even experience dry mouth, which can place you at significant risk for cavities.
Can chronic dry mouth (xerostomia) damage my mouth?
Yes, dry mouth can place you at a heavily increased risk for cavities. Saliva is actually a natural, preventive, “good” bath for the teeth and the gums. Without it, the acid-base balance in the mouth can shift and you can become prone to very fast decay. There are numerous over the counter products, such as rinses and sugar-free lozenges that help to relieve patients with a dry mouth. Dry mouth is caused by autoimmune conditions, medication side effects, chemotherapy/radiation, and others
Hygiene and Prevention
How often should I see my dentist?
You should visit your dentist at least every six months or more frequently to get your teeth cleaned. By seeing your dentist twice a year, your dentist can monitor your oral health and help you prevent any problems that may arise before they become uncomfortable or require more comprehensive or expensive treatment. The dentist may suggest more frequent visits, depending on the diagnosis.
My gums bleed when I brush. What does it mean?
Bleeding gums is an early indicator of gingivitis, or swollen gums, usually caused by plaque and/or calculus accumulated under the gumline. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to bone loss and eventual tooth loss. Gingivitis can be reversed by proper brushing and flossing within a few weeks. If bleeding persists two to three weeks, consult your dentist.
What causes “gum disease” (periodontitis)?
Gum (periodontal) disease is caused by bacteria, and it results in loss of bone support around the teeth. These bacteria, if left along the gumline, will irritate the gums and cause an inflammation reaction. The gums then begin to bleed and swell, allowing the bacteria to go deeper under the gumline. If the inflammation is allowed to continue, the bone will begin to demineralize and dissolve. As the bone dissolves around the teeth, the teeth become unsupported and will fall out. Unfortunately, pain does not occur until the final stages of the disease and treatment at that time has very little chance of being successful. If your gums bleed regularly, seek treatment as soon as possible. Current studies indicate a direct link between gum disease and heart disease. Gum disease is also a risk factor for preterm labor if you are pregnant. It is more evident than ever that we take a whole body approach to health and wellness, and how your dental health is an integral part of that.
What is scaling and root planing (SRP) (“deep cleaning”), and why is it done?
“Scaling & root planing” is a technique performed in a dental office to stop the adverse effects of periodontal disease. The procedure cleans below the gumline and smooths the roots. When the roots are smoothed, the gums will usually reattach to the root, stopping the bacteria from spreading. This stops and reverses some of the damage done by periodontal disease.
Do water irrigation systems replace the need for flossing?
Water irrigation systems should not be used as a total substitute for brushing and flossing. These devices are effective in removing retained food from hard-to-reach areas, or cleaning around bridges or implants; but, they do not remove plaque as effectively as flossing. Dentists frequently recommend these devices with the addition of antibacterial solutions to maintain the oral health of periodontal patients; for example, 50/50 water and mouth rinse.
What causes tooth decay?
Tooth decay is caused by plaque in your mouth reacting with sugary and starchy deposits from food. This reaction produces acid, which damages the enamel over time and weakens the tooth. Tooth decay leads to the potential for many different treatment needs: fillings, crowns, root canals, or extractions.
What causes bad breath and what can be done about it?
Bad breath, or halitosis, is primarily caused by poor oral hygiene, but can also be caused by retained food particles, gum disease, drainage from sinus dripping or systemic, respiratory or gastrointestinal problems. Proper brushing including brushing the tongue, cheeks, and the roof of the mouth will remove bacteria and food particles. Flossing removes accumulated bacteria, plaque and food that may be trapped between teeth. Mouth rinses are effective in temporary relief of bad breath. Consult your dentist and/or physician if the condition persists.
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