Frequently Asked Questions

Q?There are so many toothpastes to choose from; how do I know which one to use?
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Here’s some advice. First, when purchasing a toothpaste for you or your child, select one that contains fluoride. Fluoride-containing toothpastes have been shown to prevent cavities. However, one word of caution: check the manufacturer’s label; some toothpastes are not recommended in children under age 6. This is because young children swallow toothpaste and swallowing too much fluoride can lead to tooth discoloration in permanent teeth.

It is also wise to select a product approved by the American Dental Association. The ADA’s Seal of Acceptance means that the product has met ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness and that packaging and advertising claims are scientifically supported. Some manufacturers choose not to seek the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance. Although these products may be safe and effective, these products’ performance have not been evaluated or endorsed by the ADA.

Next, when considering other properties of toothpaste — such as whitening toothpastes, tartar-control, gum care, desensitizing, etc. — the best advice for selecting among these products may be to simply ask your dental hygienist or dentist what the greatest concerns are for your mouth at this time. After consulting with your dentist or hygienist about your oral health’s greatest needs, look for products within that category (for example, within the tartar control brands or within the desensitizing toothpaste brands) that have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

Finally, some degree of personal preference comes into play. Choose the toothpaste that tastes and feels best. Gel or paste, wintergreen or spearmint all work alike. If you find that certain ingredients are irritating to your teeth, cheeks or lips, or if your teeth have become more sensitive, or if your mouth is irritated after brushing, try changing toothpastes. If the problem continues, see your dentist.

Q?How do whitening toothpastes work and how effective are they?
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All toothpastes help remove surface stains through the action of mild abrasives. Some whitening toothpastes contain gentle polishing or chemical agents that provide additional stain removal. Whitening toothpastes can help remove surface stains only and do not contain bleach; over-the-counter and professional whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide (a bleaching substance) that helps remove stains on the tooth surface as well as stains deep in the tooth. None of the home use whitening toothpastes can come even close to producing the bleaching effect you get from your dentist’s office through chair-side bleaching or power bleaching. Whitening toothpastes can lighten your tooth’s color by about one shade. In contrast, light-activated whitening conducted in your dentist’s office can make your teeth three to eight shades lighter.

Q?Do you think extra fluoride would help prevent cavities, or is there enough fluoride in toothpastes?
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Fluoride has reduced the rate of cavities more than any other method of decay prevention. However, too much ingested fluoride can cause unesthetic spotting on teeth. Most community water supplies in our area are optimally fluoridated, so between using fluoridated toothpastes and using community water supplies, additional fluoride might not be needed for most people. However, for added cavity protection for teens and adults, daily rinsing with fluoride mouthrinses also can be beneficial. If you see a dentist who determines that you are at high risk for development of cavities, he/she might prescribe some prescription dispensed fluoride that is even more concentrated, so consult your dentist to determine how much fluoride is best for you.

Q?I would like to improve my smile. What options do I have?
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Many options are available nowadays to improve people’s smiles, such as braces, whitening or bleaching, crowns and porcelain veneers. Every smile change needs to start with a proper diagnosis to evaluate individual considerations and desires, your bite and your smile. We believe in minimal and conservative intervention to improve your smile. We have all the diagnostic knowledge, experience, and state-of-the-art tools to provide you with an understanding and with realistic treatment options so that we can help you select the best way to achieve the smile you seek.

Q?I have a terrible fear of going to the dentist yet I know I need to. What should I do?
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If you fear going to the dentist, you are not alone. Between 9% and 15% of Americans state they avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety or fear. The first thing you should do is talk with your dentist. In fact, if your dentist doesn’t take your fear seriously, find another dentist. The key to coping with dental anxiety is to discuss your fears with your dentist. Once your dentist knows what your fears are, he or she will be better able to work with you to determine the best ways to make you less anxious and more comfortable.

The good news is that today there are a number of strategies that can be used to help reduce fear, anxiety, and pain. These strategies include use of medications (to either numb the treatment area or sedatives or anesthesia to help you relax), use of lasers instead of the traditional drill for removing decay, application of a variety of mind/body pain and anxiety-reducing techniques (such as guided imagery, biofeedback, deep breathing, acupuncture, and other mental health therapies), and perhaps even visits to a dentophobia clinic or a support group.

Q?I haven’t been to the dentist in 10 years because nothing hurts. Wouldn’t my teeth hurt if they had a problem?
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Most often, cavities don’t start to hurt until they are very large; most people who have had fillings had them before they knew there was a problem. Also, most often gum disease doesn’t hurt at all, so you would only know there was a problem when a tooth became loose, and by then sometimes it’s too late to deal with. Oral cancer sometimes can hurt but many times it doesn’t. If it’s been a long time since you’ve seen a dentist, it’s a good idea to have a comprehensive oral examination and dental radiographs (x-rays) made, just to be sure you haven’t developed any problems that you don’t know about.

Q?How safe are dental X-rays?
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Exposure to all sources of radiation — including the sun, minerals in the soil, appliances in your home, and dental X-rays — can damage the body’s tissues and cells and can lead to the development of cancer in some instances. Fortunately, the dose of radiation you are exposed to during the taking of X-rays is extremely small.

Advances in dentistry over the years have lead to the low radiation levels emitted by today’s X-rays. Some of the improvements are new digital X-ray machines that limit the radiation beam to the small area being X-rayed, higher speed X-ray films that require shorter exposure time compared with older film speeds to get the same results, and the use of film holders that keep the film in place in the mouth (which prevents the film from slipping and the need for repeat X-rays and additional radiation exposure). Also, the use of lead-lined, full-body aprons protects the body from stray radiation (though this is almost nonexistent with the modern dental X-ray machines.) In addition, federal law requires that X-ray machines be checked for accuracy and safety every two years, with some states requiring more frequent checks.

Even with these advancements in safety, it should be kept in mind, however, that the effects of radiation are added together over a lifetime. So every little bit of radiation you receive from all sources counts.

Q?Is it true that the teeth that have been broken due to an accident can be reattached?
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A frequent trauma related dental injury is a fractured tooth. To increase success with this emergency situation, your dentist should be contacted immediately. If possible the tooth fragments should be found, rinsed with water and kept moist. In some situations, the fragments may be reattached to the tooth. If this is not possible, the tooth often can be restored with resin composite with excellent esthetic results and minimal removal of the tooth structure. If the fracture is severe, root canal treatment and eventual crowning may be necessary. Remember that most sports related dental injuries may be prevented by using a mouthguard.

Q?Can I help prevent oral cancer?
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Your dentist should look for signs of oral cancer in your mouth at every routine checkup. You can help your dentist by advising him/her of any unusual color changes in the tissues in your mouth (red or white areas), abnormal growths, ulcerated areas that don’t heal, areas of numbness or pain, or any problems with chewing or swallowing. Oral cancers often are found on the sides of the tongue, under the tongue, and on the soft palate, though they can occur on any soft tissues throughout the mouth. People who drink alcohol or smoke are more likely to get oral cancer, but anyone can get it, which is why early detection is so important.

Q?I thought cavities were a problem for kids but not adults. As an adult, can I still get cavities?
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As long as you have teeth, you can get cavities. Cavities result from bacteria in your mouth that feed on carbohydrates in your diet. As the bacteria feed on the carbohydrates, they release acid that dissolves away tooth structure. As people age, they tend to get cavities around old fillings or crowns, or on root surfaces that have become exposed due to receding gums. People with dry mouth tend to have more problems with cavities than other people who have normal salivary flow. Everybody has bacteria in their mouth, so if you still have teeth and still eat carbohydrates, you can still get cavities.

Q?How can I close spaces between my front teeth without braces or crowns?
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One of the best ways to close spaces between front teeth is by bonding composite resin to natural tooth structure to change the width of the teeth. This technique requires minimal or no removal of tooth structure, therefore does not affect the strength and vitality of the natural tooth. The dentist can select composite resin from a variety of shades, making sure the restorations blend perfectly with the rest of the dentition. The composite resin becomes an extension of the natural tooth and the distinction between the two is imperceptible. This treatment option provides excellent esthetic results while being very conservative, entirely reversible, fast and economical in comparison to braces or crowns.

Q?May I receive dental treatments during pregnancy?
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Recent research has shown that the oral health of pregnant mothers can affect the health of their babies. This two-page document informs pregnant women, physicians, and dentists about dental care for the pregnant patient: Oral Health and Your Baby.

Q?I do not like the spaces between my front teeth. What can I do?
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Before we can present you with appropriate options, we first need to determine why you have those spaces. Depending on your individual circumstances, the options may range from braces to bonding. Bonding a tooth colored material to your existing tooth, to close those spaces, is quite often the most conservative and reversible option. In most cases this “Bonding” option does not require removal of any part of your tooth. New materials are capable of imitating natural tooth structure very realistically, so nobody can tell you have had anything done!

Q?My teeth are sensitive when I drink something cold. What can I do about it?
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Tooth sensitivity can be due to a variety of causes. These can include decay, faulty fillings, and exposed root structure. It is best to visit your dentist to determine the cause. If it is decay or defective fillings, the problem should be fixed by the dentist. If it is exposed root structure, there are a variety of options including varnishes or solutions that the dentist can apply in the office. There are also other at home options such as fluoride gels and desensitizing pastes. Some sensitive situations will resolve and not return, but others may have to be retreated periodically.

Q?Should I have the silver fillings in the back of my mouth replaced with tooth colored ones?
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There are excellent options for placing tooth colored fillings in the teeth in the back of the mouth. These include restoration with directly placed composite resin, porcelain inlays, or crowns. Tooth colored fillings cannot be placed in all situations, however, and may have limitations such as reduced longevity or increased cost. Silver fillings can provide excellent long term service in the mouth. Research studies have not shown silver fillings containing mercury to cause health related problems. Their replacement should be for reasons due to restoration failure, decay or esthetic improvement purposes.

Q?Are athletic mouthguards necessary?
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In order to protect your smile during athletic activities a mouthguard is crucial. A properly fitted mouthguard will help cushion an impact to the mouth. Mouthguards can protect you from broken teeth, jaw injuries, or cuts to the lip or tongue. Dental health professionals can fabricate a mouthguard for you or your child which will offer a custom fit. If a custom mouthguard is not feasible, discuss other types of mouthguards with your dentist.

Q?I was told by my dentist that I needed a root canal. What is root canal treatment?
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Root canal treatment is a very successful procedure and permits the patient to keep a tooth that otherwise would require extraction. Treatment is necessary when the pulp tissue inside the tooth (nerve) becomes diseased and is irreversibly damaged. Frequent causes for injury include bacteria from dental caries (decay), trauma, and coronal cracks. During treatment the dentist makes an opening in the top of the tooth and cleans the diseased or necrotic (dead) nerve tissue and bacteria from inside the root. The resulting space is sealed with an inert filling material to prevent future leakage of bacteria from saliva. Following the root canal treatment, a new filling or crown is required.

Q?Why do I have to have that rubber thing on my mouth when I have a root canal?
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That ‘rubber thing’ is called a Dental dam, or rubber dam and it is an absolute requirement for root canal treatment. The dental dam is important for many reasons. First, the dam protects the patient from swallowing or aspirating instruments or materials. It also keeps the operating field aseptic and improves visualization for the dentist. During root canal treatment, one of the main objectives is to eliminate bacteria in or around the root canal system. Having rubber dam isolation greatly improves disinfection because it prevents bacteria from the oral cavity from entering the tooth during treatment.

Q?I have heard that soda pop can affect my teeth. What problems does it cause and is diet pop OK?
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High frequency consumption of soda pop is one of the major risk factors that cause dental decay. A twelve ounce can of soda such as Mountain Dew has eleven teaspoons of sugar and is very acidic. The acid can dissolve enamel and when combined with sugar provides the perfect environment for bacteria which cause decay. Diet soda does not have the sugar, but has the same acidity and therefore can create erosion. If drinking pop, minimize its use, choose diet over regular, and drink it quickly with a meal or snack. It is preferable to select water or other sugar-free non-acidic beverages.

Q?What does an implant examination and diagnostic work up involve?
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In order to achieve optimal results, treatment with dental implants requires planning. At your initial visit we will assess your suitability for implant treatment by evaluating the volume of your available bone with X-rays; checking your bite; taking impressions of your teeth; and discussing your expectations. Sometimes, more sophisticated imaging procedures such as a cone beam CT may be required to provide more information. We have all equipment and expertise for the necessary imaging procedures located right in our clinics. The information gathered is used to visualize the final result in order to allow for ideal placement of your implant(s).

Q?What are dental sealants, who should get them, and how long do they last?
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Sealants are a thin, plastic coating that is painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth — usually the back teeth (the premolars, and molars) — to prevent tooth decay. The painted on liquid sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and groves of the teeth forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth.

Typically, children should get sealants on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in. In this way, the dental sealants can protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages 6 to 14. However, adults without decay or fillings in their molars can also benefit from sealants.

Sealants can protect the teeth from decay for up to 10 years, but they need to be checked for chipping or wear at regular dental check-ups.

Q?I’m interested in changing the shape of my teeth. What options are available?
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Several different options are available to change the shape of teeth, make teeth look longer, close spaces between teeth or repair chipped or cracked teeth. Among the options are bonding, crowns, veneers, and recontouring.

  • Dental bonding is a procedure in which a tooth-colored resin material (a durable plastic material) is applied to the tooth surface and hardened with a special light, which ultimately “bonds” the material to the tooth.
  • Dental crowns are tooth-shaped “caps” that are placed over teeth. The crowns, when cemented into place, fully encase the entire visible portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line.
  • Veneers (also sometimes called porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates) are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials that are designed to cover the front surface of teeth. These shells are bonded to the front of the teeth.
  • Recontouring or reshaping of the teeth (also called odontoplasty, enameloplasty, stripping, or slenderizing) is a procedure in which small amounts of tooth enamel are removed to change a tooth’s length, shape or surface.

Each of these options differ with regard to cost, durability, “chair time” necessary to complete the procedure, stain resistant qualities, and best cosmetic approach to resolving a specific problem. Come see us today to see if one is right for you.

Q?When will drill-less dentistry become a reality?
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Drill-less dentistry, also called air abrasion and microabrasion, is being offered by some dentists now. Air abrasion can be used to remove tooth decay, to remove some old composite restorations, to prepare a tooth surface for bonding or sealants, and to remove superficial stains and discolorations. The air abrasion instrument works like a mini sandblaster to spray away the decay, stain, or to prepare the tooth surface for bonding or sealant application. With air abrasion, a fine stream of particles is aimed at the tooth surface. These particles are made of silica, aluminum oxide, or a baking soda mixture and are propelled toward the tooth surface by compressed air or a gas that runs through the dental handpiece. Small particles of decay, stain, etc., on the tooth surface are removed as the stream of particles strikes them. The remnant particles are then “suctioned” away.

Q?What’s the latest word on the safety of amalgam-type fillings?
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Over the past several years, concerns have been raised about silver-colored fillings, otherwise called amalgams. Because amalgams contain the toxic substance mercury, some people think that they are responsible for causing a number of diseases, including autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

The American Dental Association (ADA), the FDA, and numerous public health agencies say amalgams are safe, and that any link between mercury-based fillings and disease is unfounded. The cause of autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis remains unknown. Additionally, there is no solid, scientific evidence to back up the claim that if a person has amalgam fillings removed, he or she will be cured of these or any other diseases.

In March of 2002, the FDA reconfirmed the safety of amalgams. Although amalgams do contain mercury, when they are mixed with other metals, such as silver, copper, tin, and zinc, they form a stable alloy that dentists have used for more than 100 years to fill and preserve hundreds of millions of decayed teeth. The National Institutes of Health conducted several large-scale studies that concluded in 2006 that amalgam fillings were safe.

In addition, there has been concern over the release of a small amount of mercury vapor from these fillings, but according to the ADA, there is no scientific evidence that this small amount results in adverse health effects.