Q: Which type of toothbrush should I use?
A: The brand of the toothbrush is not as critical as the type of bristle and the size of the head. A soft toothbrush with a small head is recommended because medium and hard brushes tend to cause irritation and contribute to recession of the gums. A small head allows you to get around each tooth more completely and is less likely to injure your gums. It’s unnecessary to “scrub” the teeth as long as you are brushing at least twice a day and visiting your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings.
Q: Is one toothpaste better than others?
A: Generally, no. However, it’s advisable to use a fluoride containing toothpaste to decrease the incidence of dental decay. We recommend our patients use what tastes good to them as long as it contains fluoride and does not contain “whitening” or ” tartar control” additives.
Q: How often should I floss?
A: Flossing the teeth once per day helps to prevent cavities from forming between the teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing also helps to keep your gums healthy.
Q: What’s the difference between a “crown” and a “cap”?
A: These are restorations to repair a severely broken tooth by covering all or most of the tooth after removing old fillings, fractured tooth structure, and all decay. The restorative material can be gold, porcelain, composites, or even stainless steel. There is no difference between a cap and a crown which are two terms for the same restoraton.
Q: What’s the difference between a “bridge” and a “partial denture”?
A: Both bridges and partial dentures replace missing teeth. A bridge is permanently attached to abutment teeth or, in some cases, to implants. A partial denture is attached by clasps teeth and is easily removed by the patient. Patients are usually more satisfied with bridges than with partial dentures.
Q: What about “silver” fillings vs. “white” fillings?
A: Although the U.S. Public Health Service issued a report in 1993 stating there is no health reason not to use amalgam (silver fillings), more patients today are requesting “white” or tooth-colored composite fillings. White fillings are usually less sensitive to temperature, and they also look better. Amalgam restorations usually last longer and are more cost-effective. However, “white” fillings cannot be used in every situation, and if a tooth is very badly broken down, a crown will usually be necessary and provide better overall satisfaction for the patient.
Q: Do I need to have a root canal just because I have to have a crown?
A: Not necessarily. While most teeth which have had root canal treatment need crowns to strengthen them and return them to normal form and function, not every tooth needing a crown also needs to have root canal treatment unless the “nerve” inside the tooth is non-vital or goes non-vital at a later date. This is always a possibility with a severely decayed or fractured tooth.
Q: Why do teeth feel sensitive?
A: Tooth sensitivity is often experienced when the surface of the tooth has been worn down. One of the most common reasons for adults is that the roots of the teeth are exposed because the gums are receding. This allows the effect of heat and cold to penetrate to the pulp where the nerves are located. The problem gets worse as you tend not to brush your teeth properly if they are causing you pain.
Q: How often should I see my dentist?
A: 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.
Q: Does bleaching damage the teeth?
A: No. When carbamide peroxide, the active whitening agent, contacts water, hydrogen peroxide is released which whitens the teeth. Bleaching does not soften, demineralize or weaken the teeth.
Q: Do over-the-counter bleaching products work?
A: There is some evidence that over-the-counter bleaching products do whiten teeth, however, many of the products are too abrasive and can damage the teeth with extended use or misuse. Supervision by your dentist is always the safest and most effective way to whiten your teeth.
Q: What are porcelain veneers and why are they used?
A: 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 in many instances for improving the appearance of the front teeth by masking discolorations, whitening teeth, and/or reshaping a smile.
Q: What causes my jaw to pop when I open it?
A: 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.
Q: What causes tooth decay?
A: 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. Heavy exposure to to acidic drinks and food can also start cavities to form.
Q: What can be done for ulcers or canker sores in the mouth?
A: 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 the symptoms appear. Ulcers will generally diminish and disappear in 7-10 days.
Q: How can I stop grinding my teeth at night?
A: 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 teeth.
Q: Are there any alternatives to dentures?
A: Dentures are no longer the only way to restore a mouth that has little or no non-restorable teeth. Strategically placed support, or implants, can now be used to support permanently cemented bridges, eliminating the need for a denture. The cost tends to be greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble the “feel” of real teeth. Dental implants are becoming the alternative of choice to dentures, but not everyone is a candidate for implants.
Q: What are dental implants and how do they work?
A: Dental implants are substitutes for natural tooth roots and rely on the jawbone for support. Strategically placed, implants can now be used to support cemented crowns or bridges eliminating the need for a denture. The cost tends to be greater, but the implants and crowns and brdges more closely resemble real teeth.
Q: When is the best time to remove wisdom teeth?
A: When the removal of wisdom teeth is determined necessary, it is best done when the roots are approximately 2/3rds formed, usually in the adolescent years. Removal at this time allows for an easier procedure and decreases the risk of damage to the nerves in that area.
Q: Should my child wear a mouthguard while playing sports?
A: 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.
Q: Why is it important to fix baby teeth that have decay? Aren’t they going to come out soon anyway?
A: 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 teeth 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.
Q: Do water irrigation systems replace the need for flossing?
A: Water irrigation systems should not be used for a substitute for brushing and flossing. These devices are effective in removing retained food from hard to reach areas, but do not remove plaque. Dentists sometimes recommend these devices with the addition of antibacterial solutions to maintain the oral health of periodontal patients.
Q: What causes bad breath and what can be done about it?
A: 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 from 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.
Q: Are X-rays a danger to my health?
A: 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 patient concerns about exposure to radiation. Your dentist has been trained to prescribe radiagraphs when they are appropriate and to tailor the radiograph schedule to your individual needs. By using state-of-the-art technology and by staying knowledgeable about recent advances, your dentist knows which techniques, procedures, and X-ray films can minimize your exposure to radiation.
Q: What causes gum disease?
A: Gum (periodontal) disease is caused by bacteria. 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.
Q: My gums bleed when I brush; what does that mean?
A: Bleeding gums is an early indicator of gingivitis, or swollen gums, usually caused by plaque and /or calculus accumulation under the gumline. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to bone loss and eventually tooth loss. Gingivitis can be reversed by proper brushing and flossing within a few weeks. If bleeding persists two or three weeks, consult your dentist.