An informed patient is a happy patient, so that’s why we encourage you to ask questions about your treatment, or oral health in general. But we realize that some of you don’t always have the time, or don’t feel like talking while we’re working on your mouth.
That’s why we’re devoting this issue to answering questions that often come up at dental visits.
1. How often do I need to see the dentist?
For most patients, we recommend a checkup and cleaning every six months. At the checkup, we look for new problems that may have developed, as well as monitor the progress of existing problems that may need treatment later on. If you have ongoing problems like gum disease, or a chronic condition that affects your oral health, we may recommend that you see us more often.
2. What kind of toothpaste should I use?
This really depends on your personal preference. The one requirement is that the toothpaste contain fluoride, which strengthens enamel and helps prevent cavities. Most of the cleaning comes from the toothbrush, not the paste itself, though many pastes contain abrasives like baking powder that help scrub plaque off teeth.
3. Why is flossing so important?
If you don’t floss, you’re not cleaning 40% of your tooth surfaces. Flossing allows you to remove plaque where a toothbrush can’t reach. Plus, it helps prevent gum disease and bad breath.
4. What are the signs of gum disease?
Gum disease is a progressive problem, and it starts out as gingivitis. Early signs include swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing and flossing, and sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet foods. Gingivitis should not be ignored, because it can progress into periodontal disease, which can permanently damage gums and cause tooth loss and other serious problems.
5. Is it normal to have dental anxiety?
It’s not only normal, it’s extremely common. Most adults have some degree of anxiety in the dental chair, and many are outright fearful or phobic. If you feel nervous, by all means, let us know. We offer several treatments to soothe your nerves, including nitrous oxide and oral medication.
6. What causes tooth decay?
If you guessed sugar, you’re only partially right. Sugar does lead to cavities, but only indirectly. The real culprit is acid, which is produced by oral bacteria as it feeds on the sugars in your mouth. Acidic foods and beverages – even if they contain no added sugar – can be just as harmful to your teeth as sweets. And items with both sugar AND acid (like energy drinks or sour candies) are the worst of all. Tooth decay can be avoided by brushing and flossing after eating sugar or other carbohydrates, and by limiting acidic foods altogether.
7. How can I get whiter teeth?
If your teeth have yellowed or stained due to age or eating certain foods, bleaching can help brighten them up. Though there are many over-the-counter bleaching products, they can take longer to work, and are more likely to irritate your gums. In-office whitening is a safer and more effective alternative. We offer ZOOM! whitening, which can get your teeth up to 8 shades whiter in just one visit. If your teeth are stained from injury or medication, bleaching won’t help. In these cases, veneers are generally your best option for whiter teeth.
8. What should I do if I knock a tooth out?
Treated quickly, there’s a good chance your tooth can be replaced. Gently rinse the tooth with water, but don’t rub it. Living cells on the tooth can increase the chance of a successful replant. Then, store the tooth in saliva or cold milk, and call us immediately. We can arrange for emergency treatment that can potentially save your tooth. If not, we may recommend a dental implant.
9. What is a dental implant?
An implant is essentially a replacement for the root of a missing tooth. It’s a titanium rod that’s is literally implanted into the jaw, where it fuses with bone tissue. An implant procedure will also include an abutment, which sits above the gumline and acts as an anchor for a crown or a set of implant dentures.
10. What is a crown?
A crown is a tooth-shaped restoration that’s placed on top of an abutment (in the case of an implant procedure) or a natural tooth after a root canal (a procedure that removes the dental nerve tissue). Crowns can be crafted from a metal, porcelain, or a combination of the two. In most cases, a crown will be as strong or stronger than the surrounding teeth, allowing you to bite and chew normally.
Have a question you don’t see on this list? Feel free to ask us about it at your next dental visit, or send us an email and we may include it in a future e-newsletter.