Dental FAQs

Q What is dentistry?
A. Dentistry is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of conditions, disorders, and diseases of the tooth, gums, mouth, and jaw. Often considered necessary for complete oral health, dentistry can have an impact on the health of your entire body.

Q What is a dentist?
A. dentist is a specialist who works to diagnose, treat, and prevent oral health problems. Your dentist has completed at least eight years of schooling, and received either a DDS (doctor of dental surgery) degree, or a DMD (doctor of dental medicine) degree. If your doctor is a pediatric dentist, this means that he specializes in caring for children from infancy through their teen years. Your dentist has received the proper education and training needed to work with young kids. Other specializations include:

  1. Endodontics
  2. Oral and maxillofacial (including pathology, radiology, and surgery)
  3. Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
  4. Periodontics
  5. Prosthodontics


Q What should I look for when choosing the right dentist for me?
A. Choosing a dentist who "clicks" with you and your family is important; and, you may wish to consider several dentists before making your final decision. During your first visit, you should be able to determine if the dentist is right for you. During your appointment, consider the following:
  • Is the appointment schedule convenient?
  • Is the office easy to get to and close by?
  • Does the office appear to be clean and orderly?
  • Was your medical and dental history recorded and placed in a permanent file?
  • Does the dentist explain techniques for good oral health?
  • Is information about cost presented to you before treatment is scheduled?


Q What causes tooth loss?
A. Tooth decay and periodontal disease are the most common causes of tooth loss. Tooth decay takes place when most of the tooth's mineral makeup has been dissolved away and a hole (cavity) has formed. While tooth decay primarily affects children, periodontal disease, or gum disease, affects mostly adults. Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums caused by the buildup of plaque, and its earliest stage is known as gingivitis.

Q How many times a day should I brush my teeth?
A. Most dental professionals recommend that you brush your teeth at least twice a day. Brushing after every meal (and flossing at least once a day) is also a good way to maintain dental health.

Q When should a child have his/her first dental appointment?
A. A child should have his first dental appointment no later than his third birthday. Many dentists recommend a child have his first appointment when his first tooth comes in.

Q What causes oral cancer?
A. Tobacco (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and snuff) is the most common cause of oral cancer. Combining tobacco use with heavy drinking can also foster the development of oral cancer. Bad hygiene, prolonged irritation of the oral cavity, and extended exposure to strong sunlight on the lips are among other causes of the disease. Many dentists believe vitamins A and E can help prevent the acquisition of oral cancer.

Q What are the warning signs of oral cancer?
A. Early symptoms of oral cancer include: a sore on the lip, in the mouth, or in the throat that does not heal; a lump on the lip, in the mouth, or in the throat; a red or white patch found anywhere in the mouth; unusual pain or bleeding in the mouth; swelling of the mouth; and any difficulty or discomfort felt in chewing or swallowing.

Q What is a cavity?
A. A cavity is a small hole that forms inside the tooth and is caused by tooth decay. Cavities are formed when plaque buildup on the outside of the tooth combines with sugars and starches in the food you eat. This can produce an acid that can eat away the enamel on your tooth. If a cavity is left untreated, it can lead to more serious oral health problems. Cavities can be prevented by remembering to brush your teeth at least three times a day, and floss in between teeth at least once.

Q What is a filling?
A. filling is a synthetic material that your dentist uses to fill a cavity after all of the tooth decay has been removed. Fillings do not generally hurt because your dentist will numb your mouth with an anesthetic (typically Novocain) and relax your body with a light dose of nitrous oxide. Fillings are made from a variety of different materials, including amalgam, composites, gold, or ceramic. If you need a filling, be sure and talk to your doctor about what type is best for you and your teeth.

Q How often should I brush my teeth?
A. According to your dentist and the American Dental Association, you should be brushing your teeth at least three times a day. Brushing keeps your teeth, gums, and mouth clean and healthy by removing bacteria causing plaque. It is also recommended that when you brush your teeth, you use a soft bristle toothbrush and toothpaste that contains fluoride. You should spend at least two minutes on the top teeth and two minutes on the bottom teeth, and remember to brush your tongue; it will help keep your breath smelling fresh!

Q When should I change my toothbrush?
A. Your toothbrush will eventually wear out, especially if you are brushing your teeth three times a day for four minutes each time. Your dentist recommends that adults and children should change their toothbrush every three months. If you are using an electric toothbrush, be sure to read the directions as you may not need to change toothbrush heads as frequently. Patients with gum disease are encouraged to change their toothbrush every four to six weeks in order to keep any bacteria from spreading. After brushing, rinse your toothbrush with hot water to kill germs and keep the bristles clean. If you've been sick, be sure to change your toothbrush as soon as possible.

Q What is gum disease?
A. Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is mostly caused by plaque and bacteria buildup that is not treated in its early stage. Other causes of periodontal disease include tobacco use, teeth grinding, some medications, and genetics. Gingivitis is the beginning stage of gum disease, and, if detected, is treatable. However, if you have gingivitis and it is left untreated, it may turn into gum disease. Advanced gum disease will lead to tooth and bone loss, and is a permanent condition. Brushing your teeth regularly, and visiting the dentist every six months will help prevent gingivitis and more severe cases of periodontal disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease:
  • Red and puffy gums. Gums should never be red or swollen.
  • Bleeding gums. Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
  • Persistent bad breath. Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
  • New spacing between teeth. Caused by bone loss.
  • Loose teeth. Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
  • Pus around the teeth and gums. Sign that there is an infection present.
  • Receding gums. Loss of gum around a tooth.
  • Tenderness or Discomfort. Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.


Q What should I do if I have bad breath?
A.Bad breath (halitosis) can be an unpleasant and embarrassing condition. Many of us may not realize that we have bad breath, but everyone has it from time to time, especially in the morning.
There are various reasons one may have bad breath, but in healthy people, the major reason is due to microbial deposits on the tongue, especially the back of the tongue. Some studies have shown that simply brushing the tongue reduced bad breath by as much as 70 percent.

Q What may cause bad breath?
A.Morning time. Saliva flow almost stops during sleep and its reduced cleansing action allows bacteria to grow, causing bad breath. Certain foods such as garlic, onions, etc.
Foods containing odor-causing compounds enter the blood stream; they are transferred to the lungs, where they are exhaled.
Poor oral hygiene habits. Food particles remaining in the mouth promote bacterial growth.
Periodontal (gum) disease. Colonies of bacteria and food debris residing under inflamed gums.
Dental cavities and improperly fitted dental appliances. May also contribute to bad breath.
Dry mouth (Xerostomia). May be caused by certain medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous mouth breathing.
Tobacco products, dry the mouth, causing bad breath.
Dieting. Certain chemicals called ketones are released in the breath as the body burns fat.
Dehydration, hunger, and missed meals. Drinking water and chewing food increases saliva flow and washes bacteria away.
Certain medical conditions and illnesses, such as Diabetes, liver and kidney problems, chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia are several conditions that may contribute to bad breath.
Keeping a record of what you eat may help identify the cause of bad breath.
Also, review your current medications, recent surgeries, or illnesses with your dentist.
Q.What can I do to prevent bad breath?
A.Practice good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice a day with an ADA approved fluoride toothpaste and toothbrush. Floss daily to remove food debris and plaque from in between the teeth and under the gum line. Brush or use a tongue scraper to clean the tongue and reach the back areas. Replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months. If you wear dentures or removable bridges, clean them thoroughly and place them back in your mouth in the morning. See your dentist regularly. Get a check-up and cleaning at least twice a year. If you have or have had periodontal disease, your dentist will recommend more frequent visits.
Stop smoking/chewing tobacco. Ask your dentist what they recommend to help break the habit. Drink water frequently. Water will help keep your mouth moist and wash away bacteria. Use mouthwash/rinses. Some over-the-counter products only provide a temporary solution to mask unpleasant mouth odor. Ask your dentist about antiseptic rinses that not only alleviate bad breath, but also kill the germs that cause the problem. In most cases, your dentist can treat the cause of bad breath. If it is determined that your mouth is healthy, but bad breath is persistent, your dentist may refer you to your physician to determine the cause of the odor and an appropriate treatment plan.

Q.How often should I brush and floss?
A.Brushing and flossing help control the plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease. Plaque is a film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva that sticks to the teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque convert certain food particles into acids that cause tooth decay. Also, if plaque is not removed, it turns into calculus (tartar). If plaque and calculus are not removed, they begin to destroy the gums and bone, causing periodontal (gum) disease. Plaque formation and growth is continuous and can only be controlled by regular brushing, flossing, and the use of other dental aids.
Tooth brushing. Brush your teeth at least twice a day (especially before going to bed at night) with an ADA approved soft bristle brush and toothpaste. Brush at a 45 degree angle to the gums, gently using a small, circular motion, ensuring that you always feel the bristles on the gums. Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth. Use the tip of the brush head to clean the inside front teeth. Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath. Electric toothbrushes are also recommended. They are easy to use and can remove plaque efficiently. Simply place the bristles of the electric brush on your gums and teeth and allow the brush to do its job, several teeth at a time.
Flossing. Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone. Take 12-16 inches (30-40cm) of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches (5cm) of floss between the hands. Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion. Curve the floss into a "C" shape around each tooth and under the gum line. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth. Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss. Rinsing. It is important to rinse your mouth with water after brushing, and also after meals if you are unable to brush. If you are using an over-the-counter product for rinsing, it's a good idea to consult with your dentist or dental hygienist on its appropriateness for you.
Q.Are amalgam (silver) fillings safe?
A.Over the years there has been some concern as to the safety of amalgam (silver) fillings. An amalgam is a blend of copper, silver, tin and zinc, bound by elemental mercury. Dentists haveused this blended metal to fill teeth for more than 100 years. The controversy is due to claims that the exposure to the vapor and minute particles from the mercury can cause a variety of health problems. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), up to 76% of dentists use silver containing mercury to fill teeth. The ADA also states that silver fillings are safe and that studies have failed to find any link between silver containing mercury and any medical disorder. The general consensus is that amalgam (silver) fillings are safe. Along with the ADA's position, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization, the FDA, and others support the use of silver fillings as safe, durable, and cost effective. The U.S. Public Health Service says that the only reason not to use silver fillings is when a patient has an allergy to any component of this type of filling. The ADA has had fewer than 100 reported incidents of an allergy to components of silver fillings, and this is out of countless millions of silver fillings over the decades. Although studies indicate that there are no measurable health risks to patients who have silver fillings, we do know that mercury is a toxic material when we are exposed at high, unsafe levels. For instance, we have been warned to limit the consumption of certain types of fish that carry high levels of mercury in them. However, with respect to amalgam fillings, the ADA maintains that when the mercury combines with the other components of the filling, it becomes an inactive substance that is safe.
There are numerous options to silver fillings, including composite (tooth-colored), porcelain, and gold fillings. We encourage you to discuss these options with your dentist so you can determine which is the best option for you.
Q.How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?
A. You should have your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year, though your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend more frequent visits. Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in preventing dental problems and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. At these visits, your teeth are cleaned and checked for cavities. Additionally, there are many other things that are checked andmonitored to help detect, prevent, and maintain your dental health.
These include:
History review: Knowing the status of any current medical conditions, new medications,and illnesses, gives us insight to your over all health and also your dental health.
Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any sings of oral cancer.
Gum disease evaluation: Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
Examination of tooth decay: All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.
Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
Removal of calculus (tartar): Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for sometime and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line, and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease!
Teeth polishing: Removes stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
Oral hygiene recommendations: Review and recommend oral hygiene aids as needed (electric dental toothbrushes, special cleaning aids, fluorides, rinses, etc.).
Review dietary habits: Your eating habits play a very important role in your dental health. As you can see, a good dental exam and cleaning involves quite a lot more than just checking for cavities and polishing your teeth. We are committed to providing you with the best possible care, and to do so will require regular check-ups and cleanings.
Q.How can cosmetic dentistry help improve the appearance of my smile?
A. If you're feeling somewhat self-conscious about your teeth, or just want to improve your smile, cosmetic dental treatments may be the answer to a more beautiful, confident smile. Cosmetic dentistry has become very popular in the last several years, not only due the many advances in cosmetic dental procedures and materials available today, but also because patients are becoming more and more focused on improving their overall health. This includes dental prevention and having a healthier, whiter, more radiant smile. There are many cosmetic dental procedures available to improve your teeth and enhance your smile. Depending on your particular needs, cosmetic dental treatments can change your smile dramatically, from restoring a single tooth to having a full mouth make-over. Ask your dentist how you can improve the health and beauty of your smile with cosmetic dentistry.
Cosmetic Procedures:
Teeth Whitening: Bleaching lightens teeth that have been stained or discolored by age, food, drink, and smoking. Teeth darkened as a result of injury or taking certain medications can also be bleached, but the effectiveness depends on the degree of staining present.
Composite (tooth-colored) Fillings: Also known as "bonding", composite fillings are now widely used instead of amalgam (silver) fillings to repair teeth with cavities, and also to replace old defective fillings. Tooth-colored fillings are also used to repair chipped, broken, or discolored teeth. This type of filling is also very useful to fill in gaps and to protect sensitive, exposed root surfaces caused by gum recession.
Porcelain Veneers: Veneers are thin custom-made, tooth-colored shells that are bonded onto the fronts of teeth to create a beautiful individual smile. They can help restore or camouflage damaged, discolored, poorly shaped, or misaligned teeth. Unlike crowns, veneers require minimal tooth structure to be removed from the surface of the tooth.
Porcelain Crowns (caps): A crown is a tooth-colored, custom-made covering that encases the entire tooth surface restoring it to its original shape and size. Crowns protect and strengthen teeth that cannot be restored with fillings or other types of restorations. They are ideal for teeth that have large, fractured or broken fillings and also for those that are badly decayed.
Dental Implants: Dental implants are artificial roots that are surgically placed into the jaw to replace one or more missing teeth. Porcelain crowns, bridges, and dentures can be made specifically to fit and attach to implants, giving a patient a strong, stable, and durable solution to removable dental appliances.
Orthodontics: Less visible and more effective brackets and wires are making straightening teeth with orthodontics much more appealing to adult patients. Also, in some cases, teeth may be straightened with custom-made, clear, removable aligners that require no braces.
Thanks to the advances in modern dentistry, cosmetic treatments can make a difference in making your smile shine!
Q.What are porcelain veneers and how can they improve my smile?
A.Porcelain veneers are very thin shells of tooth-shaped porcelain that are individually crafted to cover the fronts of teeth. They are very durable and will not stain, making them a very popular solution for those seeking to restore or enhance the beauty of their smile. Getting veneers usually requires two visits. Veneers are created from an impression (mold) of your teeth that is then sent to a professional dental laboratory where each veneer is custom-made (for shape and color) for your individual smile. With little or no anesthesia, teeth are prepared by lightly buffing and shaping the front surface of the teeth to allow for the small thickness of veneers. The veneers are carefully fitted and bonded onto the tooth surface with special bonding cements and occasionally a specialized light may be used to harden and set the bond. Veneers are an excellent dental treatment that can dramatically improve your teeth and give you a natural, beautiful smile.
Q.What can I do about stained or discolored teeth?
A.Since teeth whitening has now become the number one aesthetic concern of many patients, there are many products and methods available to achieve a brighter smile. Professional teeth whitening (or bleaching) is a simple, non-invasive dental treatment used to change the color of natural tooth enamel, and is an ideal way to enhance the beauty of your smile. Over-the-counter products are also available, but they are much less effective than professional treatments and may not be approved by the American Dental Association (ADA).
As we age, the outer layer of tooth enamel wears away, eventually revealing a darker or yellow shade. The color of our teeth also comes from the inside of the tooth, which may become darker over time. Smoking, drinking coffee, tea, and wine may also contribute to tooth discoloration, making our teeth yellow and dull. Sometimes, teeth can become discolored from taking certain medications as a child, such as tetracycline. Excessive fluoridation (fluorosis) during tooth development can also cause teeth to become discolored. It's important to have your teeth evaluated by your dentist to determine if you're a good candidate for bleaching. Occasionally, tetracycline and fluorosis stains are difficult to bleach and your dentist may offer other options, such as veneers or crowns to cover up such stains. Since teeth whitening only works on natural tooth enamel, it is also important to evaluate replacement of any old fillings, crowns, etc. before bleaching begins. Once the bleaching is done, your dentist can match the new restorations to the shade of the newly whitened teeth. Since teeth whitening is not permanent, a touch-up may be needed every several years to keep your smile looking bright.
The most widely used professional teeth whitening systems:
Home teeth whitening systems: At-home products usually come in a gel form that is placed in a custom-fitted mouth guard (tray), created from a mold of your teeth. The trays are worn either twice a day for approximately 30 minutes, or overnight while you sleep. It usually takes several weeks to achieve the desired results depending on the degree of staining and the desired level of whitening.
In office teeth whitening: This treatment is done in the dental office and you will see results immediately. It may require more than one visit, with each visit lasting 30 to 60 minutes. While your gums are protected, a bleaching solution is applied to the teeth. A special light may be used to enhance the action of the agent while the teeth are whitened.
Some patients may experience tooth sensitivity after having their teeth whitened. This sensation is temporary and subsides shortly after you complete the bleaching process, usually within a few days to one week.
Teeth whitening can be very effective and can give you a brighter, whiter, more confident smile!