Dental FAQs


Q: How often should I brush my teeth?
A: The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day with ADA accepted fluoride toothpaste.

Top

Q: Is it possible to brush your teeth too hard?
A: Yes, it is possible to brush your teeth too hard, especially if you use manual toothbrush with harsh or medium bristles rather than an electric toothbrush. The key benefits to an electric toothbrush is to let the toothbrush do the work. When using an electric toothbrush, remember to move your toothbrush across your teeth slowly. We often see patients who have damaged their gums due to excessive force while manual brushing. If using a manual toothbrush, use a soft bristle and take it easy.  Most electric toothbrushes have a force sensor and will only work with a mild force, therefore doing less damage yet being effective.  The toothbrush should be doing most of the work.

Top

Q: Should I brush first or floss first?
A: The question of which should be done first, brushing or flossing, is one of the most common dental questions. The answer? It doesn't matter if you floss or brush first as long as you are thorough. If you want to put yourself to the test, you can buy plaque disclosing tablets from a pharmacy or other local store. After you brush and floss, you chew one of these tablets and the dye (usually red) stains any remaining plaque left in your mouth. This is an easy way to check how thorough you are when you brush and floss your teeth.

Top

Q: How often should I replace my toothbrush?
A: You should replace your toothbrush every three months or so or more often if the bristles are frayed.

Top

Q: What causes bad breath?
A: Bad breath is caused by leftover food between your teeth, gums and on your tongue that begins to rot slowly. Halitosis can be a sign of periodontal or more serious GI issues.  The best way to combat bad breath is to brush and floss daily.

Top

Q: Should I always use mouthwash?
A: Yes, you should use mouthwash! Mouthwash is an important part of any daily dental health regime. Mouthwash offers several health benefits including
  • Antiseptic mouthwash reduces your change of developing gingivitis, or "gum disease," because it eliminates the bacteria that gathers between your teeth and along your gum line.
  • Many patients use mouthwash to combat bad breath since it eliminates the bacteria in your mouth that causes bad breath.
  • Fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay.
Be sure to look for the American Dental Association's Seal of Approval on any mouthwash you purchase and use. This seal ensures that the mouthwash meets the ADA's standards of quality.

Top

Q: What do you recommend to treat sensitive teeth?
A: Sensitive teeth have several causes. The most common causes of sensitive teeth are worn teeth enamel or exposed roots but other causes include cavities and chipped teeth. We recommend a special toothpaste called desensitizing toothpaste to treat sensitive teeth. Your dentist can provide additional information on the types of desensitizing toothpaste available and which would be best for you. Fluoride can also be used to treat sensitive teeth. Aggressive and over brushing can also cause issues for patients with sensitive teeth. If you have an electric toothbrush, we recommend that you brush your teeth slowly and "let the toothbrush do the work." This is one way to preserve your gums and avoid making sensitive teeth worse over time.  

Top

Q: How often should I go to the dentist for checkups?
A: Regular checkups are vital to maintaining a healthy mouth and smile. Two checkups per year are usually sufficient for most patients; however, only you and your doctor determine how often you need a checkup.

Top

Q: What's the difference between a DDS degree and a DMD degree?
A: A Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) and Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree are the same degree and education. A majority of dental programs award the DDS degree but some offer the DMD degree. There is no distinction between the two degrees.

Top

Q: Why are x-rays taken?
A: A dental office takes x-rays in order to inspect your teeth and mouth. A digital x-ray is the most effective way using the least amount of radiation to examine for:
  • Crooked or misplaced teeth
  • Gum or tooth decay
  • Abscessed teeth
  • Malocclusion of teeth
  • Jaw injuries and fractures
Bitewing radiographs are taken every 12-18 months to image areas between the teeth for cavities, as well as bone levels for gum problems. Panoramic radiographs are taken every 3-5 years to evaluate jaw conditions and generalized tooth positions, as well as the TMJ. 3D Cone Beam/CT scans are taken to evaluate the jaw and skull for more detailed analysis.

Top

Q: Can I prevent gum disease?
A: There are several ways to help prevent periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease. The good news is that daily brushing and flossing are the most important tactics in the fight against gum disease. Regular dental checkups are important, too. If you remain diligent about brushing and flossing you'll go far in your battle to prevent gum disease.

Top

Q: What are the most common signs of gum disease?
A: The most common signs of gum disease include:
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums (while brushing)
  • A gum line that recedes away from your teeth
  • Bad breath that does not go away even after brushing, flossing and using mouthwash
  • Loose teeth
  • If you wear dentures, you may notice that your dentures do not fit as closely as they once did.

Top

Q: How can I prevent tooth decay?
A: Tooth decay is caused by plaque which builds on and between your teeth and along your gums. Bacteria in plaque excrete acids which dissolve tooth enamel and also infect the gums and bones surrounding your teeth.  Poor and infrequent brushing and flossing leads to plaque buildup throughout your mouth. If left untreated, the buildup of food particles, germs and bacteria in your mouth combine to form plaque.  Prevention of tooth decay and gum disease requires a combination of:  A good diet, thorough brushing and flossing, and professional dental care.

Top

Q: What is IV / conscious sedation?
A: IV sedation, or conscious sedation is a sedation treatment which places a patient in a state of conscious sedation ("knocks you out" or "puts your under"), without the risks of general anesthesia. Oxygen levels and breathing is closely monitored during the sedation phase, breathing assistance is not required as would with general anesthesia. Conscious sedation is a very safe and effective method to manage during certain dental procedures, generally multiple wisdom teeth extractions.

Top

Q: What is a dental implant?
A: A dental implant is an artificial tooth and root. Dental implant surgery is a comfortable and excellent method to replace lost teeth.  We often encounter patients who are missing a tooth despite otherwise good health. A dental implant is often the right choice for this type of patient.  A dental implant is generally expected to last a lifetime with proper care.

Top

Q: What is a crown?
A:   A crown is a dental restoration bonded to a tooth using a dental cement. Crowns are typically used when a tooth has had significant previous decay, is currently damaged or otherwise at risk. The crown acts as a sort of cap and is designed to replace the damaged portion of the tooth, and is best solution if weakness in a tooth is to be corrected.  Crown materials can be porcelain or gold.  CEREC porcelain Cad/Cam crowns are often done in 1 visit, whereas other materials may take several more visits.

Top

Q: What is a bridge?
A: A bridge is a dental prosthesis used to replace a missing tooth and literally bridge the gap between the missing tooth and the adjacent teeth.  A bridge is generally cemented in the mouth and does not need to be removed nightly.

Top

Q: What will happen after I receive a filling?
A: It is normal to experience numbness in your lips and mouth for several hours after a filling. After the numbness wears off, it is safe to chew normal foods and brush and floss.  If you experience temperature sensitivity or bite discomfort after eating 2 or 3 meals on a new filling or crown, let your dentist know.  Generally a quick adjustment of the filling or crown will eliminate any residual symptoms.

Top

Q: What is an amalgam filling?
A: An amalgam filling is a type of filling commonly used on the back teeth due to its distinct metallic color and strength. Amalgam fillings last 14 years on average. Silver amalgam itself is an alloy made of silver, tin, mercury, copper and zinc. While there has been some concern about the use of mercury in amalgam fillings, continuous testing has proven that the mercury in amalgam fillings pose no danger to patients.

Top

Q: What is a composite filling?
A: A composite filling is a newer type of filling that offers a more natural looking filling which closely mimics the color of your natural teeth. Composite fillings were originally used on front teeth while amalgam fillings were used on back teeth. Recent advances in dental technology have allowed dentists to make much stronger composite fillings to the point where composite fillings can now be used on back teeth, where they can now withstand the power force you exert while chewing with your back teeth.

Top

Q: What are dental sealants?
A: A dental sealant is a plastic which dentists apply to the chewing surfaces of your teeth to prevent bacteria from seeping into the natural pits and fissures which appear on your teeth's surfaces.

Top

Q: Are dental sealants just for children?
A: No, dental sealants are not just for children, although they are most commonly used as a preventative treatment for children and teenagers since tooth decay can begin at a very early age. Adults can be at a high risk of decay, too, so the doctor may recommend dental sealants as a treatment plan for adults, too.

Top

Q: What is ARESTIN, what is it for and how does it work?
A: ARESTIN(R) is a power based antibiotic that dentists place inside periodontal pockets immediately after treating scaling and root planning procedures. The ARESTIN(R) powder contains "Microspheres," which are tiny particles that contain an antibiotic called minocycline which kills the bacteria which resides in infected periodontal pockets over time.

Top

Q: How quickly can I expect to see results of teeth whitening?
A: We offer a variety of teeth whitening options right here in our office. With in-office systems, immediate results of 3-4 shades can be expected.  With at-home systems, the results are more gradual, and may take 2-3 weeks of daily use.  We see the best results with an initial in-office whitening treatment, followed by a monthly touch up with an at-home tray to maintain maximum brightness.

Top

Q: What, if any, are possible side effects of tooth whitening?
A: Teeth whitening remains one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures available today. While teeth whitening poses no medical or dental risk, some patients report heightened sensitivity temporarily during and after the whitening process. A major benefit of professional in-office whitening is limiting the sensitivity duration to 1 day vs spreading out sensitivity over several weeks with at-home treatments. If you experience sensitive teeth after whitening, we recommend taking Advil, Aleve or another over the counter pain reliever to dull the pain and sensitivity. We also recommend avoiding cold drinks since the temperature can often affect those with sensitive teeth.  Whitening sensitivity is temporary and dissapear within 12 hours after professional whitening treatments.

Top

Q: I knocked a tooth out. What do I do?
A: Don't panic! If you can, try to reinsert your tooth in its socket, ensuring that you've rinsed it off with water first. Take care to hold the tooth by the crown and do not scrub away any attached tissue fragments. If you  are unable to reinsert the tooth, place the tooth in a glass of milk and bring it to your dentist as soon as possible.

Top

Q: I just had a tooth extracted. What do I do now?
A: If you've just had a tooth extracted, please follow these instructions carefully. Control of Bleeding: When you leave our office, be sure to bite the moist gauze pressure pads for the next 30 minutes. You'll want to change those pads every 30 to 45 minutes based on the bleeding. Wen you replace the pads, be sure to use 2x2 cotton gauze pads, moisten them and then fold them over each other and then down onto the extraction site. Bite down gently. Don't forget to take your first dose of medicine with water. Things Not to Do in the first 24 hours:
  • No smoking
  • Do not drink carbonated beverages or use soda straws
  • Do not drink hot liquids (lukewarm coffee, tea or soup are fine)
  • No vigorous rinsing with mouthwash or water (very mild swishing is fine)
While some bleeding is to be expected following your surgery, each of the above may cause increase bleeding. You will experience an oozing for approximately 12 to 24 hours following your surgery. Be sure to use gauze pads to decrease the bleeding. Diet: Be sure to avoid hard, crisp foods like raw vegetables, Fritos and Doritos chips. We recommend sticking to a diet with soft but chewable foods and cool or room temperature liquids. Examples of soft but chewable foods include spaghetti, macaroni, casseroles, scrambled eggs, pancakes, custards, Jell-O, baked potatoes, cooked vegetables and vegetables or noodles in soup. Oral Hygiene: Do not brush your teeth or rinse your mouth vigorously for 12 hours following your surgery. You must keep your mouth clean starting the day after your surgery. We recommend using a soft toothbrush and rinsing with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of lukewarm water 4x per day. Prescriptions: If you receive any prescriptions, be sure to take them according to the instructions on the label. Take all antibiotics (if prescribed) until they are gone. Remember that you cannot drive or operate heavy machinery while taking pain medicine. Do not give your drugs to anyone else.

Top

Q: I just had a crown and/or bridge appointment. What do I do now?
A: Crowns and bridges can often be completed in 1 visit with the Cerec Cad/Cam system.  Alternatively, traditional methods will usually take two or three appointments to complete. We prepare the teeth during the first appointment. We also place temporary crowns or bridges on the teeth to protect them while we create your custom restoration. It is normal to experience some hot, cold and pressure sensitivity after each appointment. Your gums may also be sore. Be sure to rinse 3x a day with warm salt water (a tsp. of salt in a cup of warm water, rinse-swish-spit) to reduce pain and swelling. Use medication only as directed. Avoid eating sticky foods (like gum) or hard foods and, if possible, chew using the opposite side of your mouth only. It's important to keep brushing normally but avoid flossing since doing so could dislodge your temporary crowns. If your temporary crown loosens, this is not an emergency. The teeth will not become infected or decay if the temporary is missing for a short time. The underlying tooth may be sensitive to food and drink, however. If needed, Advil, Aspirin and Tylenol are good pain relievers and should be tried first if possible. Be sure to follow the proper dosing instructions. These pain relievers only work by swallowing them. Do not place these pain relievers on your tooth or gums since they will burn the lining of your mouth. Keep the teeth clean by rinsing the mouth with warm water. If your temporary crown becomes dislodged and you are unable to seek immediate care, please contact our office. If you are unable to come in for temporary recementation, [lace a small amount of Vaseline in the temporary crown and reseat it on the tooth. You may also purchase an over-the-counter temporary cement material (available at local drug stores) which will allow you to replace the temporary yourself. This will reduce discomfort and keep food away from the teeth. Bite or mild temperature sensitivity after a new filling or crown can often be alleviated with a quick bite adjustment visit with your dentist.  Once the new filling is adjusted to a comfortable bite, generally the symptoms will often be eliminated.

Top

Q: I just underwent root canal therapy. What do I do now?
A: After root canal therapy, the treated tooth is commonly very tender to the touch, biting, tapping or chewing for several days after treatment. Minimize chewing on that side of your mouth. Any discomfort should subside after a couple of days but in some cases lasts for several weeks. Your improvement will be gradual. The treated tooth, injection sites and the soft tissue surrounding your tooth will feel sore and tender. If your tooth throbs, keep your head elevated while lying down. Refrain from any strenuous activity. We usually recommend a non-steriodal anti-inflammatory medication like Advil, Motrin, ibuprofen or aspirin for three to five days following treatment. If you cannot take any anti-inflammatory medication, then take extra strength Tylenol. Take all prescribed medication as directed. If you still experience pain after taking any of the recommended painkillers, please call our office. We also recommend that you rinse your mouth with warm salt water (one teaspoon of salt for every eight ounces of warm water) 3x to 4x a day to help relieve the discomfort. If you feel better initially but then get significantly worse, you may be experiencing what is known as a "flare up." A flare up is not common but if it happens please contact our office. There is typically no necessary waiting period before the crown of the tooth can be restored. Unless otherwise indicated, have the tooth restored as soon as possible after the root canal has been completed. Do not wait more than two to four weeks as the tooth may become brittle and is vulnerable to fracture.

Top