Frequently Asked Questions

Facts about oral hygiene

Effective removal of bacteria/plaque requires you to spend two minutes twice a day on brushing.  You only need to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to cover all of your teeth. Remember to use a soft bristle toothbrush and hold it at a 45-degree angle to your teeth to brush at the gum line in a circular or elliptical motion. Brushing too hard or using a sawing motion could cause your gums to recede and damage teeth. Make sure to change your toothbrush or brush head, if you use an electric toothbrush, every 2-3 months, or after an illness. In addition to brushing for two minutes, you should also floss daily to remove plaque and food debris from between your teeth.

What causes bad breath?

Any condition that dries the tissues of the mouth, preventing saliva from washing away bacteria, causes bad breath. In most circumstances, halitosis (bad breath) stems from odor-inducing microbes that reside in between your teeth and gums, and on your tongue. If you don’t brush and floss your teeth daily, food particles can remain in your mouth, promoting bacterial growth in between teeth, around the gums, and on the tongue. The tongue harbors the majority of the bacteria in your mouth. While brushing your teeth is an important step in eliminating bacteria in the mouth, you must brush your tongue to keep bacteria from spreading on the teeth as well.

How does pregnancy affect my teeth?

You may experience some changes in your oral health during pregnancy. The primary changes are due to variations in hormone levels, which causes an increase in estrogen and progesterone, exaggerating the way gum tissues react to plaque. A common dental problem during pregnancy, gingivitis, causes red and swollen gums, and women may experience tenderness and bleeding.  Improving your oral hygiene routine and more frequent cleanings from the dentist can help prevent these problems.  Also, if you suffer from morning sickness, remember to rinse out your mouth with water after vomiting, which helps neutralize the stomach acid that can destroy tooth enamel.

Why do wisdom teeth get pulled?

According to the American Dental Association, wisdom teeth removal may be necessary if you experience the following things:

  • Pain
  • Repeated infection of soft tissue behind the wisdom teeth
  • Cysts (fluid-filled sacs)
  • Tumors
  • Damage to nearby teeth
  • Gum disease
  • Extensive tooth decay

 

The decision to remove wisdom teeth isn’t always clear. Talk to your dentist or an oral surgeon about the position and health of your wisdom teeth and what’s best for your situation.

What causes sensitivity in my teeth and how can I prevent it?

Any discomfort to cold drinks, food, and air, but also to physical pressure, hot, sweet and sour could come from dentin hypersensitivity, otherwise known as sensitive teeth. The reason for the pain is exposed dentin, the inner substance of the tooth, which is covered by enamel. Dentin contains little tubules that link to the nerves of the tooth, and when dentin is exposed, these nerves are easily stimulated, resulting in pain. Cracked or broken teeth, damaged filling, bruxism, aggressive brushing, etc. are also other causes of tooth sensitivity.

In order to minimize sensitivity, following steps should be taken:

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to minimize dental abrasion and irritation of your gums
  • Use high-fluoride mouthwashes and Sensodyne toothpaste to help reduce sensitivity
  • Use a night guard if you grind or clench your teeth at night
  • Depending on the cause of the sensitivity, your dentist can seal or put bonding on the tooth to cover the exposed dentin surface

What is gum disease? How do I prevent it?

Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria from plaque and tartar cause inflammation, redness, and bleeding in the gums.  Gingivitis, however, could be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleanings by a dentist or a dental hygienist.  Antibacterial mouth rinses can also reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease, according to the American Dental Association.

When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to “periodontitis” where bacteria start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.

Why should I have an oral cancer screening?

Oral cancer screening is performed by a dentist or hygienist to look for signs of cancer or precancerous conditions through examination of the head and neck area and all the tissues of the mouth. Clinicians look and palpate for any lumps and bumps, or any color or texture changes. The goal of oral cancer screening is to identify mouth cancer early, when there is a better prognosis than late stage cancer.

What is scaling and root planing?

Scaling and root planing is a non-surgical periodontal therapy used to remove calculus, also known as tartar, and plaque that attach to the tooth surfaces. Plaque is a sticky substance, full of bacteria, that forms on teeth. When plaque hardens over time, it is called calculus. The process especially targets the area below the gum line to smooth out the root surface.

Scaling and root planing is done with a combination of electric powered ultrasonic scalers and hand instruments. A local anesthetic may be used to numb the portion of your mouth that is being worked on to prevent any possible discomfort from the procedure.

What is TMJ? What are the signs I should look out for?

TMJ refers to the temperomandibular joint that articulates the jaw and teeth.  Problems with the TMJ are referred to as temperomandibular disorders (TMD). Stress from an uneven bite or bruxism contributes to TMD pain as tension leads to tightened facial muscles and clenched teeth. Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide are also all possible signs of TMD.

Treatment for TMD may include stretching exercises and/or a night guard to prevent teeth from clenching and grinding. Consult with your dentist for further information.

 What does Fluoride do for your teeth?

Fluoride acts as a vitamin for your teeth.  It not only strengthens your teeth but also helps fight decay in people of all ages. Fluoride makes teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque, bacteria, and sugars in the mouth. In children under 6 years of age, fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of permanent teeth, making it difficult for acids to demineralize the teeth.

Fluoride can be found naturally in food and water. It can also be directly applied to the teeth through fluoridated toothpastes and mouth rinses. A dentist in his or her office can also apply fluoride to the teeth in a form of gel, foam, or varnish.

Are digital x-rays safe?

Dental radiographs (digital x-rays) allow us to better detect, diagnose, and treat oral conditions and diseases. It helps detect cavities, check status of developing teeth, and monitor teeth and bone health.  Digital x-rays also reduce radiation exposure by 70% or more compared to conventional x-rays.

What is a root canal?

Root canal is treatment to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth instead of removing it. The term “root canal” comes from cleaning of the canals inside a tooth’s root. It is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, faulty crowns, or a crack or chip in the tooth.

During root canal treatment, the inflamed or infected pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected. It is then filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha and the tooth is then restored with a crown or filling for protection.

What are veneers?

A veneer is a thin layer of porcelain made to fit over the front surface of a tooth. Dentists can use veneers for an impressive number of cosmetic corrections such as:

Discoloration in teeth, wear facets from grinding/clenching, chipped or broken teeth, orthodontic adjustments, and gaps in between teeth.

What is bonding?

Bonding is the application of a tooth-colored composite resin that is bonded to the tooth  to repair a decayed, chipped, fractured, or discolored tooth . Unlike veneers, which are manufactured in a laboratory and require a customized mold to achieve a proper fit, bonding can be done in a single visit.

What are the three ways to replace teeth?

Fixed bridge is a restoration that fills the space where one or more teeth have been lost. The teeth on either side of the missing tooth are prepared for crowns, an impression is made, and the case is sent to a dental laboratory. The laboratory then makes the crowns and fastens a false tooth between the two crowns to make a fixed bridge.

Advantages of a bridge are that it is fixed, stable, cost less than implants, and feels like natural teeth.

The disadvantage is that you have to treat two teeth besides the one that was extracted – these teeth may otherwise be perfectly sound.

 

A removable partial denture usually has replacement teeth fixed to a plastic base that matches the color of your gums. Partial dentures often have some form of clasp that attaches to your natural teeth.

Advantages of removable appliances are that they can replace multiple missing teeth with one appliance, they are cost effective, and usually easier to repair than fixed bridges.

 

Disadvantages are that they can be uncomfortable, are not as stable, and may need more frequent replacement.

 

Dental Implants are posts that are surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw, where they function as a sturdy anchor (artificial root) for replacement teeth. They are made of titanium and other materials that are accepted by the human body. Patients that are smokers or have chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or leukemia, may slow healing after surgery.  Your dentist can help you decide whether implant treatment is a good option for you.

Advantages of implants are that no teeth on either side are involved in the procedure, they help prevent shrinkage of the jawbone from tooth loss, they are fixed and feel just like your own teeth, and can last a long time if maintained properly.

Disadvantages of implants are that they can cost more and be time-consuming. There is also surgery involved which could cause discomfort and requires healing period.

 

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