Helpful tips

FAQ


X-Rays

Q: How often should X-rays be taken?

A: How often X-rays (radiographs) should be taken depends on the patient's individual health needs. It is important to recognize that just as each patient is different form the next, so should the scheduling of X-ray exams be individualized for each patient. Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and then decide whether you need radiographs and what type. If you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend radiographs to determine the present status of the hidden areas of your mouth and to help analyze changes that may occur later. If you have had recent radiographs at your previous dentist, your new dentist may ask you to have the radiographs forwarded.

The schedule for needing radiographs at recall visits varies according to your age, risk for disease and signs and symptoms. Recent films may be needed to detect new cavities, or to determine the status of gum disease or for evaluation of growth and development. Children may need X-rays more often than adults. This is because their teeth and jaws are still developing and because their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than those of adults.

Q: What are the benefits of a dental X-ray examination?

A: Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth. An X-ray examination may reveal:

  • Small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing restorations (fillings)
  • Infections in the bone
  • Periodontal (gum) disease
  • Abscesses or cysts
  • Developmental abnormalities
  • Some types of tumors

Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort. It can detect damage to oral structures not visible during a regular exam. If you have a hidden tumor, radiographs may even help save your life.

Teeth Whitening

Q: What should you ask your dentist?

A: You may want to start by speaking with your dentist. He or she can tell you whether whitening procedures would be effective for you. Whiteners may not correct all types of discoloration. For example, yellowish hued teeth will probably bleach well, brownish-colored teeth may bleach less well, and grayish-hued teeth may not bleach well at all. Likewise, bleaching may not enhance your smile if you have had bonding or tooth-colored fillings placed in your front teeth. The whitener will not affect the color of these materials, and they will stand out in your newly whitened smile. In these cases, you may want to investigate other options, like porcelain veneers or dental bonding.

Q: What is in-office bleaching?

A: If you are a candidate for bleaching, your dentist may suggest a procedure that can be done in his or her office. This procedure is called chairside bleaching and may require more than one office visit. Each visit may take from 30 minutes to one hour.

During chairside bleaching, the dentist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect the oral soft tissues. A bleaching agent is then applied to the teeth, and a special light may be used to enhance the action of the agent.

A number of in-office bleaching agents have the ADA Seal of Acceptance, your assurance that they have met ADA standards of safety and effectiveness. Lasers have been used during tooth whitening procedures to enhance the action of the whitening agent. No whitening products using lasers currently are on the ADA list of Accepted products.

Q: How should I choose a whitening product?

A:When selecting a whitener or any dental product, be sure to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance – your assurance that they have met ADA standards of safety and effectiveness.

Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Q: What causes Bruxism (teeth grinding)?

A: Bruxism, or teeth grinding or jaw clenching often happens as we sleep, caused not just by stress and anxiety but by sleep disorders, an abnormal bite or teeth that are missing or crooked.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: Symptoms include a dull headache or a sore jaw. You could have teeth that are painful or loose from severe grinding. This can lead to fractures in your teeth. Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth during sleep. If stress is the cause you need to find a way to relax! Physical therapy, muscle relaxants, counseling and even exercise may help reduce tension.

Cavities (Tooth Decay)

Q: What causes cavities (tooth decay)?

A: Although tooth decay has declined among young children as a group, it can still be a problem for individual children, and even teens and adults. That’s because plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars or starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and after many such attacks, the enamel can break down and a cavity forms.

Preventing Decay:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
  • Ask your dentist about dental sealants, a protective plastic coating that can be applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay often starts.

Cosmetic Dentistry

Q: What are my options for cosmetic dentistry?

A: A smile can be the most eye-catching feature of a face. With dentistry's many advances, you no longer have to settle for stained, chipped, or misshapen teeth. You now have choices that can help you smile with confidence.

Even the most subtle change in your smile can make a dramatic difference in the way you look and feel about yourself. Talk to your dentist about the options most suitable for you, what your expectations are and the dental fees involved. Some options are:

  • Tooth whitening (bleaching) brightens teeth that are discolored or stained. Bleaching may be done completely in the dental office or the dentist may dispense a system for you to use at home.
  • Bonding can improve the appearance of teeth that are chipped, broken, cracked, stained, or have spaces between them. With bonding, tooth-colored materials are applied, or bonded, to the tooth surface.
  • Enamel shaping involves modifying teeth to improve their appearance by removing or contouring enamel. The process, which often is combined with bonding, usually is quick and comfortable and the results can be seen immediately.
  • Veneers are thin custom-made shells designed to cover the front side of teeth. Made of tooth-colored materials, veneers are used to treat spaces between teeth and teeth that are chipped or worn, permanently stained, poorly shaped or slightly crooked.
  • Braces are not just for kids. Orthodontics may be needed if teeth are crooked, crowded or do not meet properly. If your dentist thinks you should see a specialist for treatment, he or she will refer you to an orthodontist.