Common Dental Questions
How often should I see my dentist?
You should visit your dentist at least every six months or more frequently to get your teeth cleaned. By seeing your dentist twice a year, your dentist can monitor your oral health and help you prevent any problems that may arise before they became uncomfortable or require more comprehensive or expensive treatment. The dentist may suggest more frequent visits, depending on the diagnosis.
My gums bleed when I brush, what does it mean?
Bleeding gums is an early indicator of gingivitis, or swollen gums, usually caused by plaque and/or calculus accumulated under the gumline. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to bone loss and eventual tooth loss. Gingivitis can be reversed by proper brushing and flossing within a few weeks. If bleeding persists two to three weeks, consult your dentist.
What causes gum disease?
Gum (periodontal) disease is caused by bacteria. These bacteria, if left along the gumline, will irritate the gums and cause an inflammation reaction. The gums then begin to bleed and swell allowing the bacteria to go deeper under the gumline. If the inflammation is allowed to continue, the bone will begin to demineralize and dissolve. As the bone dissolves around the teeth, the teeth become unsupported and will fall out. Unfortunately, pain does not occur until the final stages of the disease and treatment at that time has very little chance of being successful. If your gums bleed regularly, seek treatment as soon as possible.
When is the best time to remove wisdom teeth?
When the removal of wisdom teeth is determined necessary, it is best done when the roots are approximately 2/3rds formed, usually in the adolescent years. Removal at this time allows for an easier procedure and decreases the risk of damage to the nerves in that area.
What causes bad breath and what can be done about it?
Bad breath, or halitosis, is primarily caused by poor oral hygiene, but can also be caused by retained food particles, gum disease, drainage from sinus dripping or systemic, respiratory or gastrointestinal problems. Proper brushing including brushing the tongue, cheeks, and the roof of the mouth will remove bacteria and food particles. Flossing removes accumulated bacteria, plaque, and food that may be trapped between teeth. Mouth rinses are effective in temporary relief of bad breath. Consult your dentist and/or physician if the condition persists.
How can I stop grinding my teeth at night?
Grinding your teeth can be very damaging to the teeth and also difficult to stop. If vigorous grinding occurs at night, teeth can be worn down to the gumline because the instinctive reflex to stop does not work while you are sleeping. Grinding due to stress can only be cured by removing the stress trigger. If grinding continues, a nightguard may be prescribed to prevent ultimate damage to the teeth.
Are silver fillings, fluoride or x-rays, a danger to my health? What are the alternatives?
Dental amalgam, or silver filling material, is a mixture of mercury, and an alloy of silver, tin and copper. The release of mercury in silver fillings is so small that it is much less than what patients are exposed to in food, air, and water. There are, however, other materials that can be used for restorations. These include gold, porcelain, and composite resins.
Fluoride is a compound of the element fluorine, which is found universally throughout nature in water, soil, air and in most foods. Fluoride is absorbed easily into the tooth enamel, especially in children's growing teeth. Once teeth are developed, fluoride makes the entire tooth structure more resistant to decay and promotes remineralization, which aids in repairing early decay before the damage is visible.
Radiographs, or x-rays, help your dentist determine the presence or degree of periodontal disease, abscesses, and many abnormal growths such as cysts and tumors. They can help pinpoint the location of cavities and other signs of disease that may not be possible to detect through a visual examination. All health care providers are sensitive to patients' concerns about exposure to radiation. Your dentist has been trained to prescribe radiographs when they are appropriate and to tailor the radiograph schedule to your individual needs. By using state-of-the-art technology, such as digital radiography, and by staying knowledgeable about recent advances, your dentist knows which techniques, procedures, and X-ray films can minimize your exposure to radiation.