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FAQs About Dental Health


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 and monitored to help detect, prevent, and maintain your dental health. These include:

  • Medical history review: Knowing the status of any current medical conditions, new medications, and illnesses, gives us insight to your overall 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 signs 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 some time 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: 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.What may cause bad breath?

  • Morning time –- Saliva flow almost stops during sleep and its reduced cleansing action allows bacteria to grow, causing bad breath.
  • Certain foods -– 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 – –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 you dentist.


Q: How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease)?

A: Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don’’t know it! Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages. Unlike tooth decay, which often causes discomfort, it is possible to have periodontal disease without noticeable symptoms. Having regular dental check-ups and periodontal examinations are very important and will help detect if periodontal problems exist. Periodontal disease begins when plaque, a sticky, colorless, film of bacteria, food debris, and saliva, is left on the teeth and gums. The bacteria produce toxins (acids) that inflame the gums and slowly destroy the bone. Brushing and flossing regularly and properly will ensure that plaque is not left behind to do its damage.Other than poor oral hygiene, there are several other factors that may increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco -– Tobacco users are more likely than nonusers to form plaque and tartar on their teeth.
  • Certain tooth or appliance conditions -– Bridges that no longer fit properly, crowded teeth, or defective fillings that may trap plaque and bacteria.
  • Many medications -– Steroids, cancer therapy drugs, blood pressure meds, oral contraceptives. Some medications have side effects that reduce saliva, making the mouth dry and plaque easier to adhere to the teeth and gums.
  • Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and puberty -– Can cause changes in hormone levels, causing gum tissue to become more sensitive to bacteria toxins.
  • Systemic diseases –- Diabetes, blood cell disorders, HIV / AIDS, etc.
  • Genetics may play role -– Some patients may be predisposed to a more aggressive type of periodontitis. Patients with a family history of tooth loss should pay particular attention to their gums.

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.

Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.


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 freshens 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: 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 mouthguard (tray), created from a mold of your teeth. The trays are worn either once or twice a day for approximately 30 minutes. 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!


Q: Why is it important to use dental floss?

A: Brushing our teeth removes food particles, plaque, and bacteria from all tooth surfaces, except in between the teeth. Unfortunately, our toothbrush can’t reach these areas that are highly susceptible to decay and periodontal (gum) disease. 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. 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 (acids) that cause cavities and irritate and inflame the gums. Also, when plaque is not removed above and below the gum line, it hardens and turns into calculus (tartar). This will further irritate and inflame the gums and also slowly destroy the bone. This is the beginning of periodontal disease.

How to floss properly:

  • 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. Daily flossing will help you keep a healthy, beautiful smile for life!


Q: Why is my filling sensitive?

A: Some people feel sensitivity after they receive a filling.  In most cases, the sensitivity will subside over one to two weeks. Until then, try to avoid anything that causes it. If your tooth is extremely sensitive or your sensitivity does not decrease after two weeks, contact your dentist’s office.It’s important to let your dentist know about any sensitivity you are feeling. The next time you need a filling, he or she may be able to use a different material and make changes to reduce sensitivity. People vary in their response to different materials. Your dentist has no way of predicting if your tooth will react to a particular material. When you talk to your dentist about the sensitivity, try to describe it as precisely as possible. This information will help decide what should be done next. Your dentist may take out the filling and put in a new one. He or she may add a base, liner or desensitizing agent on the tooth as well. If the filling was very deep, you could need a root canal treatment to solve the problem.Besides sensitivity, some people feel discomfort when they bite down. There are two types of pain, each with a different cause.

  • The first type occurs when you bite, and worsens over time. This is caused by a filling that is too high and interferes with your bite. Once your anesthetic wears off, you would notice this right away. Contact your dentist. You will need to return to the office to have the filling reshaped.
  • The second type of discomfort is a very sharp shock that appears only when your teeth touch. This is called galvanic shock. It is caused by two metals (one in the newly filled tooth and one in the tooth it’s touching) producing an electric current in your mouth.

Your dentist polishes the filling after it is placed, but occasionally sharp edges may remain. You can’t detect this at first because of the anesthesia. If you find one, contact your dentist and arrange to have it smoothed as soon as possible to avoid injury to your tongue or mouth.


Links

In addition to our own website, there are other sites on the Web that provide interesting and helpful dental information. Because we are committed to improving the oral healthcare knowledge of our patients, we have provided the following selection of links to help you stay informed. If you have a suggestion for a new link, please send us an email. We are always looking for good resources to pass along to our valued patients and visitors to our website.The following links provide some general information about dentistry.

American Dental Association (ADA)Provides information for the general public including dental care articles, dental insurance information, and information for students interested in dentistry.

Glossary of Dental Terms Provides a glossary of dental terms as they relate to the public.

Floss.com Contains a wide variety of dental health information, including articles on women’s dental health issues, child dental care information, halitosis (bad breath) section, and new dental product information.

Colgate Trusted resource for dental health information and oral care products.

Kids Health Provides doctor-approved health information about children’s health.

WebMD Provides trustworthy and credible health and medical news and information

Washington State Dental Association (WSDA) Provides consumers with general information about dentistry in Washington state and highlights the Association’s mission If you have any questions or concerns, we will be happy to answer those for you.

 

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