Frequently Asked Questions

My gums bleed when I brush or floss. What does this mean?

You may have early signs of gum disease (periodontal disease). This disease is painless, so many people don’t know they even have it. Plaque, a film of bacteria that forms on the teeth, is the leading cause of gum disease. With routine professional dental cleanings and examinations you and your dental care provider can work together to get your gums healthy again.

My dentist says I have gum disease but my gums don’t bleed. Could that be possible?

If you are a smoker you could definitely have gum disease with no bleeding. Bleeding is not always present with gum disease (periodontal disease). That is why it’s known as the “silent disease” because in many cases there are no symptoms. Gum disease can lead to bone loss and eventually loss of teeth if not treated in the early stages. Your dental hygienist can perform a periodontal charting evaluation to determine if you have gum disease.

I have heard that smoking may cause me to have gum disease. Could I loose my teeth because I’m a smoker?

Smoking is a contributing factor of gum disease because nicotine decreases oxygen flow to the gums and bone. A comprehensive exam will help your dentist evaluate the condition of your gums and determine if you have gum disease. Prescription medications are also available to help you “kick the habit.”

I take great care of my teeth. Why do I need to visit my dentist twice a year?

Even if you brush and floss regularly, you are not able to remove all deposits on your teeth and below the gum line. This is why the American Dental Association recommends 2 to 4 visits a year depending on your dental health. Your Dental Hygienist is a specially trained professional who can remove deposits from your teeth and below your gum line where you can’t reach. Visiting your dentist twice a year also allows for diagnosis of any problems in the early stages before they become “costly” major issues.

Could I really keep my teeth and gums healthy for the rest of my life?

Absolutely! With routine preventive dental care and great oral hygiene at home, you could have your teeth for the rest of your life.

I haven’t seen a dentist in a few years because I don’t have dental insurance. Do I really need a checkup if nothing hurts?

Regular checkups prevent major problems. Usually nothing hurts until there is a significant problem and many problems occur with no warning. Prevention is the key to avoiding costly, extensive dental treatment.

My dentist says I have problems with my teeth but they don’t hurt. Is that possible?

Dental decay, gum disease, tumors, oral cancer, etc. often go undetected because they are not painful until they have grown to be a significant problem. Your dentist can explain and often times show you the problem with the use of x-rays and intra oral cameras. Treatment of dental problems before they become painful will save you from a toothache, not to mention money.
Why are dental x-rays necessary?

Dental x-rays are invaluable in detecting small cavities between the teeth, infections in the bone, abscesses, cysts, developmental abnormalities and some types of tumors which may not be visible to the dentist during a clinical exam. Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save time, money, and unnecessary discomfort. Not to mention that if you have a hidden tumor, early diagnosis could save your life!

How often should I have dental x-rays?

Your dentist will determine the frequency of needed x-rays based on your history, clinical exam findings, and specific needs.

How much radiation is involved in dental x-rays?

Environmental exposures may be compared to exposures from dental radiographs (x-rays). Using state of the art technology, a full mouth x-ray of 21 films will deliver a dose of approximately 13 mrem. This is equal to approximately 16 days of exposure to naturally-occurring environmental radiation. According to federal and most state regulations, persons whose occupations involve some exposure to radiation are permitted to receive up to 5,000 mrem of whole body radiation per year. So, you can see that dental x-rays really involve insignificant amounts of radiation.

Are dental x-rays harmful?

No, radiation exposure is kept to a minimum with the use of state-of-the-art equipment which has filters which decrease exposure to negligible levels. You will also be covered with a lead apron.

I have bad breath. What can I do?

You should see your dentist. 80% of bad breath is caused by tooth decay, gum disease, and bacteria on the tongue.

Do the drug store bleaching kits work as well as ones available through my dentist?

Drug store bleaching kits are cheaper; however, they are not as effective as professional whitening through your dentist. The fast acting, safe, and noticeably whiter results are seen using the stronger, more powerful ingredients which require the supervision of a dental professional.

Can bleach damage my teeth?

When professionally administered, tooth whitening is safe. You should use caution with over-the-counter bleaching products and always consult your dentist before using any whitening products on your own.

With so many toothpastes on the market which kinds the best?

Today most dental professionals recommend the use of fluoride toothpaste with only mild abrasives. Ask your dentist which type is best for you.

I don’t go to the dentist because I am too afraid. I know I need to go. Is there anything that could be done for me?

First of all, you are not alone with your fear of dental treatment. Millions of people have the same fear. There are options that will allow you to have your treatment done with out anxiety. These options include relaxation medications as well as nitrous oxide sedation. Speak with your dental professional to determine the best option for you.

I have been told that I need braces to correct some spacing and crooked teeth. Is there anything else I can do to correct this?

Cosmetic dentistry in some cases may be an alternative to braces (orthodontics). Porcelain veneers or crowns can in some case be used to correct spacing and crooked teeth. Talk to your dentist to find out what options are available for your situation.

My teeth seem to be getting shorter. What can be done to stop this?

You need to go see your dentist as soon as possible to determine the cause of this. Often times poor occlusion (the way your teeth fit together when you bite) can cause significant wear of your teeth causing them to get shorter in appearance. There are treatments available to help correct this problem. Speak with your dentist to determine the best treatment for you.

I was told that my old silver fillings could cause my teeth to crack. Is this true?

Silver (Amalgam) fillings do not bond to the teeth like the newer tooth colored materials, because of this, amalgam material can expand causing teeth to crack or break. Replacement of old amalgam with the newer tooth colored bonded material can create a stronger tooth structure and restore the appearance to that of natural teeth.

I am missing a tooth. My dentist says I should consider having an implant to replace my tooth. How do they work? How strong are they?

First let me say that dental implants are by far the best option for replacement of missing teeth. They are placed in the bone and simulate natural tooth function much better than a denture or bridge. Dental implants are strong, durable, easier to maintain than other types of dental replacements, and can last for decades.

My dentist says I need a root canal. Wouldn’t it be easier to just pull the tooth?

Not really…anytime you remove a natural tooth you need to replace it with an implant, bridge, or partial denture in order to prevent the other teeth from protruding or shifting into the space. When a tooth is removed and not replaced many complications can occur. With the latest techniques, endodontics (root canal therapy) is more comfortable and predictable than ever before. Keeping your natural teeth is always the best option and can actually save you money in the end! Root canal therapy can be a very wise investment.

What are dental sealants?

They are a thin plastic coatings which are applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (molars) to prevent decay. Molars have tiny pits and grooves which tend to trap food and bacteria. These pits and grooves are too tiny for tooth brush bristles to thoroughly clean. By placing a protective coating (sealant) over these areas we can lessen the risk of decay.

Will my insurance company pay 100% of the cost?

Rarely do insurance companies cover 100% percent of all dental costs. Unlike medical insurance, dental benefits are designed to simply offset the cost of dental treatment. The schedule of benefits and deductible information supplied by your insurer is only a guide for expected payments. It is not a guarantee.

An oft misunderstood term used by many insurance companies is UCR or “allowable charges”. This is an arbitrary fee limit at which the insurance company will stop reimbursement. After this limit, coverage for a particular procedure will cease. Again, this has nothing to do with the fees charged, but with the level of coverage negotiated by your employer. Many plans tell their participants that they will be covered “up to 80% or up to 100%,” but do not clearly specify the plan’s fee-schedule allowances, annual maximums or limitations. It is more realistic to expect dental insurance to cover 35 to 65 percent of major services. Remember, the amount a plan pays is determined by how much the employer paid for the plan.
How common and how serious is oral cancer?

Oral cancer, the sixth most common type of cancer, accounts for about 3.6 percent of all cancers diagnosed, with approximately 40,000 new cases of oral cancer reported annually in the United States.

The most frequent sites for oral cancer to develop are the tongue, the floor of the mouth, and the soft palate tissues in the back of the tongue, lips and gums. If not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread, leading to chronic pain, loss of function, irreparable facial and oral disfigurement following surgery, and even death. Your general dentist can perform a thorough screening for oral cancer.

What are the warning signs for oral cancer?

Oral cancer can be represented by red, white or discolored lesions, patches, or lumps in or around the mouth and is typically painless in its early stages. As malignant cancer spreads and destroys healthy oral tissue, the lesion or lumps become more painful. However, oral cancer is sometimes difficult to self-diagnose so routine dental exams are recommended.

How does a dentist screen for oral cancer?

Your dentist should screen for oral cancer during your routine checkups. This is done by feeling for lumps or irregular tissue changes in the neck, head, cheeks, and oral cavity, and thorough examination of the soft tissues in the mouth, looking for any sores or discolored tissues. There are some new technologies used today in screening for oral cancer that help detect abnormal tissue sooner. Ask your dentist about these.