Frequently Asked Questions
Replacing Missing Teeth
What are dental implants and how do they work?
Dental implants, like “biomedical screws,” are substitutes for natural tooth roots and rely on the jawbone for support. Strategically placed, implants can now be used to support permanently cemented single teeth or bridges for multiple teeth, eliminating the need for a full or partial denture. Implants more closely resemble the “feel” and “function” of real teeth. You brush and floss them like your natural teeth. The cost tends to be greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble real teeth and will result in a longer-lasting, more reliable result. Everyone’s implant surgery can vary in timeline and extent, depending upon many factors.
What are bridges and how do they work?
Bridges allow your dental team to replace one or more missing teeth when they those spaces have neighboring teeth on each side. The neighboring teeth are used to support a permanently attached floating tooth, which creates a “link” of three or more crowns. Bridges are cemented in and do not come in and out. They allow you to function naturally. Bridges do require you to floss underneath them. Bridges are excellent choices for patients that are not candidates for implants or do not want to undergo surgery.
Are there any alternatives to dentures?
Dentures are no longer the only way to restore a mouth that has no teeth remaining. Strategically placed support, by way of implants, can now be used to create more attached dentures, instead of the looseness of a denture that comes in and out readily. The cost tends to be greater, but the implants help to enhance the usability and retention of dentures. Dental implants are becoming the alternative of choice to dentures alone, but not everyone is a candidate for implants depending on the amount of bone available in your upper or lower jaws.
How We Repair and Change Teeth
What is a crown (“cap”), and why do we use it?
A crown, or a “cap,” is made of porcelain and/or metallic material and its job is to protect the teeth. It covers a tooth that has cracked, that is already broken, that has a large cavity, that has a root canal done, or that has failing fillings. Instead of “stuffing” a tooth with more filling material from the inside, a crown protects the tooth from the outside and takes on the chewing force by sealing the tooth around the sides and the top. A crown is placed over your natural tooth, and it can be fully manipulated for color, shape, and size. You brush and floss a crown like a normal tooth.
What are porcelain veneers and why are they used?
Porcelain veneers are ultra-thin shells of ceramic material, which are bonded to the front of the teeth. This procedure can be an ideal choice for improving the appearance of the front teeth by masking discolorations, whitening teeth and/or reshaping a smile. Veneers can be fully manipulated: new colors, new shapes, and new lengths. During the placement of veneers, some natural tooth structure may be removed to keep them appearing as natural as possible, however veneers are designed to be as conservative as possible.
Easing Your Dental Concerns
Are silver fillings/mercury, 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. It would take an amount of mercury far greater than that in silver fillings to create acute toxicity in the body. There are, however, other materials that can be used for restorations, and those materials are more commonly used in today’s practice. These include gold, porcelain, and composite resins (tooth colored). We do only offer composite resins at this time.
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 or before it requires a procedure.
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 healthcare 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. Most often, the amounts of radiation in our office are so low that they are equivalent to a day in the sunshine or less. You are exposed to more radiation when flying on an airplane, in fact.
Does teeth whitening damage the teeth?
Not when our patients are using known FDA-approved whitening products. When carbamide peroxide, the active whitening agent, contacts water, we see hydrogen peroxide released that whitens the teeth. The intensity and efficacy of whitening products depend on the percent concentration of the bleaching agent. You can only get high-percentage bleaching agents from your dental providers. Some online and in-store products claiming whiter teeth are unlabeled and not FDA-approved for use on humans, or they may not contain an effective percentage of whitening agents. Charcoal whitens teeth by abrasion, and this is NOT a healthy way to whiten your teeth; this is because you are sacrificing the natural layers of your teeth, which is an unhealthy long-term habit. With our prescription strength whitening gels—which are take-home products—we are confident you will enjoy your bright new smile without worry.
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.
Can sleep apnea affect my oral health?
Yes, sleep apnea manifests itself in many different ways in the health of your mouth. Sleep apnea patients show a strong correlation to exhibiting habits of grinding (bruxism) and acid reflux. Grinding can wear and tear on the teeth, causing heaving damage or breakage of teeth that lead to expensive treatments. Acid reflux can cause acidic erosion of the teeth, leading to the loss of the outer protective layer of enamel. Sleep apnea patients may even experience dry mouth, which can place you at significant risk for cavities.
Hygiene and Prevention
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 become 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 are 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 for two to three weeks, consult your dentist.
What causes “gum disease” (periodontitis)?
Gum (periodontal) disease is caused by bacteria, and it results in loss of bone support around the teeth. 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. Current studies indicate a direct link between gum disease and heart disease. Gum disease is also a risk factor for preterm labor if you are pregnant. It is more evident than ever that we take a whole-body approach to health and wellness, and how your dental health is an integral part of that.
What is scaling and root planing (SRP) (“deep cleaning”), and why is it done?
“Scaling & root planing” is a technique performed in a dental office to stop the adverse effects of periodontal disease. The procedure cleans below the gumline and smooths the roots. When the roots are smoothed, the gums will usually reattach to the root, stopping the bacteria from spreading. This stops and reverses some of the damage done by periodontal disease.
What causes tooth decay?
Tooth decay is caused by plaque in your mouth reacting with sugary and starchy deposits from food. This reaction produces acid, which damages the enamel over time and weakens the tooth. Tooth decay leads to the potential for many different treatment needs: fillings, crowns, root canals, or extractions.
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 for temporary relief of bad breath. Consult your dentist and/or physician if the condition persists.
Do you take my insurance?
We do not take any insurance at this time; however, we do offer a 60% discount on all of our fees in order to better serve our community and offer quality and affordable care. In order to keep our fees this low, we do require payment in full at the time services are rendered. We do accept CareCredit, Lending Club, and all major credit cards.