Frequently Asked Questions
At Jones Family Dentistry, we're strong advocates of patient education. We'll work with with you so that you feel empowered to make decisions about your family's dental care and oral health. We've compiled answers to some of the questions we're most frequently asked. If you have a question that's not addressed below, please feel free to contact us. We're happy to help!
- I don't have a toothache, and I brush and floss regularly. Do I really need a check-up?
Biannual teeth cleanings performed by a skilled dental hygienist are central to keeping teeth and gums looking, feeling, and functioning well. If you have gum disease, more frequent visits to the dentist will probably be recommended for your oral and overall health.
During cleanings, plaque and calculus (more commonly known as tartar) are removed from teeth. Plaque is a sticky deposit on teeth in which bacteria grow, and tartar is basically calcified or hardened plaque, so it is more difficult to remove. When tartar builds up under the gumline, causing gum disease, more extensive treatment than a standard cleaning is needed to remove it and help ensure healthier gums. Hygienists also polish teeth, floss (partly to test the condition of gums, to see if they bleed), and they document any bleeding along with stains they noted during the cleaning in a patient's file.
Dental exams with a dentist make it so problems can be diagnosed and treated before they grow to be big, often painful and expensive. A typical exam includes a visual assessment of teeth and occlusion (bite), along with an appraisal of current restorations. When x-rays have been taken, the dentist will carefully review them to identify areas of decay and other possible areas of concern for cysts, tumors, and other disorders of the mouth. Panoramic x-rays are especially revealing and beneficial to this process. The dentist will also perform a general screening for early detection of gum disease and oral cancer.
In between cleanings and exams at a dental office, brushing teeth at least twice a day (in the morning and at night) is the most important thing you can do to take care of your teeth. Brushing after every meal is even better, if you can. If not, chewing sugar-free gum after meals can get food particles out of teeth. Additionally, clean between teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners, and remember to brush your tongue. Brushing your tongue, especially the back areas, can make a big difference in how clean your mouth feels and smells, and how clean it actually is. Restorations, such as bridges and partial dentures, should be cleaned thoroughly, too, just like natural teeth. Toothbrushes should be replaced every two to three months.
- Should I replace my silver (amalgam) fillings with composite fillings?
Silver (amalgam) has been something of the "gold standard" of dental fillings for years, but recently, composite fillings have become a popular method. Dentists and patients have plenty of reasons to prefer composite fillings, but before you surrender your silver, consider some facts about fillings.
Silver fillings are durable, lasting on average at least 10 to 20 years, and they are very strong, making them ideal for use in the large back molars. They also tend to be less expensive than composite fillings, but usually require more invasive preparations. The biggest drawback to silver fillings is aesthetic, as they can cast a gray hue over the surface of a tooth. Silver fillings have gotten a bad reputation because of their mercury content, but the FDA and the ADA agree that there's no proof that the compound has any adverse side effects. In fact, the mercury in amalgam fillings is only one component of a chemically stable alloy. Silver fillings have been used in dentistry for hundreds of years, and allergic reactions are rare.
Composite fillings, which are made out of a mixture of glass and quartz materials, provide a tooth-colored restoration that looks more like your natural tooth. Composite materials are also versatile and can be bonded (held adhesively) to teeth, which calls for less invasive preparation and leaves more healthy tooth structure beneath the filling. Compared to amalgam, composite fillings can take longer to place and are slightly less durable, which makes them better suited for teeth with light or moderate bite pressure. Depending on your dentist and your insurance options, composite fillings can cost a bit more than amalgam.
Unless your dentist notices cracks or damages in your current fillings or expresses other concerns regarding your dental health, replacing silver fillings is a matter of personal preference.
- How can I tell if I'm at risk for gum disease?
According to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, about 80 percent of U.S. adults currently have some form of gum disease, ranging from gingivitis to serious periodontal disease. The prevalence of gum disease increases with age because as we age, our teeth tend to wear down, our gums naturally recede, and medications can affect a variety of oral changes. If your gums feel tender or look red and swollen, you may have gum disease. Other signs include bleeding and/or receding gums, pain or sensitivity in your teeth, loose teeth (caused by weakening gum fibers and/or bone loss), and persistent bad breath. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss, bone loss, and an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
The first thing to do is get a thorough dental evaluation. If you have any degree of periodontal disease, our doctors can help. Our team focuses on helping patients of all ages achieve healthy gums for a healthy mouth and body. Gum disease used to require oral surgery more often than not. While surgery is still an effective and often necessary solution, many cases can now be treated with less invasive techniques first, such as deep cleanings, local antibiotics, and special rinses. Ask us about your options at your next cleaning!
- Is there anything that can calm my nerves during an exam?
Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is one of the safest anesthetics used in dentistry. Nitrous oxide is a colorless blend of oxygen and nitrous oxide gases with a pleasant, sweet smell and taste. Inhaling it creates a sense of well-being and relaxation, and it is used effectively to help individuals who experience dental anxieties feel more comfortable and at ease. Nitrous oxide increases a patient's pain threshold and, when necessary, makes the administration of anesthetic injections more comfortable. Combined with a caring dental staff, nitrous oxide has proven to be especially beneficial for children and adolescents. It has also been found helpful if a patient has a strong gag reflex that interferes with dental treatment. Nitrous oxide can help make visits to the dental office less difficult for individuals with mental or physical disabilities, as well. The dentist has special equipment that is regularly checked and calibrated to monitor the levels of nitrous oxide released and to adjust the flow rate to each individual patient. The gas is administered by specifically trained members of the dental staff.
Nitrous oxide has few side effects and/or risks. It is non-addictive, and patients remain fully conscious during treatment. Nitrous oxide is administered comfortably with a mask over the mouth and nose, and a pleasant feeling of calm and sedation are felt almost immediately. Normal breathing of pure oxygen for several minutes after dental treatment is finished completely reverses the effects of nitrous oxide, so adults can usually leave the office of their own accord.
Some individuals may experience slight nausea if nitrous oxide is administered on a full stomach. For this reason, it is advisable to limit food intake for several hours before treatment, although fasting is not typically necessary. Nitrous oxide is not effective if a patient suffers from claustrophobia (because of the mask used to administer the gas), or has extreme dental anxieties. Because nitrous oxide is inhaled, it is also not effective if the patient has blocked nasal passages. For unknown reasons, it does not affect about 10% of individuals.
- What is "comprehensive dentistry"?
Our aim is to have all concerns and issues known – to us and to you – and hopefully resolved before an emergency. We see patients for many reasons and with many different needs, so our services range from routine preventive care to life changing restorative and cosmetic dentistry. The term “comprehensive dentistry” really just refers to our commitment to the present as well as the future of your smile. We want to keep it healthy, make it beautiful, and make it last.
Maintaining good oral hygiene at home is important, but man cannot live by toothbrush alone. In-office exams are critical to keeping your smile clean and healthy. Our dental team has the ability to remove plaque your toothbrush can’t, which reduces your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. They also use panoramic x-rays and intraoral cameras to monitor structures that aren’t so obvious to the naked eye.
We also work with our patients to develop long-term maintenance plans that fit their individual budgets, lifestyles, and oral health needs. This minimizes the chance of original problems reoccurring. We will do everything we can to customize your maintenance plan based on your individual situation.
- My dentist told me I'm going to need root canal therapy. What should I know before my appointment?
Beneath the top layer of your tooth (the enamel) and the second layer (the dentin), there is a pulp, or nerve, which delivers sensations such as heat, cold, and pain to the brain. Whether from excessive decay or physical trauma, this nerve can become damaged, causing an abscess to form at the root of the tooth. Your dentist has recommended root canal therapy, a procedure in which the diseased pulp is removed from an infected tooth, in order to prevent further damage and tooth loss, and most importantly, to relieve your pain.
Symptoms of an infected root include severe toothaches, sensitivity, discoloration, and upraised lesions on your gums. X-rays and a thorough dental examination will determine whether a root canal is your best option. Though root canal therapy has a reputation for being painful, the toothaches associated with an infected root are most likely causing you more pain than the treatment will. In addition, there are a number of ways to relieve pain or discomfort during treatment, including nitrous oxide and oral sedation.
The nerve is not vitally important for day-to-day function, so removing it will not affect your tooth—unless you count saving the tooth from total loss! In fact, allowing a root to decay further will inevitably lead to more pain and bone loss. An over the counter pain reliever usually takes care of immediate post-operative discomfort, and most patients return to normal activities the very next day. Root canal therapy is highly successful, and a tooth that’s been restored with RCT can last you a lifetime. Especially when used in conjunction with a natural looking restoration (such as a crown or a composite filling), no one will even notice a difference in your smile.
- Is smoking really that bad for my teeth?
Smoking isn’t just bad for your teeth—it affects the health of your entire mouth, especially your gums. Lighting up stains your teeth, causes bad breath, and promotes the buildup of plaque and tartar. Cigarette smoking is also one of the leading causes of tooth loss. Worst of all, smoking has been linked to the development of gum disease, oral cancer, and may lead to the loss of taste and smell. Certain procedures, such as dental implants and oral surgeries, can be less successful in smokers due to damaged gum tissue. This results in a higher cost of dental healthcare and often more frequent (and complicated) treatment.
Pipes and cigars aren't any safer, causing similar rates of tooth and bone loss even if the smoke is not inhaled. Smokeless tobacco products like snuff and chewing tobacco also pose great health risks to your gums, increasing your risk for both oral cancer and cancers of the throat, esophagus and lips. Additionally, they contain a significant amount of sugar, which when pressed against your teeth for long periods of time can cause tooth decay.
So what’s the verdict on tobacco? Seek help on how to quit using, or just don’t start.
- Hot or cold, my teeth hate both! Why are they so sensitive, and how can I stop the pain?
If you’ve been avoiding that ice cream cone or cup of coffee because of sensitive teeth, you don't have to! Tooth sensitivity is a common complaint and can be caused by of a number of factors. Involuntary grinding, jaw clenching, gum recession, and enamel loss can all cause teeth to become extra sensitive, because the usually-protected layer of dentin (the nerve-packed surface beneath the enamel) is exposed to external stimuli. Surface irritants such as braces and teeth whitening can also cause temporary sensitivity.
Because the causes of sensitivity are so diverse, and because sensitive gum tissue can indicate a more serious problem, it’s important to ask your dentist which treatment is best for you. A softer toothbrush is usually the first step, and special toothpastes can reduce sensitivity over time. There are also over-the-counter fluoride rinses to protect your enamel against further damage, and your dentist can even provide an in-office procedure to coat your teeth with a protective agent.
- What should I do in case of a dental emergency?
Accidents happen, and especially when they involve our teeth and mouths, they can be pretty frightening. Being careful is good prevention, but being prepared promises reassurance in any dental health emergency. It's important to know when home care will suffice and when a trip to the dentist is necessary, so here are some guidelines to help you through common situations:
Toothache/Sore Gums. Rinse with warm water to remove any food or debris; if you notice anything lodged between teeth, floss to remove it. Take an over the counter pain medication (but never apply the medication directly to tooth or gums), and see your dentist if the pain persists.
Chipped Tooth. Save the pieces, if you can, and rinse them thoroughly. Apply an ice pack or a cold compress to the swollen lip or gum tissue near the chipped tooth to prevent swelling. If the area is bleeding, apply gauze for ten minutes, or until the bleeding has stopped. See your dentist as soon as possible.
Broken Tooth. With recent advancements in restorative and cosmetic dentistry, you might not lose your tooth. If there’s enough remaining healthy tooth structure, a dentist can create a crown that will “grab onto” your natural tooth, eliminating the need for root removal. While the success of this process, known as “crown lengthening,” depends on the severity of the break, it’s worth asking about options other than complete removal.
Knocked Out Tooth. Depending on the situation, find the tooth and, holding it by the crown only, rinse it briefly with warm water. If possible, gently reinsert the tooth into the socket and bite down on gauze or cloth to keep it in place. If you cannot reinsert it, place it in a container of milk or salt-water. See your dentist as soon as possible—if treated within two hours, the tooth may be salvaged.
Soft Tissue Injuries. Soft tissues such as gums, cheeks, lips, and the tongue tend to bleed heavily, only because the tissue contains a great deal of blood flow. To control the bleeding, first rinse with a warm, mild salt water solution. Apply pressure with gauze or a moistened towel for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterwards, to reduce swelling and help stop residual bleeding, apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth. In the event of a serious soft tissue injury, in which the bleeding is profuse or the damage is visibly traumatic, it's best to stay calm, keep applying pressure, and go to the emergency room.
- Am I candidate for dental implant restorations?
Our doctors and our team work hard to stay on the leading edge of restorative dentistry. If you or someone you love struggles with ill-fitting, uncomfortable dentures or a retainer with false teeth, we have a permanent solution. Dental implants are quickly becoming the preferred method for replacing teeth, and they can give your smile a second chance! Implants are useful in denture stabilization, and they can also be used in conjunction with crowns and bridges and as single-tooth replacements.
Dental implants are not only more durable and long-lasting than traditional tooth replacements, but they also look and feel more like natural teeth. Most importantly, they function like natural teeth, so you can chew, talk, and smile with confidence again. Because the implant procedure allows for more of your healthy tooth structure to be saved, fixed dental implants can even prevent further bone loss.
Many patients who suffer from advanced tooth decay, root canal failure, trauma to the mouth, or just extreme natural wear and tear on their teeth can benefit from this revolutionary option in restorative dentistry. However, there are still some things to consider before you decide on dental implants. For example, implants are best performed after adolescence, when the teeth and jaw bone are fully developed. Additionally, the implant procedure can have an increased risk of complications for patients with gum disease, active diabetes, immune deficiencies, and for patients who use tobacco products. To ensure that you get the treatment that’s right for you, keep our team informed and up-to-date about your entire medical history and dental habits.
- How do I choose the right oral hygiene product for me?
The toothpaste aisle can be pretty overwhelming. Over the past few years, companies have introduced so many options for toothpastes, brushes, flosses, and mouthwashes that even the savviest consumer doesn’t always know where to begin. Here are a some hints for picking the right products for your particular needs:
Toothbrush. The big question here is, electric or manual? Ultimately, it comes down to your personal preference. Electric toothbrushes have gained popularity in recent years, but not necessarily because they’re “better” than old-fashioned manual brushes. Both brushes are effective at removing plaque, but electric brushes can make the process easier for you. If you find manual brushes difficult to use or just don't enjoy the process, an electric one might make brushing easier and allow you to do a better job. When choosing a manual brush, opt for soft bristles with the smallest head--they're easy on gum tissue and can fit around the back molars. Regardless of your hardware of choice, though, just be sure to use it at least twice a day—and be thorough! Studies show that it takes a full 2-3 minutes to brush every tooth effectively, but most people only brush for an average of 30 seconds.
Toothpaste. First and foremost, always check for the ADA seal of approval. Despite the large variety of toothpastes available, most contain similar agents geared toward scrubbing, flavoring, or keeping the paste moist. It's a good idea to choose a toothpaste that contains fluoride, which strengthens enamel and makes teeth less prone to decay. Tartar-control toothpastes usually contain fluoride, but they also contain chemicals designed to break down plaque and antibacterials that kill lingering germs. As long as your paste meets those two guidelines, feel free to narrow down your selection based on your personal needs. Whitening varieties have added abrasive agents (not bleach) that polish the surfaces of your teeth without damaging enamel. If you have sensitive teeth, certain toothpastes include chemical compounds that, when used on a regular basis, can reduce sensitivity over time.
Floss. While most people brush the recommended two times a day, flossing sometimes gets placed on the back burner. However, neglecting to floss at least once daily is doing your mouth a serious disservice, since up to 50% of plaque accumulation occurs between teeth. That’s why you should floss before you brush, to loosen up that plaque for easier removal with your toothbrush. If flossing is too difficult or unpleasant, try using a flosser. They’re reusable, come with disposable heads, and have handles just like toothbrushes, so flossing is as neat and easy as brushing your teeth. You can find them at most grocery and drug stores.
Mouthwash. There are as many different types of mouthwashes available as there are flavors, and it’s important to choose the one that’s best for you. Cosmetic mouthwashes can rinse away debris, provide a pleasant taste, and mask bad breath temporarily. If you’re looking for a mouthwash with a purpose, look for an FDA-approved therapeutic rinse, with either antiplaque or anticavity ingredients. Mouthwashes are particularly useful for people with canker sores, braces, and dry mouth, but they shouldn’t replace brushing or flossing.
Follow these easy steps and you’ll have yourself a complete and effective oral hygiene routine. You don’t need a cabinet full of fancy, expensive products to have your healthiest smile—just do your part at home and stay up-to-date with professional check-ups. We’ll take care of the rest!
- What are the benefits of a dental radiograph (x-ray) examination?
- Small areas of decay between teeth or below existing restorations (fillings)
- Deep cavities
- Infections that can develop in the mouth bones
- Periodontal (gum) disease
- Abscesses or cysts
- Developmental abnormalities
- Some types of tumors
- TMJ Dysfunction
X-rays, also known as radiographs, are commonly used in dental exams of patients of all ages. Panoramic x-rays, which are taken every five to seven years and show the entire mouth, are particularly useful diagnostic tools. Panoramic x-rays are taken with a machine that circles your head providing a complete overview of all the teeth as well as the roots, upper and lower jawbones, the sinuses, and other hard surfaces in the mouth. Many problems with teeth and the surrounding tissues cannot be seen when we visually examine your mouth. An x-ray examination is needed to reveal:
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you unnecessary discomfort, money, and time. In cases where x-rays help us detect oral cancer and periodontal disease early, radiographs can also help save your life!
- Why is fluoride good for my teeth?
Each day, foods and acids feed bacteria in your mouth, which can accumulate on your teeth to form plaque. Plaque wears away at a tooth's enamel in a process known as demineralization. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that can promote the remineralization of enamel, replacing important minerals that strengthen your teeth and can protect them from decay. Fluoride can also help reverse early stages of decay.
Children with newly-erupted permanent teeth benefit a great deal from fluoride exposure, but adults should make sure their teeth come into contact with it, too. The safe and easy way to ensure that your teeth are getting enough fluoride is to use fluoride toothpaste, available at drugstores in a variety of types and flavors. If your dentist recommends more intensive fluoride treatments, there are a number of gels, rinses, and even in-office procedures that can do the trick. Though the most fluoride is absorbed from direct contact with the teeth, many public drinking water systems contain small, safe amounts of fluoride that can have positive health effects.
- What could be causing my dry mouth, and what can I do about it?
Symptoms of dry mouth (xerostomia) can include a sticky, dry, or burning sensation in the mouth, altered taste, chronic bad breath, and insufficient saliva. Dry mouth is particularly common in the elderly and the very young, but it can affect anyone at any given time, and there are a number of causes. It’s one of the most common side effects of medication, from prescriptions to antihistamines. Hormone changes, chemotherapy and radiation, uncontrolled diabetes, and other medical conditions can also cause recurrent dry mouth.
Dry mouth can be uncomfortable, and is one of the leading causes of chronic bad breath., but it can also make teeth more prone to decay and soft tissue more susceptible to infection. Because insufficient saliva endangers the health of your entire mouth, it’s important to ask your dentist about oral sprays, prescription drugs, or simple lifestyle changes that can provide relief.