Answers to Some "Frequently Asked Questions" about Dentistry

1. How often should I have my teeth checked by a dentist?

You should visit your dentist at least every six months to get your teeth cleaned and to give the dentist and your hygienist a chance to review the health of your teeth and gums. By seeing your dentist twice a year, your dentist can monitor your oral health and help you prevent problems that may arise. It is best to detect a problem while it is small and manageable, which may prevent a dental emergency or a more comprehensive or expensive treatment. The dentist may suggest more frequent visits, depending on your oral health diagnosis. Most insurance companies cover two dental cleanings per year.

2. At what age should my child see the dentist?

We start seeing children at age 3. We strive to make the first visit fun and informative. We have TV’s in our patient treatment rooms which can help keep the children entertained while we are helping them with their dental needs. We want your child to feel comfortable and to enjoy coming to see us. Parents are welcome to join the child in the room during the dental exam. If parents notice an area of concern in your child’s mouth, please call us so we can get your child in to check it out.

3. Does thumb-sucking damage teeth?

Generally, if the child has stopped sucking his/her thumb by age 5 there is no permanent damage. If the child is a vigorous and constant thumb sucker, however, there can be moderate to severe movement of teeth and prevention of normal bone growth. We can discuss treatment options at the child’s cleaning appointment.

4. When will my child start losing his baby teeth?

Children generally begin losing their teeth around age 5. This is a natural process called the exfoliation (tooth loss) of primary (baby) teeth. Ages of specific tooth loss can vary. They usually lose their front teeth first. The lower teeth often are lost before the upper teeth. We will be happy to provide you with a Tooth Arrival Chart at your cleaning appointment. It is a helpful guide that has pictures of baby teeth and permanent teeth and when they arrive (or erupt) in the mouth.

5. When should I get my wisdom teeth taken out?

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. Most children get their wisdom teeth (Third Molars) removed sometime between the ages of 16 to 18. If your teenager is having jaw pain, call us for an appointment so we can evaluate the status of their wisdom teeth.

6. What causes tooth decay?

Tooth decay is caused by plaque in your mouth reacting with sugary and starchy deposits found in food and drinks. This reaction produces acid which can damage the enamel of your teeth. The enamel is the outer protective layer of your teeth. Over time the enamel of your tooth will become weakened from the tooth decay
(or cavity).

7. My gums bleed when I brush, what does it mean?

Bleeding gums is an early indicator of gingivitis, or swollen gums. This is typically caused by plaque and/or calculus located on your teeth and under your gums. Gingivitis can be reversed by proper brushing and flossing within a few weeks. If bleeding persists two to three weeks, consult your dentist. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress into periodontal disease which can destroy the gums and bone surrounding your teeth. This will lead to loose teeth and eventually tooth loss if left untreated.

8. 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.

9. What is root planing and why is it done?

Root planing is a technique performed in a dental office to stop the adverse effect of periodontal disease. We anesthetize the area needing treatment so that we can clean below the gumline to remove plaque/ calculus/ and bacteria from the roots of your teeth. The end result is a smooth tooth surface on the roots of your teeth which will improve the health of your teeth and gums. Your dental hygienist will review proper oral hygiene instructions with you so that you can get your teeth and gums feeling better again.

10. Do water irrigation systems replace the need for flossing?

Water irrigation systems should not be used as a substitute for brushing and flossing. These devices are effective in removing retained food from hard to reach areas, but do not remove plaque. Dentists frequently recommend these devices with the addition of antibacterial solutions to maintain the oral health of periodontal patients.

11. What can be done for ulcers or canker sores in the mouth?

If you have an ulcer, canker sore, or any other type of painful spot in your mouth or on your lips contact our office for a visit. We need to evaluate your condition to determine the best type of treatment. Treatment options vary but sometimes we can prescribe medicine or oral rinses to speed up the healing process. Eating a well- balanced diet of fruits and vegetables can reduce the occurrence of ulcers and canker sores. There are a few medications that will give temporary relief from the pain, but they need to be started as soon as symptoms appear. Ulcers will generally diminish and disappear in 7-10 days.

12. 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 can be caused by retained food particles, gum disease, drainage from your sinuses, and respiratory or gastrointestinal problems. Proper brushing, including brushing your tongue, cheeks, and the roof of your mouth will remove bacteria and food particles. Flossing removes accumulated bacteria, plaque and food that may be trapped between your teeth. Mouth rinses are effective in temporary relief of bad breath. Consult your dentist and/or physician if the condition persists.

13. Does bleaching damage your teeth?

No. When carbamide peroxide, the active whitening agent, contacts water, hydrogen peroxide is released which whitens the teeth. Bleaching does not soften, demineralize or weaken the teeth. Do not bleach your teeth until after you have had a dental check-up so that your dentist can review your health history to ensure that you do not have any health risks related to bleaching. Bleaching may cause tooth sensitivity so contact our office for helpful hints to avoid this.

14. Do over-the-counter bleaching products work?

There is some evidence that over-the-counter bleaching products do whiten teeth, however, many of the products are too abrasive and can damage the teeth with extended use or misuse. Supervision by your dentist is always the safest and most effective way to whiten your teeth.

15. 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.

16. Are silver fillings a danger to my health?

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.

17. Is fluoride a danger to my health?

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 re-mineralization, which aids in repairing early decay before the damage is visible.

18. Are X-Rays a danger to my health?

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.

19. What causes my jaw to pop when I open it?

There is a pad or disk that separates the jaw bone from the base of the skull. The primary cause of the "popping" occurs when you open your mouth too wide and the jaw bone "pops" off the pad or disk. Treatment is not required unless pain is associated with the "pop" or the jaw locks.

20. What is a root canal?

A root canal is a procedure done to save a tooth that has been either damaged from decay or a cracked or broken tooth. Once the nerve inside the root of the tooth has been exposed, either from a crack in the tooth or from deep decay, the only way to save the tooth is with a root canal (also known as endodontic therapy). This procedure is confined to the tooth and is similar to having a filling placed, there are just more steps involved. During this procedure the inside of the tooth is cleaned free of any decay and bacteria that may have damaged the tooth. Next the root canal inside the tooth is filled with gutta percha, a rubberlike material, to prevent recontamination of the tooth. The tooth is then permanently sealed and a crown is placed over the tooth to reduce the risk of breaking the tooth. This enables patients to keep their original tooth.

21. What are dental implants and how do they work?

Dental implants are substitutes for natural tooth roots and rely on the jawbone for support. Strategically placed, implants can now be used to support permanently cemented bridges, eliminating the need for a denture. The cost of implants tends to be greater, but implants last longer than conventional bridges. A single tooth implant is typically the best treatment option to fill a space where a tooth has been lost. Contact our office for a consult if you are interested in implants.

22. Are there any alternatives to dentures?

Dentures are no longer the only way to restore a mouth that has little or no
non-restorable teeth. Strategically placed support, or implants, can now be used to support permanently cemented bridges, eliminating the need for a denture. The cost tends to be greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble the "feel" of real teeth. Dental implants are becoming the alternative of choice to dentures, but not everyone is a candidate for implants. Call our office for a consult.

23. 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.





 

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Family Dentistry of Columbus
Dr. Marlon Murrell, DMD • Dr. Jay Polk, DMD • Dr. Tommy Parker, DMD
3408-B University Avenue • Columbus, GA 31907 • Phone 706.563.5516 • Fax 706.563.5575

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