Common Questions

What is the importance of Regular Exams?

Regular dental exams are important because neglecting dental conditions can lead to much more serious problems, such as—

  • Infected teeth

  • Tooth loss and shifting teeth

  • Receding gums

  • Loss of bone in the jaw

  • Painful jaw joints

A regular check-up includes a careful visual exam of your mouth. We check for decay on the biting surfaces of teeth, signs of wear, cracks, or other problems with restorations such as fillings and crowns, as well as any abnormal loss of tooth structure.

In addition, we check the color and contours of your gums. Red, swollen gums are often signs of gingivitis or periodontal disease. We use a periodontal probe to check the depth of the spaces between your teeth and gums. Readings deeper than 3 millimeters often indicate periodontal disease.

With regular exams, we can detect problems early and help you maintain your oral and overall health.

Why do you take dental x-rays (radiographs)?

Some oral conditions cannot be easily seen, so we often take x-rays. X-rays show us decay between and inside the teeth and tartar on the teeth and tooth roots. X-rays also show us signs of periodontal disease, such as the loss of bone around the teeth. In addition, x-rays allow us to see cysts, abscesses, and other problems.

What are the causes of sensitive teeth?

There are many possible causes, including improper stresses on teeth, loss of the tooth’s protective enamel layer, and occasionally some dental procedures.

One of the major sources of improper stresses is the unconscious habit of grinding and clenching the teeth. Another source of stress occurs when teeth do not come together properly. Some teeth always hit sooner than the rest and they become sensitive.

Teeth also become sensitive when they lose their protective outer layer which exposes the dentin. The dentin is the middle layer of the tooth, and it is normally protected by enamel (above the gum line) and cementum (below the gum line). Dentin contains millions of tiny tubes that extend from the nerves at the center of the tooth to the outer layer. When the dentin is exposed, these tubes are left open. Any stimulation at the surface of the dentin is transmitted through the tubes to the nerves, causing pain.

How do we diagnose and treat sensitive teeth?

To determine the cause of your tooth pain, we do a thorough examination. Then we perform the most appropriate treatment for the situation.

Short-term sensitivity can often be handled by using a desensitizing toothpaste or mouthwash.

If the problem is improper stress on teeth, we may adjust your bite or recommend that you wear a mouth guard. If the problem is exposed dentin, we may present a plan for improved brushing techniques, counsel you about your diet, treat the area with fluoride, or apply a protective coating, bonding agent or restoration.

What are the symptoms of a cracked tooth?

Cracked teeth can manifest as a recurring discomfort, sensitivity, or pain that is caused by an incomplete fracture or crack in a tooth.

You may have a cracked tooth if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • You find yourself chewing on only one side of your mouth because it is uncomfortable to chew on the other side.

  • Your teeth are sensitive to hot or cold temperatures, or to sweet or sour foods.

  • You feel a sharp pain when you chew.

  • The pain is intermittent rather than constant.

Why do teeth crack?

Teeth can crack for a number of reasons. One is that they endure a tremendous amount of pressure from biting and chewing every day, and as teeth age, they may lose some of their original strength. The heavy stresses of clenching and grinding can also weaken teeth.

Teeth also lose strength when tooth structure is lost, such as with large fillings and root canal therapy. Chewing on ice, popcorn kernels, hard candy, and other hard objects can weaken teeth, and these habits can fracture teeth that are already weak. And finally, teeth can crack or fracture because of an injury or accident.

How do we treat cracked teeth?

If the crack affects only the outer enamel layer of your tooth, we remove the affected portion and restore the tooth with a crown or onlay to stabilize it and protect it from further damage. If the crack affects the underlying dentin or pulp layers, however, the tooth will need root canal therapy before we can place a crown.

What is gingival recession?

When the gum line moves away from the visible part of the tooth, exposing the tooth root, we call this gingival recession.   Without gum tissue to protect them, tooth roots become more susceptible to decay and painful sensitivity.

What are the causes of gingival recession?

Receding gums can be the result of many factors, including improper brushing technique, grinding and clenching your teeth, a problem bite, periodontal disease, tobacco use, and lip or tongue piercing.

Improper brushing can wear away gums when you brush forcefully, use a hard-bristled brush, or brush in a sawing motion across the teeth. Grinding and clenching or a bad bite can contribute to gum recession by putting improper stresses on teeth and jawbone. These stresses can gradually destroy the structures that hold teeth in place, causing the gum tissue to recede.

Gums infected with periodontal disease lose their attachment to the teeth and then pull away and recede from the roots. In addition tobacco increases the risk off periodontal disease, and the many harmful chemicals in tobacco make it harder for gum tissues to heal and regain their attachment to the teeth. Lastly, pierced lip or tongue jewelry can rub on gum tissue and wear it away, often painlessly.

What is the cause of bad breath?

Most bad breath, also known as halitosis, is caused by poor oral hygiene.

When you eat, minute particles of food get trapped between your teeth and in the tiny grooves and bumps on your tongue. The particles grow bacteria which release a sulfur compound that causes bad breath.

Another common cause of bad breath is dry mouth. Dry mouth happens naturally when you sleep, causing morning breath, and it is worse if you sleep with your mouth open.

Some medications also cause dry mouth, and it is more common as you age.

And smokers?  Almost all people who use tobacco have bad breath.

What can I do about bad breath?

Proper brushing and flossing are the first line of defense against halitosis.

Many people use mouthwash to combat bad breath, but most over-the-counter mouthwashes are just a temporary mask and do not solve the problem. We may recommend a medicated mouthwash.

Here are some ways you can improve your breath:

  • Brush after every meal. You might want to carry a toothbrush with you.

  • Floss at least once a day.

  • Brush your tongue to help dislodge any remaining particles. You can use your toothbrush or a special tongue cleaner. Bacteria can build up, so use a new toothbrush. You should change our toothbrush every three to four months.

  • To avoid dry mouth, stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Other liquids like soda and coffee do not count because they can cause bad breath.

  • If you wear dentures or braces, clean them well.

  • See your dentist at least twice a year for a professional cleaning.

Sometimes, bad breath is a sign of a more serious health problem. If your breath has a particular odor, perhaps fishy, fruity, or smells like ammonia, you might need to see your physician.

Why should I replace a missing tooth?

A missing tooth can cause a chain reaction of problems, including loss of bone in the jaw, shifting teeth, difficulty keeping teeth free of plaque and bacteria, grinding and clenching, and pain in the jaw joints.

What is a dental implant?

A dental implant is an excellent treatment for replacing missing teeth. A root form implant is the most common kind of dental implant. It is a small, titanium post that replaces the roots of a missing tooth. A custom-fitted artificial tooth, called a restoration, is secured to the implant, which holds the restoration firmly in place.

An implant can support a variety of restorations, such as a single crown, multi-unit bridges, and full arch dentures. Some restorations, like a single crown and most bridges, are not removable. Others, like many full-arch dentures, can be removed for sleeping and cleaning.

How do we determine if an implant is right for you?

To determine if an implant is right for you, we do a thorough examination. The examination includes recording your medical history in which we discuss any condition that may interfere with healing. We perform a visual examination to check the health of your teeth and gums. To check the health of your jawbone, we take panoramic x-rays and possible CT (computerized tomography) scans. We take impressions and bite registrations to create an accurate model of your mouth.   

What are the benefits of an implant with a crown?

An implant restored with a crown has several advantages. The implant stops the bone loss that occurs when a tooth is lost, and it prevents the surrounding teeth from shifting into the space. Unlike replacing the tooth with a traditional bridge, there is no need to reduce the size of neighboring teeth. The crown with implant also looks and feels like your natural teeth when you chew and talk.

With proper homecare and regular checkups, your implant can be a long-term solution for a natural-looking smile.

What is a composite resin filling?

When a tooth has decay and needs a restoration, a composite resin filling can be an effective, good-looking choice. Composite is a material composed of a synthetic resin that has small glass or ceramic particles in it. These particles give it natural tooth colors.

What are the benefits of a resin filling?

Composite resin filings have several benefits. Because they bond directly to teeth, resin fillings can create a very strong seal to protect your teeth, and the material is durable.

Resin fillings are a great way to restore teeth, especially the ones in the front of your mouth. We can choose the color of the resin material to match or enhance your teeth for a beautiful and natural looking smile.

What is root canal therapy?

The pulp is the inner part of the tooth with the nerve and blood supply live.  When the pulp of a tooth becomes infected or dies, root canal therapy is necessary to save the tooth. It is generally comfortable treatment that can save your tooth and keep your mouth healthy.

What are the symptoms of a tooth infection?

You may realize that you have an infected tooth when:

  • The tooth is sensitive to hot or cold

  • The tooth hurts with biting or pressure

  • There is throbbing, severe tooth pain

  • The area is swollen

  • You have a bad taste in your mouth

You may also be unaware of the problem because there can be no symptoms at all.

What causes a tooth infection?

The pulp becomes infected when bacteria invade the inner layers of the tooth.  The tooth pulp is a soft tissue made up of nerves and blood vessels.  It is contained in the pulp chamber that extends from the middle of the tooth down through the tooth roots.

Infection occurs most commonly through a deep cavity that allows bacteria through the enamel and dentin layers an in to the pulp.  Sometimes the pulp simply dies due to a fracture or a blow to the tooth.

How do we diagnose and treat an infected or dead pulp?

We do a thorough examination which always includes an x-ray (or radiograph).  It may also include applying heat or cold, tap lightly on the tooth to see if it is sensitive, look for changes in the tooth’s color, or press gently on the gums next to the tooth to check for pain.

If we determine that you have an infected tooth, we will recommend root canal therapy to remove the infection and save the tooth.  It is important to treat an infected tooth in order to prevent infection from traveling through the root tips and causing a painful abscess in the jawbone.

How does root canal therapy affect a tooth?

Root canal therapy leaves a tooth brittle and weak.  The inner pulp layer of a tooth contains its nerves and blood vessels, so the tooth loses much of its blood supply when the infected pulp is removed and the tooth’s root canals are cleaned out.  The tooth is weaker also because only the sides of the tooth are left for support when the center of the tooth is gone.

These factors make it much easier for a tooth to break when you bite down on food.  Biting and chewing place a tremendous amount of force on teeth,  and weak, brittle teeth are especially vulnerable.

A crown protects the tooth:

A crown can prevent these problems by covering and protecting the tooth and restoring its strength and shape.

There are many kinds of crowns, including crowns made of gold, porcelain fused to metal, and all ceramic or porcelain crowns.  We will talk with you about the best one for your situation to help you keep your healthy and beautiful smile.

What are porcelain veneers?

Veneers are thin shells of porcelain that are bonded to the front of your teeth.  They can be a great choice to improve teeth that are stained, crooked, worn, or have gaps.

Veneers can give you straighter, whiter, and more even-looking teeth.  The porcelain has a translucent quality that resembles your natural teeth.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea:

During sleep, many people suffer from problem breathing ranging from mild snoring to a dangerous condition called obstructive sleep apnea.

Snoring is the sound of the soft tissues in the mouth and throat make when they vibrate.  When you sleep, the tongue, soft palate and lower jaw relax and narrow your airway.  This increases the speed of the air flowing through the airway and causes the soft tissues to vibrate, much like air whooshing out of a balloon.

Obstructive sleep apnea causes sufferers to stop breathing periodically during sleep.  The soft tissues collapse against the back of the throat, cutting off the airway for 10 seconds or more.

Lack of oxygen forces you to partially awaken, often with a loud gasp in order to open the airway.  The cycle repeats many times every night, sometimes up to 40 times an hour.

Some of the most commons symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include-

  • Loud snoring, gasping or jerking during sleep.

  • Headache or sore throat.

  • Confusion upon wakening, difficulty concentrating, irritability, or depression.

  • Excessive sleepiness during the day.

  • Cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and congestive heart failure.

How is snoring and sleep apnea treated?

One of the most common treatments for snoring and sleep apnea is a customized oral appliance.  An appliance pulls the lower jaw forward and keeps the airway clear.  To make a custom oral appliance, we take impressions and bite registrations of your teeth.  From these records, precise working models of your teeth are made, and the models are used to create an appliance specific to your needs.

What are canker sores?

Canker sores, also called recurrent aphthous ulcers, are small round sores that form inside the mouth.  They most often appear on the loose tissues of the mouth, like the inside of the lips or cheeks, the underside of the tongue, the floor of the mouth, and sometimes near the tonsils.

They usually begin as a tingling sensation, followed by a white or yellow sore surrounded by a bright rd area.

Pain usually decreased in about a week and the sores heal in 7 to 14 days.  Fortunately, most canker sores are not serious and will soon go away on their own.

No one knows the cause of canker sores, but some experts say that the tendency to get them is inherited.  Another theory is that they may be a result of actions by the body’s immune system.

Certain triggers seem to set off outbreaks, including injury in the mouth, like a bite or cut, toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, emotional stress, hormonal changes, food allergies, and dietary deficiencies, especially of Vitamin B, zinc, folic acid, iron, and selenium.   If you have had a canker sore, you are likely to get one again.  Fortunately, canker sores are not contagious.

There is not cure for canker sores, but you can ease the pain and perhaps reduce how often you get them.  Common remedies include-

  • Using toothpastes and mouthwashes that do not contain sodium lauryl sulfate.

  • Applying over-the-counter remedies that contain numbing agents, like benzocaine or phenol.

  • Rinsing with salt water or an antimicrobial mouthwash.

  • Avoiding spicy, or acidic foods during an outbreak.

  • Working with a healthcare provider to treat any food allergies.

  • Taking a daily multivitamin.

What is Power Whitening?

Power whitening makes it possible to achieve a whiter, brighter smile-right here in our office.

A special light is shined onto the teeth after they have been coated with a whitening gel.  The light works with the gel to release oxygen.  The oxygen penetrates the outer enamel layer and then the dentin layer of the teeth, bleaching away stains and discolored areas.

Your new smile will lighten, on average, 6 to 10 shades.  We may sometimes recommend a fluoride treatment, additional bleaching at home, or another session here in our office.  We’ll also give you instructions for taking care of your new smile and for handling any post-whitening sensitivity.

Power whitening is a safe and effective technology that can help give you a beautiful new smile, all in one appointment.