Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Other

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We want to make it easy for you to become an informed participant in your oral health care. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to help you feel comfortable asking us whenever you have a question. No question is ever silly, and we are here to help you with any concern you happen to have. 

We've gathered some of our most commonly heard questions here for you to look through. If your question isn't answered here or you'd like more information, don't hesitate to give us a call!

Other

A sealant is a term for a preventive procedure where the grooves in tooth’s surface are sealed with a resin dental material.  Most molars (back teeth) have grooves on the biting surfaces and sometimes these grooves extend to the sides of a tooth also.  These grooves can trap small bits of food and bacteria, and even perfect brushing techniques may not be able to remove and clean the deepest portions of these grooves.  Therefore, cavities frequently develop in these areas. 

It is recommended to have any susceptible grooves sealed to prevent cavities.  If there is stain or plaque in the grooves, they are first cleaned out with a tiny dental bur prior to being sealed in with dental material.  The procedure is quick, painless, and helps to prevent cavities from forming in these grooves. 

It is important to note that sealants are not as strong or long-lasting as fillings.  Sometimes a sealant may need to be re-applied if it wears down or comes loose over time.  It is also important to note that although sealants greatly reduce the incidence of cavities, nothing eliminates the possibility altogether.  A diet high in sugars and carbohydrates combined with poor brushing habits can always lead to cavities. 

Tooth sensitivity is very common and can present in different forms such as hot, cold or sweet sensitivity.  Sensitivity to extreme temperatures, or extremely sugary foods like candy, does not necessarily mean there is anything wrong with your teeth.  Some people simply have teeth that are more sensitive than others, with younger people typically having more issues than elderly people.  Sensitivity is also considered a normal side-effect of tooth whitening, but fortunately in almost all cases the sensitivity resolves after the whitening process is completed.  Cavities, cracked teeth, and other dental problems also are associated with sensitivity, so a quick dental examination should be performed to determine the cause.

The most sensitive area on a tooth is usually found at the gumline.  This portion of the tooth has the thinnest enamel and therefore is less "protected" from hot or cold temperatures.  Gum recession is very common and occurs when the gum tissue surrounding the tooth recedes back, leaving a small portion of the root exposed.  These exposed roots have no enamel covering them, and can be extremely sensitive.

There are many products that treat tooth sensitivity, with the most common being toothpastes that contain Potassium Nitrate 5%, such as Sensodyne toothpaste.  Pottasium Nitrate toothpastes work very well when used daily, but results often take a few weeks to be noticed- they rarely provide immediate relief.  Fluoride is also a great desensitizer and over-the-counter fluoride mouthrinses often work well.  There are also varnishes and sensitivity treatments that a dentist can apply to your teeth to provide relief if the over-the-counter products are not sufficient.  If you are unsure of which sensitivity treatment is right for you, ask us at your next visit!

 

White teeth are associated with youth, health, and beauty - it is no surprise that people universally want their teeth to be white!  As people age, the shade of their teeth naturally darkens.  Dark foods and drinks such as red wine, coffee, tea, soda, or dark berries can stain teeth.  Tobacco products are well-known for their ability to turn teeth yellowish-brown.  Fortunately, there are safe, easy products to reverse this color change.  

Many toothpastes claim to be "whitening" products, but in reality they can only remove surface stains, and are not very useful in whitening the actual tooth itself.  Almost all whitening products on the market, both over-the-counter and those provided by a dentist, are a form of hydrogen peroxide, with carbamide peroxide being the most common.  The only significant differences between products is the concentration of the peroxide and the manner in which it is applied to the teeth.   When used as directed, these products will not harm teeth and have been on the market for decades.  Whitening products do cause a significant increase in tooth sensitivity, but this is typically temporary and disappears within weeks of whitening.  Crest WhiteStrips, which is a common over-the-counter whitening product, has the peroxide on a plastic strip that is pressed on to the teeth and allowed to remain there for a set period of time, and this process is usually repeated daily over the course of a week or two.

 Professional products are usually purchased at a dental office and contain much higher concentrations of peroxide.  Our office recommends a process where we take impressions of your mouth, and make custom whitening trays are made to fit exactly over your teeth.  This is a take home system, where in the comfort of your home a gel is placed in the trays, and the trays are placed onto the teeth and allowed to remain for an hour or so.  In some cases, you can even go to sleep with the trays in your mouth to allow them to whiten as you sleep.  After one to two weeks, the results are usually amazing.  It is important to know that only natural teeth will whiten - fillings and other dental work will not.

There is currently no way to whiten your teeth and have the results be permanent.  All whitened teeth will eventually darken again, as various foods and drinks stain them again.  The benefit of having whitening trays is that you can maintain the whiteness of your teeth by performing a once-a-month whitening session (wear the trays for one hour per month).  Extra whitening gel is relatively inexpensive (at least at our office) compared with the original whitening procedure.

Dental X-rays (or radiographs) are one of the main tools dentists use to make a complete diagnosis.  A visual examination by the dentist will reveal much information, but it often impossible to detect small cavities forming between teeth or under old fillings, without the aid of X-rays.  Additionally, radiographs will allow the dentist to see the health of the underlying bone which can indicate the presence of gum disease, also known as periodontitis.  Many other conditions can be found only by taking radiographs.

Radiographs are taken when a problem or issue is suspected, but also should be taken routinely even if everything looks and feels fine.  Depending on a patient's risk factors and past dental health, a set of bitewing radiographs (2-4 small pictures) are recommended every 6 months to 3 years.  Additionally, for most patients a full set of X-rays showing all teeth and oral areas are recommended every 3-5 years.

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