Have questions about dental hygiene and care?
At Dental Care Associates, we've compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions about dental hygiene and care. Keep reading to learn more!
Frequently Asked Questions
Please plan at least 1 hour for your first visit. The length may vary depending on your specific needs.
Each of our offices makes every accommodation possible for patients with disabilities. Please call the specific office you would like to visit for specific accessibility information.
Generally speaking, adults and children should visit the dentist every six months for an exam and cleaning. Certain patients may require more frequent visits to maintain optimal oral health. Visiting the dentist "only when it hurts" may cause more extensive and expensive dental care.
Yes, it is important to continue to have dental checkups every six months if you have braces. Food may be caught in places your toothbrush cannot reach, and this will cause bacteria to build up. This can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease.
A dentist should treat a serious injury like a knocked-out tooth. Carefully rinse the tooth to remove any dirt and place the clean tooth in your mouth between your cheek and gum or under your tongue. If you cannot do so, wrap the tooth in a clean cloth and immerse it in milk. Successful re-implantation can be possible if the treatment is performed promptly, so get to your dentist as soon as possible.
Our dentists will take your health history, complete an exam, and create a personalized treatment plan just for you. X-rays will be taken, and the doctor will examine your entire mouth to evaluate your overall oral health. Your treatment plan will make recommendations for your long-term health as well as plans to fix any immediate problems.
It is important to brush your teeth twice a day and floss as well!
Replace your toothbrush every three months. It is recommended that patients with periodontal disease replace their toothbrushes every four to six weeks. If you have been sick, be sure to replace your toothbrush as soon as possible. It is recommended to read the instructions for replacement guides for electric toothbrushes as they may need to be replaced more frequently.
Sealants are a thin plastic coating painted on chewing surfaces of molars and premolars. They act as a barrier, protecting your teeth against decay-causing bacteria. The sealant bonds to the grooves in your teeth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth. Sealants have proven effective at preventing cavities in adults as well as children but are most commonly used on children. Ask your dentist whether sealants are a good choice for your family.
Flossing reduces the number of bacteria in your mouth. There are millions of these microscopic creatures feeding on food particles left on your teeth. These bacteria live in plaque which can be removed by flossing. Brushing your teeth gets rid of some of the bacteria in your mouth. Flossing gets rid of the bacteria the toothbrush can't get to. That's the bacteria hiding in the tiny spaces between your teeth. If you do not floss, you allow plaque to remain between your teeth, and eventually, it may harden into calculus/tartar. Plaque can be removed by brushing. Only the dentist or dental hygienist can remove calculus/tartar. Ask your dental professional to show you the proper way to floss. You will both notice the difference at the next cleaning appointment.
A dentist uses a filling to fill a cavity. First, all tooth decay is removed, and then a synthetic material is used to fill the hole. A filling can be made from a variety of different materials, including composites, gold, or ceramic, and can be made to match the color of your teeth.
A cavity is a small hole on the surface of your tooth caused by tooth decay. Cavities form when plaque builds up on your tooth and combines with sugar from the foods you eat, creating an acid that eats away the enamel on your tooth. If a cavity is left untreated, it can lead to more serious oral health problems. Cavities can be prevented by brushing and flossing regularly.
Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when the dentist examines the mouth. An X-ray examination may reveal: small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing restorations (fillings), infections in the bone, periodontal (gum) disease, abscesses or cysts, developmental abnormalities, and some types of tumors. Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save time, money, and often unnecessary discomfort. X-rays can detect damage to oral structures not visible during a regular exam. If you have a hidden tumor, X-rays may even help save your life. Your dentist will evaluate your need for X-rays based on your conditions and dental history. There are many benefits to having X-rays taken. Any additional questions or concerns should be discussed with your dentist.
A Dental Emergency is any problem related to the teeth, gums or tongue which causes extreme discomfort, severe pain or bleeding.
Bad breath (halitosis) can be an unpleasant and embarrassing condition. Many of us may not realize that we have bad breath, but everyone has it from time to time, especially in the morning.
There are various reasons one may have bad breath, but in healthy people, the major reason is due to microbial deposits on the tongue, especially the back of the tongue. Some studies have shown that simply brushing the tongue reduced bad breath by as much as 70 percent.
What may cause bad breath?
- Morning time – Saliva flow almost stops during sleep and its reduced cleansing action allows bacteria to grow, causing bad breath.
- Certain foods – Garlic, onions, etc. Foods containing odor-causing compounds enter the bloodstream; they are transferred to the lungs, where they are exhaled.
- Poor oral hygiene habits – Food particles remaining in the mouth promote bacterial growth.
- Periodontal (gum) disease – Colonies of bacteria and food debris residing under inflamed gums.
- Dental cavities and improperly fitted dental appliances – May also contribute to bad breath.
- Dry mouth (Xerostomia) – May be caused by certain medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous mouth breathing.
- Tobacco products – Dry the mouth, causing bad breath.
- Dieting – Certain chemicals called ketones are released in the breath as the body burns fat.
- Dehydration, hunger, and missed meals – Drinking water and chewing food increases saliva flow and washes bacteria away.
- Certain medical conditions and illnesses – Diabetes, liver and kidney problems, chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia are several conditions that may contribute to bad breath.
Keeping a record of what you eat may help identify the cause of bad breath. Also, review your current medications, recent surgeries, or illnesses with your dentist.
What can I do to prevent bad breath?
- Practice good oral hygiene – Brush at least twice a day with an ADA approved fluoride toothpaste and toothbrush. Floss daily to remove food debris and plaque from in between the teeth and under the gumline. Brush or use a tongue scraper to clean the tongue and reach the back areas. Replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months. If you wear dentures or removable bridges, clean them thoroughly and place them back in your mouth in the morning.
- See your dentist regularly – Get a check-up and cleaning at least twice a year. If you have or have had periodontal disease, your dentist will recommend more frequent visits.
- Stop smoking/chewing tobacco – Ask your dentist what they recommend to help break the habit.
- Drink water frequently – Water will help keep your mouth moist and wash away bacteria.
- Use mouthwash/rinses – Some over-the-counter products only provide a temporary solution to mask unpleasant mouth odor. Ask your dentist about antiseptic rinses that not only alleviate bad breath, but also kill the germs that cause the problem.
In most cases, your dentist can treat the cause of bad breath. If it is determined that your mouth is healthy, but bad breath is persistent, your dentist may refer you to your physician to determine the cause of the odor and an appropriate treatment plan.
Over the years there has been some concern as to the safety of amalgam (silver) fillings. An amalgam is a blend of copper, silver, tin and zinc, bound by elemental mercury. Dentists have used this blended metal to fill teeth for more than 100 years. The controversy is due to claims that the exposure to the vapor and minute particles from the mercury can cause a variety of health problems.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), up to 76% of dentists use silver containing mercury to fill teeth. The ADA also states that silver fillings are safe and that studies have failed to find any link between silver containing mercury and any medical disorder.
The general consensus is that amalgam (silver) fillings are safe. Along with the ADA’s position, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization, the FDA, and others support the use of silver fillings as safe, durable, and cost effective. The U.S. Public Health Service says that the only reason not to use silver fillings is when a patient has an allergy to any component of this type of filling. The ADA has had fewer than 100 reported incidents of an allergy to components of silver fillings, and this is out of countless millions of silver fillings over the decades.
Although studies indicate that there are no measurable health risks to patients who have silver fillings, we do know that mercury is a toxic material when we are exposed at high, unsafe levels. For instance, we have been warned to limit the consumption of certain types of fish that carry high levels of mercury in them. However, with respect to amalgam fillings, the ADA maintains that when the mercury combines with the other components of the filling, it becomes an inactive substance that is safe.
There are numerous options to silver fillings, including composite (tooth-colored), porcelain, and gold fillings. We encourage you to discuss these options with your dentist so you can determine which is the best option for you.
Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don’t know it! Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages. Unlike tooth decay, which often causes discomfort, it is possible to have periodontal disease without noticeable symptoms. Having regular dental check-ups and periodontal examinations are very important and will help detect if periodontal problems exist.
Periodontal disease begins when plaque, a sticky, colorless, film of bacteria, food debris, and saliva, is left on the teeth and gums. The bacteria produce toxins (acids) that inflame the gums and slowly destroy the bone. Brushing and flossing regularly and properly will ensure that plaque is not left behind to do its damage.
Other than poor oral hygiene, there are several other factors that may increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco – Tobacco users are more likely than nonusers to form plaque and tartar on their teeth.
- Certain tooth or appliance conditions – Bridges that no longer fit properly, crowded teeth, or defective fillings that may trap plaque and bacteria.
- Many medications – Steroids, cancer therapy drugs, blood pressure meds, oral contraceptives. Some medications have side effects that reduce saliva, making the mouth dry and plaque easier to adhere to the teeth and gums.
- Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and puberty – Can cause changes in hormone levels, causing gum tissue to become more sensitive to bacteria toxins.
- Systemic diseases – Diabetes, blood cell disorders, HIV / AIDS, etc.
- Genetics may play a role – Some patients may be predisposed to a more aggressive type of periodontitis. Patients with a family history of tooth loss should pay particular attention to their gums.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
- Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
- Bleeding gums – Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
- Persistent bad breath – Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
- New spacing between teeth – Caused by bone loss.
- Loose teeth – Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
- Pus around the teeth and gums – Sign that there is an infection present.
- Receding gums – Loss of gum around a tooth.
- Tenderness or Discomfort – Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.
Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.
Many people are unaware that having periodontal disease (the destruction of gum tissue and bone that hold our teeth in place) can affect your overall health. Periodontal disease is one of the most common infections; often more prevalent than the common cold! Periodontal disease is not only the number one reason people lose teeth; it can also affect the health of your body!
Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection, and in its earliest stages, it’s called gingivitis. It starts when an accumulation of plaque (a colony of bacteria, food debris, and saliva) is NOT regularly removed from the gums and teeth. The bacteria in plaque produce toxins/acids that irritate and infect the gums and eventually destroy the jaw bone that supports the teeth. When periodontal disease is not treated it can eventually lead to tooth loss!
There are numerous studies that have looked into the correlation between gum disease and major medical conditions. These studies suggest people with periodontal disease are at a greater risk of systemic disease and indicate that periodontal disease may cause oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and travel to major organs and begin new infections. Research suggests that periodontal bacteria in the bloodstream may:
- Contribute to the development of heart disease
- Increase the risk of stroke
- Compromise the health of those that have diabetes or respiratory diseases
- Increase a woman’s risk of having a preterm, low-birth weight baby
Researchers conclude there is still much research to be done to understand the link between periodontal disease and systemic diseases, but enough research has been done to support that infections in the mouth can play havoc elsewhere in the body.
To ensure a healthy, disease-free mouth, we recommend the importance of regular dental check-ups and cleanings, which include a periodontal evaluation. Also, diligent home care and a proper diet can help reduce the plaque and bacteria in the mouth.
Remember….the mouth body connection! Taking care of your oral health may contribute to your overall medical health!
We’re all at risk for having a tooth knocked out. More than 5 million teeth are knocked out every year! If we know how to handle this emergency situation, we may be able to actually save the tooth. Teeth that are knocked out may be possibly reimplanted if we act quickly, yet calmly, and follow these simple steps:
- Locate the tooth and handle it only by the crown (chewing part of the tooth), NOT by the roots.
- DO NOT scrub or use soap or chemicals to clean the tooth. If it has dirt or debris on it, rinse it gently with your own saliva or whole milk. If that is not possible, rinse it very gently with water.
- Get to a dentist within 30 minutes. The longer you wait, the less chance there is for successful replantation.
Ways to transport the tooth
- Try to replace the tooth back in its socket immediately. Gently bite down on gauze, a wet tea bag or on your own teeth to keep the tooth in place. Apply a cold compress to the mouth for pain and swelling as needed.
- If the tooth cannot be placed back into the socket, place the tooth in a container and cover with a small amount of your saliva or whole milk. You can also place the tooth under your tongue or between your lower lip and gums. Keep the tooth moist at all times. Do not transport the tooth in a tissue or cloth.
- Consider buying a “Save-A-Tooth” storage container and keeping it as part of your home first aid kit. The kit is available in many pharmacies and contains a travel case and fluid solution for easy tooth transport.
The sooner the tooth is replaced back into the socket, the greater the likelihood it has to survive and possibly last for many years. So be prepared, and remember these simple steps for saving a knocked-out tooth.
You can prevent broken or knocked-out teeth by:
- Wearing a mouthguard when playing sports
- Always wearing your seatbelt
- Avoiding fights
- Avoid chewing hard items such as ice, popcorn kernels, hard breads, etc.
Straighter teeth perform chewing, biting and speaking functions more effectively than crooked teeth. In addition, a straight smile boosts confidence, is aesthetically pleasing to look at, and can help stave off a wide variety of dental ailments.
There are several types of malocclusion including overbite, underbite, crossbite, and overcrowding. Each of these alignment problems negatively impacts the functionality and cosmetic appearance of the teeth.
Here is a brief overview of some of the main disorders associated with crooked teeth:
Periodontitis – Periodontitis or gum disease begins with a bacterial infection. The bacterial infection is caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Crooked teeth are hard to clean effectively, which means that debris, plaque and bacteria can build up in hard-to-reach areas. Straight teeth are much easier to clean and are at less risk of contracting gum disease.
Temporomandibular Disorder (TMJ) - Crooked teeth can lead to improper jaw alignment, which in turn causes a painful condition known as TMJ. Severe headaches, jaw pain, lockjaw and the grinding of teeth characterize this debilitating disorder.
Tooth injury – Straight teeth create a strong wall, which means injuries are less likely to occur. Crooked teeth are weaker and often protrude, making them far more vulnerable to external injury.
Uneven wear – Crooked teeth cause some of the teeth to work harder than others when biting and chewing. Straight teeth share the workload evenly, meaning less risk of injury and better aesthetics.
Teeth can be straightened using either orthodontic braces or customized aligning trays. Orthodontic braces are usually affixed to the teeth for a set duration. The brackets and archwires are tightened regularly by the orthodontist and removed when treatment is complete. Fixed braces can be placed on the front side or back side of the teeth and are effective for most types of malocclusion.
Aligning trays are fully removable and are used where the malocclusion is less severe, and the teeth need to move a shorter distance. These trays are replaced every few weeks for the duration of the treatment, and have proven to be equally effective for straightening teeth.
If you have questions about orthodontics and straightening teeth, please ask your orthodontist.