Frequently Asked Questions
A: The brand of the toothbrush is not as critical as the type of bristle and the size of the head. A soft toothbrush with a small head is recommended because medium and hard brushes tend to cause irritation and contribute to recession of the gums, and a small head allows you to get around each tooth more completely and is less likely to injure your gums. It's unnecessary to "scrub" the teeth as long as you are brushing at least twice a day and visiting your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings.
A: Generally, no. However, it's advisable to use a fluoride containing toothpaste to decrease the incidence of dental decay. We recommend our patients use what tastes good to them as long as it contains fluoride.
A: Flossing of the teeth once per day helps to prevent cavities from forming between the teeth where your toothbrush can't reach. Flossing also helps to keep your gums healthy.
A: A regular cleaning is known as a prophylaxis in dental terms. The ADA describes a prophylaxis as removal of plaque, calculus and stains from the tooth structures not affected by bone loss. (Typically the crowns of the teeth). Calculus is also known as tartar and is a hard, mineralized deposit, somewhat like cement, that is formed from the plaque in the mouth and the minerals in a person's saliva. Plaque is a soft, sticky substance that forms on teeth, regardless of what types of foods are eaten, which is composed of bacteria and bacterial by-products. A regular cleaning is recommended for persons who do not have any bone loss, periodontal disease, or infection around their teeth.
A root planing procedure removes bacteria and their toxins, tartar, and diseased deposits from the surfaces of tooth roots. Scraping or scaling is required the full length of the root surface, down to where the root, gum and bone meet. Root planing is typically one of the first steps in treating gum and bone disease (periodonal disease). It is an inflammation and infection of the supporting structures of the teeth (gums, bone, ligaments, root surfaces) that eventually results in the loss of teeth. You may notice your gums bleed easily, that you have a bad taste in your mouth, that your gums appear red or swollen, that your teeth appear longer or have shifted. Or you may not notice anything at all.
A periodontal maintenance is a procedure following root planing. After the disease process is under control, a regular cleaning is not appropriate anymore. Instead, you will require special on-going gum and bone care procedures to keep your mouth healthy. Removal of plaque and calculus from the supra and subgingival regions means that any deposits and/or bacteria that are in place either above or below the gum line are scaled away. Typically, an interval of three months between appointments is effective, but more frequent appointments may be needed. As in many other chronic conditions, successful long-term control of the disease and prevention of tooth loss depends on continual, and possibly life-time maintenance.
A: The old system of everyone having their teeth cleaned only twice a year has fallen out of favor. In fact, many believe that the idea actually came from the recommendations of a 1940 toothpaste advertisement! While some people may be able to maintain their dental health with semi-annual cleanings, many patients find that their mouths and teeth stay in better shape when they have their teeth cleaned more frequently. Many dentists and hygienists are now setting up a patient's cleaning schedule based on their personal needs. This may be as often as four times a year.
A: Dental insurance isn't really insurance (a payment to cover the cost of a loss) at all. It is actually a money benefit, typically provided by an employer, to help their employees pay for routine dental treatment. The employer usually buys a plan based on the amount of the benefit and how much the premium costs per month. Most benefit plans are only designed to cover a portion of the total cost of a person's necessary dental treatment. For example, a dentist may recommend a crown for a tooth that has extensive decay, however, the dental plan may only cover the cost of a filling. This does not mean that the patient does not need a crown, only that the benefit is limited to a filling. Most plans typically pay a minimum regardless of what you may need. It is a mistake to let benefits be your sole consideration when you make decisions about your dental condition. People who have lost their teeth often say that they would pay any amount of money to get them back.
A: These are restorations to repair a severely broken tooth by covering all or most of the tooth after removing old fillings, fractured tooth structure, and all decay. The restoration material is made of gold, porcelain, composites, or even stainless steel. Dentists refer to all of these restorations as "crowns". However, patients often refer to the tooth-colored ones as "caps" and the gold or stainless steel ones as "crowns".
A: Both bridges and partial dentures replace missing teeth. A bridge is permanently attached to abutment teeth or, in some cases, implants. A partial denture is attached by clasps to the teeth and is easily removed by the patient. Patients are usually more satisfied with bridges than with partial dentures.
A: Although the U.S. Public Health Service issued a report in 1993 stating there is no health reason not to use amalgam (silver fillings), more patients today are requesting "white" or tooth-colored composite fillings. We also prefer tooth-colored fillings because they "bond" to the tooth structure and therefore help strengthen a tooth weakened by decay. While fillings are also usually less sensitive to temperature, and they also look better. However, "white" fillings cannot be used in every situation, and if a tooth is very badly broken-down, a crown will usually be necessary and provide better overall satisfaction for the patient.
A: No. While most teeth which have had root canal treatments do need crowns to strengthen the teeth and to return the teeth to normal form and function, not every tooth needing a crown also needs to have a root canal.