Frequently Asked Questions
I don't have a toothache, and I brush and floss regularly. Do I really need a check-up? +
Biannual teeth cleanings performed by a skilled dental hygienist are central to keeping teeth and gums looking, feeling and functioning well. If you have gum disease, more frequent visits to the dentist will probably be recommended for your oral and overall health.
During cleanings, plaque and calculus (more commonly known as tartar) are removed from teeth. Plaque is a sticky deposit on teeth in which bacteria grow, and tartar is basically calcified or hardened plaque, which is more difficult to remove. Tartar that has accumulated under the gumline often requires more extensive treatment than a standard cleaning. Hygienists also polish teeth, floss (partly to test the condition of gums, to see if they bleed), and document any bleeding, stains or areas of concern.
Exams with a dentist enable problems to be diagnosed and treated before they grow to be more serious and painful (not to mention more expensive to treat). A typical dentist exam includes a visual assessment of teeth and occlusion (bite), along with an appraisal of current restorations. When x-rays have been taken, your dentist will carefully review them to identify areas of decay and possible cysts, tumors and other abnormalities. Digital panoramic x-rays are especially beneficial to this process. Your dentist will also perform a general screening for early detection of gum disease and oral cancer.
In between cleanings and exams at a dental office, brushing teeth at least twice a day (in the morning and at night) is the most important thing you can do to take care of your teeth. Brushing after every meal is even better, if you can. If not, chewing sugar-free gum after meals can get food particles out of teeth. Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner, and remember to brush your tongue. Brushing your tongue, especially the back areas, can make a big difference in how clean your mouth feels and smells. Restorations, such as bridges and partial dentures, should be cleaned thoroughly, too, just like natural teeth. Toothbrushes should be replaced every two to three months.
If my filling is still in place and my tooth does not hurt, why does my dentist want to replace the filling? +
Constant pressure from chewing, grinding and/or clenching can cause dental fillings to wear away, chip, and even crack. If the seal between the tooth enamel and the filling breaks down, food particles and decay-causing bacteria can work their way under the filling. You then run the risk of developing deeper decay, which if left untreated can lead to an infection, an abscess or even tooth loss. Biannual dental checkups enable us to monitor areas of concern and help keep you in optimal oral health.
When restorations are large, or if recurrent decay is extensive, there might not be enough remaining tooth structure to support a replacement filling. In these cases, we may need to replace the filling with a natural looking porcelain crown.
How can cosmetic dentistry improve my life? +
Studies show that a healthy and attractive smile can raise self-esteem, increase confidence and help you make better first impressions on others. Sometimes it doesn’t take much treatment for you to feel MUCH better about your smile, and there are many subtle, yet noticeable ways that we can help you enhance it. We also offer more complex treatments and combinations of procedures, often called smile makeovers, that can give you the smile of your dreams.
Advancements in dental technology have made it possible for us to address a wide variety of issues affecting smile appearance. Some common cosmetic dentistry treatments include teeth whitening, cosmetic bonding and enamel shaping, porcelain veneers, bridges, and 6 Month Smiles® adult braces. Replacing worn amalgam (silver) fillings with tooth-colored fillings is also a cosmetic procedure, as it improves both the health and the appearance of teeth. Really, all dental treatment aimed to improve the appearance of your teeth, gum shape, and smile can be considered cosmetic in nature.
I have crooked teeth, but I feel like metal braces are for kids. Are there other options? +
Metal braces can be a hassle and can take between two to three years of treatment to fully realign your teeth. Advancements in orthodontics are helping adults fit braces into their lives and giving them the smiles they've always wanted.
Six Month Smiles® is an accelerated orthodontic treatment that gives you great results in less time than traditional braces. Six Month Smiles uses clear brackets and thin, tooth-colored wires to straighten the teeth that show when you smile. Because they are not intended to completely change your bite, these braces use low force and do not cause dramatic changes to the roots or underlying structures. The average treatment lasts only 4-9 months, and after you’ve completed treatment you will be fitted with a retainer to ensure the longevity of your beautiful new smile.
Six Month Smiles is a conservative, inexpensive and efficient way to get the smile you've always wanted. It’s a great option for patients with mild to moderately crowded teeth, widely spaced teeth, overbites, crossbites and underbites Ask us about your options! A beautiful new smile could be closer than you think.
What is "comprehensive dentistry"? +
Our aim is to have all concerns and issues known and resolved before an emergency occurs. After all, it’s never a good time for a toothache or a broken tooth! We see patients for many reasons with many different needs, from routine preventive care and dental emergencies to life changing restorative and cosmetic treatments.
A large part of comprehensive dentistry is the development and fulfillment of ongoing maintenance plans, which helps minimize the chance of original problems reoccurring. After your exam and consultation, we will work with you to customize a treatment plan that fits your individual needs and budget. Good oral hygiene at home is also important, but man cannot live by toothbrush alone. In-office exams are critical to keeping your smile healthy, because your dental team has the ability to remove plaque your toothbrush can’t. Panoramic x-rays and intraoral cameras help them monitor structures that aren’t always obvious to the naked eye.
In a way, comprehensive care really refers to our commitment to the present and the future of your smile. Not only do we want to keep it healthy, we want to make it beautiful, and make it last.
A couple of my teeth have been worn down and need to be replaced. Should I opt for crowns? +
Crowns cover teeth to restore them to their appropriate shape and size after they’ve been altered by large fillings, fractures or weakening forces such as intense grinding. In all of these cases, crowns not only cover teeth but provide added support as well. Crowns can also be used to attach bridges, cover dental implants, restore seriously discolored or misshapen teeth and even as a preventive measure to protect a tooth in danger of breaking. Crowns can be made of all-porcelain (ceramic) material, porcelain fused to metal (for added strength), gold alloys (high noble), or base metal alloys (non-noble). Each material has its advantages and disadvantages. All-porcelain restorations most closely mimic natural tooth appearance, but because their strength depends on adequate porcelain thickness, they tend to require more extensive preparation. Porcelain fused to metal alloy restorations are tooth-colored and stronger than all-porcelain crowns. Gold alloy crowns are very strong and wear resistant, but they do not match natural teeth. Base metal alloy crowns are similar to gold for strength and durability; however, allergy to the non-noble base metals may be an issue with some patients.
Crowns can be placed in as few as two appointments. Porcelain crowns can take more visits to prepare the tooth and get the color of the restoration just right, but the natural looking results are worth it to most patients. Crowns in general are very strong restorations, and if they’re placed in the early stages of decay, they can even reduce your risk of needing a root canal or dental implant in the future.
Despite their excellent restorative capabilities, crowns have few disadvantages. Since they are more extensive restorations than fillings, their relative cost is higher. However, if our doctors recommend a crown it is because we want to help you keep your teeth healthy and looking good for years to come. Due to normal wear, most crowns will eventually need to be re-cemented or replaced. Six to nine percent of teeth that are damaged enough to need a crown eventually require a root canal.
Is smoking really that bad for my teeth? +
Smoking isn’t just bad for your teeth—it affects the health of your entire mouth, especially your gums. Lighting up stains your teeth, causes bad breath, and promotes the buildup of plaque and tartar. Cigarette smoking is also one of the leading causes of tooth loss. Worst of all, smoking has been linked to the development of periodontal disease and may lead to the permanent loss of taste and smell. Smokers also tend to require more dental treatment due to the damage done by smoking, but procedures such as dental implants and oral surgeries tend to be less successful in smokers due to damaged gum tissue. This can result in a higher cost of dental healthcare and more frequent and complicated procedures.
Pipes and cigars aren't any safer, causing similar rates of tooth and bone loss even if the smoke is not inhaled. Smokeless tobacco products like snuff and chewing tobacco also pose great health risks to your gums, increasing your risk for both oral cancer and cancers of the throat, esophagus and lips. Additionally, they contain a significant amount of sugar, which when pressed against your teeth for long periods of time can lead to tooth decay.
So what’s the verdict on tobacco? Seek help on how to quit using it, or just don’t start.
I know certain foods are bad for my teeth. But are there any that are GOOD for them? +
In fact, there are! Milk products, nuts, chicken and other meats contain calcium and phosphorous, which have been proven to strengthen bones and protect enamel. Calcium is essential for bone development, and while your teeth do not directly absorb it, a stronger jawbone leads to healthy gums, and healthy gums make healthy teeth. Fruits and vegetables are just as good for your teeth as they are for your body, especially firm, crunchy ones with a high water content (apples, pears). Water is critical for your oral health, as it rinses away food particles and keeps your mouth and gums moist. Dehydration can cause dry mouth, which makes your teeth more prone to bacterial growth and bad breath.
As most people know, foods high in sugar tend to stick to teeth and can lead to decay. What many people don't know is that almost all foods contain some form of sugar–even milk products and fruit–so you can't cut it out completely, and you wouldn't want to. The most important part of the "dentist diet" is brushing your teeth after each meal. If you do snack between meals, especially on starchy or sweet foods, and cannot brush, drink plenty of water or chew gum to loosen any residue. For those of us out there with a sweet tooth, don't despair: not all sweet snacks are off-limits. Chewing sugar-free gum that contains xylitol can actually prevent cavities.
What should I do in case of a dental emergency? +
Accidents happen, and especially when they involve our teeth and mouths, they can be pretty frightening. It's important to know when home care will suffice and when a trip to the dentist is necessary, so here are some guidelines to help you through common situations:
Toothache/Sore Gums. Rinse with warm water to remove any food or debris; if you notice anything lodged between teeth, floss to remove it. Take an over the counter pain medication (but never apply the medication directly to tooth or gums), and see your dentist if the pain persists.
Chipped Tooth. Save the pieces, if you can, and rinse them thoroughly. Apply an ice pack or a cold compress to the swollen lip or gum tissue near the chipped tooth to prevent swelling. If the area is bleeding, apply gauze for ten minutes, or until the bleeding has stopped. See your dentist as soon as possible.
Broken Tooth. With recent advancements in restorative and cosmetic dentistry, you might not lose your tooth. If there’s enough remaining healthy tooth structure, a dentist can create a crown that will “grab onto” your natural tooth, eliminating the need for root removal. While the success of this process, known as “crown lengthening,” depends on the severity of the break, it’s worth asking about options other than complete removal.
Knocked Out Tooth. Depending on the situation, find the tooth and, holding it by the crown only, rinse it briefly with warm water. If possible, gently reinsert the tooth into the socket and bite down on gauze or cloth to keep it in place. If you cannot reinsert it, place it in a container of milk or salt-water. See your dentist as soon as possible—if treated within 2 hours, the tooth may be salvaged.
Soft Tissue Injuries. Our gums, cheeks, lips and tongue tend to bleed heavily because the tissues contain a great deal of blood flow. To control the bleeding, first rinse with a warm, mild salt water solution. Apply pressure with gauze or a moistened towel for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterwards, to reduce swelling and help stop residual bleeding, apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth. In the event of a serious soft tissue injury, in which the bleeding is profuse or the damage is visibly traumatic, it's best to stay calm, keep applying pressure, and go to the emergency room.
Am I candidate for dental implant restorations? +
Dr. Johnson and Dr. Bush work hard to stay on the leading-edge of restorative dentistry. If you struggle with ill-fitting, uncomfortable dentures or a retainer with false teeth, dental implants can give your smile a second chance. Quickly becoming the preferred method of replacing missing teeth, implants can help stabilize dentures, replace one or multiple missing teeth, and can even be used in conjunction with crowns and bridges.Dental implants are not only more durable and long-lasting than removable tooth replacements, but they also look and feel more like natural teeth. Most importantly, they function like natural teeth, so you can chew, talk and smile with confidence again. Because the implant procedure allows for more of your healthy tooth structure to be saved, fixed implants can even prevent bone loss.Many patients suffering from advanced tooth decay, root canal failure, trauma to the mouth, or just extreme natural wear and tear on teeth are benefiting from this revolutionary option in restorative dentistry. However, there are still some things to consider before you decide on dental implants. For example, they are best performed after adolescence, when the teeth and jaw bone are fully developed. Additionally, the implant procedure can be more complicated for individuals with periodontal (gum) disease, active diabetes, immune deficiencies, and for patients who smoke. To ensure that you get the treatment that’s right for you, keep Dr. Bush and his team informed and up-to-date about your entire medical history and dental habits.
I have a recurring pain where my jaw meets my temple, and sometimes my jaw clicks when I chew. What's the problem? +
You could be suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD, which affects the flexibility and function of the temporal jaw joint and surrounding muscles. Because this area controls bite, speech, chewing, and all other jaw movements, the pain can be severe.
TMD has been associated with a number of different causes, but the most common factor is the bite itself. A misaligned bite can place pressure on the jaw joint, forcing the muscles to work overtime in effort to correctly align the upper and lower jaws. This not only compromises the function of your jaw, but it can cause a good deal of fatigue and pain in the facial muscles. Headaches, toothaches, and jaw clenching, popping, or locking are all common symptoms of TMD. TMD can also occur after a jolting face injury which causes a normally aligned jaw joint to become damaged or repositioned.
Professional treatment of TMD ranges from minor fixes to surgical options. If your dentist determines that the main cause of your discomfort is an irregular bite, he or she may recommend a retainer-style mouthguard, or even a reshaping of the biting surfaces of your teeth, to subtly change the way your upper and lower jaws meet. If it's a structural issue occurring in your jaw bone (especially if your TMD is a result of injury), you may benefit from surgery. When it comes to TMD treatment, it's important to choose the most conservative plan for your individual needs.
In the meantime, alleviating the pain through treating the symptoms can give you some relief. Heating pads or cold compresses can reduce swelling, and limiting your jaw movement (for example, cutting especially chewy foods out of your diet) can stop the clicking or popping. Massages can temporarily relieve muscle tension, and painkillers (medicated or over the counter) can reduce inflammation and make you more comfortable.
I've heard a lot about laser dentistry lately. What is it, and what is it used for? +
Laser technology has truly reinvented many dental procedures. Not only are dental lasers remarkably precise, but they can also shorten procedure time, minimize pain and speed the healing process of many treatments. Even better, lasers are just as useful in common procedures as they are in complicated ones, and they’ve been incorporated into everything from cavity detection and fillings to delicate periodontal surgery. During routine cleanings or surgical procedures, lasers can reduce or completely eliminate the need for drills, scalpels, anesthesia and sutures. Surgery without sutures carries less risk of infection and need for repeat visits.
Just as doctors use different scalpels for different procedures, dentists have different lasers for the various surfaces in your mouth. There are lasers for detecting the early stages of decay, for teeth whitening, and for surgical procedures. Hard tissue lasers are used on teeth and bone, to prepare teeth for certain treatments, remove decayed areas, or repair fillings. Soft tissue lasers are better suited for gum, cheek and tongue tissue, and because they seal blood vessels in the process, these lasers can reduce the pain and healing time associated with surgery.
The Academy of Laser Dentistry (ALD) has been actively researching technology and developing standards of excellence since 1993, and is dedicated to educating and certifying dentists internationally in the safe use of laser technology. Though most experts agree that lasers are the future of dentistry, it’s estimated that only around 6% of dentists currently use some form of laser dentistry in their offices. With more dentists getting certified every year, though, it’s well worth searching for one near you.
What are the benefits of a dental radiograph (x-ray) examination? +
X-rays, also known as radiographs, are commonly used in dental exams of patients of all ages. Panoramic x-rays provide a complete overview of all the teeth as well as the roots, upper and lower jawbones, sinuses, and other hard surfaces in the mouth. Many problems with teeth and the surrounding tissues cannot be seen when we visually examine your mouth. An x-ray examination is needed to reveal:
Small areas of decay between teeth or below existing restorations
Infections in the mouth bones
Abscesses, cysts and certain types of tumors
We use digital x-rays in our careful diagnosis and screening procedures. If it’s been some time since you last had dental x-rays taken, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the comfort, speed and safety of digital technology. Because digital x-rays don’t require any chemical processing, the images are available on your computer screen within seconds and you don’t have to bite down on sharp pieces of x-ray film. Even better, some studies suggest that digital x-rays emit up to 90% less radiation than conventional x-rays.
Is professional teeth whitening safe? +
You have a wide variety of options when it comes to whitening your teeth. Depending on your schedule and your brightening expectations, you and your dentist can decide which is best for you. With in-office whitening, you can get a brighter smile in about an hour. We also offer convenient take home whitening kits that help you achieve the professional results you want in the comfort of your living room.Teeth whitening is completely safe, and some products, including certain whitening toothpastes and take-home kits available through us, have been evaluated and approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). While having the ADA seal of acceptance is a good sign, many safe and effective products don't have an ADA seal simply because their manufacturers did not seek one. Bleaching is not recommended for children under 16, as their teeth are still developing, and is also not recommended for women who are pregnant.The most common side effect of teeth whitening is sensitivity. It’s usually temporary and subsides soon after you've stopped using the product.
When I floss, my gums bleed. If they don’t hurt and my teeth look fine, is it really a big deal? +
If your gums are not sore, it's safe to assume the bleeding is not the result of hard brushing or flossing. Bleeding gums with no apparent cause are always a warning sign, and they usually indicate some level of gum disease. Gingivitis (inflamed, bleeding gums) is the first stage of gum disease, but if it’s caught early, it can be treated and even reversed. The first lines of treatment for gingivitis are lifestyle changes. Poor oral hygiene, smoking, uncontrolled diabetes and high levels of stress can all contribute to gingivitis. Choosing a toothbrush with soft bristles can ease gum damage, too, and regular dental cleanings help control plaque and tooth decay. It's important to stop gingivitis before it progresses, as studies have shown that many serious illnesses are associated with gum disease. Heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis have all been linked to poor oral health.
Though not the first suspect in a simple case of bleeding gums, oral cancer is also a possibility. Oral cancer can be difficult to diagnose because many of its signs also point to other medical conditions. They include sores on the soft tissues, difficulty swallowing or moving the jaw, bleeding gums or cheeks, and a continuous pain in the mouth. If your dentist finds no other causes for your bleeding gums, he or she may recommend a visit to a specialist.
Regular check-ups are vital to cancer prevention, as are good oral hygiene, avoiding tobacco, and maintaining a balanced diet. Inform your dentist if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms. You’d go to the doctor if a cut on your hand were infected—do your gums the same service!