Commonly Asked Questions

Does bleaching damage the teeth?

No. Bleaching does not weaken or damage the teeth. Whitening occurs when the whitening agent contacts water, and hydrogen peroxide, is released.

Do over-the-counter bleaching products work?

There are some over-the-counter products that work well for some patients. There are also some that are too abrasive and can damage the enamel if not used properly. Your dentist can provide you with the safest and most effective whitening options.

What are porcelain veneers and why are they used?

Porcelain veneers are a popular cosmetic restoration. A dental veneer is a thin, porcelain shell, custom made in a dental lab, and then permanently bonded to the front surface of the tooth.

Veneers are used to change the appearance of a tooth or teeth caused by discoloration, excessive wear, chips or breakage, irregular shape or to help close gaps.

What causes my jaw to pop when I open it?

Many people experience a "pop" in their jaw when they open their mouth too wide. Typically this is caused when the jaw bone "pops" off the pad or disk which separates the jaw bone from the base of the skull. No treatment is required unless the jaw locks, or if there is excessive pain associated with the" popping".

What causes tooth decay?

Tooth decay is caused by the acid formed when the sugary/starchy foods react with plaque build-up on the teeth. Over time, the enamel of the tooth is weakened and decay forms.

What can be done for ulcers or canker sores in the mouth?

Cankers are difficult to treat. Typically, ulcers or cankers will generally heal without treatment and disappear within 7-10 days.

There are a couple of medications that have been said to temporarily relieve some of the symptoms, but they need to be started right when symptoms appear to have any effectiveness.

How can I stop grinding my teeth at night?

Teeth grinding can be a hard habit to break, especially while you sleep. Sometimes eliminating stress can help.

If you are concerned, talk to your dentist. He may suggest a night guard to help prevent damage to your teeth.

Are there any alternatives to dentures?

In this technological era we currently live in, dentures are no longer the only option for restoring missing teeth. Dental implants can be a great alternative to dentures. If bone structure is healthy enough, implants can be placed in the bone to support permanent bridges, thus eliminating the need or hassle of a denture. Yes, the cost is greater than dentures, but implants and bridges more closely resemble the "feel" of real teeth.

Wondering if you might be a candidate for implants? Check with your dentist.

Are silver fillings, fluoride or x-rays, a danger to my health? What are the alternatives?

Silver fillings (dental amalgam), was once the main option for filling restorations. Modern technology has provided us with several additional options for fillings today which include, composite resins, gold and porcelain. Occasionally silver fillings are still used. They have proven to be a safe and reliable restoration for over a hundred years. Nowadays, they are rarely done with the advent of stronger and more esthetic composite (tooth colored) fillings.

Fluoride is a compound of fluorine, which is an element found throughout nature. Fluoride helps to make the entire tooth structure more resistant to decay, and can actually help in reversing early decay before damage penetrates the enamel. It is always advised to use a fluoride toothpaste.

Some communities have fluoridated water, which is monitored to ensure safe fluoride levels. Unfortunately, water in Sweetwater County is not fluoridated, so the dentist can determine the need for additional fluoride.

X-rays are necessary to effectively diagnose cavities, periodontal disease, abscesses, and other abnormalities such as cysts and tumors, that can be difficult to detect with just a visual examination.  We are sensitive to your concerns about radiation exposure. 

The state-of-the-art digital x-rays used in our office uses a very minimal amount of radiation compared to the older x-ray films.  We keep our office equipment and personnel up-to-date with the latest knowledge and technical advances so as to provide you and all of our patients with the safest, and most comprehensive treatment available.

What are dental implants and how do they work?

Dental Implants are used when one or more natural teeth are missing, and can, in some cases, eliminate the need for a denture. The implant is strategically placed into healthy bone tissue and acts as the root. A crown is then placed over the implant and closely resembles a real tooth. The entire procedure typically takes at least 6 months or longer in order to allow adequate healing.

A consult with your dentist can let you know if you are a good candidate for an implant.

What is a root canal?

A root canal is done when the pulp of the tooth is infected, damaged, or dead. The pulp of the tooth is cleaned out and a rubber like material is placed in the canal, and the opening is sealed, which prevents recontamination of the tooth. Once a root canal has been performed, the remaining tooth structure is weaker, so a crown restoration is often recommended to protect the tooth from breakage.

When is the best time to remove wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth removal is typically recommended during the adolescent years, when the roots are about two-thirds formed. This generally makes the procedure easier and decreases risk of damage to the nerves.

What is the difference between a cap and a crown?

A cap and a crown are the same thing.

At what age are my children supposed to see a dentist?

We generally see children when they are about 3 years old. A child is ready when they can listen and understand instructions, and sit relatively still for a short period.

A parent can help a child get ready to come to the dentist and alleviate some of their anxiety by reading children's books to the child about their "friends" going to the dentist.

Why is it important to fix baby teeth that have decay? Aren't they going to come out soon anyway?

There are two major reasons to repair decayed baby teeth:

1) The primary teeth (baby teeth) hold space for the future eruption of the permanent teeth. When a baby tooth is removed too soon, the space for the permanent tooth is lost and would necessitate orthodontic treatment to recreate or hold the space in order for proper eruption of the permanent tooth.

2) The permanent teeth can be affected resulting in stains, pits and weakened tooth enamel if infected/decayed baby teeth remain untreated.

When will my child lose his/her baby teeth?

The average child starts losing their baby teeth around age 5 or 6, and will continue to lose baby teeth until around the age of 12. If a baby gets his teeth early, he will likely start losing teeth early... Babies who teethe later, usually start losing teeth later.

When does thumb-sucking become damaging to the teeth?

Generally, there is no long-term damage if a child has stopped sucking his/her thumb by age 4 or 5. However, abnormal bone growth and misalignment of teeth can occur with vigorous, constant or prolonged thumb sucking.

Should my child wear a mouth guard while playing sports?

Wearing a mouth guard is recommended any time a child participates in a rigorous sport. Preventing an injury and protecting the mouth and teeth is always best.

What should I do if my child gets a tooth knocked out?

If a PERMANENT TOOTH is knocked out, time is very crucial. Immediately place the tooth back into the socket and call your dentist. Don't worry about getting the tooth placed perfectly. If you do not feel comfortable putting the tooth back in, place it in a glass of milk and get to the dentist as soon as possible.

If it's a BABY TOOTH, do not put it back into the socket. Damage to the permanent tooth could occur. If in doubt, place the tooth in milk and see your dentist ASAP.

What causes periodontal disease / gum disease?

Periodontal disease happens when bacteria, along the gum-line is left for extended periods. It causes irritation and inflammation to the gums. As the gums begin to swell and bleed, bacteria is allowed deeper under the gum-line. If left untreated, de-mineralization of the bone happens and irreversible bone loss occurs.

With compromised bone structure, teeth become loose and eventually fall out. Sadly, pain typically does not occur until the latter stages of the disease and at that point, treatment is often unsuccessful.

If you experience bleeding gums, get treatment as soon as possible. Brushing and flossing daily along with regular dental check-ups is the best way to prevent periodontal disease.

Do water irrigation systems replace the need for flossing?

No. There is no substitute for daily brushing and flossing. A water irrigation system, such as water pic, are designed to help flush food particles from hard to reach areas, but they don't effectively remove plaque. Sometimes your dentist will recommend these devices in addition to a mouth rinse to maintain or improve the oral health of some patients.

What is root planing and why is it done?

Root Planing, performed by your dentist or hygienist, cleans below the gum-line and smooths the roots. Smoothing the roots helps the gums to reattach to the root, which stops bacteria from spreading. This procedure can halt and sometimes reverse some of the adverse effects caused by periodontal disease.

My gums bleed when I brush, what does it mean?

Bleeding and swollen gums (gingivitis) is typically caused by plaque which has accumulated under the gum-line. Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss.

Proper brushing and flossing can reverse gingivitis within a few weeks. If bleeding persists after two or three weeks, consult your dentist.

How often should I see my dentist?

Routine dental cleanings and exams are recommended at least every six months. This allows the dentist to monitor your oral health and detect any problems early, before they cause pain or require more extensive treatment.

A dentist may suggest more frequent visits.

What causes bad breath and what can be done about it?

Bad breath is usually caused by poor oral hygiene, but it can also be due to gum disease, sinus drainage or other systemic, respiratory or gastrointestinal problems.

Proper brushing should include the tongue, roof of mouth and cheeks, in addition to teeth and gums, to ensure all food particles and bacteria are removed. Flossing removes plaque and bacteria which may be trapped between the teeth and under gum-line.

Mouth rinses generally only offer temporary relief of bad breath. If bad breath persists, consult your dentist and/or medical physician.