FAQs

Questions

Answers

What should I do if I have bad breath?

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 blood stream; 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.

How often should I brush and floss?

Brushing and flossing help control the plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease.

Plaque is a film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva that sticks to the teeth and gums.  The bacteria in plaque convert certain food particles into acids that cause tooth decay.  Also, if plaque is not removed, it turns into calculus (tartar).  If plaque and calculus are not removed, they begin to destroy the gums and bone, causing periodontal (gum) disease.

Plaque formation and growth is continuous and can only be controlled by regular brushing, flossing, and the use of other dental aids.

Toothbrushing – Brush your teeth at least twice a day (especially before going to bed at night) with an ADA approved soft bristle brush and toothpaste.

  • Brush at a 45 degree angle to the gums, gently using a small, circular motion, ensuring that you always feel the bristles on the gums.
  • Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth.
  • Use the tip of the brush head to clean the inside front teeth.
  • Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

Electric toothbrushes are also recommended.  They are easy to use and can remove plaque efficiently.  Simply place the bristles of the electric brush on your gums and teeth and allow the brush to do its job, several teeth at a time.

 

Flossing – Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gumline.  Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.

  • Take 12-16 inches (30-40cm) of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches (5cm) of floss between the hands.
  • Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion.
  • Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gumline.  Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.

Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss.

Rinsing – It is important to rinse your mouth with water after brushing, and also after meals if you are unable to brush.  If you are using an over-the-counter product for rinsing, it’s a good idea to consult with your dentist or dental hygienist on its appropriateness for you.

Are amalgam (silver) fillings safe?

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 alternatives 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.

How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?

You should have your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year, though your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend more frequent visits.

Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in preventing dental problems and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. At these visits, your teeth are cleaned and checked for cavities. Additionally, there are many other things that are checked and monitored to help detect, prevent, and maintain your dental health. These include:

  • Medical history review: Knowing the status of any current medical conditions, new medications, and illnesses, gives us insight to your overall health and also your dental health.
  • Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
  • Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
  • Gum disease evaluation: Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
  • Examination of tooth decay: All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.
  • Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
  • Removal of calculus (tartar)Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for sometime and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line, and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
  • Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth.  It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease!
  • Teeth polishing: Removes stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during toothbrushing and scaling.
  • Oral hygiene recommendations: Review and recommend oral hygiene aids as needed (electric dental toothbrushes, special cleaning aids, fluorides, rinses, etc.).
  • Review dietary habits: Your eating habits play a very important role in your dental health.

As you can see, a good dental exam and cleaning involves quite a lot more than just checking for cavities and polishing your teeth. We are committed to providing you with the best possible care, and to do so will require regular check-ups and cleanings.

How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease)?

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 affects 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 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.

Why is it important to use dental floss?

Brushing our teeth removes food particles, plaque, and bacteria from all tooth surfaces, except in between the teeth.  Unfortunately, our toothbrush can’t reach these areas that are highly susceptible to decay and periodontal (gum) disease.

Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gumline.  Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.

Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth.  It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva.  The bacteria produce toxins (acids) that cause cavities and irritate and inflame the gums.  Also, when plaque is not removed above and below the gumline, it hardens and turns into calculus (tartar).  This will further irritate and inflame the gums and also slowly destroy the bone.  This is the beginning of periodontal disease.

How to floss properly:

  • Take 12-16 inches (30-40cm) of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches (5cm) of floss between the hands.
  • Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion.
  • Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gumline.  Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.

Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss.

Daily flossing will help you keep a healthy, beautiful smile for life!

What are my options if I have missing teeth?

ith many state-of-the-art dental treatments and prevention options available in dentistry today, there are fewer reasons for having to extract (remove) teeth.  When something does go wrong with a tooth, we try to do everything possible to restore the tooth to its original function.  Removing a tooth is the last option because we know that removal may lead to severe and costly dental and cosmetic problems if the tooth is not replaced. 

Losing a tooth can be a very traumatic experience and it’s very unfortunate when it does happen.  Injury, accident, fracture, severe dental decay, and gum disease are the major reasons for having to remove a tooth.  If teeth are lost due to injury or have to be removed, it is imperative that they be replaced to avoid cosmetic and dental problems in the future. 

When a tooth is lost, the jaw bone that helped to support that tooth begins to atrophy, causing the teeth on either side to shift or tip into the open space of the lost tooth.  Also, the tooth above or below the open space will start to move towards the open space because there is no opposing tooth to bite on.  These movements may create problems such as decay, gum disease, excessive wear on certain teeth, and TMJ (jaw joint) problems.  These problems and movements do not result immediately, but will eventually appear, compromising your chewing abilities, the health of your bite, and the beauty of your smile. 

Options for replacement of missing teeth: 

Removable bridges - This type of bridge is a good solution for replacing one or more missing teeth, especially in complex dental situations where other replacement options are not possible. They are usually made of tooth-colored, artificial teeth combined with metal clasps that hook onto adjacent natural teeth. Removable bridges are the most economical option for replacing missing teeth, but may be the least aesthetically pleasing. This is because the metal clasps on the appliances are often impossible to completely conceal. 

Fixed bridges - This type of bridge is generally made of porcelain or composite material and is anchored (cemented) permanently to a natural teeth adjacent to the missing tooth site. The benefit of this type of bridge is that it is fixed (not removable) and it is very sturdy. The disadvantage is that in order to create a fixed appliance, two healthy, natural teeth will have to be crowned (capped) to hold the bridge in place. 

Dentures - This type of tooth replacement is used when most or all of the natural teeth are missing in one dental arch. Dentures are removable artificial teeth that are made to closely resemble the patients’ original teeth. 

Implants - Are a great way to replace one or more missing teeth. They may also be great to support ill fitting dentures. A dental implant is an artificial root that is surgically placed into the jaw bone to replace a missing tooth. An artificial tooth is placed on the implant, giving the appearance and feel of a natural tooth. Implants are very stable, durable, and are the most aesthetically pleasing tooth replacement option. 

If you are missing teeth, ask us if they need replacement and what options are available to you. Together we will select the best replacement option for your particular case. Prevention and early treatment is always less involved and less costly than delaying treatment and allowing a serious problem to develop.

What does heart disease and other medical conditions have to do with periodontal (gum) 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 blood stream 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!

What should I do if a tooth is knocked out?

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:

  1. Locate the tooth and handle it only by the crown (chewing part of the tooth), NOT by the roots.
  2. 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.
  3. Get to a dentist within 30 minutes.  The longer you wait, the less chance there is for successful reimplantation.

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.
What is a Periodontist?

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the soft tissues of the mouth and the underlying jawbone, which supports the teeth.  A dentist must first graduate from an accredited dental school before undertaking an additional three years of study within a periodontology residency training program, in order to qualify as a periodontist.  

The primary focus of this residency training is on both surgical and non-surgical management of periodontal disease and the placement of dental implants.         

Conditions Treated by a Periodontist

The periodontist is mainly concerned with preventing the onset of gum disease (periodontal disease), diagnosing conditions affecting the gums and jawbone, and treating gingivitis, periodontits, and bone loss.  Periodontal disease is a progressive condition and the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world. 

The periodontist is able to treat mild, moderate, and advanced gum disease by first addressing the bacterial infection at the root of the problem, providing periodontal treatment, then providing information and education on good oral hygiene and the effective cleaning of the teeth.

The most common conditions treated by the periodontist are:

  • Gingivitis - This is the mild inflammation of the gums which may or may not be signififed by pain and bleeding.
  • Mild/Moderate Periodontitis - When the pockets between the teeth and the soft tissues are measured to be between 4-6mm it is classified as moderate periodontitis (gum disease). 
  • Advanced Periodontitis - When the pockets between the teeth and the soft tissues in general exceed 6mm in depth, significant bone loss may occur, causing shifting or loss of teeth.
  • Missing teeth - When teeth are missing as a result of bone loss, the periodontist can implant prosthetic teeth.  These teeth are anchored to the jawbone and restore functionality to the mouth.

Treatment Performed by a Periodontist

The periodontist is able to perform a wide range of treatment to halt the progression of gum disease, replace missing teeth, and make the appearance of the smile more aesthetically pleasing.

Here are some of the treatments commonly performed by the periodontist:

  • Implant placement - When a tooth or several teeth are missing, the periodontist is abnle to create a natural-looking replacement by anchoring a prosthetic tooth to the jawbone.
  • Osteoplasty (hard tissue recontouring) - Once periodontitis has been treated, the periodontist can recontour the hard tissue to make the smile both natural-looking and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Gingivoplasty (soft tissue recontouring) - As gum recede due to periodontitis, the teeth may appear longer, causing a "toothy" smile.  The periodontist can remove tissues or straighten the gum line to make teeth look more even.
  • Bone grafting - Dental implant can only be positioned if there is suffiecient bone to attach the prosthetic tooth to.  If bone loss has occurred, bone grafting is an excellent way to add or "grow" bone so that an implant may be properly secured.
  • Deep pocket cleanings - As gingivitis and periodontitis progress, it becomes more difficult to cleanse the pockets between the soft tissues and the teeth.  The periodontist can scale and root plane the teeth (sometimes under local anesthetic) to remove debris and infection-causing bacteria.
  • Crown lengthening - In order to expose more of the natural tooth, the periodontist can remove some of the surrounding gingival tissue. 

The periodontist is a highly skilled dental professional who is able to diagnose and treat many commonly occurring soft tissue and bone problems in the oral cavity.

When should I see a Periodontist?

There are several ways treatment from a periodontist may be sought.  In the course of a regular dental check-up, fi the general dentist or hygienist finds symptoms of gingivitis or rapidly progressing periodontal disease, a consultation with a periodontist may be recommended.  However, a referall is not necessary for a periodontal consultation. 

If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, it is important that you schedule an appointment with a periodontist without delay: 

Bleeding while eating or brushing - Unexplained bleeding while consuming food or during the course of daily cleaning is one of the most common signs of periodontal infection. 

Bad breath - Continued halitosis (bad breath) which persists even when a rigorous oral hygiene program is in place, can be indicative of periodontitis, gingivitis or the beginnings of an infection of the gum tissues.

Loose teeth and gum recession - Longer looking teeth can signal recession of the gums and bone loss due to periodontal disease.  As this disease progressed and attacks the jawbone, (the anchor holding the theeth in place) the teeth may become loose or be lost altogether.

Gangrene in the tissues - Gangrene is hard to self diagnose, but the general dentist and periodontist will check for its presence in the soft tissues, alveolar bone and periodontal ligament.

Related health conditions - Heart disease, diabetes, osteopenia and osteoporosis are highly correlated with periodontitis and periodontal infections.  The bacteria infection can spread through the blood stream and affect other parts of the body.

What is periodontal (gum) disease?

The term "periodontal" means "around the tooth."  Periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis and gum disease) is a common inflammatory condition which affects the supporting and surrounding soft tissues of the tooth; also the jawbone itself when in its most advanced stages. 

Periodontal disease is most often preced by gingivitis which is a berial infection of the gum tissue.  A bacterial infection affects the gums when the toxins contained in plaque begin to irritate and inflame the gum tissues.  Once this bacterial infection colonizes in the gum pockets between the teeth, it becomes much more difficult to remove and treat.  Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that eventually leads to the destruction of the connective tissue and jawbone.  If left untreated, it can lead to shifting teeth, loose teeth, and eventually tooth loss.

Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed word and should always be promptly treated.