Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are a list of commonly asked questions and detailed information that will be helpful for you to know for your visit with us.

General Dentistry

Q: I had a toothache and my dentist told me I need a root canal. He put me on antibiotics and it stopped hurting. Do I still need the root canal?

A: Yes. Even though your tooth feels better since your dentist prescribed antibiotics, the underlying disease process did not change. Patients sometimes believe that antibiotics will “cure” a dental infection in the same way they can cure a medical infection such as strep throat. However, this is not the case. Once the inside (pulp) of a tooth becomes diseased, a root canal (or extraction) is necessary even if you are not experiencing pain or swelling.

Q: Can I help prevent oral cancer?

A: Your dentist should look for signs of oral cancer in your mouth at every routine checkup. You can help your dentist by advising him/her of any unusual color changes in the tissues in your mouth (red or white areas), abnormal growths, ulcerated areas that don’t heal, areas of numbness or pain, or any problems with chewing or swallowing. Oral cancers often are found on the sides of the tongue, under the tongue, and on the soft palate, though they can occur on any soft tissues throughout the mouth. People who drink alcohol or smoke are more likely to get oral cancer, but anyone can get it, which is why early detection is so important.

Q: I thought cavities were a problem for kids but not adults. As an adult, can I still get cavities?

A: As long as you have teeth, you can get cavities. Cavities result from bacteria in your mouth that feed on carbohydrates in your diet. As the bacteria feed on the carbohydrates, they release acid that dissolves away tooth structure. As people age, they tend to get cavities around old fillings or crowns, or on root surfaces that have become exposed due to receding gums. People with dry mouth tend to have more problems with cavities than other people who have normal salivary flow. Everybody has bacteria in their mouth, so if you still have teeth and still eat carbohydrates, you can still get cavities.

Q: I haven’t been to the dentist in 10 years because nothing hurts. Wouldn’t my teeth hurt if they had a problem?

A: Most often, cavities don’t start to hurt until they are very large; most people who have had fillings had them before they knew there was a problem. Also, most often gum disease doesn’t hurt at all, so you would only know there was a problem when a tooth became loose, and by then sometimes it’s too late to deal with. Oral cancer sometimes can hurt but many times it doesn’t. If it’s been a long time since you’ve seen a dentist, it’s a good idea to have a comprehensive oral examination and dental radiographs (x-rays) made, just to be sure you haven’t developed any problems that you don’t know about.

Q: Should I have the silver fillings in the back of my mouth replaced with tooth colored ones?

A: There are excellent options for placing tooth colored fillings in the teeth in the back of the mouth. These include restoration with directly placed composite resin, porcelain inlays, or crowns. Tooth colored fillings cannot be placed in all situations, however, and may have limitations such as reduced longevity or increased cost. Silver fillings can provide excellent long term service in the mouth. Research studies have not shown silver fillings containing mercury to cause health related problems. Their replacement should be for reasons due to restoration failure, decay or aesthetic improvement purposes.

Pediatric Dentistry

Q: What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

A: “Baby bottle tooth decay” refers to cavities caused by drinking liquids containing sugar from a baby bottle. The teeth most likely to be damaged by this are the upper front teeth, but other teeth can also be affected. To avoid baby bottle tooth decay, don’t put your child to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water. Other liquids contain varying amounts of sugar ranging from very high amounts (Kool-Aid and juice drinks) to lower amounts (cow’s milk). Children are also at risk of developing “Baby bottle tooth decay” if they use a bottle or sippy cup for prolonged periods during the day.

Q: Should I be flossing my 4 year old son's teeth?

A: Yes, flossing once a day before brushing removes plaque and food particles that can’t be removed by brushing alone. The dental floss cleans between the teeth and below the gumline. To floss properly, wrap an 18-inch strand of floss around your middle fingers leaving a 1 or 2 inch section of floss to work with. Holding the floss tightly between your thumb and index finger, gently ease the floss between the teeth. Curve the floss around the tooth, making sure you go beneath the gumline. Slide the floss up and down several times to clean the tooth. Always remember to floss behind the last tooth.

Q: How do dental sealants work?

A: Dental Sealants are a plastic coating placed on the biting surface of the teeth. They are very effective in preventing tooth decay. Sealants work by filling in the crevasses on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth, causing cavities. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years.

Q: I heard somewhere that if my child has a tooth knocked out in an accident I should put it in milk. Is that true?

A: When a child has a permanent tooth knocked out, the most important thing is to put the tooth back in the socket as soon as possible. This should be done immediately if possible by someone at the scene of the accident. The tooth should be picked up by the crown (don’t touch the root) and if dirty it should be quickly rinsed off. Then the tooth should be placed back in the socket and the child should be transported to a dentist who will splint the tooth in place. If it is impossible to get the tooth back into the socket, it is important to store the tooth in a liquid that will keep the cells on the root surface alive. Cold milk is one of the best storage media for this.

Q: When should my child first visit a dentist?

A: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child have an oral exam within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth but no later than 1 year of age. Although this may seem too early, many children already have dental decay by age 3.


Q: Is there a relationship between tobacco use and periodontal disease?

A: Yes, tobacco users are more likely to get periodontal diseases and suffer from the more severe forms. Healing following the various forms of periodontal therapy may take more time. Tobacco use is associated with a number of detrimental effects to the mouth and the body as a whole. There can be a decrease in a patient’s immune response (their ability to fight off infections), constrictions of blood vessels in the gum tissue around the teeth, an increased risk of certain types of mouth cancers and bad breath. On average smokers are four times as likely to exhibit signs of periodontal disease as were those persons who had never smoked. The good news is that research suggests that those persons who quit can reverse many of the adverse risks caused by the use of tobacco products.

Q: What are the warning signs of Periodontal Disease?

A: There are various causes of loss of gum tissue resulting in root exposure. The most common causes are aggressive tooth brushing or gum disease. The first step in treatment of recession is to correct the cause. For patients who have healthy gums and normal support for their teeth, it may be possible to cover exposed root surfaces with gum grafts. For individuals with a history of gum disease, root coverage will be less predictable. Gum grafting involves the use of either your own tissue from another spot in your mouth or the use of commercially available tissue materials. For these procedures, the gum graft is stitched in place at the site of recession. With current techniques, post treatment discomfort is usually minimal, and the healed tissues usually provide a good match with the adjacent tissues.


Q: Do I still need to see my dentist while I am in braces?

A: Absolutely yes! I recommend that all of my patients see their dentist at least every 6 months or as recommend by their dentist; in some situations, a patient may need to have professional exams and cleanings more frequently.