The Top 10 Questions People Have About Dental Care

1.  How often should I go to the dentist?

The American Dental Association, as well as the vast majority of dentists, recommends seeing your dentist twice a year for routine check-ups as, well as cleanings. But, if you have problems with recession, bleeding and tarter build-up, you may be one that needs to see your dentist more often.  Research shows that patients with periodontal gum infections are maintained better on a 3-4 month cleaning program.  The key is not what your insurance pays for but what is right for you!

2.  How safe are X-rays?

Radiation sounds scary, and in large can be dangerous. However, the amount of radiation you are exposed to for dental X-rays is very small. Over the years, there have been several developments that have reduced the level of radiation emitted by X-rays. These improvements include higher-speed films that require shorter exposure, the use of film holders, and digital machines that focus the radiation beam just to the X-rayed area. In addition, full-body aprons lined with lead protect against stray radiation from older equipment. Also, all X-ray machines are federally mandated to be checked for accuracy and safety every two years. In other words, X-rays are quite safe.
Another issues is CT Scan vs a 3-D image in your mouth to decide if a root canal can be treated successfully or if an implant has enough bone for success.  The amount of radiation in a medical CT scan is DRASTICALLY different than the amount of radiation in a 3-D image for a specific dental problem.  We, at Deer Park Dental are very concious on what is right for you.  Even check-up x-rays vary in the amount of time between films depending on YOUR cavity rate and many other factors. It is not cookie cutter but what is right for you and your dental health.

3.  How can I get my teeth whiter?

There are numerous over-the-counter products that you can use to possibly whiten your teeth, including pastes, strips, and bleaching trays. They all have varying degrees of success. The best way to get your teeth gleaming is through a procedure at a dental office. Only a trained dentist can ensure a quality, effective treatment. There are techniques that get your teeth white in “a day” but they can have other consequences. Long-term, studies show, that the best long lasting treatment is custom made trays with a low concentration of carbamide peroxide and you can make a change in your smile.  Typically these trays that your dentist makes are worn for two hours each day for two to four weeks.  This depends on each individual and some patients with deeper intrinsic stains may take longer.  The key is each patient is unique and will lighten just a little differently.

4.  Which toothpaste should I use?

It’s advisable to talk with your dentist about your toothpaste, but ideally you should choose one with fluoride, which has been proven to help in the fight against cavities. It’s also important to pick a toothpaste that is approved by the American Dental Association. If you see the ADA’s seal it means that the toothpaste has been evaluated for safety as well as effectiveness. Toothpastes with tarter control can sometimes make teeth more sensitive, others remove stain better without increasing sensitivity, talk to your dentist about what he or she recommends.

5.  When should I take my child for their first check-up?

It’s best to get children started early with dental care. You should bring your child for their first check-up no later than six months after their first tooth comes in.  The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends your child’s first check-up by age “1”.  Even if your child does not have many teeth erupted, your dentist can guide you to help prevent cavities in your child by educating you on the right choices for diet, what your child drinks and how, and ways to prevent transferring cavity causing bacteria to your child.  See your family dentist to discuss these options.  Studies show that the earlier a child visits a dentist, the lower their cavity rate.

6.  What is a root canal and what does it involve?

When the root of a tooth dies or there are signs of infection, it needs to be treated. Root canal therapy involves removing the infected pulp or dead root from the tooth, cleaning the area, and putting in strengthening filler. The tooth is often permanently capped for long-lasting protection, but some front teeth may not need a cap or crown as these teeth do not have the same pressures on them when biting or chewing. Your dentist will evaluate what is right for YOU!
The key is treating the tooth early and not too late.  When an infected tooth goes a long time without treatment, it is more likely to have complications of swelling, pain and infection.  So, just because it doesn’t hurt you now, does not mean that you should wait longer to take care of the problem.  The earlier you seek a solution, the better chance you have of a good result.

7.  What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt, usually when someone is between the ages of 17 and 25. Sometimes they erupt later than that, and sometimes not at all. There are many people who only have room for 28 teeth; when the wisdom teeth come in there’s no room for them and will then have to be removed to protect the integrity of the surrounding teeth. The key that your dentist is looking at is, “is there room in your jaw for the wisdom teeth, or third molars, to come in?”  If there is not room, what complications might you have if they are left there?  In my oldest son, his 3rd molars were extracted at 13 1/2 age.  My youngest son had his 3rd molars removed at 17 1/2?  Why the difference?  Because each person has a different growth pattern.  It is not the age, but it is the room available for the teeth to come in, the amount of development of the tooth and the probability of complications later if the wisdom tooth is not removed.

So, do we recommend everyone to remove 3rd molars?  No, of course not!  But how much room is there for the tooth to erupt?  What potential damage can that tooth do if it is not removed?  I had a great explanation done by an oral surgeon who has practiced for over 50 years.  He stated, “in the day” people did not go to the dentist that often.  They often got cavities in their first molars, or their “6 year molars” and had to have that tooth extracted.  The 2nd molars or “12 year molars” came in and then the wisdom teeth or “3rd molars” erupted and they drifted forward and few people had their wisdom teeth or 3rd molars removed.
Today, with better dental care, less first molars are removes and fewer people have room for their 3rd molars and so many more are removed.  The key is what damage they can do if left there?  They can push the other teeth and cause crowding.  They can push on the second molar and cause resorption.  They can cause periodontal (gum infection) by the inability to clean around them, thus affecting the tooth in front.  The key is, each person is an individual and needs care appropriate to them.  Ask your dentist what is right for YOU!

8.  What are veneers?

Veneers are thin pieces of porcelain that are permanently bonded to teeth that are visible when smiling. They are used to correct issues such as crooked, chipped, or stained teeth in order to create a better-looking smile. How long do they last?  If they are additive and the porcelain shell is bonded to the outer surface of your tooth, the enamel, the veneer can last much longer.  If your dentist has to prepare the tooth into the next layer of the tooth, the dentin, then the average life span is 7-10 years.  So… don’t rush into veneers when you are 18 years old as you have a life-time to make your teeth last.  Be conservative!           Sometimes bonding with resin can give a beautiful smile and may not be invasive.  This allows you to do more over the long haul and preserve your teeth for a life-time.

9.  Can I straighten my teeth without braces?

Traditional metal braces are effective at straightening teeth, but they don’t look or feel so good. However, there are other options. Invisalign® is a more comfortable cosmetic approach to typical alignment problems. Compliance IS an issue.  There are many situations that you can do more with this technique as you don’t have the thickness of the band to deal with but the patient has to be on board.  A removable appliance is only as good as one that is willing and compliant to wear it.  Otherwise, fixed brackets bonded to the teeth may be the better choice. Decide where you or your child is with compliance and then you will be able to make a good choice for what is best.

Veneers (see above) can improve the look of teeth with minimal problems whereas Invisalign® is a more comfortable cosmetic approach to typical alignment problems. Veneers in a “crooked smile” may mean much more grinding on the teeth to get the esthetic result.  Again, a comprehensive exam is critical to good success.

10.  Last but not least: How can I prevent cavities?

The best way to prevent cavities is to do what you’ve been told, probably since you were very little: brush and floss regularly. You should spend at least two minutes brushing twice a day and floss once a day. In addition, watch what you eat. Be careful of foods and beverages with high quantities of sugar, as well as sticky foods like raisins. Also, don’t neglect your bi-yearly dentist appointments. Call today and schedule an appointment. We at Deer Park Dental truly care about your dental health and will work hard to educate you to “need us less” so you can spend your time and dollars on more exciting ventures.  Feel free to call us at 209-478-3036 for a consultation to see what is best for you!

By ProSites, Edited by Dr. Janice G. Scott DDS

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