Frequently Asked Dental Questions
Smile Design Dentistry’s dental staff welcomes the opportunity to answer questions about your dental care; you’ll be pleased to know that we encourage all our dental patients to freely ask questions anytime!
We’ll stop and take the time you need while explaining any dental treatment in detail, discussing how you’ll benefit and what your dental options are. We believe that communication is central to providing outstanding dental care. No question is too inconsequential or unusual to answer.
QUESTION:When should I first bring my child to the dentist?
ANSWER: Answers on this can vary. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, your child should go when the first tooth appears, or no later than his or her first birthday. While understandable the practicality of bringing a 1-year-old to the dentist is another story. Many children that young simply won’t open their mouths to allow the dentist to look. So parents the ball is in your court to decide when your child is ready for the dentist. It could easily be at 2 or 3 years old when you feel they are ready. However, if you are concerned that your child has a dental issue don’t hesitate to schedule the visit. Even if you feel they may not be ready.
QUESTION: What will happen at my child’s first visit?
ANSWER: A young child, say 3 or younger is in charge at that dental appointment. I say that because they have to be willing to open their mouth to let the hygienist clean and the doctor examines them. We really try to make it a fun visit for the child so they won’t be apprehensive about seeing the dentist in the future. Given that there are a few different ways a young child’s first visit can go.
- If they see very apprehensive and unwilling to open their mouths the visit may consist of a ride in the dental chair and receiving a prize. This helps the child understand the dental chair is not a bad thing and they receive an award (prize) at the end for cooperating.
- If the child is somewhat apprehensive but will actually open their mouth we will typically start with counting teeth. Again, this is very easy and fun for the child to do. It gives them a chance to show off their teeth and typically is great at breaking down barriers. This visit will also end with a prize giving the child an award associated with a good dental visit.
- Last, if the child is cooperative we would actually attempt a cleaning. At a young age, there is no scaling of tartar and calculus on teeth and the mouths are too small for dental x-rays. What will happen will be a polish by the hygienist and a visual exam by the doctor and, you guessed it, a prize at the end for a good visit.
QUESTION: What does that mean if my gums bleed when I floss?
ANSWER: Bleeding gums is not a good sign. It is usually an indicator of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is insidious. You can’t feel it or see it but you can tell it is active through symptoms and bleeding gums is a key symptom. If left untreated gum disease can rob you of the bone that holds your teeth in place. If you lose the bone that holds your teeth in place eventually you will begin to lose teeth.
If your gums bleed when you brush get in to see your dentist soon. The earlier you can catch gum disease the better you can mitigate the effect and keep your teeth!
QUESTION: Should I worry about radiation from dental x-rays?
ANSWER: Relatively speaking the radiation you receive from dental x-rays is minimal. Especially with the advent of digital x-rays. You receive more radiation from a day in the sunshine than you would a dental x-ray.
That said you still want to be prudent and follow your dentists regime on taking x-rays. The regime is designed to take x-rays often enough to prevent a future need for oral surgery and proactively catch dental disease but not so often to needlessly expose you to radiation. The benefits you receive from being proactive on catching dental disease far outweigh the risks of radiation you receive.
QUESTION: How do I know what my insurance will cover?
ANSWER: Well the easiest answer to that is to call your insurance company and ask them about coverage. While that sounds easy many people don’t know what questions to ask an insurance company given there are many codes for procedures and various clauses and limitation in an insurance contract that can reduce payment. With that in mind if you ask for your dental offices’ help they should be more than happy to do some of the legwork for you.
It is always the insurance company who has final say in the benefits they will pay so many times a written estimate of benefits from the insurance company gives you the best idea of coverage. Based on the treatment you need your dental office can put a form together to send to your insurance company. Usually, they will give you a written estimate of benefits 2-3 weeks later. We welcome any of your questions about the cost of our dental services.
QUESTION: Can whitening damage my teeth?
ANSWER: The conclusive answer is no. Since the whitening material flows through the enamel tubules to the stain it won’s damage your teeth. It can make them temporarily sensitive, but will not damage. There is growing concern about whitening toothpaste, however. This is because they are relying on abrasive materials to help with the whitening process. Materials overly abrasive are not good for your teeth so keep an eye on this one as more information is gathered on and released on the effects of whitening toothpaste on teeth.
Question: Should I still go to the dentist if I am pregnant?
ANSWER: Yes. You should still go to the dentist. It is important to maintain a healthy mouth through your pregnancy. However, out of an abundance of caution, your dentist will not take dental x-rays so as not to expose the unborn fetus to radiation. If you are pregnant or suspect that you are pregnant inform your dentist so he or she can tailor your care.
QUESTION: What is the best kind of toothbrush to use?
ANSWER: The new electric toothbrushes on the market are great. They are able to clean teeth better with the various actions they employ and they have timers. Most people don’t typically brush for a long enough period of time. The electric brushes come with timers that let you know when you have brushed in one area of your mouth long enough and when the total time brushing is long enough (2 minutes).
If you still like your manual toothbrush be sure to pick one with soft bristles. While it may feel like you are cleaning better with hard bristles they are more abrasive. Soft bristles will offer the gentle care needed.
QUESTION: What should I do if I am terrified of going to the dentist?
ANSWER: Dentists understand the fear many of us have of dental visits. For that reason, offices get designed to be calm and soothing. You will no longer hear the “whine” of the dental drill that automatically causes anxiety in many of us. You will no longer have the “dental office smell” that many of us knew when we were growing up.
Dental procedures themselves are typically quite painless and there are a variety of methods that offices use to keep your visit pain and stress-free. I’ve spoken about those in the next question. Bottom line is that if you have bad experiences when you were younger modern dental offices are not at all like that and you will be pleasantly surprised.
QUESTION: What ways can a dentist keep my visit pain free?
ANSWER: There are several methods that dentists can use to keep your visit pain free. We will leave you smiling versus feeling upside-down about going to the dentist!
These are the most common:
- Topical anesthetics. These are applied to the surface of the area being treated to provide some numbness. This is usually provided for minor procedures.
- Various anesthetics can be provided to the area receiving treatment. The most common you would be familiar with is Novocain. These will numb the area from a couple of hours to several hours.
- Nitrous gas can be provided that does not numb but is very effective at reducing anxiety.
- Sedative medication can be provided. This is a simple pill that will help you relax and feel drowsy over a period of a few hours. Since this is stronger than nitrous gas you will need to bring a designated driver to your appointment as you will be unable to drive yourself.
- Conscious sedation. This is where you become sedated during your procedure with sedation drugs. While you will still be awake during your procedure you will be quite groggy and most likely not remember the visit. You will need a designated driver for this visit.
- Sleep sedation. A step up from conscious sedation this will make you sleep through your procedures and is reserved for only the most extremely anxious patients. It must be closely monitored by your dentist. Obviously a driver is needed.
QUESTION: What is a dental implant?
ANSWER: Dental implants are a treatment that dentists use to replace missing teeth. For many years the most common method to replace missing teeth was by placing a dental bridge. A dentist would put crowns on the teeth next to the missing tooth area and place a false tooth between them with all three teeth connected creating the “bridge” over the missing tooth area. A dental implant places a titanium screw into your jaw that the jaw bone bonds to. A natural tooth looking crowns placed over the implant creating something that looks very natural. You do not need to treat the teeth next to the implant saving the natural tooth structure on those teeth.
Implants have been found to be a very effective long-term solution to the replacement of missing teeth.
QUESTION: What are Invisalign braces?
ANSWER: Invisalign braces are an orthodontic option that does not use the traditional metal braces. They are actually a series of clear plastic retainers that you wear all day and night, except for eating. Every one to two weeks you receive a new set of clear retainers. The retainers are made to slowly move your teeth into proper position just like metal braces would. The distinct advantages of Invisalign braces are that it is so much easier to eat without the metal in your mouth and secondly, most people never know you are wearing them! That is why they are becoming so popular.
QUESTION: What causes a cavity?
ANSWER: Cavities are caused by bacteria in your mouth. As bacteria grow they release acid and the acid eats away the enamel on your teeth. Left alone the acid slowly works it way into the tooth. The decay this acid causes is commonly referred to as a cavity. Proper dental hygiene can keep the acid creating bacteria under control so they can’t damage your teeth. If your dentist diagnosis that you have a cavity get it taken care of. They don’t get smaller over time. They get bigger. Eventually decay can work it’s way to the pulp of the tooth. This is when you will start feeling pain as the pulp is highly sensitive. So again, good dental hygiene can prevent the problem but don’t just let it go if decay is discovered.
QUESTION: What causes dry mouth and what can I do about it?
ANSWER: Dry mouth is caused when the glands in your mouth that make saliva are not working properly. Some of the causes of improperly functioning saliva glands include: nervousness, stress, certain medications, aging, cancer therapy (radiation/chemotherapy), and autoimmune disorders like Sjorgren’s syndrome, smoking and methamphetamine use.
If you have dry mouth there are several methods you can employ to alleviate the condition:
1) Limit caffeine intake as that can cause your mouth to dry.
2) Avoid mouthwashes as they contain alcohol which can dry your mouth.
3) Stop tobacco use, either smoking or chewing can dry your mouth.
4) Sipping water regularly can alleviate symptoms and that is actually healthy!
5) There are also over the counter products which can help like Biotene.
QUESTION: My tooth just got knocked out by accident! What do I do?
ANSWER: Time is of the essence on this one. The longer the tooth is out of the mouth the lower the chance of it being re-implanted.
So here are the steps to take:
- Gather the tooth or if in pieces as many pieces as you can.
- Avoid touching the roots of the tooth.
- Gently wash off any obvious debris with warm water.
- Place the tooth in warm milk or your own saliva. It is important for the tooth to stay hydrated.
- Contact your dentist and get in to see him or her as soon as possible. If it is not possible to get to your dentist quickly you may want to go to urgent care for help. Again, time is of the essence in trying to save your tooth.
We are familiar with the most frequently asked questions in our dental practice, and we’ve attempted to answer those above. Most likely, you have your own, and we encourage you to call our Plymouth, MN dental office to arrange a consultation. If you prefer, you are welcome to use our handy online form, and we’ll provide you answers as quickly as possible.