FAQ

How frequently should I visit my dentist?

It’s important to have your teeth professionally examined and cleaned at least two times a year. You might require more than two cleanings annually if you are vulnerable to certain periodontal or dental conditions. Dental visits can identify, prevent, and treat problematic oral issues. Other reasons for dental checkups include:

 

  • Tooth decay assessment: Special instruments are used to check for signs of cavities.
  • Gum disease assessment: Your gums and the bone around your teeth will be checked for signs of periodontal disease.
  • Restoration assessment: Your current fillings, crowns and other dental fixtures will be checked to make sure they’re in good condition.
  • Plaque removal: Growing colonies of oral bacteria, food debris and saliva known as plaque produce toxins that inflame the gums and eat away at your teeth.
  • Tartar (calculus) removal: Tartar is plaque that has hardened and become firmly attached to your teeth over time. It can form above and below the gumline and can only be removed by professional cleaning.
  • Teeth polishing: Eliminates stains and plaque that aren’t removed during brushing and scaling.
  • X-rays: X-rays can help identify the locations of teeth and their roots, as well as detect cavities, tumors, bone loss and cysts.
  • Oral cancer screening: Your face, lips, tongue, throat, gums and neck may be checked for signs of cancer.
  • Diet review: Your eating habits contribute to your dental health.
  • Hygiene recommendations: Your dental hygienist will make suggestions for home care improvements, including electric toothbrushes, rinses, cleaning aids and more.

How often should I brush my teeth?

Brush at least twice a day, especially at bedtime. Use fluoridated toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association and a toothbrush with soft bristles. Electric toothbrushes are especially useful.

Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle from your gums, using small, gentle, circular motions. Be sure you can always feel the bristles on your gums. Brush the outer, inner and biting surfaces of each tooth, then scrub the surface of your tongue.

How often should I floss my teeth?

Flossing daily is the best way to clean between the teeth. These areas are hard or impossible to reach with a toothbrush. Flossing also cleans under the gumline and prevents plaque colonies from building up. This prevents damage to the teeth, gums and jawbone.

Wrap 12-16 inches of dental floss around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches between your hands. Use your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss gently between your teeth. Hug the sides of your teeth with the floss and slide it all the way down under the gumline. Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty with conventional floss.

Why is it important to brush and floss?

Brushing and flossing help control the bacteria and plaque that cause dental disease. Plaque is a film of bacteria, food particles and saliva that adheres to the gums and teeth. The bacteria in the film turn food into acid, which can lead to tooth decay. If plaque is not removed, it can turn into tartar, or calculus, and lead to gum disease, or periodontal disease, that destroys gum and bone tissue. Plaque formation and proliferation can be best controlled by brushing, flossing and the use of other dental aids.

Rinse your mouth out with water. This can help flush oral bacteria before it builds up.

How do I know if I have gum disease?

The majority of people who have gingivitis or periodontitis, also known as gum disease, don’t realize they have it. It is typically painless in its early stages, causing little discomfort. Regular dental checkups and periodontal exams are crucial to detecting gum disease.

What causes gum disease?

Periodontal disease and gingivitis begin when plaque builds up on your teeth and gums. Eventually, your gums can become inflamed and your bone tissue is eaten away. Brushing and flossing regularly can help ensure that plaque does not become concentrated enough to do damage.

However, poor oral hygiene is not the only cause of periodontal disease:

  • Issues with tooth fixtures: Crowded teeth, defective fillings and ill-fitting bridges can lead to the buildup of bacteria and plaque.
  • Some medications: Steroids, blood pressure medications, oral contraceptives and some cancer therapy drugs have side effects that reduce saliva, making it easier for plaque to stick to teeth.
  • Hormones: Changes caused by oral contraceptives, puberty and pregnancy can make gum tissue more susceptible to the effects of oral bacteria.
  • Diseases: Diabetes, HIV/AIDS and blood cell disorders can contribute to periodontal disease.
  • Tobacco: Plaque and tartar are more common in the mouths of tobacco users.
  • Genetics: Patients whose family history includes frequent tooth loss may be susceptible to more aggressive forms of periodontitis.

What are the signs and symptoms of periodontal disease?

  • Sensitive or painful gums
  • Red and puffy gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Pus around the teeth and gums: Signs of infection
  • Persistent bad breath
  • New spacing between teeth: Caused by bone loss
  • Loose teeth: Caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers that keep your teeth attached to the bone

How can I get rid of bad breath?

Everyone has halitosis, or bad breath, from time to time. But when it becomes noticeable to those around us, it can be embarrassing and unpleasant. Its causes vary, but in healthy people, the main source is microbial deposits on the tongue. Simply brushing your tongue while brushing your teeth has been shown to reduce bad breath by up to 70 percent.

Keeping a diary of your eating habits can help you pinpoint the source of your bad breath. In addition, review recent surgeries or illnesses, as well as your current medications, with your dentist.

How can I keep from getting bad breath?

  • Brushing and flossing: Brush twice or more a day, using fluoridated toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association. That, along with flossing once a day, can remove food debris and plaque from between your teeth and below the gumline. Use a tongue scraper or your toothbrush to clean the surface of your tongue. Switch to a new toothbrush every two to three months. If you wear removable bridges or dentures, clean them well every night.
  • Mouthwash: Some over-the-counter rinses can effectively reduce bad breath, but they may be temporary or simply mask the odor. Talk to Dr. Musselman about antiseptic rinses that not only alleviate bad breath, but also kill the bacteria that cause it.
  • Regular dental checkups: Visit Dr. Musselman for an examination and cleaning at least twice a year. If you have had periodontal disease, you may need more frequent visits.
  • Drinking lots of water: Hydration can wash away oral bacteria.
  • Quitting tobacco: Ask Dr. Musselman for advice on how to do so.

 

Halitosis is often treatable by dental care, but if your bad breath is persistent, you may be referred to a physician for additional treatment.

What causes bad breath?

  • Food: Garlic, onions and other foods containing odor-inducing compounds that are transferred to the lungs after they enter the bloodstream.
  • Poor oral hygiene: If you fail to properly brush or floss, food particles left in the mouth can lead to bacterial development.
  • Cavities and improperly fitting dental appliances: These can promote the proliferation of oral bacteria.
  • Gum disease (periodontal disease): Bacteria colonies and food debris under the gums can cause inflammation and other issues.
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia): Mouth breathing, certain medications and salivary gland problems can reduce saliva and promote bad breath.
  • Sleep: Bacteria is allowed to grow while we’re asleep, due to the reduction of saliva in our mouths.
  • Tobacco: Smoking and chewing tobacco can cause dry mouth.
  • Metabolism: Chemicals known as ketones are released into your breath as your body burns fat.
  • Dehydration and missed meals: Eating and drinking increase saliva production to wash away bacteria.
  • Medical conditions: Diabetes, liver and kidney problems, bronchitis, pneumonia and chronic sinus infections can contribute to bad breath.

How can cosmetic dentistry improve the appearance of my smile?

If you feel embarrassed or self-conscious about your teeth, cosmetic dental treatments may be the answer to your problem. Cosmetic dentistry procedures and technology have come a long way. Certain cosmetic dental treatments can lead to healthier and brighter smiles.Depending on your needs, cosmetic dental treatments can change your smile dramatically, from improving a single tooth to a full mouth makeover.

Teeth-whitening: Bleaching can reverse the effects of age, food, drink and smoking. It can also help lighten teeth discolored by injury and certain medications.

Composite fillings: Also known as bonding, composite fillings are the color of your teeth, making them a preferable treatment versus silver fillings. Fillings are used to treat cavities, but composite fillings can also repair chipped, broken or discolored teeth. Composites can also fill gaps and protect sensitive, exposed roots caused by receding gums.

Porcelain veneers: Thin, custom-made shells are shaped and colored like your healthy, natural teeth. They’re bonded onto the front of your teeth to restore or hide damaged, discolored, misshapen or misaligned teeth. Unlike crowns, veneers minimize the amount of material removed from your natural teeth.

Porcelain crowns (caps): Crowns are custom-made coverings that encase an entire tooth, restoring its original shape, size and color. Crowns protect and fortify teeth that can’t be restored with fillings. They are ideal as an alternative to large, fractured or broken fillings, and for badly decayed teeth.

Dental implants: Artificial roots that are surgically placed into the jaw to compensate for missing teeth. Crowns, bridges and dentures can be specially made to attach to implants, making them a stable and durable solution to temporary, removable dental appliances.

Orthodontics: Straightening teeth has become much more appealing to adults with the advent of brackets and wires that are more effective and less visible than in the past. In many cases, clear, removable aligners can be used instead of braces to straighten teeth.

Are silver fillings (amalgam) safe?

The safety of amalgam fillings has been called into question over the years. An amalgam filling is made of a blend of copper, tin, zinc and silver, bound by mercury. Dentists have used this blend for more than a century to fill cavities, and the American Dental Association says that amalgam fillings are safe. Studies have failed to find any link between the mercury in amalgam fillings and any medical disorders.

The U.S. Public Health Service says that the only reason why amalgam fillings should not be used is if a patient has an allergy to a component of them. There are numerous alternatives to amalgam fillings, including composite, porcelain and gold fillings.

How can porcelain veneers improve my smile?

Porcelain veneers are thin, custom-made shells are shaped and colored like your healthy, natural teeth. They’re bonded onto the front of your teeth to restore or hide damaged, discolored, misshapen or misaligned teeth. Unlike crowns, veneers minimize the amount of material removed from your natural teeth.

  Veneers can restore or correct dental conditions such as:

  • Severe discoloration or staining
  • Improper spacing
  • Worn or chipped teeth
  • Tooth crowding
  • Misshapen teeth
  • Over- or undersize teeth

Veneer application usually requires two visits. At the first, your teeth will be prepared in a simple, painless procedure by shaping the front surfaces. An impression, or mold, of your teeth will be taken and then sent to a dental laboratory, where each veneer will be custom-made to enhance the shape and color of your teeth. At the second visit, the veneers will be fitted and bonded onto the tooth with special bonding cements. A specialized light may then be used to harden and set the bond.

How can I whiten my stained or discolored teeth?

Teeth-whitening is now the top cosmetic concern of most dental patients. That demand has led to a rapid increase of available products and treatments designed to brighten your smile. Professional bleaching is a simple, non-invasive procedure designed to change the color of natural tooth enamel. Over-the-counter products are also available, though much less effective than professional treatments.

As we age, the outer layer of tooth enamel wears away, eventually exposing a darker or yellow layer beneath it. The inside of our teeth, too, darkens over time and can affect the color on the surface. Smoking and dark drinks like coffee and wine can also lead to tooth discoloration over time.

It’s important to have your teeth evaluated to determine what type of teeth-whitening treatment is best for you. Some stains are more difficult than others to fight with bleach, and other cosmetic treatments like veneers or crowns may be your best option.

Since teeth-whitening works best on natural enamel, it’s important to evaluate your existing crowns, fillings and other fixtures before bleaching.

Teeth-whitening treatments are not permanent, which means touch-ups may be necessary over the years to keep your smile bright.

How does at-home teeth-whitening work?

Over-the-counter teeth-whitening treatments are typically gels, and are placed in a custom-fitted tray, or mouth guard. The gel-filled trays are typically either worn twice a day for about 30 minutes, or overnight. Generally, these treatments offer desired results after several weeks of use.

How does professional teeth-whitening work?

In-office teeth-whitening treatments usually get immediate results. They may, however, require more than one visit, with each one lasting between half an hour and an hour. A bleaching solution is applied to your teeth, with protective measures taken for your gums. A special light may be used to enhance the bleaching agent’s effectiveness.

Some patients report temporary tooth sensitivity after bleaching, but it typically lasts no more than a few days.

Professional teeth-whitening can be a very effective way to add brightness and confidence to your smile.

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