General Dental FAQ
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 100 million dental x-rays are done each year in the United States. These x–rays provide your dentist with a vital tool that shows the condition of your teeth including roots, jaw placements, and the overall composition of your facial bones. X-ray machines only produce radiation during operation and the amount of radiation used is small.
Dental x-rays allow dentists to:
- Detect problems in the mouth such as tooth decay, damage to the bones supporting the teeth, and dental injuries (such as broken tooth roots).
- Detect teeth that are abnormally placed or don’t break through the gums properly.
- Evaluate the presence and location of permanent teeth growing in the jaw of a child who still has baby teeth.
- Plan treatment for large or extensive cavities, root canal surgery, placement of dental implants, and difficult tooth removals.
- Plan for orthodontic treatment, like braces.
Sealants are a thin, plastic coating that are painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth — usually the back teeth (the premolars, and molars) – to prevent tooth decay. The painted on liquid sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and grooves of the teeth forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth. Typically, children are most cavity prone from ages 6 to 14 so the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends they should get sealants on the permanent molars and premolars as these teeth come in. Dental sealants can protect their teeth from decay for up to 10 years.
FDA rules mercury amalgam fillings safe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s long-awaited final regulation on the use of mercury amalgam for dental fillings deems the material safe, while at the same time moving the material from the Class I (low risk) medical-device category to Class II (moderate risk). This allows for tighter control over its manufacture and use. Mercury amalgam, or ‘silver,’ fillings have been used for decades to repair cavities. It’s the cheapest filling material available, and the American Dental Association (which supports the new regulation) has long warned that restricting its use would deprive dentists of an important tool and likely move needed dental work beyond the reach of low-income patients. But many people have raised concerns about the potential for mercury to ‘leak’ from fillings into the body and cause neurological damage or diseases such as multiple sclerosis. An FDA press release announcing the decision reports: ‘While elemental mercury has been associated with adverse health effects at high exposures, the levels released by dental amalgam fillings are not high enough to cause harm in patients.’ Still, the agency suggests that amalgam package labels feature a warning to patients about the risk of mercury allergy, a reminder to dental professionals about the risk of working with mercury amalgam without proper ventilation, and ‘a statement discussing the scientific evidence on the benefits and risk of dental amalgam, including the risks of inhaled mercury vapor. The statement will help dentists and patients make informed decisions about the use of dental amalgam,’ according to the press release.
- Dental bonding is a procedure in which a tooth-colored resin material (a durable plastic material) is applied to the tooth surface and hardened with a special light, which ultimately ‘bonds’ the material to the tooth.
- Dental crowns are tooth-shaped ‘caps’ that are placed over teeth. The crowns, when cemented into place, fully encase the entire visible portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line.
- Veneers (also sometimes called porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates) are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials that are designed to cover the front surface of teeth. These shells are bonded to the front of the teeth.
- Recontouring or reshaping of the teeth (also called odontoplasty, enameloplasty, stripping or slenderizing) is a procedure in which small amounts of tooth enamel are removed to change a tooth’s length, shape or surface.
Each of these options differ with regard to cost, durability, ‘chair time’ necessary to complete the procedure, stain resistant qualities, and best cosmetic approach to resolving a specific problem. Talk to your dentist to see if one is right for you.
1. Amalgam (silver filling) is the most thoroughly researched and tested restorative material among all those in use. It is durable, easy to use, highly resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive in comparison to other materials. For those reasons, it remains a valued treatment option for dentists and their patients.
While questions have arisen about the safety of dental amalgam relating to its mercury content, the major U.S. and international scientific and health bodies, including the National Institute of Health, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization, among others have been satisfied that dental amalgam is a safe, reliable and effective restorative material.
Because amalgam fillings can withstand very high chewing loads, they are particularly useful for restoring molars in the back of the mouth where chewing load is greatest. They are also useful in areas where a cavity preparation is difficult to keep dry during the filling replacement, such as in deep fillings below the gum line. Amalgam fillings, like other filling materials, are considered biocompatible—they are well tolerated by patients with only rare occurrences of allergic response.
Disadvantages of amalgam include possible short-term sensitivity to hot or cold after the filling is placed. The silver-colored filling is not as natural looking as one that is tooth-colored, especially when the restoration is near the front of the mouth, and shows when the patient laughs or speaks. And to prepare the tooth, the dentist may need to remove more tooth structure to accommodate an amalgam filling than for other types of fillings.
2. Composite fillings are a mixture of glass or quartz filler in a resin medium that produces a tooth-colored filling. They are sometimes referred to as composites or filled resins. Composite fillings provide good durability and resistance to fracture in small-to-mid size restorations that need to withstand moderate chewing pressure. Less tooth structure is removed when the dentist prepares the tooth, and this may result in a smaller filling than that of an amalgam. Composites can also be ‘bonded’ or adhesively held in a cavity, often allowing the dentist to make a more conservative repair to the tooth.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry – your child should visit a pediatric dentist when the first tooth comes in, usually between 6 and 12 months of age. This visit will establish a dental home for your child. Early examination and preventive care will protect your child’s smile now and in the future.
A child’s primary teeth, sometimes called ‘baby teeth,’ are as important as the permanent adult teeth. Primary teeth typically begin to appear when a baby is between age six months and one year and help children chew and speak. They also hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are developing under the gums. The ADA recommends that a dentist examine a child within six months of the eruption of the first tooth and no later than the first birthday. A dental visit at an early age is a ‘well baby checkup’ for the teeth. Besides checking for tooth decay and other problems, the dentist can demonstrate how to clean the child’s teeth properly and how to evaluate any adverse habits such as thumbsucking.
Have your child rinse their mouth with warm water to clean it out. Gently use dental floss or an interdental cleaner to ensure that there is no food or other debris caught between the teeth. In addition, the ADA recommends to place a cold compress on the face if it is swollen. If the pain persists, contact your dentist.
The sooner the better! Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. Then, according to the American Adacemy of Pediatric Dentistry,as soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily using fluoridated toothpaste and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Use a ‘smear’ of toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child less than 2 years of age. For the 2-5 year old, dispense a ‘pea-size’ amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child’s toothbrushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.
Braces & Ortho FAQ
Many dental problems including crowded teeth, missing teeth or jaw alignment problems are genetic. Other dental problems are the result of bad habits, such as thumb-sucking, using a pacifier, or poor oral hygiene that led to tooth decay and the premature loss of baby teeth.
Orthodontic treatment can do more than make a smile beautiful by correcting gapped, crowded and misaligned teeth. It can also help you chew properly, speak more clearly, reduce or eliminate the need for jaw surgery, protect your gums from becoming unhealthy, and reduce or eliminate the need for extracting permanent teeth.
Braces apply gentle, steady pressure on your teeth to move them into their proper positions. A bracket is placed on each tooth. Then we bend a wire called the arch wire into the ideal u-shape we want your teeth to have. The arch wire is threaded through the brackets and as the wire tries to return to the u-shape, it moves the teeth with it
The American Academy of Orthodontists recommends children see an orthodontist at the age of 7. Bite problems, called malocclusions, often become noticeable between the ages of 6 and 12 as the child’s permanent teeth erupt.
Phase I treatment, which is also called early treatment or interceptive orthodontic treatment, typically begins in children who still have a mixture of baby and permanent teeth. It’s typically started when the child is between the ages of 6 and 10. Early treatment is often used to help correct severe crowding, tooth eruption problems, bite problems, narrow jaws and protruded front teeth. Early correction may prevent the need for the extraction of permanent teeth or surgical procedures later. Braces may still be needed when all of the permanent teeth erupt, but the duration of treatment is often shorter
Phase II or full treatment occurs when all permanent teeth are erupted, typically after the age of 11. The goal of Phase II treatment is to straighten your permanent teeth and align your jaw. Patients who have undergone both Phase I and Phase II treatment are more likely to have lasting results.
Your treatment will depend on your specific needs. Most patients with wire braces visit the orthodontist every 5 to 10 weeks. Patients with clear aligners typically visit the orthodontist once every four to six weeks. Your orthodontist will let you know your schedule.
Every patient is different. Most people need braces for 12 to 24 months, although some require up to 36 months of treatment.
Yes. You should continue with your regular dental checkups while undergoing orthodontic treatment. Your family dentist will determine the intervals, and can advise you whether you should have your orthodontist remove the arch wires so the general dentist has better access for your dental cleaning. The arch wire would be replaced by your orthodontist after the cleaning.
Yes. We know you’re excited about your new smile, but you must wear a retainer to help keep your teeth in their new positions. Most patients wear a retainer for about a year; your orthodontist will tell you how long you need to wear your retainer.
There’s no time like the present, and healthy teeth can be moved at any age. Orthodontic treatment can create or restore good function, and teeth that work better usually look better, too. A healthy, beautiful smile can improve self-esteem, no matter your age.
Yes, keeping your teeth and braces (or other appliances) clean requires a little more effort on your part. Your orthodontist will explain how to brush and floss, how often to brush and floss, and give you any special instructions based on the kind of orthodontic treatment you are having. Be sure to follow your orthodontist’s dental hygiene prescription to get the best results possible. Check with your orthodontist about dental products and tools that might be helpful.
Also be sure to get a professional cleaning and check-up at least every six months during your orthodontic treatment, or more often, if recommended.
The ads you are seeing may be for veneers. They cover crooked teeth, but do not address the structure in the mouth or how the upper and lower teeth meet. Veneers are not permanent. Some require removal of significant amounts of tooth enamel.
Orthodontic treatment is about aligning teeth and jaws so that they meet and function effectively. It just so happens that when teeth and jaws are functioning well, they look good, too.
Should your case warrant it, you might want to ask your orthodontist about lingual braces, which are attached behind the teeth. Ceramic braces may be another option to lessen the visibility of braces; they blend in with the teeth for a more natural effect. Additionally, the use of a series of clear aligner trays (invisible braces) instead of traditional braces may be used to correct some problems. Talk with your orthodontist about less visible treatment options that will help you reach your treatment goals.
Discuss this question with your OBGYN/physician/healthcare professional and orthodontist before you start any orthodontic treatment, as pregnancy brings on bodily changes that may affect the mouth. Soft tissues such as gums become much more susceptible to infection.
Yes, but make sure you wear a protective mouth guard. Ask your orthodontist to recommend the right kind of mouth guard while you are having orthodontic treatment. Keep your smile beautiful after treatment and wear a mouth guard at every practice and every game.
With practice and a period of adjustment, braces typically do not interfere with the playing of wind or brass instruments.
While you have braces, it’s important to maintain a balanced diet for the health of your teeth. Of course, a healthy diet is always important, but eating too many sugary foods with braces can lead to plaque build-up around your brackets that could permanently stain or damage your teeth.
In general, patients with braces must be careful to avoid hard, sticky, chewy and crunchy foods. They should also avoid chewing on hard objects like pens, pencils and fingernails. And never chew ice. It’s much too hard on your teeth – even without braces. (Some other foods to avoid are: popcorn, corn on the cob and whole apples.)
Not all of us are born with beautiful smiles, but with a good oral hygiene routine, and a little help from orthodontics, you can have a beautiful and healthy smile.