• “Air abrasion is a way to remove decay from a tooth without using a dental drill. It works like a sandblaster removing graffiti from walls. The air abrasion hand piece blows a powerful air stream of tiny aluminum oxide particles out of its tip onto the tooth. The tiny particles bounce off the tooth and blast the decay away.

      Air abrasion is most commonly used to prepare teeth for composites, or “”white fillings.”” Air abrasion also helps to repair cracks and discolored teeth, to prepare teeth for bonding procedures, such as sealants, and for various other procedures. Air abrasion works well to repair chipped, fractured, or worn teeth; to prepare teeth for cosmetic surgery; remove stains and spots; repair old fillings and sealants; and repair broken crowns and bridges.

      Your general dentist, who has been trained in restorative dentistry techniques, will perform any procedures that use air-abrasion technology. Ask your dentist if he or she uses air-abrasion equipment and if this technique is right for you.”


    • If you have an upcoming appointment with a dentist and suffer from any of the following allergies, make sure you have a discussion with your dentist prior to receiving treatment.

    • Latex Allergy
    • Latex is the major ingredient in most rubber products, and it is commonly found in items used in the health care industry, including in latex examination gloves. Some people may develop an allergy to latex, with exposure resulting in potentially serious reactions including hives, itching at the site of contact or all over, tightness of the throat, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, and anaphylaxis. Such an allergic reaction could conceivably occur when going to a dentist who wears latex examination gloves.

    • Local Anesthetic Allergy
    • Reactions to local anesthetics are relatively common, although they may not always be caused by a true allergy. Symptoms occurring after the use of local anesthetics may also be caused by anxiety, hyperventilation, as well as side effects to epinephrine, which is frequently added to local anesthetics to make the numbing effect last longer.

      Preservatives added to local anesthetics, called methylparabens, are a more common cause of allergic reactions to local anesthetics. Since going to the dentist may mean the need for fillings, the use of local anesthetics may trigger allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.

    • Contact Dermatitis To Dental Work
    • There are many chemicals and materials used in the dentist’s office that are capable of causing contact dermatitis, both on the face, lips, and on the gums

      Ingredients in dental amalgam (including mercury), bonding or porcelain can result in redness, swelling and irritation of the gums. Flavorings found in mouthwashes, toothpastes and fluoride treatments could also cause itchy rashes inside the mouth or on the skin around the lips. Lastly, dental dams containing rubber compounds, usually other than latex, can result in contact dermatitis around the mouth. A number of potential contact allergens are present at the dentist office — exposure to these may result in reactions around the mouth, on the lips, or inside the mouth.


      Beltrani VS, Bernstein IL, Cohen DE, Fonacier L. Contact Dermatitis: A Practice Parameter. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2006;97:S

    • “Although many of the prescription and over-the-counter drugs used today are derived from plants, there is a big difference between the two. Conventional drugs, which must be approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are based on an active ingredient. Manufacturers find a chemical that provides a desired response when taken into the body, and then they synthesize that chemical. In other words, a conventional drug is based on a chemical that is made in a laboratory, even though it may have originally come from a plant.

      Herbal or botanical medications are taken from the natural chemicals within a plant. Either the extract is taken in its original form, sometimes combined with other herbal extracts, or it is refined. When an herbal medication is refined, the essential extract is taken out of the plant source, concentrated and then added back to make the original herbal medication more potent.

    • Why do I need to tell my dentist if I take herbal supplements?
    • Always tell your dentist about all medications and supplements you are taking and how much you take. From vitamins to Echinacea, everything you put in your body causes a certain reaction, and some alternative medicines are very potent. That reaction can interfere with medications your dentist gives you or enhance them to cause a much stronger reaction. If your dentist doesn’t know what drugs or supplements you have taken, he or she will not know how to protect you from possible substance interactions.”

    • “Sedation allows dentists to create a state of relaxation and thus manage the fear and pain patients may experience during dental procedures. There are several different types of sedation in dentistry.

      Local anesthesia is administered by injecting medication into tissue or by applying a medication topically to an area to eliminate sensation.

      Minimal sedation is used most frequently in dentistry and usually involves taking medications orally. All bodily functions remain normal and the person is able to breathe on his or her own. The patient may respond normally to verbal commands and may experience some degree of amnesia about what happened during their dental appointment. Nitrous oxide or “”laughing gas”” may be used to achieve minimal sedation and in combination with a recommended dosage of oral medication.

      Moderate sedation is achieved by using medications that can be taken orally or intravenously (IV). Patients who undergo moderate sedation are awake and respond to touch and/or verbal commands. All bodily functions remain normal, and the patient does not need assistance breathing.

      Deep sedation can be achieved by injecting medication, giving oral medications, and in combination with gases. Patients who are deeply sedated are not easily awakened but may respond to some stimulation. Patients may need some breathing assistance at deeper levels.”


    • “Patients become anxious about going to the dentist for different reasons. This may include fear of receiving local anesthetic or concerns about the effectiveness of the anesthesia. Negative past experiences also may play a large role in a patient’s anxiety, as well as financial concerns.

      Your dentist works to reduce your anxiety before you even set foot in the dental office. This process begins when you make your appointment. Your dentist’s office staff has been trained to tell you what to expect and to answer any questions you have to ensure that you will be comfortable during your visit. An understanding of your dental services and treatment can help to relieve dental anxiety. Make sure you ask questions and request informational materials, if desired.

      In general, avoid caffeine before a dental appointment to make you less anxious. Eating high-protein foods also produces a calming effect, unlike sugary foods. During the procedure, focus on breathing regularly and slowly. When they are nervous, some people tend to hold their breath, which decreases oxygen levels and further increases feelings of anxiety. Knowledge is the greatest defense against anxiety. If you have specific fears, talk to your dentist about them. Your dentist can go a long way to dispel any negative or frightening images you may have.


    • “Many people have had their teeth bleached, and probably millions more are thinking about it. The desire for a brighter smile with whiter teeth is very strong, and tooth bleaching safely lightens the color of the teeth, lasting for up to five years. The most effective and safest method of tooth bleaching is dentist-supervised.

      Generally, bleaching is successful in at least 90 percent of patients, though it may not be an option for everyone. Consider tooth bleaching if your teeth are darkened from age, coffee, tea or smoking. Teeth darkened with the color of yellow, brown or orange respond better to bleaching. Gray stains caused by fluorosis, smoking or tetracycline use can be lightened, but results are not as dramatic. If you have very sensitive teeth, periodontal (gum) disease or teeth with worn enamel, your dentist may discourage bleaching.”


    • A dentist usually recommends braces to improve a patient’s “”orofacial”” appearance. Through orthodontic treatment, problems like crooked or crowded teeth, overbites or underbites, incorrect jaw position and disorders of the jaw joints are corrected. If left untreated, these problems can result in tooth decay, gum disease, headaches and earaches, as well as speaking, biting or chewing problems.

    • When is the right time for braces?
    • Patients with orthodontic problems can benefit from treatment at nearly any age. An ideal time for placement of braces is while the head and mouth are still growing and teeth are more accessible to straightening.

      And braces aren’t just for kids. More and more adults are also wearing braces to correct minor problems and to improve their smiles.

    • What kind of braces will I have to wear?
    • Your dentist will know what appliance is best for your particular problem, but you often have a choice. Braces generally come in three varieties: The most popular type are brackets, metal, ceramic or plastic, that are bonded to teeth. Ceramic brackets are typically clear or tooth-colored and are far less noticeable than metal brackets. Lingual, or concealed, braces are brackets that attach to the back of teeth, hidden from view. Both types of braces use wires to move the teeth to the desired position.

      A new alternative to traditional braces is a series of clear, customized, removable appliances called aligners. Not only are these braces invisible, but they also are removable so they won’t trap food and plaque between your teeth like metal braces. You’ll wear each aligner for about two weeks and only remove it for eating, brushing and flossing. This may be an option for adults with mild spacing problems. Invisible aligners are not appropriate for children and adolescents who are still waiting for permanent teeth.

    • How long will I have to wear braces?
    • That depends upon your treatment plan. The more complicated your spacing or bite problem is, and the older you are, the longer the period of treatment, usually. Most patients can count on wearing full braces between 12 and 24 months, followed by the wearing of a retainer to set and align tissues surrounding straightened teeth.

    • Will treatment be uncomfortable?
    • The interconnecting wires of traditional braces are tightened at each visit, bearing mild pressure on the brackets or bands to shift teeth or jaws gradually into a desired position. Your teeth and jaws may feel slightly sore after each visit, but the discomfort is brief. Keep in mind also that some teeth may need to be extracted to make room for teeth being shifted with braces and for proper jaw alignment. For patients with aligners, there may be some soreness as your mouth adjusts to each new plastic tray.

    • Do I have to avoid any foods or personal habits?
    • Yes. Cut down on sweets, chips and soda. Sugary and starchy foods generate acids and plaque that can cause tooth decay and promote gum disease.

      Cut healthy, hard foods like carrots or apples into smaller pieces. Sticky, chewy sweets like caramel can cause wire damage and loosen brackets. Avoid hard and crunchy snacks that can break braces, including popcorn, nuts and hard candy. More don’ts: ice cube chewing, thumb sucking, excessive mouth breathing, lip biting and pushing your tongue against your teeth.

    • What about home care of my teeth with braces?
    • With braces, oral hygiene is more important than ever. Braces have tiny spaces where food particles and plaque get trapped. Brush carefully after every meal with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly and check your teeth in the mirror to make sure they’re clean. Take time to floss between braces and under wires with the help of a floss threader. Have your teeth cleaned every six months to keep your gums and teeth healthy. Insufficient cleaning while wearing braces can cause enamel staining around brackets or bands.

    • Who will provide my orthodontic treatment?
    • Your general dentist is responsible for coordinating your dental treatment, and this could encompass any orthodontic treatment plan, including diagnosis, examinations and some orthodontic procedures. Your dentist may, however, refer you to an orthodontist – a specialist trained in the development, prevention and correction of irregularities of the teeth, bite and jaws and related facial abnormalities.


    • Brushing Teeth – Proper Techniques for Brushing Your Teeth

    • What Is the Right Way to Brush?
    • Proper brushing takes at least two minutes — that’s right, 120 seconds! Most adults do not come close to brushing that long. To get a feel for the time involved, try using a stopwatch. To properly brush your teeth, use short, gentle strokes, paying extra attention to the gumline, hard-to-reach back teeth and areas around fillings, crowns or other restoration. Concentrate on thoroughly cleaning each section as follows:

      Clean the outer surfaces of your upper teeth, then your lower teeth
      Clean the inner surfaces of your upper teeth, then your lower teeth
      Clean the chewing surfaces
      For fresher breath, be sure to brush your tongue, too

      Tilt the brush at a 45° angle against the gumline and sweep or roll the brush away from the gumline.

      Gently brush the outside, inside and chewing surface of each tooth using short back-and-forth strokes.

      Gently brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen breath.

    • What Type of Toothbrush Should I Use?
    • Most dental professionals agree that a soft-bristled brush is best for removing plaque and debris from your teeth. Small-headed brushes are also preferable, since they can better reach all areas of the mouth, including hard-to-reach back teeth. For many, a powered toothbrush is a good alternative. It can do a better job of cleaning teeth, particularly for those who have difficulty brushing or who have limited manual dexterity. To find the right Colgate toothbrush for you, click here.

    • How Important is the Toothpaste I Use?
    • It is important that you use a toothpaste that’s right for you. Today there is a wide variety of toothpaste designed for many conditions, including cavities, gingivitis, tartar, stained teeth and sensitivity. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist which toothpaste is right for you. To find the right Colgate toothpaste for you, click here.

    • How Often Should I Replace My Toothbrush?
    • You should replace your toothbrush when it begins to show wear, or every three months, whichever comes first. It is also very important to change toothbrushes after you’ve had a cold, since the bristles can collect germs that can lead to reinfection.



    • From subtle changes to major repairs, your dentist can perform a variety of procedures to improve your smile. There are many techniques and options to treat teeth that are discolored, chipped, misshapen or missing. Your dentist can reshape your teeth, close spaces, restore worn or short teeth or alter the length of your teeth. Common procedures include bleaching, bonding, crowns, veneers and reshaping and contouring.

      These improvements are not always just cosmetic. Many of these treatments can improve oral problems, such as your bite.

    • Bleaching
    • Bleaching is a common and popular chemical process used to whiten teeth. Some people get their teeth bleached to make stains disappear, while other just want a whiter shade.

      Discoloration occurs in the enamel and can be caused by medication, coffee, tea and cigarettes. Discoloration also can be hereditary or due simply to getting older.

      Bleaching can be performed by your dentist in the office or, under dental supervision, at home. Many patients enjoy bleaching at home because it is more convenient. Treatment begins when your dentist creates a custom mouthpiece to ensure the correct amount of whitening solution is used and that your teeth are properly exposed. Typically, whitening at home takes two to four weeks, depending on the desired shade you wish to achieve. Whitening in the office may call for one or more 45-minute to one-hour visits to your dentist’s office.

    • Bonding
    • Bonding is tooth-colored material used to fill in gaps or change the color of teeth. Requiring a single office visit, bonding lasts several years. Bonding is more susceptible to staining or chipping than other forms of restoration. When teeth are chipped or slightly decayed, bonded composite resins may be the material of choice. Bonding also is used as a tooth-colored filling for small cavities. Additionally, it can be used to close spaces between teeth or cover the entire outside surface of a tooth to change its color and shape.

    • Crowns
    • Crowns, also known as caps, cover a tooth to restore it to its normal shape and appearance. Due to their cost, they are used in cases where other procedures will not be effective. Crowns have the longest life expectancy of all cosmetic restorations, but are the most time-consuming.

    • Veneers
    • Veneers are thin pieces of porcelain or plastic placed over the front teeth to change the color or shape of your teeth. Veneers are used on teeth with uneven surfaces or are chipped, discolored, oddly shaped, unevenly spaced or crooked. Little or no anesthesia is needed. Veneers are used to treat some of the same problems as bonding.

      This treatment is an alternative to crowns, which are more expensive. The procedure requires your dentist to take an impression of your tooth. Before the custom-made veneer is cemented directly onto the tooth, your dentist will lightly buff the tooth to compensate for the added thickness of the veneer. Once the cement is between the veneer and your tooth, a light beam is used to harden it. Porcelain veneers require more than one visit because they are fabricated in a laboratory. Veneers have a longer life expectancy and color stability than bonding.

    • Contouring and reshaping
    • Tooth reshaping and contouring, is a procedure to correct crooked teeth, chipped or irregularly shaped teeth or even overlapping teeth in a single session. Tooth reshaping and contouring, is commonly used to alter the length, shape or position of your teeth. Contouring teeth may also help correct small problems with bite. It is common for bonding to be combined with tooth reshaping.

      This procedure is ideal for candidates with normal, healthy teeth but who want subtle changes to their smile. Your dentist will take X-rays to evaluate the size and location of the pulp of each tooth to ensure that there’s enough bone between the teeth to support them.

    • Which procedure is right for me?
    • Your dentist can answer any questions you may have about techniques used to improve your smile. The condition of your teeth and desired result you want often dictates the best procedure. If you are considering a treatment, there are a few questions you can ask your dentist before deciding if a particular procedure is right for you.

      • What will the changes look like?
      • What should I expect through the course of treatment?
      • What type of maintenance will be required?
      • What should I look for in a cosmetic dentist?

      In order to make sure your dentist is skilled in cosmetic dentistry, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) recommends that you ask your dentist for the following items before undergoing treatment:

      • Before and after photos. These photos will allow you to examine the results of other patients being treated by the dentist to make sure his or her work fits your dental needs.
      • References. References allow you to get a sense of the quality of care the dentist provides.
      • Proof of continuing education. Be certain that your dentist has taken continuing education courses to keep him or her up-to-date with the latest techniques in clinical cosmetic dentistry.
      • Your dentist can answer the questions you have about the techniques used to improve your smile. The condition of your teeth and your desired result often indicate the best procedure for you.

    • A crown is a restoration that covers, or “”caps,”” a tooth to restore it to its normal shape and size, strengthening and improving the appearance of a tooth. Crowns are necessary when a tooth is generally broken down and fillings won’t solve the problem. If a tooth is cracked, a crown holds the tooth together to seal the cracks so the damage doesn’t get worse. Crowns are also used to restore a tooth when there isn’t enough of the tooth remaining to provide support for a large filling, attach a bridge, protect weak teeth from fracturing, restore fractured teeth or cover badly shaped or discolored teeth.

      To prepare the tooth for a crown, it is reduced so the crown can fit over it. An impression of the teeth and gums is made and sent to the lab for the crown fabrication. A temporary crown is fitted over the tooth until the permanent crown is made. On the next visit, the dentist removes the temporary crown and cements the permanent crown onto the tooth.

    • Why crowns and not veneers?
    • Crowns require more tooth structure removal, hence they cover more of the tooth than veneers. Crowns are customarily indicated for teeth that have sustained significant loss of structure or to replace missing teeth. Crowns may be placed on natural teeth or dental implants.

    • What is the difference between a cap and a crown?
    • There is no difference between a cap and a crown.

    • Do crowns look natural?
    • Yes. The dentist’s main goal is to create a crown that looks like a natural tooth. That is why your dentist takes an impression. To achieve a certain look, a number of factors are considered, such as the color, bite, shape and length of your natural teeth. Any one of these factors alone can affect your appearance.

      If you have a certain cosmetic look in mind for your crown, discuss it with your dentist at your initial visit. When the procedure is complete, your teeth will not only be stronger, but they may be more attractive.

    • How long do crowns last?
    • Crowns should last approximately five to eight years. However, with good oral hygiene and supervision, most crowns will last for a much longer period of time. Some damaging habits like grinding your teeth, chewing ice or fingernail biting may cause this period of time to decrease significantly.

    • How should I take care of my crown?
    • To prevent damaging or fracturing the crown, avoid chewing hard foods, ice or other hard objects. You also want to avoid teeth grinding. Besides visiting your dentist and brushing twice a day, cleaning between your teeth is vital with crowns. Floss or interdental cleaners (specially shaped brushes and sticks) are important tools to remove plaque from the crown area where the gum meets the tooth. Plaque in that area can cause dental decay and gum disease.”


    • If you or your child has bruxism, your doctor may suggest ways to preserve or improve your teeth. Although these methods may prevent or correct the wear to your teeth, they may not stop the bruxism:

    • Splints and mouth guards.
    • These are designed to keep teeth separated to avoid the damage caused by clenching and grinding. They can be constructed of hard acrylic or soft materials and fit over your upper or lower teeth.

    • Dental correction
    • Correcting teeth that aren’t properly aligned may help if your bruxism seems to be related to dental problems. In severe cases — when tooth wear has led to sensitivity or the inability to chew properly — your dentist may need to reshape the chewing surfaces of your teeth or use crowns. In certain cases, your dentist may recommend braces

    • Burning mouth syndrome
    • (BMS) is a common, but complex problem that causes patients to experience a burning or scalding pain on the lips and tongue (and sometimes throughout the mouth). There are often no visible signs of irritation, and the cause of the syndrome may be caused by various factors, ranging from the onset of menopause to psychological dysfunctions to vitamin deficiencies. BMS may affect up to 5 percent of Americans and usually occurs in people over age 60.

      Though members of both sexes are susceptible to BMS, it occurs more frequently in older women (between 18and 33 percent of post-menopausal women are estimated to have BMS). The syndrome is also called glossodynia (tongue pain) and stomatodynia (mouth pain). BMS is not a form of nor can cause cancer.”

    • Oral Cancer
    • Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue. Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away. Oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat), can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.


    • A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is surgically anchored into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge in place. The benefit of using implants is that they don’t rely on neighboring teeth for support and they are permanent and stable. Implants are a good solution to tooth loss because they look and feel like natural teeth.

      Implant material is made from different types of metallic and bone-like ceramic materials that are compatible with body tissue. There are different types of dental implants: the first is placed directly into the jaw bone, like natural tooth roots; the second is used when the jaw structure is limited, therefore, a custom-made metal framework fits directly on the existing bone.

    • How do they work?
    • Strategically placed, implants can now be used to support permanently cemented bridges, eliminating the need for a denture. The cost tends to be greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble real teeth.

    • Can anyone receive dental implants?
    • Talk with your dentist about whether you are an implant candidate. You must be in good health and have the proper bone structure and healthy gums for the implant to stay in place. People who are unable to wear dentures may also be good candidates. If you suffer from chronic problems, such as clenching or bruxism, or systemic diseases, such as diabetes, the success rate for implants decreases dramatically. Additionally, people who smoke or drink alcohol may not be good candidates

    • What can I expect during this procedure?
    • The dentist must perform surgery to anchor the “”artificial root”” into or on your jaw bone. The procedure is done in the dental office with local anesthesia. The gum is then secured over the implant, which will remain covered until it fuses with the bone. The dentist then uncovers the implant and attaches an extension, or post, to the implant. With some implants, the implant and post are a single unit placed in the mouth during the initial surgery. Finally, the dentist makes an artificial tooth, or crown, that is attached to the implant post.

    • How long does the process take?
    • The process can take up to nine months to complete. Each patient heals differently, so times will vary. After the implant and posts are placed surgically, the healing process can take up to six months and the fitting of replacement teeth no more than two months. Sometimes, if a patient has good bone quality, posts can be placed and replacement teeth fitted in one appointment.

    • What is the success rate of implants?
    • The success rate for implants depends on the tooth’s purpose and location in the mouth, as well as a patient’s overall health.

    • How do I care for implants?
    • Poor oral hygiene is a big reason why some implants fail. It is important to floss and brush around the fixtures at least twice a day. Your dentist will give you specific instructions on how to care for your new implants. Additional cleanings of up to four times per year may be necessary to ensure that you retain healthy gums.


    • Although there is no perfect dental insurance plan, some plans will be better than others for you and your family. Dental insurance plans primarily differ in how much you have to pay. Although no plan will pay for all of the costs associated with your dental care, some plans will cover more than others. With any dental insurance plan, you will pay a basic premium, usually monthly, to buy the dental insurance coverage. In addition, there are often other payments you must make. These payments will vary by plan, but they are essentially deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.

    • What questions should I ask?
    • Consider these questions when selecting a dental plan:

      • How much will it cost me on a monthly basis?
      • Are there deductibles I must pay before the insurance begins to help cover my costs?
      • After I have met the deductible, what parts of my costs are paid by the plan?
      • Which dentists are part of the plan?
      • Where will I go for care? Are the offices near where I work or live?
      • If I use dentists outside of a plan’s network, how much more will I need to pay to receive care?
      • If you have access to dental insurance, it’s a good idea to elect coverage.
      • But if you can’t get dental coverage through work, you might be able to buy an individual dental insurance policy.

    • What types of dental plans are available?
    • PPO
    • PPO stands for Preferred Provider Organization. A PPO health insurance plan allows for more flexibility and more choices when it comes to your healthcare.

      A PPO plan offers a network of healthcare providers to choose from, and you have the freedom to receive care from any in- or out-of-network doctor, specialist or hospital without a referral – even when you travel.

    • HMO
    • An HMO gives you access to certain doctors and hospitals within its network. But unlike PPO plans, care under an HMO plan is covered only if you see a provider within that HMO’s network. There are few opportunities to see a non-network provider. There are also typically more restrictions for coverage than other plans, such as allowing only a certain number of visits, tests or treatments.

    • Dental Discount Plan
    • A number of companies offer dental discount plans. For a monthly or annual fee, you get access to a network of dentists who will work for discounted rates. However, there are no guarantees that your dentist will provide services for the discounted rate for the entire term of your plan membership. Be sure to check with your dentist to make sure he or she is a member. You also may want to talk with your dentist about other financing arrangements.


    • A denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth and the tissues connected to those teeth. It is made of acrylic plastic and sometimes porcelain and metal materials. A denture closely resembles natural gum tissue and teeth.

      Complete dentures replace all of the teeth, while partial dentures fill in the spaces created by missing teeth and prevent other teeth from shifting position. Complete dentures are “”immediate”” or “”conventional.”” An immediate denture is a complete denture or partial denture that is inserted on the same day, immediately following the removal of the natural teeth. The immediate denture acts as a Band-Aid to protect the tissues and reduce bleeding after tooth extraction. The conventional denture is ready for placement in the mouth about 8 to 12 weeks after the teeth have been removed and the gum tissue has healed. However, some dentists may recommend more time before placing a conventional denture.

    • Who needs a denture?
    • A partial denture is for people who still have some of their natural teeth. Dentures are not just for elderly patients. Patients of any age may lose some or all of their teeth and may require a denture of some sort. Because teeth are a permanent part of the body, tooth loss can have an emotional impact on some people. It is important to talk to your dentist about any fears, anxiety, or other emotions you are feeling about tooth loss.

    • What happens when you get a denture?
    • A dentist can make a full conventional denture when all teeth have been lost or all extraction sites have healed (up to eight weeks or longer.) The denture process takes about one month and five appointments: the initial diagnosis is made; an impression and a wax bite are made to determine vertical dimensions and proper jaw position; a “”try-in”” is placed to assure proper color, shape and fit; and the patient’s final denture is placed, following any minor adjustments.

      New denture wearers need time to get accustomed to their new “”teeth,”” because even the best-fitting dentures will feel awkward at first. While most patients can begin to speak normally within a few hours, many patients report discomfort with eating for several days to a few weeks. To get accustomed to chewing with a new denture, start with soft, easy-to-chew foods. In addition, denture wearers often notice a slight change in facial appearance, increased salivary flow or minor irritation or discomfort.

    • How do you care for a denture?
    • Denture adhesives may be recommended, especially for the first-time denture wearer. Adhesives may improve the retention and stability of dentures for those with minimal bone support or small ridges. Stability of the denture will help the wearer’s confidence.

      DRemove and brush the denture daily with a denture cleanser and a brush (one specifically designed for cleaning dentures or a soft toothbrush).

      Avoid using boiling water to sterilize the denture, because hot water can cause the denture to lose its shape.

      If you wear a partial denture, remove it before brushing your natural teeth.

      When you’re not wearing the denture, soak it in denture cleanser or water.

      To avoid misplacing your denture, store it in the same place after removal.

    • Should a denture be worn at night?
    • While you may be advised to wear your denture almost constantly during the first two weeks – even while you sleep – under normal circumstances it is considered best to remove it at night and soak the denture in cleansing solution or water. Research has shown that removing the denture for at least eight hours during either the day or night allows the gum tissue to rest and allows normal stimulation and cleansing by the tongue and saliva. This promotes better long-term health of the gums.It is estimated that up to 20 million people have diabetes, but only two-thirds of these individuals are diagnosed. Studies have shown that diabetics are more susceptible to the development of oral infections and periodontal (gum) disease than those who do not have diabetes. Oral infections tend to be more severe in diabetic patients than non-diabetic patients. And, diabetics who do not have good control over their blood sugar levels tend to have more oral health problems. These infections occur more often after puberty and in aging patients.

    • How are gum disease and diabetes related?
    • Because diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, the gums are at risk for gingivitis, an inflammation usually caused by the presence of bacteria in plaque. Plaque is the sticky film that accumulates on teeth both above and below the gum line. Without regular dental check-ups, gum disease may result if gingivitis is left untreated. It also can cause inflammation and destruction of tissues surrounding and supporting teeth, gums, bone and fibers that hold the gums to the teeth.

    • What other types of problems could I experience?
    • Diabetics may experience burning mouth syndrome and fungal infections, such as thrush and oral candidiasis. Dry mouth (xerostomia) also may develop, causing an increased incidence of decay. To prevent problems with bacterial infections in the mouth, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics, medicated mouth rinses and more frequent cleanings.”

      Dry mouth (also called xerostomia) is caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva in the mouth when the salivary glands do not work properly. The salivary glands help keep your mouth moist, which helps prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems.

      Prescription and over-the-counter medications are the most common cause of dry mouth. In fact, more than 400 medications can contribute to mouth dryness. The most common troublemakers are antihypertensives, antidepressants, painkillers, tranquilizers, diuretics, and antihistamines.

      Dry mouth may be a sign of a serious health condition or may occur when a person is upset or experiences stress. It also can be caused by radiation therapy and chemotherapy, hormonal alterations or diseases such as AIDS, diabetes, or Sjögren’s syndrome. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease or those who suffer a stroke may experience dry mouth. Approximately 30 percent of persons over the age of 65 are affected by dry mouth.

    • Can dry mouth cause health problems?
    • Yes. You want to prevent dry mouth if possible, because it can cause difficulty in tasting, chewing, or swallowing. It also allows plaque to build up on your teeth faster, leading to a higher risk of cavities. In certain cases, a lack of moisture can make your tongue become very sensitive, causing a condition called burning mouth syndrome. Dry mouth can also lead to bad breath, ulceration or soreness of the mouth, gum disease, and difficulty in wearing dentures.

    • Why is saliva important?
    • Saliva helps wash away cavity-causing bacteria, provides enzymes to help digest food, protects teeth from decay by neutralizing harmful acids, and keeps oral tissues healthy. Without saliva you would lose your teeth much faster.

    • What is Sjögren’s syndrome?
    • Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s white blood cells attack their own moisture-producing glands. Approximately 4 million Americans have this condition. The majority of sufferers are women who are in their late 40s at the time of diagnosis.

      Sjögren’s syndrome is difficult to diagnose because symptoms vary greatly. Patients may experience dryness in the eyes and mouth, fatigue, or joint pain, and it also mimics the natural signs of aging.

    • How can my dentist help?
    • Your dentist will want to know if you have difficulty swallowing or speaking, oral soreness, or a dry throat. Help your dentist to diagnose the problem by paying close attention to the symptoms associated with dry mouth. If you have any questions about this condition, ask your dentist.

      There are many treatments that can help ease the symptoms of dry mouth, including over-the-counter saliva substitutes. To ease discomfort, your dentist may also recommend the following:

      • Brush and floss twice a day
      • Chew sugar-free gum
      • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
      • Avoid smoking
      • Avoid acidic juices (i.e., tomato, orange, grapefruit)
      • Avoid dry foods, such as toast or crackers
      • Avoid overly salty foods
      • Drink plenty of water

    • With as many as 35 million men and women suffering from eating disorders in the United States, more dentists are becoming the first line of defense when it comes to spotting eating disorders in patients, according to the May 2005 issue of AGD Impact, the newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

      Bad breath, sensitive teeth and tooth erosion are just a few of the signs that dentists use to determine whether a patient suffers from an eating disorder.Signs of an eating disorder:

      • Bad breath
      • Tender mouth, throat and salivary glands
      • Eroded tooth enamel
      • Teeth that are worn and appear almost translucent
      • Mouth sores
      • Dry mouth
      • Cracked lips
      • Bleeding gums
      • Sensitive teeth

    • Overview
    • Even though we’ve been brushing and flossing our teeth for years and years, many of us are surprised to learn that we’re not doing it properly. Case in point: Did you know that proper brushing takes at least two minutes? Most adults do not come close to brushing that long.

      These four steps are the best and easiest ways to help you remember how to care for your mouth, teeth and gums:

      • Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for at least two minutes, especially first thing in the morning and before bedtime
      • Floss every day – usually at bedtime
      • Limit the number of times you eat snacks each day
      • Visit your dentist every six months for an oral exam and professional cleaning.

      • Pull 18 to 24 inches of dental floss from the floss dispenser.
      • Wrap the ends of the floss around your index and middle fingers.
      • Hold the floss tightly around each tooth in a C shape; move the floss back and forth in a push-pull motion and up and down against the side of each tooth.

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    • Bruxism
    • Bruxism (BRUK-siz-um) is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. If you have bruxism, you may unconsciously clench your teeth together during the day, or clench or grind them at night (sleep bruxism).

      Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder. People who clench or grind their teeth (brux) during sleep are more likely to have other sleep disorders, such as snoring and pauses in breathing (sleep apnea).

      Mild bruxism may not require treatment. However, in some people, bruxism can be frequent and severe enough to lead to jaw disorders, headaches, damaged teeth and other problems.

      Because you may have sleep bruxism and be unaware of it until complications develop, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of bruxism and to seek regular dental care

      Signs and symptoms of bruxism may include:

      • Teeth grinding or clenching, which may be loud enough to awaken your sleep partner
      • Teeth that are flattened, fractured, chipped or loose
      • Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your tooth
      • Increased tooth sensitivity
      • Jaw or face pain or soreness
      • Tired or tight jaw muscles
      • Pain that feels like an earache, though it’s actually not a problem with your ear
      • Dull headache originating in the temples
      • Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek
      • Indentations on your tongue

    • Why should I floss?
    • Floss removes plaque and debris that adhere to teeth and gums in between teeth, polishes tooth surfaces and controls bad breath. By flossing your teeth daily, you increase the chances of keeping your teeth a lifetime and decrease your chance of having periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay.

      Flossing is the single most important weapon against plaque, perhaps more important than the toothbrush. A toothbrush cleans the tops and sides of your teeth. Dental floss cleans between them. Some people use waterpicks, but floss is the best choice. Many people just don’t spend enough time flossing and many have never been taught to floss properly. When you visit your dentist or hygienist, ask to be shown.

    • Which type of floss should I use?
    • Dental floss comes in many forms: waxed and unwaxed, flavored and unflavored, wide and regular. Wide floss, or dental tape, may be helpful for people with a lot of bridge work. Tapes are usually recommended when the spaces between teeth are wide. They all clean and remove plaque about the same. Waxed floss might be easier to slide between tight teeth or tight restorations. However, the unwaxed floss makes a squeaking sound to let you know your teeth are clean. Bonded unwaxed floss does not fray as easily as regular unwaxed floss but does tear more than waxed floss.

    • How should I floss?
    • There are two flossing methods: the spool method and the loop method. The spool method is suited for those with manual dexterity. Take an 18-inch piece of floss and wind the bulk of the floss lightly around the middle finger. (Don’t cut off your finger’s circulation!) Wind the rest of the floss similarly around the same finger of the opposite hand. This finger takes up the floss as it becomes soiled or frayed. Maneuver the floss between teeth with your index fingers and thumbs. Don’t pull it down hard against your gums or you will hurt them. Don’t rub it side to side as if you’re shining shoes. Bring the floss up and down several times, forming a “”C”” shape around the tooth and being sure to go below the gumline.

      The loop method is suited for children or adults with less nimble hands, poor muscular coordination or arthritis. Take an 18-inch piece of floss and make it into a circle. Tie it securely with three knots. Place all of the fingers, except the thumb, within the loop. Use your index fingers to guide the floss through the lower teeth, and use your thumbs to guide the floss through the upper teeth, going below the gumline and forming a “”C”” on the side of the tooth.

    • How often should I floss?
    • At least once a day. To give your teeth a good flossing, spend at least two or three minutes.

    • What are floss holders?
    • You may prefer a prethreaded flosser or floss holder, which often looks like a little hacksaw. Flossers are handy for people with limited dexterity, for those who are just beginning to floss or for caretakers who are flossing someone else’s teeth.

    • Is it safe to use toothpicks?
    • In a pinch, toothpicks are effective at removing food between teeth, but for daily cleaning of plaque between teeth, floss is recommended. When you use a toothpick, don’t press too hard, as you can break off the end and lodge it in your gums.


    • What is fluoride?
    • Fluoride is a compound of the element fluorine, which is found universally throughout nature in water, soil, air and food. Existing abundantly in living tissue as an ion, fluoride is absorbed easily into tooth enamel, especially in children’s growing teeth. Once teeth are developed, fluoride makes the entire tooth structure more resistant to decay and promotes remineralization, which aids in repairing early decay before the damage is even visible. Two forms of fluoride protect the teeth: systemic fluoride and topical fluoride.

    • What is systemic fluoride?
    • Systemic fluoride is ingested into the body when added to public and private water supplies, soft drinks and teas and is available in dietary supplement form. Once systemic fluoride is absorbed via the gastrointestinal tract, the blood supply distributes it throughout the entire body. Most fluoride not excreted is deposited in bones and hard tissues like teeth.

    • What’s topical fluoride, and when should I use it?
    • Topical fluoride is applied directly to the teeth. It is found in products containing higher concentrations of fluoride to fight tooth decay, such as toothpastes and mouth rinses. These products are then expectorated or rinsed from the mouth without swallowing. Dentists recommend brushing with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day or after every meal, combined with a regimen of flossing and regular dental checkups.

      Professionally administered topical fluorides such as gels or varnishes are applied by a dentist and left on for 60 seconds , usually during a cleaning treatment. For patients with a high risk of cavities, the dentist may prescribe a special gel for daily home use, to be applied with or without a mouth tray for up to six weeks.

    • Why is most of the water we drink fluoridated?
    • Fluoridated water protects against cavities and root caries – a progressive erosion of adult root surfaces caused by gum recession – and helps remineralize early carious lesions. Thanks to these preventive benefits, public water fluoridation is considered the most efficient and cost-effective cavity prevention measure available. More than 144 million United States residents in more than 10,000 communities drink fluoridated water, most from public water supplies with artificially added fluoride. A small percentage get water from private wells with naturally fluoridated water.

      The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the accepted “”optimal”” range of fluoride in water lies between 0.7 and 1.2 parts per million (ppm) or milligram per liter. The limit allowed by the EPA in public water is 4 ppm. Backed by results from more than 140 documented studies undertaken in 20 different countries over the past several decades, fluoridated water adhering to these standards has been scientifically established as safe for drinking. Water fluoridation is endorsed by nearly every major health and safety-related organization. Fluoridation of community water supplies is the single most effective public-health measure to prevent tooth decay and to improve oral health for a lifetime.


    • Gum disease, or periodontal disease is a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissue. It is the major cause of about 70 percent of adult tooth loss, affecting three out of four persons at some point in their life. Periodontal diseases include gingivitis and periodontitis.

    • What causes gum disease?
    • Bacterial plaque – a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on the teeth – is recognized as the primary cause of gum disease. If plaque isn’t removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar).Toxins produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets that fill with even more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, pockets extend deeper, and the bacteria moves down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. The tooth eventually will fall out or require extraction.

    • Are there other factors?
    • Yes. Genetics is also a factor, as are lifestyle choices. A diet low in nutrients can diminish the body’s ability to fight infection. Smokers and spit tobacco users have more irritation to gum tissues than non-tobacco users, while stress can also affect the ability to ward off disease. Diseases that interfere with the body’s immune system, such as leukemia and AIDS, may worsen the condition of the gums. In patients with uncontrolled diabetes, where the body is more prone to infection, gum disease is more severe or harder to control. Pregnant women experience elevated levels of hormones that cause the gums to react differently to the bacteria found in plaque, and in many cases can cause a condition known as “”pregnancy gingivitis.””

    • What are the warning signs of gum disease?
    • Signs include red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, gums that pull away from teeth, loose or separating teeth, pus between the gum and tooth, persistent bad breath, a change in the way teeth fit together when the patient bites and a change in the fit of dentures. While patients are advised to check for the warning signs, there might not be any discomfort until the disease has spread to a point where the tooth is unsalvageable. That’s why patients are advised to get frequent dental exams.

    • What does periodontal treatment involve?
    • In the early stages of gum disease, most treatment involves a special cleaning called scaling and root planning, which removes plaque and tartar around the tooth and smoothing the root surfaces. Antibiotics or antimicrobials may be used to supplement the effects of scaling and root planing. In most cases of early gum disease, called gingivitis, scaling and root planing and proper daily cleaning achieve a satisfactory result. More advanced cases may require surgical treatment, which involves cutting the gums – sometimes with the assistance of a laser – and removing the hardened plaque build-up and recontouring the damaged bone. The procedure is also designed to smooth root surfaces and reposition the gum tissue so it will be easier to keep clean.

    • How do you prevent gum disease?
    • Removing plaque through daily brushing, flossing and professional cleaning is the best way to minimize your risk. Your dentist can design a personalized program of home oral care to meet your needs.

    • What is the role of the general dentist?
    • The general dentist usually detects gum disease and treats it in the early stages. Some general dentists have acquired additional expertise to treat more advanced conditions of the disease. If the general dentist believes that the gum disease requires treatment by a specialist, the patient will be referred to a periodontist. The dentist and periodontist will work together to formulate a treatment plan for the patient.

    • How can I maintain treatment at home?
    • Sticking to a regular oral hygiene regimen is crucial for patients who want to sustain the results of periodontal therapy. Patients should visit the dentist every three to four months (or more, depending on the patient) for spot scaling and root planing and an overall exam. In between visits, they should brush at least twice a day, floss daily and brush their tongue. Manual soft nylon bristle brushes are the most dependable and least expensive. Electric brushes are also a good option, but don’t reach any further into the pocket than manual brushes. Proxy brushes (small, narrow brushes) and other interdental cleaners are the best way to clean between the recesses in the teeth and should be used once a day. Wooden toothpicks and rubber tips should only be used if recommended by your dentist.


    • “More than 80 million people suffer from chronic halitosis, or bad breath. In most cases it originates from the gums and tongue. The odor is caused by wastes from bacteria in the mouth, the decay of food particles, other debris in your mouth and poor oral hygiene. The decay and debris produce a sulfur compound that causes the unpleasant odor.

    • What causes bad breath?
    • Bad breath is primarily caused by poor oral hygiene but can also be caused by retained food particles or gum disease.

    • Does bad breath come from other sources than the mouth?
    • Bad breath also may occur in people who have a medical infection, diabetes, kidney failure or a liver malfunction. Xerostomia (dry mouth) and tobacco also contribute to this problem. Cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy may experience dry mouth. Even stress, dieting, snoring, age and hormonal changes can have an effect on your breath. An odor that comes from the back of your tongue may indicate postnasal drip. This is where mucus secretion, which comes from the nose and moves down your throat, gets stuck on the tongue and causes an odor.

    • Why is saliva so important in the fight against bad breath?
    • Saliva is the key ingredient in your mouth that helps keep the odor under control because it helps wash away food particles and bacteria, the primary cause of bad breath. When you sleep, however, salivary glands slow down the production of saliva, allowing the bacteria to grow inside the mouth. To alleviate “”morning mouth,”” brush your teeth and eat a morning meal. Morning mouth also is associated with hunger or fasting. Those who skip breakfast, beware, because the odor may reappear even if you’ve brushed your teeth.

    • Do certain foods cause bad breath?
    • Very spicy foods, such as onions and garlic, and coffee may be detected on a person’s breath for up to 72 hours after digestion. Onions, for example, are absorbed by the stomach, and the odor is then excreted through the lungs. Studies even have shown that garlic rubbed on the soles of the feet can show up on the breath.

    • How do I control bad breath?
    • It is important to practice good oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day. Proper brushing, including brushing the tongue, cheeks and the roof of the mouth, will remove bacteria and food particles. Flossing removes accumulated bacteria, plaque and food that may be trapped between teeth. To alleviate odors, clean your tongue with your toothbrush or a tongue scraper, a plastic tool that scrapes away bacteria that builds on the tongue. Chewing sugar-free gum also may help control odor. If you have dentures or a removable appliance, such as a retainer or mouthguard, clean the appliance thoroughly before placing it back in your mouth. Before you use mouthrinses, deodorizing sprays or tablets, talk with your dentist, because these products only mask the odor temporarily and some products work better than others.

    • What is my dentist’s role?
    • Visit your dentist regularly, because checkups will help detect any physical problems. Checkups also help get rid of the plaque and bacteria that build up on your teeth. If you think that you suffer from bad breath, your dentist can help determine its source. He or she may ask you to schedule a separate appointment to find the source of the odor. Or, if your dentist believes that the problem is caused from a systemic (internal) source, such as an infection, he or she may refer you to your family physician or a specialist to help remedy the cause of the problem. “Daily Tips for Good Oral Hygiene”

      Bacteria can live in your mouth in the form of plaque, causing cavities and gingivitis, which can lead to periodontal (gum) disease. In order to keep your mouth clean, you must practice good oral hygiene every day.


    • Infection control is a set of recommended safety precautions that dentists implement to protect their patients and staff in the office. Strict infection control is required by the state board. Improved infection-control procedures with heightened awareness of the dangers of infection mean that the instruments and supplies your dentist uses in your mouth are either sterilized or are disposable items intended for one-time.

      Today, these infection-control tools are required in all dental practices, your dentist has strict procedures and may use a variety of measures to ensure that instruments used during dental procedures are sterile. As an extra precaution, many dentists and their staff are vaccinated for hepatitis B. Sterilizing dental instruments, a process that destroys all forms of microbial life, is also an important part of infection control in a dental office.

      Universal precautions, used for every patient, are safety procedures established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Dental Association (ADA). These precautions require all dental staff involved in patient care to use appropriate protective wear, such as gloves, masks and eyewear. For more information on CDC Infection Control guidelines, please visit www.cdc.gov.

      Dentists sterilize handpieces and other instruments between patients. Dental offices follow and monitor specific heat-sterilization procedures, which are outlined by the CDC and the ADA. Most dental instruments are sterilized in special machines. Recommended sterilization methods include placing these tools into an autoclave (steam under pressure), a dry-heat oven or chemical vapor (commonly called a chemiclave). Typically, this equipment is kept in the office, away from a patient’s view. Ask your dentist to show you how and where instruments are sterilized.

      Before you enter the examination room, all surfaces, such as the dental chair, drawer handles and countertops are disinfected. To sterilize equipment that can’t be moved, such as X-ray units and countertops, disinfectant is applied after each patient to ensure a germ-free environment. Some offices may drape this equipment with protective covers, which are replaced after each patient. Disposable sharp items, such as needles, that cannot be sterilized are disposed of in puncture-resistant biohazard containers.


    • What is a laser and how does it work?
    • A laser is an instrument that produces a very narrow, intense beam of light energy. When laser light comes in contact with tissue, it causes a reaction. The light produced by the laser can remove or shape tissue.

    • Are lasers used in dentistry?
    • Yes, lasers have been used in dentistry since 1990. Lasers can be used as a safe and effective treatment for a wide range of dental procedures and are often used in conjunction with other dental instruments.

    • How are lasers used in dentistry?
    • Dental lasers can be used to:

      • Reduce the discomfort of canker and cold sores.
      • Expose partially erupted wisdom teeth.
      • Remove muscle attachments that limit proper movement.
      • Manage gum tissue during impressions for crowns or other procedures.
      • Remove overgrown tissues caused by certain medications.
      • Perform biopsy procedures.
      • Remove inflamed gum tissues and aid in the treatment of gum disease.
      • Remove or reshape gum and bone tissues during crown lengthening procedures.
      • Help treat infections in root canals.

    • What are the benefits of using dental lasers?
    • There are several advantages. Dentists may not need to use a drill or administer anesthesia in some procedures, allowing the patient to enjoy a more relaxed dental experience. Laser procedures can be more precise. Also, lasers can reduce symptoms and healing times associated with traditional therapies; reduce the amount of bacteria in both diseased gum tissue and in tooth cavities; and control bleeding during surgery.

    • Are dental lasers safe?
    • If the dental laser is used according to accepted practices by a trained practitioner, then it is at least as safe as other dental instruments. However, just as you wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from prolonged exposure to the sun, when your dentist performs a laser procedure, you will be asked to wear special eyeglasses to protect your eyes from the laser.

    • How can I be sure my dentist is properly trained to use a laser?
    • Ask your dentist questions about the extent of his or her laser education and training. Make sure that your dentist has participated in educational courses and received training by the manufacturer. Many dental schools, dental associations, and the Academy of Laser Dentistry (ALD) offer dental laser education. The ALD is the profession’s independent source for current dental laser education and credentialing.

    • How will I know if treatment with a dental laser is an option for me?
    • Your dentist will be able to recommend what is appropriate for you.


    • Your dentist prescribes medications for many reasons. While some drugs are formulated to fight oral diseases, others are used to prevent infections after surgical procedures such as tooth extractions and gum surgery. Certain drugs are used prior to dental treatment. These medications are used to help fight infections and also to control existing conditions such as heart murmurs and valve problems. Your dentist will discuss with you what medications you will be taking, when you will take them and why.

    • What should I find out about my medication?
    • Ask your dentist what you should look for after you’ve begun treatment. Ask about common side effects and what you should do if you experience them. Also ask about anything you should not take with the new drug, since the drug may interact with other prescription and over-the-counter medications and with certain foods. Ask your pharmacist any additional questions you did not ask the dentist. If you get a medication that looks different from the one you have been taking, speak up immediately.

      When your dentist writes a new prescription, keep a record noting the brand name, generic name, the purpose, the dosage, how many times per day the drug should be taken and for how long. Every prescription dispensed by a pharmacist comes with a patient information sheet describing everything you need to know about the drug. Read the sheet before beginning your prescription, and read it each time before you take the drug. If you take several medications, keep a diary to check your daily intake and note any symptoms.

    • How do I know if I am experiencing a side effect or an allergic reaction to medication?
    • Some patients are allergic to certain drugs and can experience side effects that range from mild irritations, such as rashes, to more serious problems, such as breathing difficulties. Fortunately, fewer than 5 percent of allergic reactions are life-threatening. An allergic reaction is the result of an overreaction in your body’s immune system, which fights what it perceives to be a foreign substance.

      Not all side effects are allergy-related and can occur regardless of your body’s disposition toward them. By and large, these side effects are rare and are expected by the drug’s manufacturer. Depending on the drug, some side affects may include nausea, drowsiness or headaches. Your dentist may be able to lower the dosage or change the drug’s formula to reduce or eliminate these side effects. It is important to discuss side effects with your dentist or pharmacist to determine if you are suffering from an allergic reaction or not. Don’t discontinue a medication without talking with your dentist first. This could prolong the healing process.

    • What should my dentist know about my medical history?
    • It is important to share with your dentist your medical history and the medications you are taking, especially for serious conditions such as kidney, lung, heart or liver disease. Some dental medications have the potential to interact with other drugs and cause you harm or treatment failure.

      Don’t assume your dentist knows your medical history. The most common cause of drug -related interactions is the doctor’s lack of information about your medical history. Update and review your history every time you see the dentist. In addition to informing your dentist of past prescriptions, tell him or her about any adverse reactions. Include any vitamins, supplements or herbal remedies you take on the list, as well as any diet plans.


    • The goal of minimally invasive dentistry, or microdentistry, is to conserve healthy tooth structure. It focuses on prevention, remineralization, and minimal dentist intervention. Using scientific advances, minimally invasive dentistry allows dentists to perform the least amount of dentistry needed while never removing more of the tooth structure than is required to restore teeth to their normal condition. In addition, in minimally invasive dentistry, dentists use long-lasting dental materials that conserve the maximum tooth structure so the need for future repairs is reduced.

    • How does it work?
    • First your dentist will evaluate your risk for tooth decay. The presence of bacteria, quality and quantity of saliva, and your diet are all contributors to decay. Your dentist will then use strategies to prevent or reduce your risk for tooth decay. For instance, if you have a high level of oral bacteria, you might be advised to use mouthwash daily, limit the intake of certain carbohydrates, and practice good oral hygiene.

    • Which techniques are used?
    • Minimally invasive dentistry techniques include:

      Remineralization: Remineralization is the process of restoring minerals. Remineralization can repair the damage created by the demineralization process. Fluoride plays a very important role in remineralization.

      Air abrasion: When a tooth cannot be remineralized and decay is present, your dentist may use air abrasion to remove the decay. Air abrasion is used instead of a traditional drill and may not require anesthesia. It resembles microscopic sand blasting and uses a stream of air combined with a super-fine abrasive powder.

      Sealants: Usually made of plastic resin, dental sealants protect teeth from bacteria that cause decay. Sealants fit into the grooves and depressions of the tooth and act as a barrier, protecting against acid and plaque. Sealants do not require any cutting of the tooth and can be placed on teeth that might be susceptible for decay at any time.

      Inlays and onlays: Usually dentists use crowns to restore a tooth, but inlays and onlays do not require them to remove as much of the tooth structure. Inlays are similar to fillings except that they are custom-made to fit the cavity in your tooth and are typically the same color as the tooth or gold colored. Onlays are used for more substantial reconstruction and also do not require your dentist to remove as much of the tooth as would a crown.

      Bite splints: Many people grind their teeth at night. Grinding, or bruxism, may cause serious damage to the teeth, and may require you to need crowns. Grinding, which often begins in your teenage years or early 20s, can be detected and corrected before much damage has been done. Dentists can create bite splints for you to wear at night or during stressful times when most teeth-grinding occurs.


    • A mouthguard is a flexible appliance that is worn in athletic and recreational activities to protect teeth from trauma. The dental profession unanimously supports the use of mouthguards in a variety of sports activities.

    • Why should I wear a mouthguard?
    • A mouthguard can prevent serious injuries such as broken teeth, jaw fractures, cerebral hemorrhage and neck injuries by helping to avoid situations where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw. Mouthguards are effective in moving soft tissue in the oral cavity away from the teeth, preventing laceration and bruising of the lips and cheeks, especially for those who wear orthodontic appliances. They may also reduce the severity and incidence of concussions.

    • In what sports should I wear a mouthguard?
    • Anytime there is a strong chance for contact with other participants or hard surfaces, it is advisable to wear a mouthguard. Players who participate in basketball, softball, football, wrestling, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, in-line skating and martial arts, as well as recreational sports such as skateboarding and bicycling, should wear mouthguards while competing.

    • Why don’t kids wear mouthguards?
    • Parents are sometimes uninformed about the level of contact and potential for serious dental injuries involved with sports in which the child participates. Some, though not all, schools reinforce the health advantage of mouthguards for their contact sports. Cost may be another consideration, although mouthguards come in a variety of price ranges.

    • What are the different types of mouthguards?
    • Stock mouthguard: The lowest cost option is a ready-made, stock item, which offers the least protection because the fit adjustment is limited. It may interfere with speech and breathing because this mouthguard requires that the jaw be closed to h

      old it in place. A stock mouthguard is not considered acceptable as a facial protective device.

      Mouth-formed mouthguard: There are two types of mouth-formed mouthguards. The first is a shell-liner mouthguard that is made with an acrylic material that is poured into an outer shell, where it forms a lining. When placed in an athlete’s mouth, the protector’s lining material molds to the teeth and is allowed to set. Another type is a thermoplastic, or “”boil-and-bite,”” mouthguard. This mouthguard is softened in hot water and then placed in the mouth and shaped around the teeth by using finger, tongue and sometimes biting pressure.

      Custom-made mouthguard: The best choice is a mouthguard custom-made by your dentist. It offers the best protection, fit and comfort level because it is made from a cast to fit your teeth.


    • Mouth rinse or mouthwash is a product used for oral hygiene. Antiseptic and anti-plaque mouth rinse claims to kill the germs that cause plaque, gingivitis, and bad breath. Anti-cavity mouth rinse uses fluoride to protect against tooth decay. Mouth rinses are generally classified either as cosmetic, therapeutic, or a combination of the two. Cosmetic rinses are commercial, over-the-counter (OTC) products that help remove oral debris before or after brushing, temporarily suppress bad breath, diminish bacteria in the mouth, and refresh the mouth with a pleasant taste. Therapeutic rinses have all of the benefits of cosmetic rinses but also contain an added active ingredient that helps protect against some oral diseases. Therapeutic rinses also can be categorized according to use: anti-plaque/anti-gingivitis rinses or anti-cavity fluoride rinses, for example.

      Dentists will prescribe special rinses for patients with more severe oral problems, such as cavities, periodontal disease, gum inflammation, and xerostomia (dry mouth). Therapeutic rinses also are strongly recommended for those who can’t brush due to physical impairments or medical reasons.

    • Should I use a mouth rinse?
    • Whether or not you should use a mouth rinse depends upon your needs. Many dentists consider the use of fluoride toothpaste alone to be more than adequate protection against cavities. Although anti-cavity rinses with fluoride have been clinically proven to fight up to 50 percent more of the bacteria that cause cavities, and most rinses are effective at curbing bad breath.and freshening the mouth for up to three hours, initial studies have shown that most OTC anti-plaque rinses and antiseptics are not much more effective against plaque and gum disease than rinsing with water.

      Most dentists are skeptical about the value of these anti-plaque products, and studies point to only a 20 to 25 percent effectiveness, at best, in reducing the plaque that causes gingivitis. Mouth rinses can cause harm by masking the symptoms of an oral health disease or condition.

    • How should I use a mouth rinse?
    • Before using mouth rinses, dentists suggest that you brush and floss your teeth well. Then, measure the proper amount of rinse as specified on the container or as instructed by your dentist. With your lips closed and the teeth kept slightly apart, swish the liquid around with as much force as possible. Many rinses suggest swishing for 30 seconds or more. Finally, thoroughly spit the liquid from your mouth. Teeth should be as clean as possible before applying an anti-cavity rinse to reap the full preventive benefits. Consumers should not rinse, eat, or smoke for 30 minutes after using rinses, as these practices will dilute the fluoride and rinse it away.

    • Are there any side effects?
    • Yes, and they can vary depending on the type of rinse. Habitual use of antiseptic mouthwashes that contain high levels of alcohol (18 to 26 percent) may produce a burning sensation in the cheeks, teeth, and gums. Many rinses with more concentrated formulas can lead to mouth ulcers, sodium retention, root sensitivity, stains, soreness, numbness, changes in taste sensation, and painful mucosal erosions. If you experience any irritating or adverse reactions to a mouth rinse, discontinue its use immediately and talk to your dentist.


    • Dentistry has come a long way in making patient checkups more comfortable. With today’s technology, dentists are better equipped to detect and treat tooth decay and perform other procedures with maximum comfort. You might find that your dentist has added some of the relatively newer technologies during your next visit.

    • Air abrasion
    • Air abrasion is a procedure used to remove small areas of decay or to prepare a tooth for the placement of restorations or sealants. This procedure uses an air compression device to deliver, under pressure, tiny particles of aluminum oxide onto the surface of a tooth structure to blast away decay. This is similar to sandblasting a building in order to clean it.

      With air abrasion, discomfort is minimized and many patients do not need any anesthesia. Children and adults who are fearful of needles, noise or the vibration of a regular dental handpiece may prefer this option if it is available. Air abrasion cannot be used as an alternative for every procedure.

    • Intraoral cameras
    • First developed in 1987, the intraoral camera is a wand-like device that projects a magnified picture from a patient’s mouth onto a screen. The image allows both the dentist and patient to see fractured teeth, receding gums, and broken restorations, such as fillings.

      After these pictures are taken, dentists are better able to diagnose and recommend treatment for their patients. The pictures also can provide documentation for insurance companies.

    • Digital radiography
    • Similar to traditional X-ray systems, digital radiography allows dentists to detect decay, bone loss and help with root canals. To take a digital X-ray, dentists will place a sensor on the tooth that looks like a piece of film. The process is a little faster than a traditional X-ray system, so patients’ exposure to radiation is decreased.

      Once the picture is taken, dentists can adjust the contrast and brightness to optimize diagnosis and find even the smallest areas of decay. Another benefit of digital radiography is the elimination of chemicals to process the film. The time to develop photos is reduced and can eliminate treatment disruptions.

    • Lasers
    • As scientific studies are confirmed, lasers may be a good alternative to the traditional drill, as anesthetic is not needed as often. Lasers are more precise and can reduce symptoms and healing times associated with traditional therapies. Currently, your dentist may use lasers for tooth whitening, periodontal (gum) disease therapy and removal of tooth decay. Laser therapy cannot be used as an alternative for every procedure.


    • What Are The Symptoms Of Oral Cancer?
    • The most common symptoms of oral cancer include:
      • Swellings/thickenings, lumps or bumps, rough spots/crusts/or eroded areas on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth
      • The development of velvety white, red, or speckled (white and red) patches in the mouth
      • No pain reported
      • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
      • Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
      • Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within 2 weeks
      • A soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
      • Difficulty chewing or swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
      • Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice
      • Ear pain
      • A change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together

    • Risk factors for the development of oral cancer include:
      • Smoking. Cigarette, cigar, or pipe smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancers.
      • Smokeless tobacco users. Users of dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco products are 50 times more likely to develop cancers of the cheek, gums, and lining of the lips.
      • Excessive consumption of alcohol. Oral cancers are about six times more common in drinkers than in nondrinkers.
      • Family history of cancer.
      • Excessive sun exposure, especially at a young age.
      • Human papillomavirus (HPV). Certain HPV strains are etiologic risk factors for Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OSCC)Oral Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and More

    • You can take an active role in detecting oral cancer early, should it occur, by doing the following:
    • Conduct a self exam at least once a month. Using a bright light and a mirror, look and feel your lips and front of your gums. Tilt your head back and look at and feel the roof of your mouth. Pull your checks out to view the inside of your mouth, the lining of your cheeks, and the back gums. Pull out your tongue and look at all surfaces; examine the floor of your mouth. Look at the back of your throat. Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes in both sides of your neck and under your lower jaw. Call your dentist’s office immediately if you notice any changes in the appearance of your mouth or any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above.

      See your dentist on a regular schedule. Even though you may be conducting frequent self exams, sometimes dangerous spots or sores in the mouth can be very tiny and difficult to see on your own. The American Cancer Society recommends oral cancer screening exams every 3 years for persons over age 20 and annually for those over age 40.

    • Cold sores
    • Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are tiny, clear, fluid-filled blisters that form around the mouth and are caused by the herpes simplex virus (usually type 1, or HSV-1) living inside your nerve tissue. Cold sores usually do not last longer than two weeks. However, the sores are highly contagious and tend to recur when the virus is reactivated by a trigger such as stress, sunlight, fever or illness.

    • Tooth Decay
    • Tooth decay, also known as caries or cavities, is an oral disease that affects many people. Unlike other diseases, however, caries is not life-threatening and is highly preventable, though it affects most people to some degree during their lifetime.

      Natural bacteria live in your mouth and form plaque. The plaque interacts with deposits left on your teeth from sugary and starchy foods and produces acids. These acids damage tooth enamel over time by dissolving, or demineralizing enamel, which weakens the teeth and leads to tooth decay.

      Foods containing carbohydrates (starches and sugars), such as soda pop, candy, ice cream, milk, and cake, and even some fruits, vegetables, and juices, may contribute to tooth decay. Ways to prevent cavaties are 1. Cut down on sweets and between-meal snacks. Remember, it’s these sugary and starchy treats that put your teeth at extra risk. Some research says certain foods, such as peanuts or sugar-free chewing gum, may be “”friendly”” to teeth. Eating these foods along with or after foods that contain carbohydrates may help to counter the effects of acids produced by bacteria. Drinking plenty of water can help wash away food particles. Of course, dentists encourage their patients to eschew these sugary snacks in favor of healthy alternatives.

      Brush after every meal and floss daily. Cavities most often begin in hard-to-clean areas between teeth and in the fissures and pits � the edges in the tooth crown and gaps between teeth. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brush inside, outside and between your teeth and on the top of your tongue. Be sure the bristles are firm, not bent, and replace the toothbrush after a few weeks to safeguard against re-infecting your mouth with old bacteria than can collect on the brush. Only buy toothpastes and rinses that contain fluoride (antiseptic rinses also help remove plaque) and that bear the American Dental Association seal on the package. Children under age 6 should only use a small pea-sized dab of toothpaste on the brush and should spit out as much as possible, because a child’s developing teeth are sensitive to higher fluoride levels. Finally, because caries is a transmittable disease, toothbrushes should never be shared, especially with your children.

      See your dentist at least every six months for checkups and professional cleanings. Because cavities can be difficult to detect, a thorough dental examination is very important. If you get a painful toothache, if your teeth are very sensitive to hot or cold foods or if you notice signs of decay like white spots, tooth discolorations or cavities, make an appointment right away. The longer you wait to treat infected teeth, the more intensive and lengthy the treatment will be. Left neglected, cavities can lead to root canal infection, permanent deterioration of decayed tooth substance and even loss of the tooth itself.


    • “Oral piercing can cause pain, swelling, infection, drooling, taste loss, scarring, chipped teeth, and tooth loss. Most dentists discourage oral piercing due to the many risks involved. If you do decide to get an oral piercing it is important to understand the regulations, associated problems and proper maintenance.

    • What should I know before getting an oral piercing?
    • Regulations on piercing vary from state to state, so it is important to be careful and find a professional who is prepared to answer any and all questions. They should use a fresh needle every time and sterilize all instruments in an autoclave to avoid serious infections . Also, make sure that they use the right kind of metal, such as surgical-grade stainless steel. Some people have allergic reactions to certain metals, which can lead to further complications.

    • What problems can the piercing cause?
    • Fractured teeth are a common problem for people with an oral piercing. People chip teeth on the piercing while eating, sleeping, talking or by chewing on the jewelry. It is possible for the fracture to go deep into your tooth, which may require a root canal or extraction.

    • Are there serious complications?
    • While it is not unusual for the tongue to swell after being punctured, in some cases the swelling indicates infection. When that happens, it is possible the swelling will obstruct your breathing. Rubbing of the barbell on the gums excessively can cause the gums to recede.Fracture and chipping of teeth are common. Any infection can be serious and it is necessary to see a dentist at the first sign of a problem.

    • How do I maintain my piercing?
    • It takes three to four weeks for an oral piercing to heal. Unless complications occur, you will be able to remove the jewelry for short periods of time . Dentists suggest removing the jewelry to protect your teeth every time you eat or sleep. The piercer will place a larger, starter “”barbell”” in your tongue to give it enough room to heal when your tongue swells. If you decide to keep the piercing, after the swelling goes down, get a smaller barbell which will be less likely to get in the way of your teeth and more difficult for you to chew on.

    • Keep it clean
      • Use an antiseptic mouthwash after every meal and brush the jewelry the same as you would your teeth.
      • After your tongue has healed, take the piercing out every night and brush it to remove any unseen plaque.
      • Consider removing the piercing before eating, sleeping, or strenuous activity

    • What is plaque?
    • Plaque is a sticky layer of material containing bacteria that accumulates on teeth, including where toothbrushes can’t reach. Many of the foods you eat cause the bacteria in your mouth to produce acids. Sugary foods are obvious sources of plaque, but there are others that you might not realize can cause harm. Starches—such as bread, crackers, and cereal—also cause acids to form. Plaque also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red, sensitive, and susceptible to bleeding. This can lead to gum disease, in which gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets that fill with bacteria and pus. If the gums are not treated, the bone around the teeth can be destroyed and teeth may become loose or have to be removed.

    • How can I get rid of plaque?
    • The best way to remove plaque is by brushing and cleaning between your teeth every day. Brushing removes plaque from the tooth surfaces. Brush your teeth twice per day with a soft-bristled brush. The size and shape of your toothbrush should fit your mouth and allow you to reach all areas easily. Use an antimicrobial toothpaste containing fluoride, which helps protect your teeth from decay. Clean between the teeth once a day with floss or interdental cleaners to remove plaque from between the teeth, where the toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing is essential to prevent gum disease.

    • How do I brush and floss my teeth?
    • The American Dental Association recommends the following techniques for brushing and flossing your teeth:

    • Brushing
    • • Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gums.
    • • Move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
    • • Brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
    • • Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke.
    • • Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
    • Flossing
    • • Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind it around the middle fingers of each hand. Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.
    • • Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion.
    • • When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it into a C shape against one tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth.
    • • Bring the floss back toward the contact point between the teeth and move the floss up or down the other side, conforming the floss to the shape of the tooth.
    • • Hold the floss tightly against the tooth. Gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum with up-and-down motions.
    • • Repeat this method on the rest of your teeth.
    • Is there anything else I can use to clean my mouth?
    • A mouth rinse, in addition to daily brushing and flossing, can increase the cleanliness of your mouth. Antimicrobial mouth rinses reduce bacteria and plaque activity, which cause gingivitis and gum disease. Fluoride mouth rinses also help reduce and prevent tooth decay. Always talk to your dentist about any new products you are interested in trying. Not everyone should use a fluoride mouth rinse. For instance, fluoride rinses are not recommended for children ages 6 or younger because they may swallow them. Always check the manufacturer’s label for precautions and age recommendations and talk with your dentist about the use of fluoride mouth rinse.


    • It’s no secret that pregnancy is an important time in a woman’s life. While women often hear about how pregnancy causes physical changes that affect their hormone or appetite levels, these changes can have a great effect on their oral health as well. Despite the fact that good oral health is essential for the overall health of both mother and child, only 22 to 34 percent of women in the United States visit a dentist during pregnancy. In fact, dental care during pregnancy is not only safe and effective, it’s essential for combating the adverse effects of oral disease, according to an article published in the May/June 2010 issue of General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). Dentists have the ability to maintain the oral health of expectant mothers by treating the dental findings that are common during pregnancy.

      “”Hormonal changes during pregnancy can result in several changes in the mouth,”” says Homa Amini, DDS, co-author of the article. “”Reports show that the most common oral disease is gingivitis, which has been reported in 30 to 100 percent of pregnancies.””

      Gingivitis, a buildup of plaque that causes inflammation of the gums, should be treated with a professional cleaning and proper toothbrushing and flossing. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease. “”Patients tend to delay the treatment of oral disease due to concerns for fetal safety; however, routine dental treatment can be performed safely at any time during pregnancy,”” says Dr. Amini. What’s more, untreated dental disease can lead to pain, infections and unnecessary exposure to medications, any of which could harm the developing fetus. Poor oral health also can affect the nutritional intake of expectant mothers, which is essential for fetal growth and survival.

      In addition to examining for oral disease, dentists may notice dental erosion—the chemical or mechanochemical destruction of tooth material—in pregnant women, due to increased acid in the mouth following morning sickness.

      “”To neutralize acid after vomiting, pregnant women should rinse the mouth with a mixture of a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in a cup of water,”” says Patricia Meredith, DDS, FAGD, spokesperson for the AGD. “”The teeth should be brushed only after the mouth has been rinsed and the acid has been neutralized to prevent further damage to the enamel.””

      Oral health assessment and treatment should be an essential part of prenatal care, as these steps allow the patient to receive ongoing advice concerning proper oral hygiene and infant oral health care.


    • Underneath your tooth’s outer enamel and within the dentin is an area of soft tissue called the pulp tissue. While a tooth’s pulp tissue does contain nerve fibers, it is also composed of arteries, veins, lymph vessels, and connective tissue. Each tooth’s nerve enters the tooth at the very tip of its roots. From there, the nerve runs through the center of the root in small “”root canals,”” which join up with the tooth’s pulp chamber. Root canals are very small, thin divisions that branch off from the top pulp chamber down to the tip of the root. A tooth has at least one but no more than four root canals.

    • Why do I feel pain?
    • When the pulp becomes infected due to a deep cavity or fracture that allows bacteria to seep in, or injury due to trauma, it can die. Damaged or dead pulp causes increased blood flow and cellular activity, and pressure cannot be relieved from inside the tooth. Pain in the tooth is commonly felt when biting down, chewing on it and applying hot or cold foods and drinks.

    • Why do I need root canal therapy?
    • Root canal therapy is necessary because the tooth will not heal by itself. Without treatment, the infection will spread, bone around the tooth will begin to degenerate and the tooth may fall out. Pain usually worsens until one is forced to seek emergency dental attention. The only alternative is usually extraction of the tooth, which can cause surrounding teeth to shift crookedly, resulting in a bad bite. Though an extraction is cheaper, the space left behind will require an implant or a bridge, which can be more expensive than root canal therapy. If you have the choice, it’s always best to keep your original teeth.

    • What is a root canal procedure?
    • A root canal is a procedure done to save the damaged or dead pulp in the root canal of the tooth by cleaning out the diseased pulp and reshaping the canal. The canal is filled with a rubberlike substance called gutta–percha or another material to prevent recontamination of the tooth. The tooth is then permanently sealed, with possibly a post and/or a crown made of porcelain or metal alloy. This enables patients to keep the original tooth.

    • What is involved in root canal therapy?
    • Once your general dentist performs tests on the tooth and recommends therapy, he or she can perform the treatment or refer you to an endodontist (a pulp specialist). Treatment usually involves one to three appointments.

      First, you will probably be given a local anesthetic to numb the area. A rubber sheet is then placed around the tooth to isolate it. Next, an opening is drilled from the crown into the pulp chamber, which, along with the root canal, is cleaned of all diseased pulp and reshaped.

      Medication may be inserted into the area to fight bacteria. Depending on the condition of the tooth, the crown may then be sealed temporarily to guard against recontamination, the tooth may be left open to drain or the dentist may go right ahead and fill the canals.

      If you’re given a temporary filling, usually on the next visit it’s removed and the pulp chamber and canal(s) are filled with gutta percha or another material to prevent recontamination. If the tooth is still weak, a metal post may be inserted above the canal filling to reinforce the tooth. Once filled, the area is permanently sealed. Finally, a gold or porcelain crown is normally placed over the tooth to strengthen its structure and improve appearance.

    • What are the risks and complications?
    • More than 95 percent of root canal treatments are successful. However, sometimes a procedure needs to be redone due to diseased canal offshoots that went unnoticed or the fracture of a filing instrument, both of which rarely occur. Occasionally, a root canal therapy will fail altogether, marked by a return of pain.

    • What happens after treatment?
    • Natural tissue inflammation may cause discomfort for a few days, which can be controlled by an over-the-counter analgesic. A follow-up exam can monitor tissue healing. From this point on, brush and floss regularly, avoid chewing hard foods with the treated tooth, and see your dentist regularly.

    • Are there options to root canal therapy?
    • The only alternative to root canal therapy is to extract the tooth; however, this alone can cause the surrounding teeth to move, resulting in a bad bite. Though a simple extraction may be perceived as less expensive, the empty space left behind will require an implant or a bridge, which ultimately can be more costly than root canal therapy.


    • “Injuries to the mouth may include teeth that are knocked out (avulsed), forced out of position and loosened (extruded) or fractured. In addition, lips, gums or cheeks are often cut. Oral injuries are often painful and should be treated by a dentist as soon as possible.

    • How soon should I see a dentist?
    • Immediately. Getting to a dentist within 30 minutes can make the difference between saving or losing a tooth.

    • What should I do when a tooth is knocked out?
    • Immediately call your dentist for an emergency appointment.

      Handle the tooth by the crown, not the root. Touching the root (the part of the tooth below the gum) can damage cells necessary for bone reattachment.

      Gently rinse the tooth in water to remove dirt. Do not scrub.

      If possible, gently place the clean tooth in the socket to keep it moist. It is important not to let the tooth dry out.

      If it is not possible to store the tooth in the mouth of the injured person, wrap the tooth in a clean cloth or gauze and immerse in milk or saliva.

    • What should I do when a tooth is pushed out of position?
    • Attempt to reposition the tooth to its normal alignment using very light finger pressure, but do not force the tooth.

      Bite down to keep the tooth from moving.

    • What should I do when a tooth is fractured?
    • Rinse mouth with warm water.

      Use an ice pack or cold compress to reduce swelling.

      Use ibuprofen, not aspirin, for pain.

      Immediately get to your dentist, who will determine treatment based on how badly the tooth is broken. Only a dentist can tell how bad the break is.

    • Minor fracture: Minor fractures can be smoothed by your dentist or simply left alone. Another option is to restore the tooth with a composite restoration. In either case, treat the tooth with care for several days.
    • Moderate fracture: Moderate fractures include damage to the enamel, dentin and/or pulp (nerve and other live tissues). If the pulp is not permanently damaged, the tooth may be restored with a full permanent crown. If damage to the pulp does occur, further dental treatment will be required.
    • Severe fracture: Severe fractures often mean a traumatized tooth with slim chance of recovery.
    • What should I do when tissue is injured?
    • Injuries to the inside of the mouth include tears, puncture wounds and lacerations to the cheek, lips or tongue. The wound should be cleaned right away with warm water, and the injured person taken to a hospital emergency room for the necessary care. Bleeding from a tongue laceration can be reduced by pulling the tongue forward and using gauze to place pressure on the wound.

    • What can I do to be prepared?
    • Pack an emergency dental-care kit, including:

      • Dentist’s phone numbers (home and office)
      • Handkerchief
      • Gauze
      • Small container with lid
      • Ibuprofen (Not aspirin. Aspirin is an anticoagulant, which may cause excessive bleeding in a dental emergency.)

    • Tooth colored filling
    • A composite filling is a tooth-colored plastic and glass mixture used to restore decayed teeth. Composites are also used for cosmetic improvements of the smile by changing the color of the teeth or reshaping disfigured teeth.

    • How is a composite placed?
    • Following preparation, the dentist places the composite in layers, typically using a light specialized to harden each layer. When the process is finished, the dentist will shape the composite to fit the tooth. The dentist then polishes the composite to prevent staining and early wear.

    • What are the advantages of composites?
    • Aesthetics are the main advantage of composites, since dentists can blend shades to create a color nearly identical to that of the actual tooth. Composites bond to the tooth to support the remaining tooth structure, which helps to prevent breakage and insulate the tooth from excessive temperature changes.