To complement the general and cosmetic dentistry services offered at Southwest Dental Group, we have prepared this list of answers to the most commonly asked questions about dentistry and dental health. Dr. Schick has provided detailed information about proper dental hygiene, sensitive teeth, gum disease, dental sealants, the safety of teeth whitening, and more.
Maintaining Dental Health
Maintaining dental health has two main components — at-home dental hygiene and professional cleanings and examinations. Simple maintenance of your dental health can prevent complications such as tooth loss, as well as the need for restorative or cosmetic dentistry in the future.
How can I prevent tooth decay and gum disease?
Good oral hygiene starts at home, though it needs to be supplemented by regular visits to Southwest Dental Group. Steps you can take to prevent tooth decay and gum disease include:
Brush at least twice daily using a soft-bristle toothbrush and an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. This helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and the need for costly cosmetic or restorative dentistry in the future. Replace your brush every two to three months.
Flossing is crucial to the health of your teeth and gums and the prevention of gum disease. When flossing, use an 18-inch strand of floss. Ease the floss between each tooth; then, sweep it up and down several times while curving around the tooth at the gum line. Don’t forget to floss behind your last tooth and to floss bridges and artificial teeth with the aid of a floss threader.
Regular Dental Visits
At every regularly-scheduled dental appointment at Southwest Dental Group, Dr. Schick will carefully check your teeth, gums, mouth, and throat. A checkup at the Southwest Dental Group office includes:
- A head and neck examination: This includes a cancer exam, facial exam, palpation of chewing muscles, palpation of lymph nodes, and an exam of the temporomandibular (jaw) joint.
- A clinical dental examination: This includes a periodontal exam and examinations of the mobility of teeth, the mucous membranes, saliva, occlusion (bite), removable appliances, and contact between teeth. If we detect tooth decay or broken fillings, we will discuss appropriate action with you.
- A full set of digital X-rays
- A dental cleaning (prophylaxis): This includes scaling plaque, polishing teeth, flossing, assessing your mouth’s cleanliness, and providing oral hygiene instructions. If you wish to learn more about proper brushing and flossing techniques, ask your dentist about it at this stage of the visit.
- Following the clinical dental exam, your dentist will discuss a detailed treatment plan, if necessary. One of our friendly receptionists will schedule a follow-up visit for you.
Regular dental visits, along with a thorough home care regimen, are key to a lifetime of good oral health. General dentistry of this type can prevent the need for cosmetic or restorative dentistry later in life.
How does fluoride help prevent tooth decay?
Fluoride helps reverse and prevent tooth decay in five ways:
- Promoting Tooth Remineralization – Acids can demineralize a tooth — that is, create a weak spot that develops into a cavity. Fluoride helps promote the opposite process, called remineralization, which can reverse the very early stages of tooth decay.
- Helping Teeth Become More Resistant to Tooth Decay
- Fluoride actually strengthens teeth, giving them natural protection against future tooth decay.
- Inhibiting Oral Bacteria’s Ability to Create Tooth-Attacking Acids
- Fluoride disrupts bacteria’s ability to metabolize sugars, the process that leads to the attack of tooth enamel.
What are the stages of gum disease? How is gum disease treated?
Gum disease has several stages. The initial stage is called gingivitis and is an infection of the gingival (gum tissue). In this stage, gums become red, swollen, and prone to bleeding. The underlying bone is unaffected. In later stages, however, gum disease can lead to bone loss and loosening or even loss of teeth.
Gum disease treatment varies according to the stage of the disease. At its mildest stages, gingivitis can be treated by clearing plaque and tartar deposits from the gum pockets. Severe gum disease, on the other hand, might require treatment that includes bone and gum grafts
What causes sensitive teeth?
Sensitive teeth can be caused by a range of factors. The porous part of the tooth, called dentin, is the region that registers pain, and dentin can become exposed due to:
- Fractured or chipped teeth
- Teeth injured by clenching or grinding
- Receding gums caused by gum disease or improper brushing
How can sensitive teeth be managed?
Pain from sensitive teeth often comes and goes, but if you experience constant pain, you may have a more serious problem. There are many effective treatments for sensitive teeth, including:
- A soft-bristle toothbrush to prevent gum irritation
- Toothpaste designed to insulate the nerve that registers pain
If you have sensitive teeth, visit Southwest Dental Group to discuss your symptoms. We can help determine the cause of your pain and develop a course of treatment.
What are the causes of bruxism (teeth grinding)?
Teeth grinding can be caused by a range of factors; often, both emotional and physical factors are involved. Causal factors can include stress, sleep disorders, an abnormal bite, and crooked or missing teeth.
How can bruxism be treated?
Once the cause or causes of bruxism are determined, your dentist can develop a course of treatment. Treatment methods may include:
- Relaxation techniques if stress is at the root of the problem
- Physical therapy
- Muscle relaxants
- A plastic tooth guard to wear at night during sleep
Bruxism can cause serious pain and headaches, as well as dangerous wear on the teeth. In severe cases, restorative dentistry techniques such as inlays or porcelain crowns are needed to rebuild teeth damaged by bruxism. Therefore, it is crucial to seek treatment for bruxism early to avoid waking up with headaches or jaw pain.
How do I keep my child’s teeth healthy?
Following a few simple guidelines can help keep your child’s teeth strong and beautiful for life:
Start oral care early
Oral care should start soon after your child is born. After feeding, clean your child’s gums using gauze or a clean, damp cloth. As soon as your child’s teeth appear — as soon as four months after birth — they should be brushed. Each day, brush your child’s teeth with a soft, wet toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
Prevent nursing-bottle mouth
Nursing-bottle mouth, also known as baby-bottle tooth decay or baby-bottle syndrome, can cause a baby’s front teeth to rapidly decay, which can lead to a lifetime of dental difficulties. Preventing nursing bottle mouth is easy: If you give your baby a bottle at nap or bedtime, simply fill it with plain water rather than formula, milk, or juice—never let your child fall asleep with a bottle filled with a liquid other than water. In addition, check your child for brown spots near the gums because they are a warning sign for tooth decay.
Take your child to the dentist
General, preventative dentistry should start early. A child’s first dental visit should take place at 6 to 12 months after birth. Regular fluoride treatments, administered by a dentist, are especially helpful in strengthening enamel and arresting tooth decay for children. Contact our general dentistry practice today to schedule an appointment for your child.
Take advantage of dental sealants
Dental sealants are a popular and effective way to protect your child’s teeth against cavities.
What are dental sealants?
Dental sealants are a plastic coating painted on the grooved, hard-to-reach surfaces of the back teeth. Pits and fissures on these surfaces are particularly susceptible to tooth decay. Dental sealants can be used to seal out cavity-causing bacteria from damaging the teeth.
How are dental sealants applied?
Dental sealants are quickly applied. One of our dentists prepares the chewing surfaces of teeth, then paints on the sealant. The sealant material bonds directly to the tooth and hardens with the aid of a special curing light. Dental sealants hold up well under the force of chewing, and they provide protection against cavities for about five years. During regular dental visits, one of our dentists will check the state of sealants and re-apply them if necessary.
How do dental sealants protect teeth?
Because fluoride is effective in preventing decay from forming on the smooth surfaces of teeth, and dental sealants protect the grooves of teeth, these treatments are best used in conjunction.
Dental sealants are particularly effective for protecting children’s teeth. The first permanent molars emerge when a child is about 6. A dental sealant treatment performed shortly after these first permanent teeth emerge protects the teeth from developing cavities. Another good time for applying sealants occurs when a child is about 12 when the second permanent molars emerge.
We may also recommend sealants for adults who are at a particularly high risk of tooth decay.
How does professional teeth whitening work? Is it safe?
Teeth whitening is a conservative method for completely making over your smile.
In-Office teeth whitening procedures are performed with a specially formulated peroxide gel that allows oxygen to permeate your tooth enamel, lifting stains. The structure of your tooth enamel is not affected. The most common side effect is temporary tooth sensitivity.
My teeth are crooked! What are my options?
Luckily, your options for correcting crooked teeth mean you don’t have to endure the uncomfortable metal braces of the past!
Numerous other cosmetic dentistry techniques exist that can provide “instant orthodontics” that require no braces at all. Composite bonding and the application of porcelain veneers are both conservative ways to mask the appearance of crooked teeth. Be aware that these cosmetic approaches cannot address orthodontic issues such as an overbite, underbite, or crossbite, and therefore are not suitable for every patient.
If you have crooked teeth and would like to achieve a more beautiful smile through premier cosmetic dentistry treatments, visit us for a free consultation. At this meeting, one of our dentists will diagnose your specific issues and recommend a course of treatment.
Do you offer tooth-colored fillings? Can they replace my old metal fillings?
The placement of tooth-colored composite fillings is one of the most commonly performed general dentistry procedures at Southwest Dental Group. In addition to filling new cavities, these beautiful restorations can replace old metal fillings that have blackened, fractured, popped out, or that simply take away from the beauty of your smile.
If I am missing one or more teeth, what are my options?
Patients today have an array of options for replacing missing teeth. Dental bridges, dentures, and dental implants all have their advantages and disadvantages, though modern cosmetic and restorative dentistry has come to favor dental implants because they look and function just like real teeth and require no special care.
If you have lost a tooth or several teeth, we urge you to seek treatment. Adjacent teeth can shift into the gap left by a lost tooth; in addition, a missing tooth can lead to bone loss, hygiene problems, difficulties with speaking and eating, and much more. Today’s dental restorations are better than ever, and they can give you a strong bite and a beautiful smile.
Who is a good candidate for dental implants?
Nearly anyone who is missing one or more teeth, and desires a superior, long-lasting aesthetic result is a good candidate for dental implants. However, patients must have enough bone to support and stabilize the implant. Some individuals who have suffered bone loss as a result of gum disease or another condition may need bone grafting before a dental implant can be placed successfully. Dr. Schick is skilled in bone grafting and dental implant procedures and will be glad to work with you to eliminate the gaps in your smile. Contact our cosmetic dentistry practice today to get started.
Comfortable General and Cosmetic Dentistry
Going to the dentist does not have to be associated with anxiety and discomfort! Our dentists take several steps to make sure our patients are relaxed and comfortable while receiving the best in modern dental care.
What is sedation dentistry? How can it help me?
Sedation (sleep) dentistry involves the use of sedative drugs so that patients who fear dental work can avoid the discomfort and anxiety associated with dental visits. With sedation dentistry, patients take a pill about an hour before their dental appointment. They arrive at our office relaxed and able to undergo treatment without feeling any pain or having any memory of the procedure.
If you have avoided getting dental care because of anxiety or fear of discomfort, sedation dentistry may be the ideal solution to allow you to get essential treatment.
How can I finance my general, cosmetic, or restorative dentistry treatments?
Dental treatment at Southwest Dental Group is personalized, advanced, and more affordable than ever before. We offer an array of financing options that allow patients to spread the cost of their general or cosmetic dentistry over time. We also accept payment by a variety of methods, including payment through dental insurance.