FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. HOW OFTEN DO I ACTUALLY NEED TO VISIT THE DENTIST?
There are a few different ideas swirling around out there about how frequently you actually need to visit the dentist. Most people need to visit their dentist for a regular hygiene visit twice a year, or once every six months. There are exceptions to this rule, however. If you have gum disease, or a history of gum disease, Dr. Pissios, may recommend more frequent visits. Another reason you may need to see the dentist more frequently is if you are undergoing orthodontic treatment. The bottom line is that you need to at least see the dentist twice a year and you need to comply if it is recommended that you make those visits more frequent.
2. HOW SAFE ARE DENTAL X-RAYS?
Dental x-rays are very safe. The amount of radiation that a dental x-ray produces is about the same as you would receive from a cross country airplane ride. Radiation is measured in millirems and one dental x-ray has only .5 millirems. Exposure to all sources of radiation -- including the sun, minerals in the soil, appliances in your home, and dental X-rays -- can damage the body's tissues and cells. Fortunately, the dose of radiation you are exposed to during the taking of X-rays is extremely small.
Advances in dentistry over the years have lead to the low radiation levels emitted by dental X-rays. Some of the improvements are new digital X-ray machines that limit the radiation beam to the small area being X-rayed, higher speed X-ray films that require shorter exposure time compared with older film speeds to get the same results, and the use of film holders that keep the film in place in the mouth (which prevents the film from slipping and the need for repeat X-rays and additional radiation exposure). Also, the use of lead-lined, full-body aprons protects the body from stray radiation (though this is almost nonexistent with the modern dental X-ray machines.)
3. WHAT EXACTLY IS A CAVITY?
Everyone knows that cavities are bad, but a surprising amount of people don’t know exactly what cavities are. A cavity is simply a small hole in the tooth that develops as a result of tooth decay. In other words, decay eats away at the tooth and results in a void space that disrupts the structure of the tooth. It’s important to get cavities repaired because they will continue to grow larger with time.
4. HOW LONG WILL MY DENTAL RESTORATION LAST?
A common misconception is that dental restorations last forever but unfortunately this is rarely true. With time dental restorations may break down or become loose, allowing decay to enter the area around the restoration and become problematic. Although you can’t expect your fillings, bridges, and crowns to last forever, you can do your part to make them last as long as possible. Maintain great oral hygiene and visit our office regularly to keep those restorations in great condition for as long as possible.
5. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO WHITEN MY TEETH?
Patients ask us about whitening their teeth all the time. It’s a tough question because there is no universal answer that applies for everyone. Our best advice is to speak with Dr. Pissios or our dental hygienist, Michelle, about what type of teeth whitening they would recommend. The best results are always going to be a result of a professional treatment, but our office can help you determine which treatment is right for you.
6. WHAT ARE DENTAL SEALANTS ?
Sealants are a thin, plastic coating that is painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth -- usually the back teeth (the premolars, and molars) -- to prevent tooth decay. The painted on liquid sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and groves of the teeth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth.
Typically, children should get sealants on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in. In this way, the dental sealants can protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages 6 to 14. However, adults without decay or fillings in their molars can also benefit from sealants.
Sealants can protect the teeth from decay for many years, but they need to be checked for chipping or wear at regular dental check-ups.
7. WHAT’S THE LATEST WORD ON SILVER FILLINGS ?
Over the past several years, concerns have been raised about silver-colored fillings, otherwise called amalgams. Because amalgams contain the toxic substance mercury, some people think that they are responsible for causing a number of diseases, including autism spectrum disorders, Alzheimer's disease, and multiple sclerosis.
The American Dental Association (ADA), the FDA, and numerous public health agencies say amalgams are safe, and that any link between mercury-based fillings and disease is unfounded. The cause of ASD, Alzheimer's disease, and multiple sclerosis remains unknown. Additionally, there is no solid, scientific evidence to back up the claim that if a person has amalgam fillings removed, he or she will be cured of these or any other diseases. In March of 2002, the FDA reconfirmed the safety of amalgams. Although amalgams do contain mercury, when they are mixed with other metals, such as silver, copper, tin, and zinc, they form a stable alloy that dentists have used for more than 100 years to fill and preserve hundreds of millions of decayed teeth. The National Institutes of Health conducted several large-scale studies that concluded in 2006 that amalgam fillings were safe.
In addition, there has been concern over the release of a small amount of mercury vapor from these fillings, but according to the ADA, there is no scientific evidence that this small amount results in adverse health effects.
8. I'M INTERESTED IN CHANGING THE SHAPE OF MY TEETH. WHAT OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE?
Several different options are available to change the shape of teeth, make teeth look longer, close spaces between teeth or repair chipped or cracked teeth. Among the options are bonding, crowns, veneers, and recontouring.
Dental bonding is a procedure in which a tooth-colored resin material (a durable plastic material) is applied to the tooth surface and hardened with a special light, which ultimately "bonds" the material to the tooth.
Dental crowns are tooth-shaped "caps" that are placed over teeth. The crowns, when cemented into place, fully encase the entire visible portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line.
Veneers (also sometimes called porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates) are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials that are designed to cover the front surface of teeth. These shells are bonded to the front of the teeth.
Recontouring or reshaping of the teeth (also called odontoplasty, enameloplasty, stripping, or slenderizing) is a procedure in which small amounts of tooth enamel are removed to change a tooth's length, shape or surface.
Each of these options differ with regard to cost, durability, "chair time" necessary to complete the procedure, stain resistant qualities, and best cosmetic approach to resolving a specific problem. Talk to Dr. Pissios to see which one maybe right for you.
9.THERE ARE SO MANY TOOTHPASTES TO CHOOSE FROM; HOW DO I KNOW WHICH ONE TO USE?
First, when purchasing a toothpaste for you or your child, select one that contains fluoride. Fluoride-containing toothpastes have been shown to prevent cavities. However, one word of caution: Use only a very small amount for children under age 6 (the size of a small pea). This is because young children swallow toothpaste, and swallowing too much fluoride can lead to tooth discoloration in permanent teeth.
It is also wise to select a product approved by the American Dental Association. The ADA's Seal of Acceptance means that the product has met ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness and that packaging and advertising claims are scientifically supported. Some manufacturers choose not to seek the ADA's Seal of Acceptance. Although these products may be safe and effective, these products' performance have not been evaluated or endorsed by the ADA.
Next, when considering other properties of toothpaste -- such as whitening toothpastes, tartar-control, gum care, desensitizing, etc. -- the best advice for selecting among these products may be to simply ask our dental hygienist, Michelle, or Dr. Pissios what the greatest concerns are for your mouth at this time. After consulting with our office about your oral health's greatest needs, look for products within that category (for example, within the tartar control brands or within the desensitizing toothpaste brands) that have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
Finally, some degree of personal preference comes into play. Choose the toothpaste that tastes and feels best. Gel or paste, wintergreen or spearmint all work alike. If you find that certain ingredients are irritating to your teeth, cheeks or lips, or if your teeth have become more sensitive, or if your mouth is irritated after brushing, try changing toothpastes. If the problem continues, give our office a call.