You have questions, we have answers! At Lynn Lane Family Dentistry, we believe that informed patients are empowered patients. Educating the community about dental health is a responsibility we take to heart. We’ve compiled a list of important and frequently asked questions below. Whether your question is addressed below or not, we’d be thrilled to answer your questions, so please contact us today!
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What causes bad breath?
Bad breath, or halitosis, is caused by a number of factors. Sometimes multiple factors are to blame.
- Morning breath — Saliva flow reduces during sleep. This allows bacteria to grow, resulting in bad breath.
- Some foods — Some foods, like onions and garlic, contain odor-causing compounds. Once these compounds enter the blood stream, they are transferred to the lungs and then exhaled.
- Poor oral hygiene — Without proper and routine brushing and flossing, food particles in the mouth promote bacterial growth.
- Periodontal (gum) disease — Bacteria and food under the gum line can also produce odor. If you have bad breath combined with inflamed gums, you may have gum disease.
- Cavities and some dental appliances — Believe it or not, cavities and poorly-maintained dental devices can also contribute to bad breath.
- Dry mouth (Xerostomia) — In the absence of healthy saliva flow, bacteria grow quickly. Dry mouth can be caused by certain medications, salivary gland issues, or frequent mouth breathing.
- Tobacco products — In addition to their inherent odor, tobacco products also dry out the mouth.
- Dieting — As the body burns fat, certain chemicals are released in the breath.
- Dehydration, hunger, and missed meals — Drinking water and chewing food increases saliva flow.
- Certain medical conditions — Diabetes, liver and kidney problems, chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia may all contribute to bad breath.
If you have bad breath, keeping a record of what you eat may help you identify foods or habits that are contributing to the problem. At your next visit, take some time to review your current medications, recent surgeries, or illnesses with Dr. Holleman. She may be able to identify what’s causing your bad breath.
How can I prevent bad breath?
In most cases, chronic bad breath is both treatable and preventible. Just follow these simple guidelines:
- Brush and floss — Brush your teeth at least twice per day with an ADA approved toothbrush and toothpaste. You should replace your toothbrush every two to three months. Floss once per day to remove food particles and plaque from between your teeth and under the gum line. Brush or gently scrape the back of your tongue.
- Visit us regularly — You should come to our office at least twice a year for routine cleanings and exams. There is no substitute for a professional cleaning.
- Do not smoke or chew tobacco — If you have a tobacco habit you’d like to break, please speak with Dr. Holleman about tobacco cessation strategies.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day — Drinking water prevents dry mouth and helps wash away food particles.
If the steps above don’t do the trick, Dr. Holleman may refer you to a physician to find out if your bad breath is an underlying symptom of a medical problem.
How often should I brush and floss?
Brushing and flossing are critical to controlling plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease. You should brush at least twice a day, and floss at least once a day.
Regular brushing and flossing prevent plaque buildup, which is a film of food particles, bacteria, and saliva that sticks to teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque convert food particles into acids that cause tooth decay. Plaque that hardens over time turns into calculus, which is also called tartar. If plaque and tartar are not removed, they begin to destroy the gums and bone, causing periodontal (gum) disease.
Although plaque formation and growth is continuous, it can be controlled by regular brushing and flossing.
Toothbrushing — Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Make sure you brush before going to bed at night. Brush with an ADA approved toothpaste and soft bristle brush.
- Brush at a 45 degree angle towards the gums, gently using a small, circular motion, ensuring that you always feel the bristles on the gums.
- Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth.
- Use the tip of the brush head to clean the inside front teeth.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and to freshen your breath.
Many people prefer to use electronic toothbrushes. They are easy to use and do remove plaque efficiently. Just make sure you place the bristles of the electric brush on your gums and teeth and allow time for the brush to do its job.
Flossing — Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.
- Take 12–16 inches (30–40cm) of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches (5cm) of floss between the hands.
- Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion.
- Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gum line. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.
If you have difficulty using standard floss, please ask us about alternative flossers.
Rinsing — If you’re not in a position to brush your teeth after eating a meal, you should instead rinse your mouth with water. It’s also important to rinse with water after brushing or flossing. There are also a number of quality dental rinses that are available over-the-counter. Please ask Dr. Holleman for advice on choosing a product that’s appropriate for you.
How do I choose the right oral hygiene product for me?
The toothpaste aisle can be pretty overwhelming. Over the past few years, companies have introduced so many options for toothpastes, brushes, flosses, and mouthwashes, that even the most discerning consumer wouldn’t know where to begin. Here are some hints for picking the right products for your particular needs:
Toothbrush. The big question here is, electric or manual? When it comes down to it, it’s really all about your personal preference. Recently, electric toothbrushes have gained popularity, but not necessarily because they’re “better” than manual brushes. Both brushes are effective at removing plaque, but electric brushes can make the process easier for you. If you find manual brushes difficult to use, or just don’t enjoy the process, an electric one might make brushing easier and allow you to do a better job. When choosing a manual brush, opt for soft bristles with the smallest head — they’re easy on gum tissue and can fit around the back molars. Regardless of your hardware of choice, though, just keep brushing, and be sure to brush long enough! Although it takes a full 2–3 minutes to brush every tooth effectively, most people only brush for an average of 30 seconds!
Toothpaste. First and foremost, always check for the ADA seal of approval. Despite the large variety of toothpastes available, most contain similar agents geared toward scrubbing, flavoring, or keeping your paste moist. It’s a good idea to choose a paste that contains fluoride, which strengthens enamel and makes teeth less prone to decay. Tartar-control toothpastes usually contain fluoride, but they also contain chemicals to break down plaque and antibacterials to kill lingering germs. After checking those off, choose your paste based on your personal needs. Whitening varieties have added abrasive agents (not bleach), that polish the surfaces of your teeth without damaging enamel. If you have sensitive teeth, certain toothpastes provide chemical compounds that, when used on a routine basis, can reduce sensitivity over time.
Floss. While most people brush the recommended two times a day, flossing sometimes gets placed on the back burner. However, neglecting to floss at least once daily is doing your mouth a serious disservice, as up to 50% of plaque accumulation occurs between teeth. That’s why you should floss before you brush, to loosen up that plaque for easier removal with your toothbrush. If you find flossing too difficult or unpleasant, try using a flosser. They’re reusable, use disposable heads, and with handles just like toothbrushes, they make flossing as neat and easy as brushing your teeth. You can find them at most grocery and drug stores.
Mouthwash. There are as many different types of mouthwashes available as there are flavors, and it’s important to choose the one that’s best for you. Cosmetic mouthwashes can rinse away debris, provide a pleasant taste, and mask bad breath temporarily. If you’re looking for a mouthwash with a purpose, look for an FDA-approved therapeutic rinse, with either antiplaque or anticavity ingredients. Mouthwashes are particularly useful for people with canker sores, braces, and dry mouth, but they shouldn’t replace brushing or flossing.
Combining all of these factors makes a complete and effective oral hygiene routine, but you don’t need the fancy, expensive products to have your healthiest smile. Just do your part at home and stay up-to-date with professional check-ups, and you’ll be set to go!
How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease)?
Four out of five people have some form of periodontal disease and don’t know it! One of the reasons people remain unaware of their gum disease is because it is usually painless in the early stages. In order to detect gum disease, you should receive regular dental check-ups.
Periodontal disease begins when plaque remains on the teeth and gums. The bacteria produce acids that inflame the gums and slowly destroy the bone. Brushing and flossing regularly and properly will typically control plaque and prevent advanced periodontal disease.
In addition to poor oral hygiene, there are several other factors that may increase the risk of periodontal disease:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco — Tobacco users are at greater risk of plaque and tartar formation than non-users.
- Certain tooth or appliance conditions — Bridges that no longer fit properly, crowded teeth, or defective fillings can all trap plaque and bacteria.
- Many medications — Steroids, cancer therapy drugs, blood pressure meds, and oral contraceptives may increase the risk of gum disease. Some medications reduce saliva flow, which allows plaque to adhere more easily to the teeth and gums.
- Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and puberty — These can cause changes in hormone levels, which may in turn cause gum tissue to become more sensitive to bacteria.
- Systemic diseases — Diabetes, blood cell disorders, HIV / AIDS, and a number of other conditions may increase the risk of gum disease.
- Genetics — Some patients are predisposed to a more aggressive type of periodontitis. If you have a family history of tooth loss, you should pay particular attention to your gums.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?
- Red and puffy gums — Gums should never be red or swollen.
- Bleeding gums — Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
- Persistent bad breath — Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
- New spacing between teeth — Caused by bone loss.
- Loose teeth — Also caused by bone loss or weakened gums.
- Pus around the teeth and gums — This is a sure sign of an infection.
- Receding gums — Loss of gum around a tooth is a strong indication of periodontal disease.
- Tenderness or Discomfort — Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.
Sticking to the basics — good oral hygiene, a healthy diet, and regular dental visits — can reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.
How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?
At a minimum, you should have your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year. If your teeth and gums need extra care, Dr. Holleman may recommend more frequent visits.
Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in maintaining oral health and in preventing dental problems. During your regular exams, we’ll do much more than clean your teeth. Your regular visits may include:
- A medical history review: It’s important that we understand your overall health. We’ll ask you about your current medical conditions, new medications, and any illnesses.
- X-rays: These are critical for the detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help us determine tooth and root positions. You likely won’t need X-rays at every visit.
- Oral cancer screening: We check your face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
- Gum disease evaluation: We check your gums and the bones around the teeth for any signs of periodontal (gum) disease.
- Examination of tooth decay: We’ll check each tooth surface for decay.
- Examination of existing restorations: We’ll examine your current fillings, crowns, etc.
- Removal of calculus (tartar): Tartar is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for some time and becomes firmly attached to the tooth surface. Tartar can only be removed with professional dental instruments.
- Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. Regular removal of plaque prevents tartar buildup and gum disease.
- Teeth polishing: This removes stains that are not otherwise removed during toothbrushing.
- Oral hygiene recommendations: We will review and recommend oral hygiene aids as appropriate.
- Review dietary habits: Your eating habits play a very important role in your dental health, so we’ll consult with you on your diet.
A comprehensive dental exam and cleaning is about much more than simply checking for cavities and polishing your teeth — it’s about complete oral health and overall health! Receiving regular exams and cleanings is one of the most important things you can do to ensure a lifetime of good oral health.
What are the benefits of an X-ray examination?
X-rays, also known as radiographs, are commonly used in dental exams of patients of all ages. Panoramic X-rays, which are taken every five to seven years and show the entire mouth, are particularly useful diagnostic tools. Panoramic X-rays are taken with a machine that circles your head providing a complete overview of all the teeth as well as the roots, upper and lower jawbones, the sinuses, and other hard surfaces in the mouth. Many problems with teeth and the surrounding tissues cannot be seen when we visually examine your mouth. An X-ray examination is needed to reveal:
- Small areas of decay between teeth or below existing restorations (fillings)
- Deep cavities
- Infections that can develop in the jaw bones
- Periodontal (gum) disease
- Abscesses or cysts
- Developmental abnormalities
- Some types of tumors
- TMJ Dysfunction
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you money, time, and unnecessary discomfort. In cases where X-rays help us detect oral cancer and periodontal disease early, radiographs can also help save your life!
Why is fluoride good for my teeth?
Each day, foods and acids feed bacteria in your mouth, which can accumulate on your teeth to form plaque. Plaque wears away at a tooth’s enamel in a process known as demineralization. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that can promote the remineralization of enamel, replacing important minerals that strengthen your teeth and can protect them from decay. Fluoride can also help reverse early stages of decay.
Children with newly-erupted permanent teeth benefit a great deal from fluoride exposure, but adults should make sure their teeth come into contact with it, too. The safe and easy way to ensure your teeth are getting enough fluoride is to use fluoride toothpaste, available at drugstores in a variety of types and flavors. If Dr. Holleman recommends more intense fluoride treatments, there are a number of gels, rinses, or even in-office procedures that can do the trick. Though the most fluoride is absorbed from direct contact with the teeth, many public drinking water systems contain small, safe amounts of fluoride that can have positive health effects.
Are amalgam (metal) fillings safe?
For a number of years now, there has been concern about the safety of amalgam, or metal fillings. An amalgam is a mix of copper, silver, tin, and zinc, which is bound by elemental mercury. Dentists have used metal to fill teeth for more than 100 years. Some people however believe that mercury vapors and particles from amalgam fillings cause health problems.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), up to 76% of dentists continue to use silver containing mercury to fill teeth. The ADA has reviewed and conducted studies, but has failed to find any link between silver containing mercury and any medical disorder.
The general consensus among dental professionals is that amalgam fillings are safe. In addition to the ADA, the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the FDA, also support the use of amalgam fillings as safe, durable, and cost effective. The U.S. Public Health Service says that the only reason not to use amalgam fillings is when a patient has an allergy to any component of this type of filling. Millions of amalgam fillings have been placed over the years, yet the ADA has had fewer than 100 reported incidents of an allergy to components of amalgam fillings.
While studies clearly indicate that there are no measurable health risks to patients who have amalgam fillings, we do know that mercury is a toxic material when we are exposed at high, unsafe levels. For instance, we have been warned to limit the consumption of certain types of fish that carry high levels of mercury in them. However, with respect to amalgam fillings, the ADA maintains that when the mercury combines with the other components of the filling, it becomes an inactive substance that is safe.
I experience severe anxiety during dental visits, and I’ve been hearing a lot about oral conscious sedation lately. Is it safe, and could it be right for me?
Oral conscious sedation medications are measured and evaluated by pharmacists and physicians on a safety scale called the therapeutic index, where the higher the number on the scale, the better the safety rating of the drug. The sedation medications commonly used by dentists have high numbers on this index, and you will probably recognize some of the names of the drugs (including Valium®, Halcion®, and Sonata®). When Dr. Holleman works with you to choose a drug protocol (primary sedation agent) — because there are several — factors such as age, weight, and level of dental anxiety are taken into careful account. Health history, including medications (prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins and supplements), and habits such as alcohol consumption and smoking are critical to talk to Dr. Holleman about, as well. Even certain fruit juices can affect the reaction of sedation medications in the body. For example, patients should not drink grapefruit juice within 72 hours before or after dental treatment with sedation. Prior to your sedation visit, we will talk you through the proper preparation steps, from diet adjustments and possibly taking a sleep agent the night before, to having a companion drive you to your appointment and what to expect after treatment.
When patients feel anxiety, their threshold of pain is lower and so dental treatments feel more uncomfortable, stressful, and panic-causing than they otherwise would. The most advantageous aspect of oral conscious sedation is that this can be eliminated. The object is to enable anxious patients, and patients with special needs, to relax the body and mind to be able to receive the treatment they need. Getting the dental care you need is essential to maintaining your optimal overall health.
Taking medication or undergoing any type of anesthesia involves a certain level of inherent risk, so Dr. Holleman will consult with you about this. Also, patients’ bodies metabolize pills differently, so the calming effect of sedation medications might take longer on some patients than on others.
Most patients experience little to no discomfort or remaining effects from a sedation dentistry visit. Immediately after treatment, you might feel a little wobbly while the medication wears off, but we’ll give you simple, helpful instructions for the rest of your day.
What should I do in case of a dental emergency?
Let’s face the facts: accidents happen, and especially when it comes to our teeth and mouths, they can be pretty frightening. Being careful is good prevention, but being prepared promises reassurance in any oral health emergency. It’s important to know when home care will suffice and when a trip to the dentist is necessary, so here are some guidelines to help you through common situations:
Toothache/Sore Gums. Rinse with warm water to remove any food or debris; if you notice anything lodged between teeth, floss to remove it. Take an over the counter pain medication (but never apply the medication directly to tooth or gums), and see us if the pain persists.
Chipped Tooth. Save the pieces, if you can, and rinse them thoroughly. Apply an ice pack or a cold compress to the swollen lip or gum tissue near the chipped tooth to prevent swelling. If the area is bleeding, apply gauze for ten minutes, or until the bleeding has stopped. See Dr. Holleman as soon as possible.
Broken Tooth. With recent advancements in restorative and cosmetic dentistry, you might not lose your tooth. If there’s enough remaining healthy tooth structure, we can create a crown that will “grab onto” your natural tooth, eliminating the need for root removal. While the success of this process, known as “crown lengthening,” depends on the severity of the break, it’s worth asking about options other than complete removal.
Knocked Out Tooth. Depending on the situation, find the tooth and, holding it by the crown only, rinse it briefly with warm water. If possible, gently reinsert the tooth into the socket and bite down on gauze or cloth to keep it in place. If you cannot reinsert it, place it in a container of milk or salt-water. See Dr. Holleman as soon as possible, if treated within 2 hours, the tooth may be salvaged.
Soft Tissue Injuries. Soft tissues such as gums, cheeks, lips, and the tongue tend to bleed heavily, only because the tissue contains a great deal of blood flow. To control the bleeding, first rinse with a warm, mild salt water solution. Apply pressure with gauze or a moistened towel for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterwards, to reduce swelling and help stop residual bleeding, apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth. In the event of a serious soft tissue injury, in which the bleeding is profuse or the damage is visibly traumatic, it’s best to stay calm, keep applying pressure, and go to the emergency room.
Am I candidate for dental implant restorations?
Dr. Holleman and our team work hard to stay on the leading-edge of restorative dentistry. If you or someone you love struggles with ill-fitting, uncomfortable dentures or a retainer with false teeth, we have a permanent solution. Quickly becoming the preferred method of dental replacement, implants can give your smile a second chance. They are useful in denture stabilization, but they can also be used in conjunction with crowns, bridges, and in single-tooth replacements.
Permanent implants are not only more durable and long-lasting than traditional tooth replacements, they also look and feel more like natural teeth. Most importantly, they function like natural teeth, so you can chew, talk, and smile with confidence again. Because the implant procedure allows for more of your healthy tooth structure to be saved, fixed implants can even prevent bone loss.
Many patients suffering from advanced tooth decay, root canal failure, trauma to the mouth, or just extreme natural wear and tear on teeth are benefiting from this revolutionary option in restorative dentistry. However, there are still some things to consider before you decide on dental implants. For example, they are best performed after adolescence, when the teeth and jaw bone are fully developed. Additionally, the implant procedure can be more complicated for individuals with periodontal (gum) disease, active diabetes, immune deficiencies, and for patients who smoke. To ensure that you get the treatment that’s right for you, keep us informed and up-to-date about your entire medical history and dental habits.
My teeth are stained and discolored. What can be done?
When it comes to cosmetic dentistry, whiter, stain-free smiles through teeth whitening is the number one inquiry we receive from our patients. The demand for whiter teeth has increased significantly over the last decade, and there are many solutions available to you.
While there is no shortage of over-the-counter “drugstore” whitening solutions, professional teeth whitening remains the most efficient way to whiten your smile. Our professional treatments are simple, ADA-approved, and non-invasive. They allow you to change the color of natural tooth enamel so you can beautify your smile.
Over time, our teeth naturally change from white to grey or yellow. People who smoke or regularly drink dark fluids such as coffee, tea, and wine tend to have their teeth discolor sooner than those who do not. Certain medications such as tetracycline or excessive fluoridation can also accelerate tooth discoloration.
Most patients are candidates for professional teeth whitening, but it’s still important to have your teeth evaluated by Dr. Holleman before beginning a whitening regimen. Occasionally, tetracycline and fluorosis stains may be too severe to whiten, and veneers or crowns may be better options. It’s also important to keep in mind that teeth whitening only works on natural tooth enamel, so we’ll want to evaluate your existing dental work before we begin whitening treatments. Keep in mind too that teeth whitening is not permanent, touch-ups may be needed to keep your smile looking bright.
Common Teeth Whitening Systems:
Home teeth whitening systems: At-home products usually come in a gel form that is placed in a custom-fitted tray. The trays are worn either twice a day for approximately 15–30 minutes, or overnight while you sleep. These trays typically take a number of weeks before you see the noticeable results you want.
In-office teeth whitening: This treatment is done right here at Lynn Lane Family Dentistry, and the results are immediate! The process typically involves a few 30 to 90 minute appointments. We apply a strong but safe whitening agent directly to your teeth. All you need to do is sit back and watch TV or listen to music. By the time you leave our office, your teeth will be noticeably whiter!
Some patients may experience tooth sensitivity following whitening treatments. This sensation is temporary and will subside within a few days to one week.
How can cosmetic dentistry improve my life?
A more beautiful smile can make life more beautiful. Studies have shown that a healthy and attractive smile can raise self-esteem, increase confidence, improve your personal as well as your professional life, and help you make better first impressions on others. Sometimes it doesn’t take much treatment for you to feel better about your smile, and there are a variety of subtle, yet noticeable ways that smiles can be enhanced. There are also more significant and dramatic treatment procedures (and combinations of procedures), often called “smile makeovers,” that can totally change teeth and smile appearance, to give you the smile of your dreams.
While there is no true “specialist” association with cosmetic dentistry, there are a number of organizations with advanced training and awards associated with cosmetic dentistry. Some dentists place greater emphasis on cosmetic dentistry treatments, especially when they have an exceptionally artistic eye and/or particular enjoyment for cosmetic procedures. This is certainly the case for Dr. Holleman — she absolutely loves to help her patients improve their smiles.
Advancements in dental technology have made it possible for us to address a wide variety of issues affecting smile appearance. Some common cosmetic dentistry treatments include teeth whitening, cosmetic bonding and enamel shaping, porcelain veneers, bridges, and orthodontic solutions (including braces and aligner therapy). Replacing old, amalgam (silver) fillings with tooth-colored fillings can also be considered cosmetic in nature, as it is done to improve both the health and structure, and the appearance of teeth. Really, all dental treatment aimed to improve the appearance of your teeth, gum shape, and smile can be considered cosmetic in nature.