FAQs – Common Dental Questions

Click each question below to reveal the answer:

1. Will it hurt?
Surprisingly, the vast majority of dental procedures are completely painless and often, when there is discomfort, it is minor and brief in duration. Otherwise, anesthetic is safe, fast-acting and the side effects dissipate quickly.
2. What’s a crown?
To structurally and esthetically repair a damaged tooth, it may be reduced in size, then the base will be crowned to create a perfect new tooth.
3. What’s a veneer?
Less extensive and structural than a crown, a veneer overcoats the front of a tooth to improve your smile.
4. What causes swelling?
If you have an infection, or are experiencing inflammation, fluid may build at these points causing swelling and discomfort.
5. How long after dental work do I have to wait before I can I eat?
After most minor surgical procedures, a patient may be able to chew on the opposite side of the effected area of the mouth.
6. How often should I change my toothbrush?
If you are brushing the recommended 3-4 times a day, you will likely need to replace your toothbrush after 6 to 8 weeks.
7. What kind of toothbrush should I use?
Soft No. 35. Whatever brand you like, just make sure the packaging says ‘Soft No. 35.
8. What kind of toothpaste do you recommend?
Whatever you think tastes good — so you’ll brush more — just make sure it contains fluoride. Most do.
9. Is mouthwash good for you?
No. Because it contains alcohol, it can actually dry the mouth.
10. Does mouthwash work?
No. It tends to dry the mouth, and dry mouth can actually cause bad breath. And NO mouthwash is strong enough to kill bacteria. If it were that strong, you wouldn’t be able to put it in your mouth.Hidden content
11. Are toothpicks okay to use rather than floss?
Toothpicks are better than not using anything at all, but they are only a stopgap measure. You should floss as soon as reasonably possible after eating.
12. Is using a water-pic better than brushing and/or flossing?
No. To date, there is no substitute for brushing and flossing.
13. Does chewing gum after every meal in place of brushing or flossing work?
Nothing takes the place of flossing and brushing, but chewing a sugarless gum may remove some food particles, mainly on the chewing surface. Chewing gum will not get between teeth or at the gum line — the place where most buildup and problems occur.
14. About how many bacteria are usually in our mouth?
Way too many to count. They especially multiply and colonize right after a meal. That’s why brushing is so important. It breaks up those colonies and inhibits growth.
15. What kind of floss should I use?
I recommend Glide. And ribbon-type is a little more effective because it covers greater surface area.
16. What causes bad breath?
The primary cause is residual food debris in the mouth. For more on this, and other causes and methods of prevention, see our page on Bad Breath.
17. Why do I grind my teeth?
In the business, to grind is to brux, and it is typically caused by stress and residual tension.
18. Should I be concerned if my jaw makes clicking noises?
Maybe, or maybe not. An examination will tell.
19. What is a night-guard?
This device helps to prevent grinding and in some cases has helped in inhibiting snoring.
20. Why do I snore?
The airways at the nose and throat change shape and inhaling and exhaling creates a sort of bugle effect.
21. What causes the inability to breath during sleep?
This is known as sleep apnea, and the condition is often caused by tension or being over weight.
22. Can something be done for sleep apnea?
Yes. In most cases a simple device or minor surgery will cure this condition.
23. What is that rubber thing that dentists use?
It’s called a rubber dam and it isolates the tooth, or teeth, under treatment and prevents the patient from swallowing residual substances.
24. Are there options to being anesthetized?
To date, no. But anesthetics are safe, effective and the effects wear off quickly.
25. Is nitrous oxide available in your office?
Yes. And it, too, is effective and safe.
26. Does the doctor’s do the dental cleaning or a hygienist?
Our hygienist will do all cleanings.
27. Why are my teeth sensitive to hot and cold substances?
Could be leaky or fractured fillings, receded gum lines, or fractured teeth. These conditions can expose or bring the nerve closer to the surface of the tooth.
28. Why are my teeth changing color?
Any number of reasons, Maybe the stain inherent in coffee, tea, dyed foods, red wine, jams, jelly’s, etc. After a simple cleaning or bleaching, brushing after ingesting these types of substances will greatly prevent a return of this discoloration.
29. Is bleaching harmful to teeth?
No. Its very safe and very effective.
30. Do you offer bleaching in your office?
Yes. For more information, see our page on having A Brighter Smile.
31. Do you treat children?
Yes. We love kids.
32. At what age should a child first see a dentist?
At about three years of age.
33. What are sealants?
These are resin-based products which cover openings in teeth. This may not only make your smile more attractive, but also help to prevent cavities from taking hold.

American Dental Association FAQ

1. What are cavities? How do they occur?
Cavities are a destruction of the tooth enamel. They occur when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, pop, raisins, cakes or candy are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in cavities. This process is also called “tooth decay.”  See also: Cleaning Your Teeth and Gums and Topical Index: Tooth Decay and Dental Caries
2. Smoking for many years, recently noticed a white patch in my mouth, should I be worried?
Any mouth sore that persists for more than a week should be examined by your dentist. Leukoplakia is a thick, whitish-color patch that forms on the cheeks, gums or tongue and is caused by excess cell growth. It is common among tobacco users and can also result from irritations such as ill-filling dentures or a habit of chewing on one’s cheek. The danger of leukoplakia is that it can progress to cancer. Your dentist may want to take a biopsy if the leukoplakia appears to be threatening.
3. How can I help prevent oral cancer?

Eliminate any risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol and regularly visit your dentist. Periodic dental exams allow early detection and appropriate treatment if cancer develops. If at any time you notice any changes in the appearance of your mouth or any of these signs and symptoms, contact your dentist at once:

- A persistent sore or irritation that does not heal

- Color changes such as the development of red and/or white lesions

- Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or lips

- A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area

- Difficulty in chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue

- Change in bite

4. What causes bad breath?
Bad breath can be caused by such things as certain foods, poor oral hygiene, gum disease, a dry mouth (xerostomia), tobacco products or a medical disorder. When bacteria accumulate because of poor oral hygiene or gum disease, or when saliva is lacking, bad breath can result. Saliva is necessary to wash away food particles and bacteria. Certain medications and disorders can lead to a dry mouth. Sometimes a sinus infection, postnasal drip or other respiratory tract infection can cause bad breath. If bad breath is persistent, contact your dentist to determine whether the cause is of dental origin. See also: Consumer Hot Topics: Bad Breath (Halitosis)
5. What can I do about bad breath?

Regular checkups will allow your dentist to detect any problems such as gum disease, a dry mouth or other disorders that may be the cause. Maintaining good oral hygiene, eliminating gum disease and scheduling regular professional cleanings are essential to reducing bad breath.

Regardless of what may be the cause, good oral hygiene is essential. Brush twice a day and clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners. Brush your tongue, too. If you wear dentures, be sure to remove them at night and clean them thoroughly before replacing them the next morning. If you don’t already have a dentist, see Bad Breath.
See also: Consumer Hot Topics: Bad Breath (Halitosis)

6. What is the treatment for bad breath?

If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy and that the odor is not of oral origin, you may be referred to your family physician or to a specialist to determine the cause of the odor and for treatment. Of course, if the odor is of oral origin, as it is in the majority of cases, your dentist can treat the cause of the problem.

If the odor is due to gum disease, your general dentist can either treat the disease or refer you to a periodontist, a specialist in treating gum tissues. Gum disease can cause gum tissues to pull away from the teeth and form pockets. When these pockets are deep, only a professional periodontal cleaning can remove the bacteria and plaque that accumulate. Sometimes more extensive treatment is necessary.

If you have extensive build-up of plaque, an invisible layer of bacteria, your dentist may recommend using a special antimicrobial mouthrinse. Your dentist may also recommend that when you brush your teeth, you also brush your tongue to remove excess plaque.

7. Where can I get products that will be useful for treating bad breath?
After determining the cause of your halitosis, your dentist will be able to prescribe or recommend those products that can be helpful for you. See Products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

8. How effective are ‘halitosis kits’ & other products claiming to treat bad breath?
The ADA cannot vouch for the claims the manufacturers of halitosis kits make. If you are concerned about their safety and effectiveness, you can ask your dentist if the products in the kit will be useful for you.

Many antiseptic mouthrinse products, however, have been accepted by the ADA for their therapeutic benefits in reducing plaque and gingivitis and also have breath freshening properties. See the ADA’s Products of Excellence Catalog under the heading Mouthrinses, Anti-plaque/Anti-Gingivitis. Instead of simply masking breath odor, these products have been demonstrated to kill the germs that cause bad breath. You may wish to ask your dentist about trying some of these products

9. What’s the difference between a canker sore and a cold sore?

Canker sores are often confused with cold sores. An easy way to distinguish between the two is to remember that canker sores occur inside the mouth, and cold sores usually occur outside the mouth.

A canker sore (also called aphthous ulcers) is a small ulcer with a white or gray base and red border. There can be one or a number of sores in the mouth. Canker sores are very common and often recur.

A cold sore, which is also called fever blister or herpes simplex, is composed of groups of painful, fluid-filled blisters that often erupt around the lips and sometime under the nose or under the chin. Cold sores are usually caused by herpes virus type I and are very contagious.

Canker sores usually heal in about a week or two. Rinsing with anitmircobial mouthrinses may help reduce the irritation. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics can also provide relief. Cold sores usually heal in about a week. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics can provide temporary relief and prescription antiviral drugs may reduce these kinds of viral infections.

10. Why did I get an abscess?

When the pulp of a tooth becomes infected (often from a deep cavity or a deep crack),

the infection can spread throughout the pulp. If root canal treatment is not done, the infection may travel into the tissues near the root tip. This can cause the adjacent bone to erode. The pocket of pus that forms is the abscess. If the abscess increases in size, it can become more painful.
See also: Root Canal (Endodontic) Treatment