|FREQUENTLY ASKED DENTAL QUESTIONS
- What includes in basic dental care?
Basic dental care includes brushing and flossing your teeth on twice a day basis, seeing the Southern California dentist and/or hygienist at least once a year, and maintaining a healthy diet, which includes foods high in calcium such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and dairy products.
- Why do I need basic dental care?
When you practice basic dental care it helps to:
- Prevent tooth rotting/tooth decay
- Prevent gum/soft tissue disease, which can damage tissue and the bones, and in the long term can cause the loss of teeth
- Shorten time that you spend with your dentist and dental hygienist, and makes the trip more pleasant
- Save money. By having healthy teeth and gums you can reduce the need for fillings and other costly procedures
- Prevent bad breath. Proper oral hygiene rids your mouth of the bacteria that may cause bad breath
- Help keep your teeth white by preventing the formation of stains from food, drinks, and tobacco
- Improve overall health of the whole body
- Make it more likely for your teeth to last a lifetime
- How can I avoid dental problems?
In order to keep your teeth and gums healthy you need good nutrition and regular brushing and flossing.
- Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day removes plaque, which can lead to damaged teeth, gums, soft tissue and surrounding bone
- Using toothpaste with fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay and cavities. Your dentist may recommend a mouthwash with fluoride or one with ingredients that fight plaque
- Stay away from foods with a lot of sugar, which helps plaque grow
- Do not use tobacco products, which can lead to gum disease and oral cancer
- Tongue cleaning. You may use a soft-bristle toothbrush, or a tongue scraper. This practice is very important for smokers or persons whose tongues are coated or grooved
- See your dentist on a regular basis
- Why are routine checkups important and necessary?
Your Southern California dentist will tell you how often to have routine checkups. Every person needs to see their dentists once or twice a year. Your dentist will examine your teeth and gums and look for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other health problems.
- Your dental hygienist will start to clean your teeth by scraping hard buildup (tartar) with a small metal tool. After that, the hygienist will floss your teeth, polish them using special compound, and apply fluoride
- Sometimes your dentist will want to take X-rays. This takes only a few minutes
- The technician will put on you a heavy apron to shield your body
- The technician will have you bite down on a small piece of plastic
- The technician will repeat this process several times to get pictures your teeth
- Your dentist may put a sealant on the chewing surface of your back teeth. This helps to prevent cavities. Sealants keep food and bacteria from getting stuck to the rough chewing surfaces of your teeth
- Your dentist or hygienist may recommend application of fluoride solution to help prevent tooth decay
- If you are prone or susceptible to infections, you will need to take antibiotics before you have any dental work. This includes those who:
- Have heart valve problems
- Have an impaired immune system
- Had major surgeries or have man-made body parts, such as an artificial hip or heart valve
- You may be asked by your dentist about the foods you eat. What you eat can affect your dental health
- If you have a problem such as tooth decay or gum disease, your dentist will talk to you and educate you about changing your brushing or flossing habits and technique. In severe cases, your dentist will recommend antibiotics and dental treatments. If your teeth and gums appear healthy, your dentist will recommend the time for your next appointment
- How should I properly care for my Teeth and Gums?
You should follow these four basic steps when caring for teeth and gums:
- Following good eating habits
- Visiting your dentist
- Tips for Brushing
While brush at least twice a day is a must, its best if you brush after every meal. Brushing removes plaque, a film of bacteria that clings to teeth. When bacteria in plaque come into contact with food, they produce acids. These acids lead to cavities. To brush:
- Place a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste on the head of the toothbrush. (Use a soft toothbrush)
- Place the toothbrush against the teeth at a 45-degree angle to the gum line
- Move the brush across the teeth using a small circular motion. Continue with this motion cleaning one tooth at a time. Keep the tips of the bristles against the gum line. Avoid pressing so hard that the bristles lie flat against the teeth. (Only the tips of the toothbrush clean the teeth). Let the bristles reach into spaces between teeth
- Brush across the top of the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Make sure the bristles get into the groves and crevices
- Use the same small circular motion to clean the backside of the upper and lower teeth - the side that faces the tongue
- To clean the inside of the bottom front teeth, angle the head in an up-and-down position toward the bottom inside of the mouth and move the toothbrush in a small circle
- For the inside of the top front teeth, angle the brush in an up-and-down position with the tip of the head pointing towards the roof of the mouth. Move the toothbrush in a small circle
- Give your tongue a few gentle brush strokes, brushing from the back of your tongue forward. Do not scrub. This helps remove bacteria and freshens your breath
- After brushing your teeth for two to three minutes, rinse your mouth with water
- Replace your toothbrush with a new one every 3 to 4 months
- Tips for Flossing
Floss once or twice a day. Flossing gets rid of small particles of food and plaque between the teeth. If plaque builds between the teeth, it hardens into tartar, which must be removed by a dentist. To floss:
- Remove about a 16 to 18-inch strip of floss
- Wind the floss around the second or third fingers of each hand, leaving about 1-inch section open for flossing. First floss the top teeth, then the bottom
- Place the floss in your mouth and use you thumbs or index fingers to push the floss between the teeth. Do not push too hard and injure the gums
- Start moving the floss up and down against the tooth and up and around the gum line. The floss should form a C-shape around the tooth as you floss
- Floss between each tooth and behind the back teeth
- Use a clean section of floss as needed
- Tips for Eating Right
You should eat a variety of foods but minimize foods containing sugars and starches. These foods produce the acids and the longer they stay in the mouth, the more they can damage the teeth. Hard candies are very harmful because they stay in the mouth a long time.
Do not snack on sugary foods. It can lead to tooth decay because most people don't brush after snacks. Starchy snack foods, like potato chips, stick to the teeth as well. Snacks to avoid:
- Cookies, candies, cakes and pie, sugar coated nuts
- Sugary gum
- Chips, Crackers, breadsticks
- Dried fruits and raisins
- Dental Check-Ups
You should visit your Southern California dentist at least once every six months. It's very important to have regular check-ups and professional cleanings to maintain healthy teeth and gums. You should also see your dentist if you have pain in your teeth or mouth, bleeding, swollen gums, sores that do not heal, bad breath or any other unusual symptoms.
You can also ask your Southern California dentist about dental sealants and fluoride treatments.
- What are the common causes of Gum Disease?
- Changes of hormonal levels, during pregnancy, puberty, menstruation, and menopause, can make gums much more sensitive, which can lead to gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums.
- Some illnesses may affect the condition of your gums. This includes cancer, HIV, diabetes, and other diseases that affect the immune system. People with these diseases are at higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease.
- Some medications can affect oral health because they lessen the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on teeth and gums. Also, medications, such as Dilantin, Procardia and Adalat, can cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.
- Smoking is a bad habit that makes it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
- Bad oral hygiene, such as not brushing and flossing on a regular daily basis, makes it easier for gingivitis to develop.
- Family history of dental disease can be a risk factor in the development of gingivitis.
- What are the common symptoms of Gum Disease?
Diseases of the gums usually progress painlessly and slowly, without obvious signs, even in the late stages of the disease. The symptoms of periodontal disease often are subtle, but are important warning signs that should not be ignored. Certain symptoms point to gum disease. Those symptoms include:
- Bleeding of the gums during and after tooth brushing
- Tender, swollen, red gums
- Persistent bad taste or bad breath in the mouth
- Gums that recede
- Formation of Deep pockets between teeth and gums
- Shifting or loose teeth
- Teeth do not fit together upon biting down, the same with partial dentures
Even if you don't think that you have any symptoms, there could still be some degree of gum disease. Sometimes gum disease may affect only certain teeth, such as the molars. Only your Southern California dentist can recognize and determine the progression of gum disease.
- How Does My Southern California Dentist Diagnose Gum Disease?
While you are having a dental exam, your Southern California dentist checks for certain symptoms:
- Bleeding, swelling, firmness of the gums, and pockets (the space between the gum and tooth)
- Movement of the teeth, sensitivity, and proper teeth alignment
- To help detect the breakdown of bone surrounding your teeth your Southern California dentist also checks your jawbone
- How Can Gum Disease Be Treated?
The goals of the treatment are to reattach of healthy gums to teeth, minimize the swelling, depth of pockets, and the infection, and to stop the disease. Options of the treatment depend on the stage of the gum disease, how you may have responded to treatments so far, and your health. Different options can range from nonsurgical approach, which controls bacterial growth, to restorative gum tissue surgery. Your dentist can explain the various treatment options.
- Can Gum Disease Be Prevented and How?
Gum disease can be reversed in almost all cases when plaque control is practiced. Plaque control consists of professional cleanings and daily brushing and flossing. Depending on the severity of gum disease, it may be necessary to visit to your Southern California dentist for cleanings and periodontal maintenance every 3 to 6 months. Also, while brushing helps to eliminate plaque from the surfaces of the teeth, flossing helps to remove small food particles and plaque from in between the teeth and under the gum line. Other changes in your life that will decrease the risk, severity, and progression of gum disease development include:
- Do Not Smoke. Tobacco use is a very big risk factor for development of gum disease. People who smoke are seven times more likely to get gum disease than nonsmokers, and smoking lowers the chances of success of some treatments
- Reduce stress. Stress may cause difficulties for your body's immune system to fight off infection
- A well-balanced diet. Good nutrition helps your immune system fight infection. Consuming foods with antioxidants, for example, those containing vitamin E or vitamin C (such as vegetable oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, broccoli, and potatoes) can help to repair damaged tissue
- Avoid clenching and grinding your teeth. Grinding and/or clenching may put excess force on the supporting tissues of the teeth and that may increase the rate at which these tissues are destroyed
But even if a person follows good oral hygiene practices and makes other healthy lifestyle choices, according to the American Academy of Periodontology up to 30% of the Americans may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. And those people who are genetically predisposed may be up to six times more likely to develop some form of gum disease. If anyone in your family has gum disease, you may be at greater risk as well. If you are more susceptible to gum disease, you must be extra careful, and your Southern California dentist or Southern California periodontist may recommend more frequent check-ups, cleanings, and treatments to better manage or prevent the condition
- Can Gum Disease Cause Other Health Problems?
Researchers have discovered that there could be potential links between gum disease and other serious health conditions. If the person has healthy immune systems, the bacteria in the mouth making its way into the bloodstream are usually harmless. But under some circumstances, periodontal bacteria are associated with health problems that can lead to stroke and heart disease. Bacteria from gum disease may also exacerbate symptoms of various diseases such as diabetes, cancer, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, etc.
- What are the usual Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
Cancer is the uncontrollable growth of special cells that cause damage to surrounding tissue. Oral cancer may appear as a growth, sore or bump 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 very serious and even life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.
The most common symptoms of oral cancer include:
- Swellings and/or thickenings, lumps or bumps, rough spots, crusts or eroded, ulcer like areas on the lips, gums, tongue, or other areas inside the mouth
- The development and constant presence of velvety white, red, or speckled (white and red) patches inside the mouth
- Unexplained bleeding or oozing in the mouth
- Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, extra sensitivity, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
- Persistent sores on the face, neck, lips, tongue, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within 2 weeks
- A soreness/tenderness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
- Difficulty when chewing or swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
- Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, urges to clear your throat, or change in
- Ear pain or tenderness around the ear.
- A change in how your teeth or dentures fit together
- Sudden and dramatic weight loss
If you notice any of these changes, you should contact your Southern California dentist or health care professional immediately
- Who Can Get Oral Cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) men face twice the risk of developing oral cancer as women, and the risk increases with age. It is estimated that around 40,000 people in the U.S. received a diagnosis of oral cancer in 2008 alone.
Risk factors that can contribute to development of oral cancer:
- Smoking. Cigarette, cigar, pipe smokers are six to eight times more likely than to develop oral cancers
- Using Smokeless tobacco. Users of dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco products are 50 times more likely to develop cancers inside the mouth area such as cheek, gums, and lining of the lips
- Alcohol abuse. Oral cancers are about five to six times more common in drinkers
- Family history of cancer
- Excessive sun exposure, especially starting at a young age and not using sun protection
It is important to note that about 30% of all oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke and who only drink alcohol occasionally.
- How Can Oral Cancer be diagnosed?
Your Southern California dentist will conduct an oral cancer screening exam as part of your routine dental exam. During this exam, your Southern California dentist will feel for any lumps, bumps, or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, face, and inside the mouth. While examining your mouth, your dentist will look for sores, ulcerations, and/or discolored tissue.
During this examination your Southern California dentist may perform an oral brush biopsy of the tissue that looks suspicious. This test is pain free and involves taking a sample of the tissue and looking for abnormal cells under the microscope. But, if the tissue looks even more suspicious, the dentist may perform a scalpel biopsy. This usually requires local anesthesia. These tests are very necessary steps in detecting oral cancer early.