Q: Which type of toothbrush should I use?
A: The brand of the toothbrush is not as critical as the type of bristle and the size of the head. A soft toothbrush with a small head is recommended because medium and hard brushes tend to cause irritation and contribute to recession of the gums, and a small head allows you to get around each tooth more completely and is less likely to injure your gums. You may also want to consider an electric brush. They are easy to use and may be especially appropriate for children and seniors with mobility issues. Even inexpensive brushes with replaceable batteries do a good job of cleaning. Look for brushes that have been accepted with the ADA seal.
Q: Is one toothpaste better than others?
A: Generally, no. However, it's advisable to use a fluoride containing toothpaste to decrease the incidence of dental decay. We recommend our patients use what tastes good to them as long as it contains fluoride. If you have sensitive teeth consider toothpastes that are specially formulated for sensitive teeth.
Q: How often should I floss?
A: Flossing of the teeth thoroughly once or more per day will remove plaque that can cause gum inflammation or the development of decay. Brushing is not enough to remove plaque from below the gum and between the teeth. People with limited hand mobility can utilize a floss holder to reach difficult places.
Q: What's the difference between a "crown" and a "cap"?
A: Nothing. Both these terms refer to restorations that cover all or most of the tooth. Generally these are used to repair teeth that have been broken or badly damaged by decay, but they can also be used to improve biting relationship or for cosmetic reasons. Most crowns are custom-made from gold and other metals, porcelain, composites, or combinations of these materials. Children's teeth that will eventually be lost, but that require extensive repair can be restored with crowns made from preformed stainless steel which is simple and inexpensive.
Q: What's the difference between a "bridge" and a "partial"?
A: Both bridges and partial dentures replace missing teeth and utilize remaining teeth for support. A bridge (fixed partial denture) is permanently attached to supporting teeth or, in some cases, implants. A "partial" generally refers to a removable partial denture which is attached by clasps to the teeth and is easily removed by the patient. When possible, most people prefer fixed bridges, but we will work with you to find the best solution for your particular situation.
Q: What about "silver" fillings versus "white" fillings?
A: Most people prefer tooth colored fillings and most cavities are currently being filled with a composite resin material. Some people express concern about fillings which contain the element Mercury as a component, however all credible recent studies by academic institutions and government agencies have concluded that there are no negative health effects associated with silver amalgam fillings other than very rare allergic reactions, and there are no restrictions on their use in the United States. We have both materials available to accommodate patient preferences and circumstances where one material is preferable. We are happy to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of any material and the final decision about what will be used is yours.
Q: Do I need to have a root canal just because I have to have a crown?
A: No. While most teeth which have had root canal treatments do need crowns to strengthen the teeth and to return the teeth to normal form and function, not every tooth needing a crown also needs to have a root canal.
Q: How often should I get my teeth cleaned and checked?
A: As a general rule, most people should have their teeth cleaned and checked twice each year. This allows us to catch most problems before they become complex and expensive. It also helps prevent the accumulation of hard deposits on the teeth which cannot be removed with brushing and flossing. People with gum diseases or aggressive cavity formation may have cleanings recommended more often. People that have been free of oral disease for an extended period and with very effective home care may require these visits less often. We will work with you to develop a schedule that is most appropriate for your situation. Insurance plans often have restrictions on the number of times they will pay for these procedures, however their plan restrictions are not a very good way to determine the appropriate interval for you.
Q: Are "xrays" necessary?
A: We understand that too much xray exposure can have serious negative health effects, so we never recommend taking an xray unless we feel it is necessary. To minimize your exposure we use digital sensors rather than film for most xrays. It is important to understand that many oral conditions with serious consequences cannot be diagnosed without an xray image and may have no symptoms. While the final choice whether to take an xray is yours, refusing an xray that has been recommended may prevent diagnosis of problems or result in poorer quality or incomplete treatment. Once something hurts it usually means it has become a serious and more expensive problem.