Frequently Asked Questions
The term dentistry refers to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of conditions, disorders, and diseases related to your teeth, gums, mouth, and jaw. Dentistry is critically necessary for complete oral health and perhaps more importantly, impacts the health of your entire body!
A dentist is a healthcare specialist who works specifically to diagnose, treat, and prevent oral health issues. Dentists complete at least eight years of school to earn either a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) degree or a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree. Dentists are sometimes referred to by their specialty if they have one.
Pediatric dentists, for example, specialize in dentistry for children, most often caring for children from infancy through their teenage years. A pediatric dentist has received the proper education and training needed to work with young kids.
Other dental specialties include:
- Endodontics (performs root canals)
- Oral and maxillofacial (including pathology, radiology, and surgery)
- Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
- Periodontics (gum disease)
- Prosthodontics (implants)
It’s a smart move to visit your dentist regularly! By doing so, you’ll not only help keep your teeth and mouth healthy, but also you’ll improve your overall health! Routine dental care is extremely important because it:
- Helps you prevent tooth decay
- Protects you against gum disease (periodontal disease), which can lead to tooth and bone loss over time
- Helps prevent embarrassing bad breath – brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist regularly will help reduce bacteria that causes bad breath
- Can give you a beautiful smile that boosts your confidence
- Helps prevent staining and discoloration of your teeth by food, drinks, and more
- Protects and strengthens your teeth so that you can keep using them and smiling bright!
Choosing a dentist is a very personal thing! When you find a dentist who “clicks” with you and your family, you’ll know. You may wish to visit several dentists before making your decision. During your first visit with a new dentist, you should be able to determine whether he or she is right for you and your family. Here are a few other factors you can consider when choosing a dentist and dental practice:
- Is the dental office’s schedule convenient for you?
- Is the dental office near you, and convenient to your home or place of work?
- Does the dentist’s office appear clean and in good condition?
- At your first visit, did the dentist offer tips for good oral health?
- Is information about cost or your insurance coverage presented to you before any treatment is scheduled?
- Is your dentist a current member of the ADA (American Dental Association)?
It’s recommended that children, teens, and adults should all see the dentist for a regular hygiene appointment and checkup at least once every six months. Patients who are at a greater risk for oral cancer or gum disease may be required to see the dentist more than just twice a year. Your doctor will help determine how often you should visit the dentist for regular checkups.
- It’s important that you regularly brush your teeth at least two times a day, and floss at least once per day
- Be sure to use toothpaste that contains fluoride, and ask your dentist if you need a fluoride rinse. This can help prevent cavities from forming over time.
- Avoid sugary foods/drinks and tobacco. Increased sugar can lead to increased bacteria that grows in your mouth causing more plaque and possibly cavities. Tobacco can stain your teeth, cause gum disease, and eventually lead to oral cancer.
- It may tickle, but brush your tongue! Brushing your tongue routinely can help you remove food particles and reduce the amount of plaque-causing bacteria in your mouth, plus it helps combat bad breath!
- Schedule your routine checkups, and stay on schedule. It is usually recommended that you visit the dentist every six months. For patients with gum disease present, more frequent visits may be recommended.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children first see a dentist as early as six months of age and no later than your child’s first birthday. During this time, your child’s baby teeth will begin erupting and your dentist can examine the health of those first few teeth! After the first visit, be sure to schedule regular checkups every six months.
A cavity is a small hole that forms inside the tooth because of tooth decay. Cavities form when plaque buildup on the outside of the tooth combines with sugars and starches found in food and drinks. This produces an acid that can disrupt the enamel on your tooth, and lead to serious oral health problems if left untreated. Cavities can often be prevented by remembering to brush your teeth at least two times a day and floss between your teeth at least once per day.
A filling is a synthetic material that your dentist can use to fill a cavity after tooth decay has been removed. During a filling procedure, your dentist will numb your mouth with an anesthetic. Fillings are made from a variety of different materials, including composites, gold, or ceramic. Your doctor will determine if you need a filling and can talk to you about the best filling options for you and your teeth.
Your dentist (and the American Dental Association, we might add) recommend that you brush your teeth at least two times a day. Brushing is the best way to keep your teeth, gums, and mouth clean and healthy by removing the plaque that causes bacteria. It is also often recommended that you use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste that contains fluoride when you brush your teeth. You should spend at least two minutes brushing your teeth each time you do (a minute on the top and a minute on the bottom is a good measure!), and remember to brush your tongue too for fresh-smelling breath.
Toothbrushes eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Many dentists recommend that adults and children change their toothbrushes every three months or so. If you are using an electric toothbrush, read the directions that come with it because you may not need to change toothbrush heads as frequently as that. Patients with gum disease are encouraged to change their toothbrushes every four to six weeks to keep bacteria at bay. After brushing, rinse your toothbrush with hot water to kill germs and clean the bristles. And, if you’ve been sick, be sure to change your toothbrush as soon as you can.
It’s best to visit your dentist to find out your risk of gum disease and get an assessment of your current oral health. Gum disease (periodontal disease) is mostly caused by plaque and bacteria buildup that is not treated in its early stage. Tobacco use, teeth grinding, some medications, and genetics also can impact the presence of gum disease. Gingivitis is the beginning stage of gum disease, and, if detected, is treatable. But, left untreated, gingivitis may turn into gum disease. Advanced gum disease will lead to tooth and bone loss, and is a permanent condition. Brushing your teeth regularly and visiting the dentist every six months will help prevent gingivitis and more severe cases of periodontal disease. Common signs of gum disease include:
- Red, irritated, bleeding, or swollen gums
- Chronic bad breath
- Loose teeth, or loss of teeth
- Extreme tooth sensitivity
- Receding gum line
- Abscessed teeth