Frequently Asked Questions

Basic Question Answers

I’m considering braces but isn’t it hard to keep your teeth clean while wearing braces?

It’s hard­er to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy if you wear braces. This means you must be even more of a fanat­ic about brush­ing and floss­ing, or two years lat­er your teeth will be beau­ti­ful­ly straight but loaded with cav­i­ties. Plaque can eas­i­ly accu­mu­late around the brack­ets, which can cause “white spots,” dam­age to the enam­el, decay, and cav­i­ties.

My 12-year-old son likes to chew ice. Is this harmful?

Tooth enam­el is very hard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t break it. Try to avoid eat­ing “hard foods” such as pop­corn. Don’t crack nut shells with your teeth or chew on ice. Open­ing pack­ages with your teeth can also dam­age the enam­el.

Why are soft drinks bad for your teeth?

Sug­ar and acids are your teeth’s worst ene­mies. What are we talk­ing about? Soft drinks, ener­gy drinks, fruit juices, and can­dy. Because of the acid con­tent, Moun­tain Dew seems to be the worst of the worst. Den­tists even have a name for the dam­age it does – they call it “Dew Mouth.” These soft­en the tooth enam­el, mak­ing it high­ly sus­cep­ti­ble to decay. Par­ents, watch your kid’s con­sump­tion of these, because young children’s enam­el hasn’t devel­oped ful­ly. This makes these drinks even more dam­ag­ing for kids. As well as elim­i­nat­ing the above (or at least reduc­ing their con­sump­tion), use a sug­ar-free xyl­i­tol chew­ing gum after meals. Also, rinse your mouth with a high-qual­i­ty den­tal mouth­wash.

Tongue piercings seem to be a very bad idea. How bad?

Yes, they can look cool, but they can also frac­ture your teeth as well as make it much eas­i­er to get a nasty infec­tion of the tongue and lips. Den­tists have esti­mat­ed that up to 40% of peo­ple who have met­al rings or oth­er oral pierc­ings have had big prob­lems from tooth frac­tures and infec­tion.

Is fluoride bad for you?

Flu­o­ride is fine…in small amounts. Exces­sive flu­o­ride can cause tooth enam­el irreg­u­lar­i­ties. Young chil­dren, espe­cial­ly, often swal­low too much tooth­paste while brush­ing. So par­ents, super­vise your young kids while they brush. Kids (and even adults) often use way too much tooth­paste (a pea-size drop is plen­ty). A lit­tle goes a long way.

I think I grind my teeth at night. What can I do about this?

Do you wake up with pain in your jaws or a per­sis­tent headache? If so, you may be grind­ing (called brux­ing) while you sleep. Per­sis­tent brux­ing can dam­age teeth and cause them to get short­er and short­er. It can also dam­age your tem­poro­mandibu­lar (jaw) joints and even affect your hear­ing. If you sus­pect that you are a brux­er, tell your den­tist. He or she may rec­om­mend a night guard or oth­er oral appli­ance.

What’s so bad about losing a tooth?

Teeth can be lost due to an acci­dent or oth­er trau­ma, but the most com­mon rea­son peo­ple lose a tooth is because of gum dis­ease and/​or decay. So, is it a big deal to lose a tooth? I mean you can’t die from it, right? No, you can’t, but los­ing even a sin­gle tooth can cause the oth­er teeth to shift and move around – not good. This can affect chew­ing and your abil­i­ty to absorb nutri­ents from your food. Oth­er bad things can hap­pen; your face will change shape, often look­ing “sunken.” This can make you look much old­er than you real­ly are. Your speech can be affect­ed. Because it’s hard­er to chew with miss­ing teeth, you may find your­self favor­ing soft­er foods and more car­bo­hy­drates, which can cause you to gain weight. The best way to treat a miss­ing tooth (or miss­ing teeth) is with den­tal implants. An implant can replace one tooth or many. They can be made to look so nat­ur­al that even a den­tist has to look hard to tell the dif­fer­ence.

Does the doctor check for oral cancer?

Yes, we do. Den­tists and hygien­ists are your first line of defense in detect­ing and treat­ing oral can­cer. Each year in the US, approx­i­mate­ly 30,000 peo­ple are new­ly diag­nosed with oral can­cer. World­wide, the prob­lem is far greater, with new cas­es annu­al­ly approach­ing 300,000. In the US alone, a per­son dies from oral can­cer every hour of every day. If you add the sub cat­e­go­ry of laryn­geal can­cers, the rates of occur­rence (about 10,000 addi­tion­al new cas­es per year) and death are sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er. How­ev­er, the good news is, when found ear­ly, oral can­cers have an 80 to 90% cure rate.