Frequently Asked Questions

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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.

What causes people to lose their teeth?

Many peo­ple assume that tooth loss is due to decay. It’s not. It’s because of gum dis­ease. And it can be com­plete­ly pain­less right up until you lose your teeth. Symp­toms include bleed­ing gums when you brush or floss and loose or shift­ing teeth. If you’ve been told you need gum surgery, you will be glad to know that it’s pos­si­ble to con­trol gum dis­ease with a vari­ety of non-sur­gi­cal methods.

I’ve read that gum disease can contribute to heart disease and even stroke. Is this true?

Yes. Recent med­ical research has caused many doc­tors to reach a star­tling con­clu­sion: gum dis­ease, stroke, and heart dis­ease are linked. Since heart dis­ease is usu­al­ly fatal, it is clear that gum dis­ease is a seri­ous mat­ter. The Amer­i­can Den­tal Asso­ci­a­tion esti­mates that 8 out of 10 Amer­i­cans have peri­odon­tal (gum) dis­ease. If this were any oth­er afflic­tion, such as AIDS or tuber­cu­lo­sis, it would be con­sid­ered an epi­dem­ic! Most den­tists think it is just that. They also knew that gum dis­ease would nev­er be labeled epi­dem­ic because, “no one ever dies from it.” The worst is that you lose your teeth. Not pleas­ant – but cer­tain­ly not life threatening.

But that’s all changed.

The Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Peri­odon­tol­ogy reports: “stud­ies found peri­odon­tal infec­tion may con­tribute to the devel­op­ment of heart dis­ease, increase the risk of pre­ma­ture, under­weight births, and pose a seri­ous threat to peo­ple whose health is already com­pro­mised due to dia­betes and res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­eases.” Peri­odon­tal dis­ease is char­ac­ter­ized by bac­te­r­i­al infec­tion of the gums. These bac­te­ria can trav­el into the blood­stream – straight to the heart.

Now the Good News
With advanced peri­odon­tal dis­ease, the treat­ment is sur­gi­cal. Gum surgery is nev­er fun, but it is almost always suc­cess­ful in con­trol­ling the con­di­tion, and it’s usu­al­ly cov­ered by com­mon insur­ance plans. With mild peri­odon­tal dis­ease, there are very effec­tive NON-sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures which, cou­pled with improved den­tal hygiene, can vir­tu­al­ly halt the spread of the dis­ease. This, too, is usu­al­ly cov­ered under most den­tal insur­ance plans.

What is a TMJ disorder?

TMJ stands for tem­poro­mandibu­lar joint, your jaw joints. The pain, dis­com­fort, or ten­der­ness in or around the jaw joints is called a TMJ disorder.

Signs that you might have a TMJ dis­or­der are:

• Facial pain or tenderness
• Jaw pain
• Pain in or around the ears
• Neck pain
• Jaw stiffness
• Dis­com­fort while chewing
• Headaches
• Dif­fi­cul­ty open­ing and clos­ing the mouth
• Jaw “lock­ing up”
• Jaw makes a click­ing sound
• Teeth that don’t come togeth­er prop­er­ly when eat­ing or chewing

There are a vari­ety of treat­ment options for TMJ. Be sure to ask your den­tist about these.

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