Q. Are implants preferable to dentures?
Q. Are there less visible alternatives to silver fillings?
Q. What makes a root canal necessary?
Q. What are the signs of gum disease (periodontal disease)?
Q. What are sealants?
Q. What should be done if a filling is lost or comes loose?
Q. If a crown falls off, can super glue be used to attach it?
Q. What causes teeth sensitivity?
Q. Is it safe to have dental X-rays taken and are they really necessary?
Q. Is pre-medication necessary before some dental procedures?
Q. What are the most common causes of oral cancer?
Q. Can my dentist help with early detection?

Are implants preferable to dentures?
Implant-supported teeth that stay in can be constructed instead of a denture. The important thing to remember is that there must be enough jawbone into which the implants are anchored. If enough implants can be placed, teeth that stay in can be constructed on top of the implants. Implants can also be used in conjunction with dentures, particularly with a lower denture, to improve the dentures' stability. The more jawbone that has been lost, the greater the need for implants to help stabilize the denture.

Important factors to keep in mind:

  1. Implants have to be taken care of just like teeth. For example, if a patient has lost teeth previously due to gum disease, the same thing can happen around implants if plaque is not removed.
  2. Implant treatment can be quite expensive. It is not the cheap fix that dentures are but can make all the difference in the world.
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Are there less visible alternatives to silver fillings?
Natural tooth-colored fillings have become commonplace and are often now used instead of metallic ones for aesthetic reasons. Studies have shown that, in many cases, the use of tooth-colored materials can actually strengthen a tooth, making it a better choice than the metallic amalgam.

Two basic types of tooth-colored are commonly used - composite and ceramic.

  1. Composites have been used for many years but today's versions are far superior to any in the past due to drastic changes in chemical composition and bonding agents. Because of the improvements, the use of composites is now more widely accepted by dentists as a viable alternative. They are being used to close undesirable spaces, improve the shape, size and color of teeth, replace unsightly metallic fillings, cover abraded or worn areas of teeth (usually at the gum line) and to cover stains. Composites can also be used to protect thermally sensitive areas and to repair and strengthen broken teeth.
  2. Ceramic fillings, like composites, come in several variations that can be used in different situations. Ceramics are typically used for larger and more broken down areas where an inlay or onlay may be necessary to cover more of the required tooth's surface. Ceramic restorations are much more durable than composites and will not stain but are considerably more expensive. In addition, two visits are required along with fabrication laboratory.
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What makes a root canal necessary?

  1. Physical irritation caused by deep decay or a very large filling
  2. Severe gum disease
  3. Cracks in the teeth
  4. Trauma
    1. A physical blow to a tooth
    2. The constant striking of a tooth in the opposite jaw that traumatizes the tooth

Regardless of the initial cause, the tooth pulp becomes stressed and infected. Bacteria grow within the tooth pulp, causing pressure and pain, sometimes accompanied by swelling of the area. Sometimes the deterioration of the pulp happens so gradually that little pain is felt. Either way, eventually the infection can destroy the pulp and spreads to the bone and surrounding tissues causing abscess at the root tips.

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What are the signs of gum disease (periodontal disease)?

  1. Gums that bleed when brushing teeth
  2. Red, swollen or tender gums
  3. Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  4. Bad breath that doesn't go away
  5. Pus between the teeth and gums
  6. Loose teeth
  7. A change in the way teeth fit together when biting
  8. A change in the fit of partial dentures
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What are sealants?
Sealants are a thin, plastic coating applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. They are safe and painless and an affordable way to protect a child's back teeth from decay.

The sealant material forms a protective barrier by bonding to tooth surfaces and covering natural depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) in the teeth. Sealants are applied only to pit and fissure areas of chewing surfaces on back teeth.

Depending on chewing patterns, the sealant effect can last many years. Occasionally, it may be necessary to replace or add a new layer of sealant material to keep the protective barrier strong and effective.

Sealants should be applied as soon as the first permanent molars come in (5-7 years old). The second molars and the premolars should also be sealed as soon as they come in (11-14 years old). It should be noted that as long as teeth are free of decay and fillings to start, it's never too late to apply sealants.

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What should be done if a filling is lost or comes loose?
If you are in pain, it could be due to a large cavity or a crack in a tooth. See your dentist as soon as possible and take any pain medication in the meantime. If there is no pain, keep the area clean until you can see your dentist.

In the case of a broken tooth that has a sharp edge, you can place dental wax or a pre-chewed sugarless gum on the sharp edge until you can see your dentist. This method can also be used if a bracket in braces breaks.

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If a crown falls off, can super glue be used to attach it?
NEVER use super glue or anything similar to put a crown back in! This applies to both temporary and permanent crowns. Simply save the crown and see your dentist as soon as you can.

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What causes teeth sensitivity?

  1. Root sensitivity (exposed root surface) usually occurs after gum recession or gum treatment
  2. Tooth abrasion (the loss of tooth enamel at the gum line)
  3. Old and poor fitting fillings
  4. Cavities
  5. Tartar control toothpaste can sometimes cause teeth to be sensitive

To reduce teeth sensitivity, several steps can be taken including proper brushing techniques with a soft toothbrush, the use of a desensitizing toothpaste and fluoride treatments. One should also decrease the intake of acid-containing foods and liquids. Most importantly, if the problem persists, you should check with your dentist to find the cause and to get proper treatment.

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Is it safe to have dental X-rays taken and are they really necessary?
Numerous precautions and advances in X-ray equipment protect patients from receiving unnecessary radiation. In fact, the amount of radiation received from a dental X-ray is extremely small.

Dental X-rays are an aid in detecting dental problems that are not visible during a clinical exam and help determine the extent of a problem. They pose a smaller risk than many undetected and untreated dental problems. Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save teeth, time, money and unnecessary discomfort. In addition, if there is a serious hidden tumor, early diagnostic X-rays can be life-saving.

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Is pre-medication necessary before some dental procedures?
ABSOLUTELY! First and foremost, your dentist must be made aware of any existing or potential health-related conditions you might have.

You are at risk if you've had any of the following:

  1. Recent heart surgery
  2. A pacemaker
  3. An artificial heart valve
  4. Heart valves damaged by conditions such as rheumatic fever
  5. Congenital heart defects
  6. Heart valve defects
  7. A heart murmur
  8. A history of previous endocarditis.

Any of the above can lead to Bacterial Endocarditis which is an infection of the heart's inner lining or an infection of the heart's valves. Certain types of bacteria can cause endocarditis, which can lead to serious health problems. Occasionally, a dental procedure may lead to infection that, if not treated properly, can lead to endocarditis. This is why prevention and pre-medication are so important. In addition, when dental procedures cause bleeding to occur, they also present a great risk of developing endocarditis. Among those procedures are professional teeth cleaning, periodontal treatment, root canal, oral surgery and some restorative procedures.

The American Dental Association, in conjunction with the American Heart Association, has developed vital guidelines to protect patients at risk for developing Bacterial Endocarditis. Therefore, antibiotics may be recommended in advance of dental treatment for those at risk. It is imperative all instructions are followed when taking antibiotic medication prior to and after a dental appointment - always use as directed and take ALL medication as prescribed.

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What are the most common causes of oral cancer?
Oral cancer can be devastating when detected too late and usually involves major facial surgery with only 50% of such patients surviving past five years.

Oral cancer occurs more often in those who use tobacco in any form including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipes and cigars. Those who consume large amounts of alcohol are also at great risk.

Oral cancer can develop in people of all ages, races and lifestyle habits and is not restricted to only those above, however. Over 25% of oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke or who only drink occasionally. Oral sores or lesions are very common and the majority are harmless but some are potentially dangerous.

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Can my dentist help with early detection?
Regular dental checkups, which include an examination of the entire mouth, are essential in the early detection of both cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions. In addition to the regular exam, an innovative new technology called the Velscope® Oral Cancer Screening System has been developed to help our dentists discover any abnormalities. Learn more about Velscope® by clicking here or calling our office.

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