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Frequently Asked Questions

Most people have certain questions pertaining to their oral health, or treatment that may be recommended by their dentist. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions.

If you have further questions, or are interested in a consultation with one of our reputable doctors, contact our office. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Q: What can be done about bad breath?

The condition of halitosis, or bad breath, affects a large number of people. Most of us will experience a foul odor on our breath upon waking, but some people live with persistent bad breath that leads to embarrassment.

Bad breath can occur for various reasons. In a healthy person, the primary cause of bad breath is microbial deposits. These tend to occur on the back of the tongue. To reduce the instance of bad breath by up to 70 percent, you can simply brush the back of the tongue every time you brush your teeth.

Causes of bad breath include:

  • Sleep, during which the flow of saliva stops, and bacteria is allowed to grow.
  • Food such as onions and garlic contain compounds that enter the blood and travel to the lungs, where they become apparent on the breath.
  • Poor oral hygiene can lead to bad breath, as brushing removes food particles as well as bacteria. When brushing is not performed adequately, bacteria builds up and causes a foul odor.
  • Gum disease, in which bacteria tends to thrive at or below the gum line.
  • Dry mouth, called xerostomia.
  • Cavities or ill-fitting dental appliances.
  • Use of tobacco products.
  • Dehydration or hunger.
  • Dieting, during which ketones are expelled because of the burning of fat.
  • Illness or chronic medical conditions such as kidney or liver problems, diabetes, bronchitis, sinus infection, or pneumonia.

To identify the cause of bad breath, it may be helpful to keep a record of foods and beverages consumed, as well as skipped meals or water intake. It is also important to discuss medical conditions, medications, and illnesses with your dentist.

Q: What is the purpose of brushing and flossing, and how much is enough?

Brushing and flossing the teeth are the primary ways in which bacteria are kept under control. Bacteria lives in plaque, and increases the instance of dental diseases such as cavities and gum disease.

Plaque is a sticky biofilm comprised of tiny particles of food, saliva, and bacteria. This substance becomes stuck to teeth, and then it provides a home for bacteria, which consume food particles and convert them into acids. The acid produced by oral bacteria is very harmful to oral health. Plaque left on teeth will harden into calculus, which we call tartar. At this point, gum tissues as well as bone tissue are at significant risk of damage through gum disease.

The development of plaque is a continual process in the mouth, one that can be controlled with adequate brushing and flossing.

Teeth should be brushed at least two times every day, if not following every meal. Brushing before bed is especially important, as saliva production will slow down during sleep.

  • Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, teeth should be brushed at a 45-degree angle from the gums.
  • Small, circular strokes should begin at the gums and move around all surfaces of the teeth. You want to feel the bristles on the gums, while using gentle pressure.
  • Pay attention to all surfaces - inner, outer, and the biting surface of each tooth.
  • Using the brush tip, clean the back surface of front teeth.
  • Using the toothbrush or a tongue scraper, clean the back of the tongue to eliminate bacteria and maintain fresh breath.

Electric toothbrushes are ideal for optimal oral health, and make it easy to clean teeth efficiently. The brush does all the work!

Flossing on a daily basis keeps plaque from building up between the teeth and at the gum line, thus providing a high degree of protection against gum disease.

  • Dental floss may be flavored, waxed, both, or plain. Remove 12 to 16 inches of floss from a roll, and wrap it around two fingers comfortably, usually the middle fingers. There should be about two inches of floss showing between hands.
  • Gently place floss in between two teeth, using the thumbs and forefingers to guide the way.
  • Curve the floss around the tooth under the gum line in a "C" shape, and move the strand gently up and down to clean the tooth surface.

If using traditional floss is challenging, flossing may be done with floss holders.

Rinsing the mouth frequently is an important part of oral health. In addition to using an appropriate oral rinse recommended by your dentist in your regular oral hygiene routine, the mouth should be rinsed with water following meals and snacks.

Q: Should I be concerned about amalgam (silver) fillings?

Amalgam fillings, which are comprised of silver, copper, zinc, and tin, are bound with elemental mercury. These fillings have been used by dentists for more than a century. According to the American Dental Association, approximately 76 percent of dentists still use amalgam fillings regularly.

This restorative material has been under fire in recent years, due to claims that mercury exposure, in vapor form, poses a risk of various health problems. In studies, the American Dental Association has found no link between medical disorders and amalgam fillings. Several of the leading health organizations, including the Center for Disease Control, the American Dental Association, the FDA, and the World Health Organization, stand behind the practice of amalgam fillings as a safe, effective, durable restoration. The only viable reason to avoid this type of dental filling, according to the U.S. Public Health Service, is when there is a known allergy to any of the components of amalgam material. Out of millions of amalgam fillings placed over several decades, less than 100 incidents of allergic reactions have been reported.

Studies do show us that we should avoid mercury in high doses, as this is a toxic material. For example, we are advised to limit our consumption of fish products that contain high levels of mercury. Where amalgam fillings are concerned, the level of mercury is quite small. Additionally, when combined with the other materials in amalgam fillings, mercury becomes an inactive substance, making it safe.

Your dentist is open to discussions regarding fillings, so that the most appropriate material can be chosen for you. Alternatives to amalgam fillings include gold, porcelain, and composite fillings.

Q: How often must I visit my dentist for exams and cleanings?

To maintain your teeth and gums in their healthiest, most attractive condition, twice-a-year dental check-ups and cleanings are ideal. Depending on the state of your oral health, your dentist may schedule visits more frequently.

The risk of dental problems is significantly decreased through regular dental exams and cleanings. During routine visits, your dentist will assess teeth and check for cavities. Professional cleaning, which is effective at removing plaque and tartar, is also performed at this time.

At least twice a year, visit us for a check-up, we may recommend that you visit us more frequently in some cases.

Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in preventing dental problems and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. At these visits, your teeth are cleaned and checked for cavities.

Other aspects of a routine dental check-up include:

  • Review of medical history, which provides insight into general health. Knowing the medical conditions, medications, or illnesses you may have helps your dentist detect potential causes of dental issues, and devise a personalized treatment plan.
  • X-rays: examining x-ray images helps us detect cavities, as well as the position of teeth and roots, and the development of cysts, tumors, or bone loss.
  • Screening for oral cancer: Detected early, oral cancer is quite treatable. During your routine examination, your tongue, throat, lips, gums, face, and neck will be checked for any sign of this type of cancer.
  • Evaluation for gum disease: Gum tissue and bone around teeth will be assessed for signs of gum disease.
  • Examination of tooth structure: Using specialized instruments, your dentist will check all surfaces of teeth for signs of cavities.
  • Assessment of existing restorations: Existing crowns, bridges, and fillings will be evaluated for soundness.
  • Calculus (tartar) removal: Calculus forms on teeth both above and below the gum line, when plaque is left on teeth for some time. This hardened substance can only be removed using precise dental instruments.
  • Removal of plaque: A sticky substance of food particles, debris, and saliva, plaque forms a barely-detectable film on teeth. Bacteria, which live in plaque, consume tiny food debris and produce toxins that irritate gum tissue, leading to gum disease.
  • Teeth polishing: Daily brushing may not remove all stains and plaque. Polishing teeth leaves them shiny, clean, and bright!
  • Oral hygiene recommendations: Assessing the condition of teeth, your dentist, or hygienist, may make recommendations for improved oral hygiene, such as suitable oral rinse, cleaning aids, or type of toothbrush.
  • Review of dietary habits: Your oral health is impacted by the foods and beverages you consume. Your dentist may advise you on the best foods for optimal oral health.

Dental examinations are not strictly about checking teeth for cavities. This routine visit is all-inclusive so that your smile is maintained in its healthiest, most beautiful state.

Q: What are the signs of gingivitis and periodontitis (gum disease)?

Gum disease is different from tooth decay in that there are typically few warning signs of a problem. In its early stage (gingivitis), gum disease is not painful, which is likely one reason four out of five people are unaware they have this condition. Regular dental check-ups are an important step in the early detection and proper treatment of gum disease.

The principal cause of gum disease is plaque, the sticky, colorless substance that becomes stuck to teeth. This substance, which consists of saliva, bacteria, and tiny food particles, provides the perfect home for bacteria, which produce acid waste that irritates gum tissue and threatens bone tissue.

To reduce your risk of plaque buildup and the development of gum disease, daily brushing and flossing is recommended.

Oral hygiene is not the only factor affecting the presence of gum disease. Other risks include:

  • Hormonal fluctuations, such as those that occur during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. Use of oral contraceptives may also increase the risk of gum disease.
  • Genetics, with some people predisposed to certain aggressive types of gum disease. Those with a family history of tooth loss may want to pay close attention to gum health.
  • Tobacco use seems to increase plaque and tartar, which causes gum disease.
  • Existing dysfunctional restorations such as ill-fitting crowns or bridges, or defective fillings, may allow bacteria into hidden places.
  • Medications such as cancer therapy drugs, steroids, or blood pressure medications may increase the risk of gum disease. Medications that reduce saliva production leave the mouth dry, which makes it easier for plaque to stick to teeth.
  • Systemic disease such as HIV or AIDS, blood disorders, or diabetes.

Recognizing gum disease. The following symptoms are warning signs that gums are inflamed:

  • Redness and puffiness.
  • Tenderness in gum tissue.
  • Bleeding during brushing or flossing.
  • Persistent bad breath.
  • Receding gums. Teeth may look longer.
  • Pus or pockets around teeth.
  • Teeth feel loose.
  • Change in fit between teeth.

Gum disease can be prevented with good oral hygiene and regular professional care, in addition to a healthy diet. Your dentist can help you avoid gum disease, or manage the condition if it has developed.

Q: What can cosmetic dentistry do for my smile?

Millions of people have discovered the benefits of cosmetic dentistry! If you wish to make slight improvements, or correct a condition that makes you self-conscious about your smile, West Chester Dental Group will tailor treatment to meet your needs.

Cosmetic treatment has become increasingly popular, with a number of advances in materials and technique. We are also becoming more concerned about our appearance, as well as our overall health. A bright, radiant smile gives the impression of health, vitality, and friendliness.

We offer a number of cosmetic treatments for the enhancement of smiles. Procedures performed today can completely makeover the smile, or restore a single tooth to its most natural condition. Working with your dentist, you can experience your healthiest, most attractive smile.

Popular cosmetic procedures include:

  • Teeth whitening, this can lighten stains that have developed from foods and beverages, age, smoking, or even certain medications. The level of lift possible is determined by the product used, as well as the degree of staining that exists.
  • Tooth colored fillings, also called composite fillings or "bonding," repair teeth without impacting the appearance of your smile. An alternative to silver amalgam fillings, composite fillings may repair teeth damaged by cavities, chips, or cracks, and may even be used to protect root surfaces when gum tissue has receded.
  • Porcelain veneers can restore natural beauty by correcting a single tooth, or can transform the smile into something remarkable. Thin shells of porcelain are bonded to teeth that have been chipped or cracked, or are misshapen or disproportioned, or slightly misaligned. Requiring minimal tooth modification for placement, porcelain veneers are a permanent cosmetic enhancement.
  • Porcelain crowns may be used in lieu of metal crowns, to restore both beauty and function to damaged teeth.
  • Dental implants provide a stable, lifelong replacement for missing teeth. Suitable for the replacement of one tooth or as a denture alternative, dental implants are precisely placed into the jawbone, preserving not only chewing function but also facial structure.
  • Orthodontics has changed significantly over the past several years. Today, our patients can correct misalignment with more discreet treatment, making orthodontics more appealing to both teens and adults. In many cases, the smile can be transformed by wearing custom-designed, clear aligners that can be removed for eating and oral hygiene.
Q: How do porcelain veneers improve the smile?

Dental veneers are thin shells made of a specific material. West Chester Dental Group crafts veneers out of porcelain, a strong, stain resistant material that enhances the smile to natural beauty.

Veneers are capable of correcting a variety of cosmetic issues, including:

  • Severe discoloration.
  • Too much space between teeth.
  • Chips or cracks.
  • Slight crowding, or turned teeth.
  • Odd proportions and shapes.
  • Uneven smile line.

The process of improving the smile with porcelain veneers is completed in two office visits. After teeth are prepared for veneers, an impression is taken and sent to the laboratory, where veneers are individually made to the precise shape and color most appropriate for your complexion.

When they are ready, veneers are bonded to teeth that have been lightly buffed, and set in place with strong dental cement.

Porcelain veneers are an excellent solution to a variety of conditions that affect the attractiveness of the smile.

Q: My teeth are dull and stained. What can I do?

Teeth are affected by both internal and external factors. In the aging process, enamel may become worn, eventually looking darker. Lifestyle habits such as tobacco use, consumption of red wine, coffee, and tea, or poor oral hygiene may also lead to discoloration. Because teeth are porous, gradual staining is inevitable.

With great importance placed on the appearance of teeth, a variety of teeth whitening options have been developed over the years. Since it was first offered, the teeth whitening procedure has remained the most popular treatment available. Commercial products promising a brighter smile can be found just about anywhere. However, professional teeth whitening leads to dramatic results that last, even lifting tough stains.

Working with your dentist towards your best smile is also the safest option, as an evaluation of teeth and gums is important. Some stains, such as those caused by certain medications or fluoride, may be more difficult to address, and your dentist can recommend the most suitable cosmetic treatment for improvement. Teeth whitening is only effective on natural enamel. Restorations such as crowns or tooth colored fillings will not respond to bleaching. After professional bleaching, new restorations can be matched to the new, brighter color of teeth.

Results of teeth whitening typically last several months, depending on lifestyle habits. With regular touch-ups, your smile can remain bright and beautiful.

Teeth whitening is typically performed in one of two ways:

Home whitening

It is possible to lift years of stains in the comfort of your own home. At-home kits are designed by your dentist, with a custom-fitted whitening tray that is formed to your teeth. After placing professional grade whitening gel into the tray, it may be worn from thirty minutes to several hours. Some people wear whitening trays while they sleep. Within a few weeks, teeth look significantly lighter and more vibrant.

In-office whitening

Performed within about an hour in our office, this whitening treatment produces immediate results. Depending on the level of staining present, multiple treatments may be needed. During a whitening treatment, gums are protected and a whitening solution is applied to teeth. Through the application of a special light, teeth absorb the whitening agent and stains are lifted.

Tooth sensitivity may be a side effect of teeth whitening. This side effect tends to diminish within a week of completing the whitening process.

Simple and effective, teeth whitening can give you more to smile about!