- Can I make my teeth whiter?
- Is my child’s thumb sucking a problem?
- Can my dentist help prevent snoring?
- Are sealants good for my children?
- As an expectant mother, is there anything special I should know?
- Do tongue and mouth piercing have any effect on my dental health?
- Why are wisdom teeth often removed?
- Does the dentist have to guarantee my dental work?
- What should I do in a dental emergency?
- What are dental veneers?
- What is a crown?
- What are dental implants?
- Can I obtain my dental records, charts and x-rays from my dentist? Who owns the originals?
- Can a general practitioner perform orthodontics? Should I see a specialist? What is the difference?
- Should I be worried about the safety of x-rays?
- Should I be worried about the safety of dental amalgam fillings?
- What is the purpose of fluoride and should my child have fluoride treatment by our dentist?
- Who are dental specialists?
Question 1 – Can I make my teeth whiter?
In recent years you may have noticed a wide variety of tooth whitening products on the market, readily available and promising incredible results, fast and easy. But do they work and are they safe to use? Whether gel or paste, these products contain peroxide as a bleaching ingredient, and concerns have been raised over the potential side effects when used without dentist supervision. If you are interested in whiter teeth, then the first step is to ask your dentist to identify why your teeth are discoloured; once the cause is determined then they can suggest an appropriate whitening treatment, such as dentist-supervised in-office or at home bleaching. So, if your teeth have become discoloured due to smoking, drinking coffee or tea, or simply due to aging, and you are interested in a whitening product or procedure, be sure to ask your dentist!
Question 2 – Is my child’s thumb-sucking a problem?
Sucking is a natural and important reflex in babies and young children, both as a means of nourishment and as a calming effect. However, as their permanent teeth begin to develop in the bone (beneath the baby teeth), both thumb-sucking and using a pacifier can potentially lead to dental problems. Vigorous long-term sucking, whether on their thumb or a pacifier, can cause a child’s baby teeth to shift, and if thumb-sucking persists, it may affect both the growth of the mouth and the alignment of the child’s permanent teeth. Ideally, to prevent any issues from arising, a child should have stopped sucking their thumb by the time their permanent front teeth are coming in (usually age 6-8). Most children will naturally stop, but if the thumb-sucking continues, feel free to consult your pediatric dentist, dentist, or orthodontist for help in discouraging the habit.
Question 3 – Can my dentist help prevent snoring?
While snoring is usually more of a nuisance than a health concern, snoring occurs when the airway between the back of the tongue and the soft palate narrows and air passing over the soft palate causes it to vibrate—sometimes quite loudly!! Snoring is caused by the tongue falling back and blocking the airway, a blockage which gets tighter and tighter the harder the person tries to breathe.
Whether it happens frequently or infrequently, this reduced air intake results in a corresponding decrease in the body’s oxygen levels and can be a precursor to heart attacks, strokes, and other serious conditions.
While obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) will almost always lead to loud and frequent snoring, snoring does not always indicate OSA. (American Sleep Apnea Association ) Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a chronic condition characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep.
In order to prevent snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, many people are turning to oral or dental appliances as treatment. These appliances pull the lower jaw forward to keep the airway open during sleep, and stop the tongue from falling back and obstructing the airway. Talk to your dentist about your concerns and they will perform a thorough examination to rule out any other conditions. If necessary, they will then determine the optimal position for your jaw, and custom-make the appliance that will work best for you.
Question 4 – Are sealants good for my children?
Feel free to talk with your dentist about any pros and cons of sealants, but recent studies have shown that sealants reduce tooth decay in children. With sealants the caries reduction was more than 80% after 1 year, 70% after 2 years, 37% after 5 years (Ripa). A child’s permanent molars are where 80% of all tooth decay occurs so the sealant—a clear plastic fluid that is painted onto the chewing surface of the molars—acts as a barrier between the deep grooves of enamel on the teeth and the bacteria that causes tooth decay. The application of sealants is a short process where the dentist first cleans the surface of the molar with a solution and then paints on the plastic sealant which hardens and bonds to the tooth. Sealants can normally last up to 5 years, but keep in mind that although they are an excellent way to prevent tooth surface decay they do not protect unsealed teeth or between the teeth and so brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist are still essential to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Question 5 – As an expectant mother, is there anything special I should know?
Yes! The effects of hormone changes on the body can be difficult to navigate for any pregnant woman, and oral health is no exception. Even with good oral hygiene before pregnancy, you may find yourself susceptible to different dental problems, such as pregnancy gingivitis, which is where the change in hormones causes the gums to respond to plaque by becoming red and inflamed and prone to bleeding during brushing. This can, in turn, make it easier for bacteria to get at the roots of the teeth and possibly even enter the blood stream, resulting in a more serious infection. Good oral care, especially thorough brushing and flossing as well as regular dental cleanings to combat pregnancy gingivitis, is the best means to prevent any potential dental problems. Necessary x-rays and dental treatment such as relief of pain, treatment of dental infection, placement of fillings and treatment of gum disease can be performed during pregnancy.
Question 6 – Do tongue and mouth piercing have any effect on my dental health?
Any time you pierce your tongue or lips you risk numerous dental problems, so great care should be taken to prevent any problems from arising. The first potential problem is severe swelling and pain due to the numerous nerve endings found in the tongue—this can make eating and drinking very difficult and a severely swollen tongue can actually block the airway. Other very real concerns with any oral piercings include the risk of infection, particularly with tongue piercings; allergic reactions to the metal; and the possibility of blood clots and blood poisoning. Be aware, too, that since the tongue is constantly moving, healing from a piercing is often slow, sometimes taking up to a month, and even then there are problems you will need to remain vigilant about. Teeth and gums can also be affected by tongue and lip piercings: as teeth can become chipped or cracked from the constant movement of the stud in the mouth, and gum tissue can become damaged by continuous contact with the piercing. The gum and supporting bone around the teeth can get damaged so much that the teeth may become loose. Extra care needs to be taken with pierced tongues, such as brushing the tongue whenever you brush your teeth, removing the ball and cleaning it—not with a jewellery cleaner!—and rinsing the hole in the tongue with a small stream of water. Ask your dentist if you have any questions.
Question 7 – Why are wisdom teeth often removed?
You would think that having extra teeth would make chewing even easier, but that is not usually the case! There are many problems that can arise when the wisdom teeth appear, and sometimes they may need to extracted, either by your dentist or, in more difficult cases, by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. When wisdom teeth only partially break through the gums, they can leave the area around the teeth open for bacteria to enter, causing infection or caries. Sometimes the jaw is too small to accommodate the extra teeth, resulting in the wisdom teeth becoming impacted, which is when the wisdom teeth crowd in and push against the other teeth. If impacted wisdom teeth are allowed to continue growing, they may cause damage to the other teeth. In addition, cysts or tumours may form from the pressure of the incoming wisdom teeth, resulting in damage to the surrounding bone or tooth roots. If you are experiencing pain, continuously biting your cheek, or having problems cleaning your wisdom teeth, talk to your dentist about your options. Some dentists prefer to assess wisdom teeth before they are fully developed (they are often easier to remove before the roots are fully formed).
Question 8 – Does the dentist have to guarantee my dental work?
No. Unfortunately healthcare is impossible to guarantee. However, most dentists will stand behind any restorative work for a reasonable length of time. Feel free to ask your dentist how long a crown or filling or bridge might be expected to last under normal conditions.
Question 9 – What should I do in a dental emergency?
If a tooth is knocked out, it could still be saved. If the tooth is dirty, rinse it gently in running water, but do not scrub, careful not to touch the root of the tooth with the fingers as living tissue may be attached. Then, if possible, return the tooth to its socket, or alternatively, put it in a cup of milk (cold water if no milk is available). Take your tooth and get to the dentist immediately.
If a tooth is broken, clean the injured area with warm water and apply a cold compress to decrease any swelling and go see the dentist immediately.
If you suspect that the jaw may be broken, do not move the jaw. Gently apply a cold compress to the injury and seek emergency dental attention immediately.
If the tongue or lip is accidentally bitten or injured and bleeding occurs, apply direct pressure with a clean cloth to the wound and a cold compress to ease any swelling. If the bleeding does not stop, then a trip to your dentist or the hospital is recommended.
Question 10 – What are dental veneers?
Veneers, usually fabricated from porcelain, form a thin, semi-translucent shell, which is custom-made to fit precisely over an existing tooth. They are permanently bonded, held in place by a special resin that adheres to the back of the veneer and the front of the tooth, making the finished result strong and durable. Although veneers are not suitable for every patient, they can provide a cosmetic solution for a variety of dental conditions, including closing spaces between teeth, restoring broken or chipped teeth, covering unsightly or stained fillings, whitening permanently stained or discoloured teeth, and correcting uneven or crooked teeth. Veneers can last for years with proper care before they need to be replaced.
Question 11 – What is a crown?
A crown, sometimes called a cap, is a tooth-like covering placed over a carefully-prepared existing tooth—much like a thimble over a finger—to strengthen, restore, and improve appearance. Crowns serve many functions, most common of which are strengthening a tooth, accommodating the attachment of a fixed bridge, protecting the structure of a broken tooth and supporting the tooth when there is no longer sufficient tooth structure left in which to place a filling. However, the decision to have a crown has to be made while enough solid tooth structure exists to offer support.
Question 12 – What are dental implants?
A dental implant is essentially an anchor for an artificial tooth. Implants can be placed on the site of one or more lost teeth, as long as you have sufficient underlying jawbone to support them. Implants can sustain single crowns, bridges or full dentures.
Dental implants improve biting pressure if you wear dentures and increase the comfort and fit of your replacement teeth as they prevent them from slipping out of place. Implant surgery is usually performed by an oral surgeon or a periodontist and in some cases by general dentists. Each implant is surgically placed into the jawbone to serve as an anchor for the post that will support the replacement teeth. This procedure is usually followed by a three- to six-month healing period to allow the bone tissue to attach to and grow around the implants, a process called osseointegration which, over time, provides stability for the implant. Once the jawbone has healed firmly around the implants, a small post which protrudes above the gum line is attached to each implant. When the gums have healed from this procedure, the replacement teeth or dentures are attached to the posts. With proper oral hygiene and care, dental implants have been shown to be an effective alternative for lost teeth.
Question 13 – Can I obtain my dental records, charts and x-rays from my dentist? Who owns the originals?
While the law states clearly that dental records are owned by the dentist who owns the practice, you do have the legal right to access to your records. Copies may be obtained upon request, although you may be charged the cost of copying.
Question 14 – Can a general practitioner perform orthodontics? Should I see a specialist? What is the difference?
Although your dentist may perform basic orthodontic treatments, they will refer you to an orthodontist if they feel it is necessary. An orthodontist is a dental specialist with 2 to 3 years of extra university training in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of jaw misalignment and dental irregularities. These specialists perform orthodontic treatment every day so they have the knowledge and experience to deal with mild to complicated orthodontic problems.
Question 15 -Should I be worried about the safety of X-rays?
There is little to worry about when it comes to having X-rays taken at the dentist. The X-ray machine uses a high-speed sensor and targets a precise area of your jaw so that the amount of time you are exposed to radiation is minimal, and, just to be safe, the use of the lead apron and collar provides you with even more protection. Radiation exposure during a dental x-ray is quite small compared with that received normally from natural background sources.
Question 16 – Should I be worried about the safety of dental amalgam fillings?
Safe, durable, and relatively inexpensive, dental amalgam—often referred to as silver fillings—has been in use for 150 years and is the most common type of filling used in Canada. Over the years some worries have been raised due to the materials that are used in the composition of the filling, but scientific studies have demonstrated that amalgam fillings are safe to use.
Question 17 – What is the purpose of fluoride and should my child have fluoride treatment by our dentist?
Fluoride treatment—which comes in the form of gel, foam or liquid—is applied to the teeth during a check-up to help in the prevention of cavities. When you take your child in for their check-up, your dentist will talk with you to assess your current exposure to fluoride and determine whether your child needs treatment. For further information on fluoride, please consult the Canadian Dental Association ( http://www.cda-adc.ca/en/oral_health/faqs/fluoride_faqs.asp).
Question 18 – Who are dental specialists?
In addition to dentists who are in general practice, there are nine recognized dental specialties:
- Endodontics – Root canal treatment and related surgeries.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery – Specialized surgery of the mouth, face, and jaw.
- Oral Pathology – Diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the mouth and jaw.
- Oral Radiology – Analysis and interpretation of X-rays of the teeth and jaws.
- Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics – Diagnosis, interception, and treatment of all forms of malpositioned teeth and jaws.
- Pediatric Dentistry – Dentistry for infants, children, adolescents, and special needs patients.
- Periodontics – Diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of gum disease.
- Prosthodontics – Replacement of missing teeth and restoration of function and appearance.
- Public Health Dentistry – Promotion of oral health through organized community programs.