Q: What causes tooth decay?

Mainly, tooth decay is caused by bacteria in your mouth reacting with sugary and starchy deposits from food, producing acid which damages the enamel over time. It is also the result of a number of unhygienic habits, such as irregular brushing and flossing, smoking and breathing secondhand smoke, as well as other medical conditions like dry mouth and diabetes. People suffering from tooth decay experience frequent toothache, sensitivity on their teeth and mild to sharp pain devouring hot or cold food and beverages. Without proper oral care, this can lead to more serious oral problems such as halitosis, root canal infection and tooth loss.

Q: What causes bad breath and how can it be treated?

Bad breath, or halitosis, is primarily due to poor oral hygiene, but it can also be caused by the food you eat, gum disease, drainage from sinus dripping or systemic, respiratory or gastrointestinal problems. Also, consuming dishes with garlic, onions or anything that produces a strong odor may leave your mouth smelling funky. Proper brushing including brushing the tongue, cheeks, and the roof of the mouth will remove bacteria and food particles. Flossing removes accumulated bacteria, plaque and food that may be trapped between teeth. Mouth rinses are effective in temporary relief of bad breath. If the condition persists, consult your dentist.

Q: What are the remedies for canker sores or mouth ulcer?

Aside from being very painful, canker sores are one of the most difficult oral diseases to treat. A form of mouth ulcer, it is the result of irregularities in the immune system, low levels of iron, folic acid or vitamin B-12, food allergies, chomping on the tongue and cheek and hormonal changes. There is no proven technique to eliminate it or speed the recovery time once they appear. However, you can consult your dentist for a few medications that will give temporary relief from the pain. You can also lessen its occurrence through avoiding citrus foods and highly acidic and spicy dishes. There are also over-the-counter medicines and home remedies like mouthwashes or gargling with a mixture of salt water or hydrogen peroxide, all of which can help ease the pain.

Q: What causes gum or periodontal disease?

It is caused by bacteria buildup along the gum line, causing irritation and inflammation. The gums then begin to bleed and swell allowing the bacteria to go deeper under the gum line. If the inflammation persists, the bone will begin to demineralize and dissolve. As the bone dissolves around the teeth, the teeth become unsupported and will fall out. In some cases, periodontal disease may also be caused by hormonal changes that specifically occur during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation and the onset of menopause. Some medications may also infect the gums due to diminishing production of saliva or negatively affecting development of gum tissue. Unfortunately, pain does not occur until the final stages of the disease and treatment at that time has very little chance of being successful.

Q: My gums bleed when I brush, what does it mean?

Bleeding gums is an early indicator of gingivitis or swollen gums caused by plaque accumulated under the gum line. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to bone loss and eventual tooth loss. At times, improper brushing and flossing may also lead to bleeding gums. Since gums are soft tissues, applying too much force when your brush or pushing the floss in between your teeth will leave abrasions on your gums. Lastly, bleeding gums may also be a signal that you need to reconstruct your diet and your habits into a healthier one. Aside from brushing and flossing daily, make it a point to eat a well-balanced diet and drink lots of water.

Q: Does bleaching causes adverse effects on the teeth?

This is a misconception that should be clarified. Although bleaching involves the use of chemicals, these chemicals are only designed to get rid of the stains and not to soften, demineralize or weaken the teeth. Bleaching works by setting off an oxidation reaction that breaks apart the staining compounds deep into the enamel. When carbamide peroxide, the active whitening agent, contacts water, hydrogen peroxide is released which whitens the teeth. Hence, to avoid any unwanted side effects or painful sensation after bleaching, make sure to have your cavities treated and consult with your dentist to check if you might be allergic to some of the compounds or solutions used in the procedure.

Q: Are over-the-counter bleaching products effective?

Over-the-counter bleaching products underwent extensive tests and are proven to whiten teeth. These products also contain lesser amounts of concentrated whitening agents as compared to those recommended or prescribed by a dentist, thus taking a longer time to make any visible changes to the color of your teeth. However, without the advice of dental experts, using over-the-counter bleaching chemicals can result to damages. Although effective, there are still concerns that many of these products are too abrasive and can damage the teeth with extended use or misuse. Hence, the safest way to have white teeth and sparkling smile is still best achieve with the supervision of your dentist.

Q: Do silver fillings danger to my health?

Silver filling material, is a mixture of mercury, and an alloy of silver, tin and copper. The amount of mercury in silver fillings is so small that it is much less than what patients are exposed to in food, air and water. There are, however, alternatives such as gold, porcelain, and composite resins. While some question the safety of adding mercury into the fillings, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has evaluated that amalgam fillings are indeed safe for adults and children 6 years old and above. Mercury is mixed into the fillings because it is responsible for making the material bendable. It also hardens quickly and can withstand constant biting and chewing. As of now, there have only a few cases of allergic reactions to silver fillings. It is best to consult with your dentist to know which type of filling is most compatible to your teeth.

Q: What is a root canal?

Root canal is a procedure done to save the damaged or dead pulp in the root canal, and eventually save the original tooth. The diseased pulp will be cleaned and the canal will be reshaped and filled with gutta percha, a rubberlike material, to prevent recontamination of the tooth. The tooth is then permanently sealed with a post and/or a gold or porcelain crown. This procedure has been proven very safe and effective in restoring a patient’s dental health. Once a root canal is successfully fixed, it makes the tooth stronger and more durable for a longer period of time.

Q: What is root planing?

Root planing is a technique performed in a dental office to stop the adverse effect of periodontal disease. People in need of root planning are usually those with gums that are pulling away from their teeth, as well as individuals found to have tartar or deposits of hard mineral on the roots of their teeth. The procedure involves cleaning below the gum line and smoothing the roots. Build-up of dental plaque on the surface of the root is thoroughly eliminated. When the roots are smoothed, the gums will usually reattach to the root stopping the bacteria from spreading. For patients with irregularities regarding their heart or immune system or those who have recently undergone major surgeries, antibiotics might be prescribed to protect them from the possible spread of bacterial infection into their bloodstream.

Q: What are porcelain veneers?

Porcelain veneers or dental veneers are ultra-thin, customized shells of ceramic material which are bonded to the front of the teeth. They can even be customized to match the unique and natural color of the client’s teeth. Also, veneers made of porcelain are better at mimicking the teeth’s light-reflecting properties. Veneers require small amount or no anesthesia at all and are ideal for improving the appearance of the front teeth by masking discolorations, damages or misalignments—hence, reshaping a patient’s smile and rebuilding their self-confidence.

Q: Are there any alternatives to dentures?

With the advent of more technological advancements in dentistry today, dentures are no longer the only way to restore your beautiful smile. For instance, dental implants are gaining more popularity today than dentures since these can be used to support permanently cemented bridges, making your teeth look and feel more real. Aside from dental implants, bridges may also be used in place of dentures, especially if the patient lost several teeth.

Q: What are dental implants and how do they work?

Similar to dentures, dental implants are substitutes for natural tooth. But when strategically placed on the jawbone, implants can also be used to support permanently cemented bridges. Implants feel and function like real teeth and are also merged with your jaw bone and this prevents the decrease in your bone’s volume and density which is usually the effect of pressure when wearing dentures. Furthermore, dental implants are highly resistant to decaying and pose no threat or negative effect on your gums and teeth, making implants a great investment for improved dental health.

Q: Why does my jaw pop when I open it?

Temporomandibular joint is a disk that connects the jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. This can be stretched when you open your mouth too wide, causing a popping sound. Although this is condition is common to many individuals, this could also be early symptoms of Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD). Treatment is not required unless pain is associated with the popping sound. However, there are certain exercises that can be done to help facilitate a smoother flow of blood and oxygen to your facial joints and muscles. You can train your jaw to resist pressure by pressing your thumb directly underneath your chin while you open your mouth for a couple of seconds, or by moving your jaw side to side while you bite a solid object that measures less than ½ inch in thickness.

Q: How do I stop grinding my teeth when I am asleep?

Grinding your teeth can be very damaging to your overall oral health. This behavior wears down the teeth to the gum line, causing fracture or tooth loss. According to studies, teeth grinding often occurs during sleep, making prevention very challenging. People are left unaware aside from the sore jaw and excessive wear on the teeth. Caused by anxiety or stress, the only best solution to this problem is to eliminate stress triggers and consult your dentist for mouth guards that may be prescribed to prevent ultimate damage to the teeth.

Q: How important is fluoride to my oral health?

Fluoride is a compound of the element fluorine which is commonly found in water, soil, air and in most foods. It is absorbed easily into the tooth enamel, especially in children’s growing teeth. Once teeth are developed, fluoride makes the entire tooth structure more resistant to decay and promotes remineralization, which aids in repairing early decay before the damage is visible. Aside from brushing regularly, eating food rich in the fluoride like pickles, cucumber, spinach and carrots will help balance the levels of fluoride in your tooth’s enamel.

Q: Are water irrigation systems better than flossing?

Water irrigation systems should not be used as a substitute for brushing and flossing. These devices are effective in removing retained food from hard to reach areas, but do not remove plaque. Dentists frequently recommend these devices with the addition of antibacterial solutions to maintain the oral health of periodontal patients. Moreover, flossing can reach hard to reach areas between your teeth, and this is more effective in eliminating residue and plaque build-up.

Q: How does X-rays help my dentist assess my oral health?

X-rays help your dentist determine the presence or degree of periodontal disease, abscesses, and many abnormal growths such as cysts and tumors. They can help pinpoint the location of cavities and other signs of disease that may not be possible to detect through a visual examination. All health care providers are sensitive to patients’ concerns about exposure to radiation. Fortunately, your dentist at Conejo Dental Group has been trained to prescribe radiographs when they are appropriate and to tailor the radiograph schedule to your individual needs.

Q: When is the best time to remove wisdom teeth?

The removal of the wisdom teeth is necessary when the roots are approximately two-thirds formed, usually in the adolescent years. Removal at this time allows for an easier procedure and decreases the risk of damage to the nerves in that area.

Q: At what age are my children supposed to start having consultations with a dentist?

It is deemed that children between ages 18 and 24 months should start seeing their dentist to prep them of what is ahead of their dental healthcare future. However, if an area of concern is noticed, then the child should see a dentist as soon as possible. Other complications that early wisdom teeth removal can stop include bite problems, cysts in the jaw, gum inflammation, cavities and teeth misalignment.

Q: When will my child lose his/her baby teeth?

Children will begin losing their teeth at approximately age 6 and will continue on until the age of 12 or 13. Specifically, by the time your child reaches 6, their incisors, middle teeth in front come loose. At ages 10 and 12, molars situated at the back come off and are replaced by a set of permanent teeth.

Q: Why is it important to fix baby teeth that have decay?

It is crucial to maintain the baby teeth because these teeth hold space for the future eruption of the permanent teeth. If a baby tooth decays or is removed too early, the space necessary for the permanent teeth is lost and can only be regained through orthodontic treatment. Moreover, infected baby teeth can cause the permanent teeth to develop improperly resulting in stains, pits and weaker teeth.

Q: When does thumb-sucking become damaging to the teeth?

It is best if a child is trained to stop sucking his/her thumb by age 5, then there will be no permanent damage. However, if the child is a vigorous and constant thumb sucker, there can be moderate to severe movement of teeth and prevention of normal bone growth.

Q: Is it a must for my child to wear a mouth guard while playing sports?

It is strongly recommended that children wear a mouth guard while playing any contact sport. Although there are a number of dental remedies available, it is always better to prevent injuries like cracked, chipped or lost tooth than to repair one.

Q: What should I do if my child gets a tooth knocked out?

If the tooth is a permanent tooth, time is extremely crucial. Immediately stick the tooth back in the socket. Don’t worry about getting it in straight or having it turned backwards, just get it in the socket and immediately call your dentist. If you are uncomfortable placing the tooth in the socket, put it in a glass of milk and get your child to the dentist as quickly as possible. If the tooth is a baby tooth, do not put it in the socket because damage to the permanent tooth can occur. When in doubt, put the tooth in milk and see your dentist immediately.

Q: How often should I see my dentist?

You should visit your dentist at least twice a year or more frequently to get your teeth cleaned. This way your dentist can monitor your oral health and help you prevent any problems that may arise before they became more serious. Avoid skipping dental appointments, or relying on self-diagnosis alone, as this will only give rise to more complications not just in your mouth but in your entire body as well. Lastly, choose a reliable team of dental health experts, like Conejo Dental. We make every visit worth it and we can help solve all of your oral health dilemmas!