Dental FAQ's

Your first appointment, here is what to expect.

New patients receive a COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATION, including a screening for oral cancer, gum and bone disease, blood pressure, systemic disorders, and the team will take X-rays as needed. Established patients get a REGULAR ORAL EXAM to determine any dental and health status changes since the previous visit.

The exam includes a hygienist measuring gum tissue pocket depth between the tooth and the connective gum tissue around the tooth with a fine instrument ruler calibrated in millimeters. Pocket depths more than 4 millimeters could indicate gum disease and infection. The deeper the pocket, the greater the extent plaque bacteria collect. Overly deep pockets enable gum disease to develop.

The team will take X-rays as needed.

Tooth scaling and root planing occur as needed.

Routine cleanings also include professional polishing (Prophy). Rough tooth surfaces allow plaque to take hold and begin hardening into harmful tartar. After a thorough cleaning, the hygienist uses a polishing tool to smooth and shine the teeth. The smooth surface resists plaque and keeps teeth looking their best.

How often should you go to the dentist?

For most people, a dental checkup and cleaning every six months is standard protocol. However, depending on a person's dental health, a dental exam and cleaning every three or four months may be recommended.

How often should you get dental x-rays?

For most people, a complete radiographic survey should be done every 3 years, and a "check up" or "recall" set every 6 to 12 months. A complete set of x-rays is estimated to expose you to the same amount of radiation you get on a flight from San Francisco to Seattle.

Doctors use x-rays as an aid in diagnosing problems. Without x-rays, "seeing" the problem will be difficult if not impossible.

How to floss your teeth.

Floss is inexpensive compared to restorative care so use it liberally. Tear off about a forearm's length to start. Wrap one end around the middle finger of one hand to "anchor" it and pick up the other end about 4-6 inches away with the middle finger of the other hand. This grip allows you to manipulate the floss with your thumb and forefinger. As you soil a section of floss, "reel" in another 4-6 inches of clean floss with the anchor finger as you release the floss with the other finger.

Once you get the floss past the tooth contact, move the floss up and down perpendicular to the tooth. Do not go in a back-and-forth motion! You will either notch your teeth or cut your gums, or both!

Should you tongue scrape to prevent bad breath?

The tongue, with its rough surface, is the most common source of bad breath. "Tongue scrapers" are highly effective in keeping the tongue clean. Cleaning your tongue can keep harmful bacteria, as well as food debris, from causing bad breath.

Rinse the tongue scraper in warm water between passes, finish by swishing your mouth out with water. Don't forget to clean the tongue scraper before putting it away.

What are cavities?

Cavities generally develop in the "hard-to-see" places in your mouth. These are usually the places where you need to floss. When bacteria combine with food particles, they form plaque that adheres to your teeth.

As long as plaque remains on the tooth, acid produced by bacteria will eat away the tooth structure. Once through the enamel, the acid attacks the dentin, which is that part of the tooth containing sensitive nerve fibers.

If the tooth decay reaches the dentin, a filling is needed to halt the degenerative process. Otherwise, it continues at an accelerated rate, becoming larger and larger.

If not detected and repaired with a filling, the decay can reach the tooth nerve and cause the need for a root canal. With the decay removed and a filling in place, the dentist restores its original contour.

What causes cavities?

Tooth decay happens when plaque or bacteria come in contact with the tooth and is allowed to remain. The bacteria, once fed with sugars, will begin eroding the enamel.

Causes of tooth decay include:

  • Poor oral hygiene (brushing/flossing)
  • Poor diet
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Genetics

Adults tend to get cavities around old fillings, which over time may crack, roughen around edges, or loosen in the tooth. Another common form of tooth decay in adults is root cavities. These are likely to occur in adults who have receding gums due to age or periodontal disease. As the gum line recedes, the tooth root becomes exposed. Since root tissue is softer than enamel, it decays more readily.

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