Frequently asked dental questions at Pasadena Dental Group

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Q: How often should I brush and floss? (click for answer)

A: Brushing and flossing are the best way to remove decay-causing plaque and bacteria from your teeth.  Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria and food debris that forms on teeth and gums.  After a meal, the bacteria in plaque convert certain food particles into acids that attack tooth enamel.  Repeated attacks can result in tooth decay.  Plaque that is not removed from teeth will eventually harden into calculus (tartar).  Calculus cannot be removed by toothbrushing.  Your dentist must remove calculus.  If plaque and calculus are allowed to remain on teeth, they begin to destroy the gum attachment and the supporting bone, resulting in periodontal (gum) disease.  If periodontal (gum) disease is not treated, tooth loss may result.  In fact, periodontal (gum) disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults.


Toothbrushing:  Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste.  If possible, brush your teeth after every meal.  The most important time to brush is right before you go to sleep.

Electric toothbrushes can also remove plaque efficiently and are easy to use.


Flossing:  Floss your teeth at least once a day.  The best time to floss is right before you go to sleep.  Flossing is the best way to clean between your teeth where the bristles of your toothbrush cannot reach and under the gum line. Flossing, along with brushing, is essential in preventing periodontal (gum) disease.  If you have difficulty using conventional dental floss, you can use other types of interdental cleaners, including floss holders, special brushes, picks, and sticks.  Ask you dentist about the proper use of these interdental cleaners to avoid injuring your gums.


Rinsing:  It is important to rinse your mouth with water after brushing and flossing.  If you are unable to brush your teeth after a meal, rinsing will help remove food debris from your teeth.


Q: What toothpaste is the best to use? (click for answer)
A:  Use only toothpaste that contains fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay. Other than that, one’s choice of toothpaste is mostly a matter of personal taste.  Look for the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance, a symbol of a dental product’s safety and efficacy, to help you choose.  If you have sensitive teeth, there are fluoridated toothpastes with strontium phosphate or potassium nitrate to help reduce tooth sensitivity.  Desensitizing toothpastes may require multiple applications before sensitivity is reduced. If desensitizing toothpaste does not improve your sensitivity, see your dentist for additional options.


Q: What is the best toothbrush to use? (click for answer)
A:  Use only a soft-bristled toothbrush.  Medium and hard-bristled toothbrushes are too abrasive over time and may damage your teeth.  The size and shape of the toothbrush head should allow the brush to reach all areas of your mouth easily.  You should replace your toothbrush at least every 3 months.  If you have been sick, you should replace your toothbrush immediately.


Q: I grind my teeth in my sleep. What can be done? (click for answer)

A:  Bruxism (teeth grinding) and/or jaw clenching are two damaging ways people subconsciously use to cope with stress. Bruxism often occurs while people are sleeping.  Besides stress and anxiety, bruxism can be caused by sleep disorders, an abnormal bite, or by missing or malposed teeth.  The forces generated by grinding or clenching causes stressful pressure on the muscles, tissues, and jaw.  Symptoms may include a dull headache or a sore jaw upon awakening in the morning.  Bruxism can loosen or fracture teeth, cause earaches, and damage the jaw joint. If your bruxism is stress related, physical therapy, exercise, counseling, muscle relaxants may help reduce stress and anxiety. To help maintain healthy teeth, your dentist can fit you with a custom nightguard to protect your teeth while you sleep.


Q: Is everyone a good candidate for teeth whitening (bleaching)? (click for answer)
A:  No, not everyone is a good candidate for teeth whitening.  If you have restorations such as crowns, veneers, or tooth colored fillings in your front teeth, these will not be affected by the whitening agent.  The surrounding teeth will whiten, and the teeth with restorations will remain the same color, so they will stand out.  Hypersensitive teeth are also not good candidates for teeth whitening because the sensitivity may worsen.  Teeth with yellowish hued discoloration typically respond well to whitening; brownish hues less well, and gray-ish hued discolorations (e.g. tetracycline stains) may not whiten at all.

Pregnant or nursing women should not whiten their teeth as there is insufficient research on the safety of teeth whitening on pregnant or lactating women. Your dentist has a number of options for teeth whitening from traditional custom whitening trays to modern light therapy. Contact our office for all of your whitening and cosmetic needs.


Q: What is a dental implant? (click for answer)
A:  A dental implant is a manufactured post that is designed to replace natural tooth roots.  Dental implants are one option for replacing one or more missing teeth.  The implant is usually made of titanium, which is well tolerated by the human body.  It fuses to the jawbone and gum to become a stable base for a single crown, several crowns, a partial denture, or full dentures.  Replacing a missing tooth with an implant is generally a three-part process that requires several months.  The first step involves placing the implant into the jawbone.  The gum is then secured over the implant.  The implant will remain covered for 3 to 6 months while it fuses to the bone, a process called “osseointegration.”  In the second step, the implant is uncovered and the dentist attaches an extension called a post or abutment, to the implant.  The gum tissue is allowed to heal around the abutment.  In the third step, a crown is attached to the abutment.  Implants look and feel like natural teeth and are today’s alternative to bridges and dentures.  Advances in comfort conscious dentistry allows your dentist to drastically reduce the discomfort traditionally associated with dental implants.


Q: What are the symptoms of a cracked tooth? (click for answer)
A:  The symptoms of a cracked tooth are variable and may not present themselves consistently due to differences in the direction, extent, and location of the crack.  Patients with a cracked tooth often cannot identify the painful tooth.  The crack usually does not appear on x-rays.  For these reasons, a cracked tooth is often frustrating and difficult to diagnose.  Pain on chewing, particularly on the release of pressure, is a hallmark of a cracked tooth. However, you may not experience pain every time you chew.  The tooth may be painful only with certain foods or when biting a certain way.  Sensitivity to cold is also a common symptom of a cracked tooth.  People who grind or clench their teeth, have large restorations in their teeth, and have habits such as chewing on ice are more likely to have cracked teeth.


Depending on the location. size, and depth of the crack, treatment may include a crown, a root canal and a crown, or extraction of the affected tooth.


Q: How often should I see a dentist? (click for answer)
A:  The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you see a dentist at least twice per year for cleaning and examination.  Regular visits to the dentist will allow the dentist to find problems at an early stage.  Many dental problems don’t become visible or cause pain until they are in advanced stages.  Examples of this include cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer.  People with a higher risk of dental disease may need to see the dentist more frequently.  Included in this group are smokers, diabetics, people with current gum disease, people with compromised immune systems, and people with a history of cavities or gum disease.  Your dentist will recommend the schedule that is best for your particular situation.


Q: How often should dental x-rays (radiographs) be taken? (click for answer)
A:  How often dental x-rays (radiographs) should be taken depends on a number of factors: your past and present oral health history, your age, your risk for disease, and any signs and symptoms of oral disease you may be experiencing.  Some people may need x-rays as frequently as every six months.  For others, x-rays may not be needed for as long as two years.  Who needs more frequent x-rays or regular x-rays?  They include children, people with extensive dental work, people with periodontal (gum) disease, and people who are taking medications that lead to dry mouth, and smokers.  If you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend x-rays to determine the present status of your oral health.  This will help detect changes that may occur later.


Q: What is this tooth called? (click for answer)
A: At times your dentist may refer to a specific tooth by a number or a name. The tooth chart on our Resources page will help you understand which tooth or teeth your dentist is referencing. You may also want to print and bring the chart with you when you visit your dentist so you can point out exactly where you may be experiencing pain or complications.