Question 1. What Is Dental Amalgam (silver Fillings)?
Most people recognize dental amalgams as silver fillings. Dental amalgam is a mixture of mercury, silver, tin and copper. Mercury, which makes up about 50 percent of the compound, is used to bind the metals together and to provide a strong, hard, durable filling. After years of research, mercury has been found to be the only element that will bind these metals together in such a way that can be easily manipulated into a tooth cavity.
Question 2. Is Mercury In Dental Amalgam Safe?
Mercury in dental amalgam is not poisonous. When mercury is combined with other materials in dental amalgam, its chemical nature changes, so it is essentially harmless. The amount of mercury released in the mouth under the pressure of chewing and grinding is extremely small and no cause for alarm. In fact, it is less than what patients are exposed to in food, air and water.
Ongoing scientific studies conducted over the past 100 years continue to prove that amalgam is not harmful. Claims of diseases caused by mercury in amalgam are anecdotal, as are claims of miraculous cures achieved by removing amalgam. These claims have not been proven scientifically.
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Question 3. Why Do Dentists Use Dental Amalgam?
Dental amalgam has withstood the test of time, which is why it is the material of choice. It has a 150-year proven track record and is still one of the safest, durable and least expensive materials used to a fill a cavity. It is estimated that more than 1 billion amalgam restorations (fillings) are placed annually. Dentists use dental amalgam because it is easier to work with than other alternatives. Some patients prefer dental amalgam to other alternatives because of its safety, cost-effectiveness and ability to be placed in the tooth cavity quickly.
Question 4. Why Don’t Dentists Use Alternatives To Amalgam?
Alternatives to amalgam, such as cast gold restorations, porcelain and composite resins are more costly. Gold and porcelain restorations take longer to make and can require two dental appointments. Composite resins, or white fillings, are aesthetically appealing but require a longer time to place the restoration. It should also be known that these materials, with the exception of gold, are not as durable as amalgam.
Question 5. What About Patients Allergic To Mercury?
The incidence of allergy to mercury is far less than one percent of the population. People suspected of having an allergy to mercury should be tested by qualified physicians, and, when necessary, seek appropriate alternatives. Should patients have amalgam removed? No. To do so, without need, would result in unnecessary expense and potential injury to teeth.
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Question 6. Are Dental Staff Occupationally Exposed?
Dentists use premixed capsules, which reduce the chance of mercury spills. And newer, more advanced dental amalgams are containing smaller amounts of mercury than before. An interesting factor can be brought into this: Because dental staff are exposed to mercury more often, one would expect dental personnel to have higher rates of neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. They, in fact, do not.
Question 7. What Are Other Sources Of Mercury?
Mercury can be found in air, food and water. We are exposed to higher levels of mercury from these sources than from a mouthful of amalgam.
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Question 8. What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay, also known as caries or cavities, is an oral disease that affects many people. Unlike other diseases, however, caries is not life-threatening and is highly preventable, though it affects most people to some degree during their lifetime.
Natural bacteria live in your mouth and form plaque. The plaque interacts with deposits left on your teeth from sugary and starchy foods and produces acids. These acids damage tooth enamel over time by dissolving, or demineralizing enamel, which weakens the teeth and leads to tooth decay.
Foods containing carbohydrates (starches and sugars), such as soda pop, candy, ice cream, milk, and cake, and even some fruits, vegetables, and juices, may contribute to tooth decay.
Question 9. How Are Cavities Prevented?
The acids formed by plaque can be counteracted simply by saliva in your mouth, which acts as a buffer and remineralizing agent. Dentists often recommend chewing sugarless gum to stimulate your flow of saliva. However, though it is the body’s natural defense against cavities, saliva alone is not sufficient to combat tooth decay. The best way to prevent cavities is to brush and floss regularly. To rebuild the early damage caused by plaque bacteria, we use fluoride, a natural substance that helps to remineralize the tooth structure. Fluoride is added to toothpaste to fight cavities. The most common source of fluoride is in the water we drink. Fluoride is added to most community water supplies and to many bottled and canned beverages.
If you are at medium- to high-risk for cavities, your dentist may recommend special high-concentration fluoride gels, mouthrinses or dietary fluoride supplements. Your dentist may also use professional strength anti-cavity varnish, or sealants? thin, plastic coatings that provide an extra barrier against food and debris.
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Question 10. Who Is At Risk For Cavities?
Because we all carry bacteria in our mouths, everyone is at risk for cavities. Those with a diet high in carbohydrates and sugary foods and those who live in communities without fluoridated water are likely candidates for cavities. And because the area around a restored portion of a tooth is a good breeding ground for bacteria, those with a lot of fillings have a higher chance of developing tooth decay. Children and senior citizens are the two groups at highest risk for cavities.
Question 11. What Are The Ways To Prevent Cavities?
Three Ways to Prevent Cavities
- Cut down on sweets and between-meal snacks. Remember, it’s these sugary and starchy treats that put your teeth at extra risk. Some research says certain foods, such as peanuts or sugar-free chewing gum, may be “friendly” to teeth. Eating these foods along with or after foods that contain carbohydrates may help to counter the effects of acids produced by bacteria. Drinking plenty of water can help wash away food particles. Of course, dentists encourage their patients to eschew these sugary snacks in favor of healthy alternatives.
- Brush after every meal and floss daily. Cavities most often begin in hard-to-clean areas between teeth and in the fissures and pits ? the edges in the tooth crown and gaps between teeth. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brush inside, outside and between your teeth and on the top of your tongue. Be sure the bristles are firm, not bent, and replace the toothbrush after a few weeks to safeguard against re-infecting your mouth with old bacteria than can collect on the brush. Only buy toothpastes and rinses that contain fluoride (antiseptic rinses also help remove plaque) and that bear the American Dental Association seal on the package. Children under age 6 should only use a small pea-sized dab of toothpaste on the brush and should spit out as much as possible, because a child’s developing teeth are sensitive to higher fluoride levels. Finally, because caries is a transmittable disease, toothbrushes should never be shared, especially with your children.
- See your dentist at least every six months for checkups and professional cleanings. Because cavities can be difficult to detect, a thorough dental examination is very important. If you get a painful toothache, if your teeth are very sensitive to hot or cold foods or if you notice signs of decay like white spots, tooth discolorations or cavities, make an appointment right away. The longer you wait to treat infected teeth, the more intensive and lengthy the treatment will be. Left neglected, cavities can lead to root canal infection, permanent deterioration of decayed tooth substance and even loss of the tooth itself.
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Question 12. What’s Involved In Bleaching?
First, the dentist will determine whether you are a candidate for tooth bleaching and what type of bleaching system would provide the best results. If you’re in a hurry for whiter teeth, you may decide to have your teeth lightened immediately. Your dentist will use either an in-office bleaching system or laser bleaching while you sit in the dental chair. Some patients choose dentist-supervised at-home bleaching, which is more economical and provides similar results.
If you don’t choose laser bleaching, at your next appointment your dentist or hygienist will make impressions of your teeth to create a mouthguard appliance. The mouthguard is custom-made for your mouth and is lightweight so that it can be worn comfortably while you are awake or sleeping. The mouthguard is so thin that you should even be able to talk and work while wearing it. Along with the mouthguard, you’ll receive the bleaching materials. You’ll be given instructions on how to wear the m
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Question 13. How Bleaching Works And Safety?
Lightness should last from one to five years, depending on your personal habits such as smoking and drinking coffee and tea. At this point you may choose to get a touch-up. The retreatment time is much shorter than the original treatment time.
The active ingredient in most of whitening agents is carbamide peroxide; when water comes into contact with this white crystal, the release of hydrogen peroxide lightens the teeth.
Several studies have proven bleaching to be safe and effective. The American Dental Association has granted its seal of approval to some tooth bleaching products. Some patients may experience slight gum irritation or tooth sensitivity, which will resolve when the treatment ends.
Question 14. What Is A Composite Resin (white Filling)?
A composite filling is a tooth-colored plastic and glass mixture used to restore decayed teeth. Composites are also used for cosmetic improvements of the smile by changing the color of the teeth or reshaping disfigured teeth.
Question 15. How Is A Composite Placed?
Following preparation, the dentist places the composite in layers, typically using a light specialized to harden each layer. When the process is finished, the dentist will shape the composite to fit the tooth. The dentist then polishes the composite to prevent staining and early wear.
Question 16. What Is The Cost?
Prices vary, but composites can cost up to two times the price of a silver filling. Most dental insurance plans cover the cost of the composite up to the price of a silver filling, with the patient paying the difference. As composites continue to improve, insurance companies are more likely to increase their coverage of composites.
Question 17. What Are The Advantages Of Composites?
Aesthetics are the main advantage of composites, since dentists can blend shades to create a color nearly identical to that of the actual tooth. Composites bond to the tooth to support the remaining tooth structure, which helps to prevent breakage and insulate the tooth from excessive temperature changes.
Question 18. What Are The Disadvantages Composites?
After receiving a composite, a patient may experience postoperative sensitivity. Also, the shade of the composite can change slightly if the patient drinks tea, coffee or other staining foods. The dentist can put a clear plastic coating over the composite to prevent the color from changing if a patient is particularly concerned about tooth color. Composites tend to wear out sooner than silver fillings in larger cavities, although they hold up as well in small cavities.
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Question 19. What Is Cosmetic Dentistry?
From subtle changes to major repairs, your dentist can perform a variety of procedures to improve your smile. There are many techniques and options to treat teeth that are discolored, chipped, misshapen or missing. Your dentist can reshape your teeth, close spaces, restore worn or short teeth or alter the length of your teeth. Common procedures include bleaching, bonding, crowns, veneers and reshaping and contouring.
These improvements are not always just cosmetic. Many of these treatments can improve oral problems, such as your bite.
Question 20. What Is A General Dentist?
General dentists are the primary dental care providers for patients of all ages. They can treat you and your entire family and care for your overall oral health. This is crucial to your total health! Your general dentist takes responsibility for the diagnosis, treatment and overall coordination of services to meet your oral health needs. If you need a specialized dental procedure performed, your general dentist may work with other dentists to make sure you get the care you need.
Question 21. Where Do General Dentists Practice?
General dentists make up the majority of the 143,000 dentists practicing in the United States and Canada. Sometimes they become partners or associates with other dentists in a group practice. Other general dentists own their practice. Some general dentists work in government health services, research programs, higher education, corporations and even the military.
Question 22. What Kind Of Procedures Do General Dentists Provide?
Many general dentists are highly educated and trained on all dental procedures. Instead of specializing in just one area of dentistry, they can provide plenty of different services for you and your family, such as:
- Cosmetic procedures
- Crowns and bridges
- Dental implants
- Gum disease treatment
- Home care instruction
- Nutrition counseling
- Oral surgery
- Partial dentures
- Restorative care
- Root canal therapy
- Teeth cleanings
- Tobacco cessation
- TMD/TMJ therapy
Question 23. Why Does My Dentist Belong To The Agd?
Your general dentist cares about longterm dental health for you and your family and demonstrates that concern by belonging to the AGD. Members are dedicated to continuing education to help them stay up-to-date on the latest procedures to provide you and your family with quality treatment .
Question 24. What Is A Mouthguard?
A mouthguard is a flexible appliance that is worn in athletic and recreational activities to protect teeth from trauma. The dental profession unanimously supports the use of mouthguards in a variety of sports activities.
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Question 25. Why Should I Wear A Mouthguard?
A mouthguard can prevent serious injuries such as broken teeth, jaw fractures, cerebral hemorrhage and neck injuries by helping to avoid situations where the lower jaw gets jammed into the upper jaw. Mouthguards are effective in moving soft tissue in the oral cavity away from the teeth, preventing laceration and bruising of the lips and cheeks, especially for those who wear orthodontic appliances. They may also reduce the severity and incidence of concussions.
Question 26. In What Sports Should I Wear A Mouthguard?
Anytime there is a strong chance for contact with other participants or hard surfaces, it is advisable to wear a mouthguard. Players who participate in basketball, softball, football, wrestling, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, in-line skating and martial arts, as well as recreational sports such as skateboarding and bicycling, should wear mouthguards while competing.
Question 27. Why Don’t Kids Wear Mouthguards?
Parents are sometimes uninformed about the level of contact and potential for serious dental injuries involved with sports in which the child participates. Some, though not all, schools reinforce the health advantage of mouthguards for their contact sports. Cost may be another consideration, although mouthguards come in a variety of price ranges.
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Question 28. What Are The Different Types Of Mouthguards?
Stock mouthguard: The lowest cost option is a ready-made, stock item, which offers the least protection because the fit adjustment is limited. It may interfere with speech and breathing because this mouthguard requires that the jaw be closed to hold it in place. A stock mouthguard is not considered acceptable as a facial protective device.
Mouth-formed mouthguard: There are two types of mouth-formed mouthguards. The first is a shell-liner mouthguard that is made with an acrylic material that is poured into an outer shell, where it forms a lining. When placed in an athlete’s mouth, the protector’s lining material molds to the teeth and is allowed to set. Another type is a thermoplastic, or “boil-and-bite,” mouthguard. This mouthguard is softened in hot water and then placed in the mouth and shaped around the teeth by using finger, tongue and sometimes biting pressure.
Custom-made mouthguard: The best choice is a mouthguard custom-made by your dentist. It offers the best protection, fit and comfort level because it is made from a cast to fit your teeth.
Question 29. How Should I Care For A Mouthguard?
- Clean your mouthguard by washing it with soap and cool (not hot) water.
- Before storing, soak your mouthguard in mouthwash.
- Keep your mouthguard in a well-ventilated, plastic storage box when not in use. Make sure the box has several holes so the mouthguard will dry.
- Heat is bad for a mouthguard, so don’t leave it in direct sunlight or in a closed automobile.
- Don’t bend your mouthguard when storing.
- Don’t handle or wear someone else’s mouthguard.
- Call your dentist if there are any problems.
Question 30. Why Do People Get Braces?
A dentist usually recommends braces to improve a patient’s “orofacial” appearance. Through orthodontic treatment, problems like crooked or crowded teeth, overbites or underbites, incorrect jaw position and disorders of the jaw joints are corrected. If left untreated, these problems can result in tooth decay, gum disease, headaches and earaches, as well as speaking, biting or chewing problems.
Question 31. When Is The Right Time For Braces?
Patients with orthodontic problems can benefit from treatment at nearly any age. An ideal time for placement of braces is between 10 and 14 years of age, while the head and mouth are still growing and teeth are more accessible to straightening. However, because any adjustments in facial appearance can be traumatic to a child during these sensitive years, parents should discuss the matter with their children before braces are applied.
And braces aren’t just for kids. More and more adults are also wearing braces to correct minor problems and to improve their smiles.
Question 32. What Kind Of Braces Will I Have To Wear?
Your dentist will know what appliance is best for your particular problem, but you o
ften have a choice. Braces generally come in three varieties: The most popular type are brackets, metal, ceramic or plastic, that are bonded to teeth. Ceramic brackets are typically clear or tooth-colored and are far less noticeable than metal brackets. Lingual, or concealed, braces are brackets that attach to the back of teeth, hidden from view. Both types of braces use wires to move the teeth to the desired position.
A new alternative to traditional braces is a series of clear, customized, removable appliances called aligners. Not only are these braces invisible, but they also are removable so they won’t trap food and plaque between your teeth like metal braces. You’ll wear each aligner for about two weeks and only remove it for eating, brushing and flossing. This may be an option for adults with mild spacing problems. Invisible aligners are not appropriate for children and adolescents who are still waiting for permanent teeth.
Question 33. How Long Will I Have To Wear Braces?
That depends upon your treatment plan. The more complicated your spacing or bite problem is, and the older you are, the longer the period of treatment, usually. Most patients can count on wearing full braces between 12 and 24 months, followed by the wearing of a retainer to set and align tissues surrounding straightened teeth.
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Question 34. Will Treatment Be Uncomfortable?
The interconnecting wires of traditional braces are tightened at each visit, bearing mild pressure on the brackets or bands to shift teeth or jaws gradually into a desired position. Your teeth and jaws may feel slightly sore after each visit, but the discomfort is brief. Keep in mind also that some teeth may need to be extracted to make room for teeth being shifted with braces and for proper jaw alignment. For patients with aligners, there may be some soreness as your mouth adjusts to each new plastic tray.
Question 35. Do I Have To Avoid Any Foods Or Personal Habits?
Yes. Cut down on sweets, chips and soda. Sugary and starchy foods generate acids and plaque that can cause tooth decay and promote gum disease.
Cut healthy, hard foods like carrots or apples into smaller pieces. Sticky, chewy sweets like caramel can cause wire damage and loosen brackets. Avoid hard and crunchy snacks that can break braces, including popcorn, nuts and hard candy. More don’ts: ice cube chewing, thumb sucking, excessive mouth breathing, lip biting and pushing your tongue against your teeth.
Question 36. Who Will Provide My Orthodontic Treatment?
Your general dentist is responsible for coordinating your dental treatment, and this could encompass any orthodontic treatment plan, including diagnosis, examinations and some orthodontic procedures. Your dentist may, however, refer you to an orthodontist – a specialist trained in the development, prevention and correction of irregularities of the teeth, bite and jaws and related facial abnormalities.
Question 37. Gingivitis Vs. Gum Disease: What’s The Difference?
Eighty percent of American adults have some form of periodontal (gum) disease, but the beginning symptoms are usually painless, so many who are at risk do not recognize the signs and stages, according to a report in the September/October 2003 issue of General Dentistry, the clinical, peer-reviewed journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).
“Gum disease is a silent teeth killer because you can have it without knowing it,” says AGD spokesperson Elwood Streeter, DDS.
Healthy gums appear coral pink, firm and form a sharp point where they meet the tooth. When excessive amounts of bacteria and food debris build up in the spaces between the teeth and gums, a sticky material called plaque is formed.
A plaque build-up can develop and harden into calculus (tartar), which irritates the gums. Bacterial byproducts (or toxins) in the tartar cause gums to become infected, red and tender, a condition called gingivitis. Gingivitis is the beginning stage of periodontal disease.
If you do not receive professional cleaning to halt the spread of gingivitis, the infection will spre
ad from the gums to the ligaments and bone supporting the teeth. The tissues and ligaments will be destroyed; infections are likely to develop, causing a gum abscess, a collection of pus and swelling of gum tissues. Teeth may become loose and the gums may recede, creating increased spaces between teeth.
Dentists treat gingivitis by cleaning teeth to remove plaque and tartar and prescribing special mouthwashes or topical treatments. Treatment for periodontal disease involves more serious action such as antibiotics and antimicrobials, deep scaling of the root surface, removing infected gum tissue or extracting teeth. To avoid these potentially painful symptoms and treatments, it is important to catch the disease in its earlier stages.
“Gum disease can develop within weeks,” cautions Itzhak Brook, MD, MSc, lead author of the journal report. He reminds patients to prevent periodontal disease by regular flossing, brushing and dental checkups. In addition, maintaining a healthy diet and low levels of stress boost the body’s natural immune system, which fights bacteria in the mouth.
Question 38. What Are Veneers?
Veneers are ultra-thin shells of ceramic (porcelain) or a composite resin material, which are bonded to the front of teeth. This procedure requires little or no anesthesia and can be the ideal choice for improving the appearance of the front teeth. Veneers are placed to mask discolorations, to brighten teeth and to improve a smile.
Veneers are an excellent alternative to crowns in many situations. They provide a much more conservative approach to changing a tooth’s color, size or shape. Veneers can mask undesirable defects, such as teeth stained by tetracycline and damage due to an injury or as a result of a root-canal procedure. They are ideal for masking discolored fillings in front teeth. Patients with gaps between their front teeth or teeth that are chipped or worn may consider veneers. Generally, veneers will last for many years, and the technique has shown remarkable longevity when properly performed.
Question 39. What To Expect With Veneers ?
For about a week or two, you will go through a period of adjustment as you get used to your “new” teeth that have changed in size and shape. Brush and floss daily. After one or two weeks, your dentist will ask you to return for a follow-up appointment.
Veneers are reasonable facsimiles of natural teeth, not perfect replacements. It’s not uncommon to see slight variations in the color of veneers upon close inspection, as this occurs even in natural teeth. Nevertheless, this procedure can greatly enhance your smile and can heighten self-esteem.