Frequently Asked Questions & Patient Education

What do sealants involve?

A dental sealant consists of a small amount of plastic/resin material that fills in the deep grooves and pits of the teeth, most prone to cavities. This keeps bacteria from settling in those areas and damaging the tooth. They are easily applied in the dental office and the process takes only a couple of minutes per tooth.

The teeth to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and then surrounded with cotton to keep the area dry. A special solution is applied to the enamel surface to help the sealant bond to the teeth. The teeth are then rinsed and dried. Sealant material is carefully painted onto the enamel surface to cover the deep grooves or depressions. Depending on the type of sealant used, the material will either harden automatically or with a special curing light. There are a number of different brands of sealant, but typically they are clear or tooth colored so they are often difficult for you to detect looking into the mouth. Most often they are placed on the permanent molars shortly after they erupt. If you or a child are more prone to cavities, or have difficulty with oral hygiene, we might also recommend placing them on baby teeth and/or premolar teeth.

Proper home care, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your new sealants.

When you I bring my child in to see a dentist?

Once your child’s first tooth erupts it’s recommended that you come in to see the dentist, or at least make sure you speak with your dentist to ensure you know how to care for your child’s teeth, and what things to be cautious of. You should also bring your child to the dentist if you notice anything ‘odd’ like a dark spot, or if your child avoids chewing or eating certain foods because perhaps a tooth hurts. If your child has a fall that can also cause damage and should be investigated further.

It is best to be positive about your child’s first visit and avoid phrases like ‘it won’t hurt’, or tell them if they don’t let you brush the dentist will have to take their tooth out. Their first visit should be a fun, social visit. Even if you don’t like the dentist try not to transfer that to your child. Perhaps having another family member come with them would be a good idea. Talk about the positive, that they might get to have a fun ‘ride in the chair’ and ‘play with the magic straw and squirt gun’, or watch the ‘TV in the ceiling’. We all want your child’s first visit to be a positive one.

Is fluoride necessary for adults?

Most adults will benefit from fluoride treatments. When your teeth are polished a minute amount of fluoride rich enamel is removed, and the application of fluoride following the polishing helps to reestablish that fluoride seal. Fluoride also acts to help remineralize any decalcified areas and areas of sensitivity, like exposed roots. Fluoride also has bacteriostatic properties, that means it keeps bacteria from multiplying, which is a good thing.

If it has been a long time since you’ve had any cavities, and you have few or no dental fillings, no root exposure or sensitivity it may be OK for you to forgo the fluoride on occasion.

How often should I have my teeth cleaned?

How frequently you have your teeth cleaned should be personalized to your individual needs. Some people are more prone to gum disease than others, some tend to build up stain more easily, and others should come more frequently because they are more prone to cavities and detecting them early means the problem will be less severe. Bacteria in your mouth have been shown to affect your over all health, affecting your heart health, respiratory health, ability to control your diabetes, arthritis, even increased instances of some forms of cancer.

Even if your insurance only covers ‘check-ups’ every 9 or 12 months, that does not preclude you from coming in to have deposit/bacteria removal to improve or maintain your gum health. The limited ‘check-up’ or ‘recall’ interval refers to the polishing and the dental exam. If we know your benefit restrictions we can help you make the most of them, within the limits of your plan.

Are dental x-rays safe?

We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. The amount of radiation exposure from a full mouth series of x-rays is equal to the amount a person receives in a single day from natural sources.

Dental x-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered safe. Dentists take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation by using a lead apron or drape when taking dental x-rays.

How often should dental x-rays be taken?

The need for dental x-rays depends on each individuals dental health needs. Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary radiographs/x-rays based on the review of your medical and dental history, dental exam, signs and symptoms, age consideration, and risk for disease.

A full mouth series of dental x-rays is recommended for new patients. A full series is usually good for three to five years.

Bite-wing x-rays (x-rays of top and bottom teeth biting together) are recommended annually to detect new dental problems. Panoramic radiographs are recommended to give an overview of the jaws, and are particularly useful when examining wisdom teeth or the developing teeth. This x-ray would be reassessed only every five years or so unless there is a specific issue of concern, like unexplained pain or erupting wisdom teeth.

Do over-the-counter whitening methods work?

There is a complete aisle of over-the-counter whitening products out there. Because they are not drugs they are not regulated, but are consider as cosmetics so there is little or no regulation. For the most part they contain the same solution as the dentist dispensed products but in a much lower concentration. This means you will likely have to use the product for much longer than you would a dentist dispensed system.

Other things to consider when assessing the effectiveness of over-the-counter whitening methods is how long it is in contact with the tooth. If the solution is in contact with saliva, it will quickly be washed away. If it’s only in contact with your teeth while brushing, it’s going to take a very long time to see any difference. A tray-based system holds the solution against the tooth preventing the saliva from diluting it.

With the strip type over-the-counter whiteners, remember that the strips are a fixed length, so if you have a broad smile the teeth at the ‘corners’ may not be covered by the strip. Another concern with the strips, especially if teeth aren’t perfectly straight is that if the strip isn’t carefully creased into the ‘dip’ between the teeth you will end up with dark strips between the teeth. The strip may also extend on to the gum tissue, which can lead to sensitivity and temporary discoloration of the gum tissue.

Generally over-the-counter whitening products are safe but using them with out first having a dental consultation could result in issues of sensitivity if cavities or root exposure are present. There are things that can be done in conjunction with whitening to help reduce any sensitivity. As well, patients/consumers must realize that existing fillings and crowns will not change color when you whiten your natural tooth, so if your filling currently matches your tooth color and you lighten your teeth, your filling is then going to be obvious and you will be looking at the additional cost of replacing, or at least resurfacing it.

Can dentists really give Botox®?

In 2007, The College of Dental Surgeons of BC included Botox® as part of the scope of practice of cosmetic dentistry in BC. Dentists are more familiar than any other medical professional with the nerves and muscles of the face and oral cavity. They are more comfortable with injections than most physicians as they have been part of their daily routine since dental school. Most dentists who provide Botox treatments for their clients, like Dr. Phillips, have had additional training with respect to dispensing and administering the product. It has a multitude of both therapeutic and cosmetic applications.

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