Frequently Asked Questions
What is Plaque?
Plaque is the accumulation of bacteria, microorganisms and their products which sticks to the tooth surfaces. Dental plaque is soft and easily removed by brushing and flossing the teeth. Accumulation of plaque can lead to gum disease (gingivitis) and periodontal disease, as well as tooth decay.
How can plaque cause decay?
When you eat foods containing sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids, which attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with teeth. After the teeth are attacked in this way many times, the tooth enamel breaks down forming a hole or cavity.
How can plaque cause gum disease?
Plaque can harden into something called calculus (another name for it is ‘tartar’). As calculus forms near the gumline, the plaque underneath releases poisons causing the gums to become irritated and inflamed. The gums begin to pull away from the teeth and the gaps become infected. If gum disease is not treated promptly, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed and healthy teeth may be lost. Gum disease is the biggest cause of tooth loss in adults and can lead to dentures, bridges or implants.
What is Calculus (Tartar)?
Calculus is dental plaque that has mineralized. Calculus can form when plaque is not removed from the tooth surfaces. This plaque becomes old and eventually forms into calculus. Calculus can form above or below the gumline. The bacteria that sticks to calculus can cause gum disease (gingivitis) or periodontal disease. Calculus cannot be removed by brushing and flossing. A dental hygienist checks for calculus formation when you visit the dental office. It is removed with special instruments designed to adapt to the tooth surface affected without causing trauma to the soft gums.
What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. Some common features associated with gingivitis are red and swollen gums, and the presence of bleeding while brushing and flossing. The cause of gingivitis is the bacteria in dental plaque. This disease is reversible with good oral hygiene practices.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is destruction of bone and the structures supporting the teeth. Unfortunately periodontitis is irreversible, but you can stop its progression through good oral hygiene and visiting your dental professional.
- • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss your teeth
- • Gums that are red, swollen or tender
- • Gums that have pulled away from teeth
- • Infection including purulence(pus) between the teeth and gums when the gums are pressed
- • Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
- • Any changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- • Any changes in the fit of your partial denture
- • Any changes in the fit of your partial denture
- • Itchy sensation
How can I prevent gum disease?
It is important to remove plaque and food debris from around your teeth as this will stop your gums from swelling and becoming infected. If you leave plaque on your teeth it can develop into tartar, which can only be removed by the dentist or hygienist. It is important to keep up your regular appointments so that your teeth can have a thorough cleaning if they need it.
Why is brushing important ?
Daily brushing and cleaning between your teeth is important because it removes plaque. If the plaque isn’t removed, it continues to build up, feeding on the food debris left behind and causing tooth decay and gum disease.
How often should I change my toothbrush?
Worn-out toothbrushes cannot clean your teeth properly and may damage your gums. It is important to change your toothbrush every two to three months, or sooner if the filaments become worn. When bristles become splayed, they do not clean properly.
Do electric toothbrushes clean better?
Tests have proved that certain electric toothbrushes are better at removing plaque. They are particularly useful for people with limited movement, such as disabled or elderly people, who often find that using a normal toothbrush does not allow them to clean thoroughly. Electric toothbrushes can also be better for children as they may be more inclined to brush regularly because of the novelty of using an electric toothbrush. Discuss the idea with us to find out if you would benefit from using an electric toothbrush.
What sort of toothpaste should I use?
As well as regular family toothpastes, there are many special toothpastes. These include tartar control for people who are prone to tartar build-up, and ones for people with sensitive teeth. Total care toothpastes include ingredients to help fight gum disease, freshen breath and help reduce plaque build-up. Whitening toothpastes are good at removing staining, Children’s toothpastes have about half the level of fluoride that adult toothpastes have. They still provide extra protection for the teeth, but as children have a tendency to ‘eat’ their toothpaste, there is less risk of them taking in too much fluoride.
What is a Cavity?
Dental cavities (caries) are holes in the two outer layers of a tooth called the enamel and the dentin. The enamel is the outermost white hard surface and the dentin is the yellow layer just beneath enamel. Both layers serve to protect the inner living tooth tissue called the pulp, where blood vessels and nerves reside. Dental cavities are common, affecting over 90% of the population. Small cavities may not cause pain, and may be unnoticed by the patient. The larger cavities can collect food, and the inner pulp of the affected tooth can become irritated by bacterial toxins, foods that are cold, hot, sour, or sweet-causing toothache. Toothache from these larger cavities is the number one reason for visits to dentists.
How does a Cavity Form?
The formation of a cavity is due to many factors. For example, the tooth itself plays a role (how strong it is); the mouths ability to cleanse itself (your flow of saliva); diet (frequency and selection of sugary foods); the bacteria in your mouth (good or bad); and the length of time the tooth is under attack by the bacteria in your mouth
Signs of a Cavity Formation
The first sign of a cavity forming may be a white spot, which in time may turn brown. If it is a white spot, low concentrations of fluoride applied frequently can arrest further development. If the white spot phase progresses, further breakdown of enamel will occur. At this point, a visit to your dental professional is necessary. The cavity may be restored with a filling.
Good Habits to Help Prevent Cavities
1. Regular visits with your dental professional on an appointment schedule that he/she recommends
based on your own needs. Regular visits will ensure you have the benefits of preventive care and early diagnosis, as well as, treatment for any dental problems. Guidance about home dental care can also be provided to avoid future problems
2. Diet plays an important role. Minimize the frequency of sugary foods, thus reducing the amount of acid produced. Select snacks that are less cavity causing, such as fresh fruit, plain yogurt and raw vegetables
3. The use of fluoride will help decrease the risk of cavity formation
4. Good plaque control. Maintain a strict and regular home care routine to minimize plaque growth
5. It is recommended that you consult your dental professional before using any commercial products. You want to make a selection based on the effectiveness of the product and your own personal needs
What is Bad Breath (Halitosis)?
Bad breath (halitosis) can cause embarrassment, create social and psychological barriers , and even affect marriages.
CAUSES: The majority of bad breath problems begin in the mouth.
- • Bad breath that is of oral cavity origin can be traced to a sulfur compound produced by bacteria. Dead and dying bacterial cells release this sulfur compound, which gives the breath an unpleasant odor.
- • Bacterial plaque and food debris accumulate on the back of the tongue. The tongue's surface is extremely rough and bacteria can accumulate easily in the cracks and crevices.
- • The tooth attracts bacteria containing plaque and if not cleaned regularly and thoroughly, this can result in large accumulations of bacteria which result in bad breath.
- • People who have periodontitis often experience bad breath because of bacteria accumulating in areas that are not cleaned easily, such as deep pockets around teeth.
- • Fortunately, treatment is very effective for people who have bad breath of mouth origin.
What is Orthodontics (Braces)?
Orthodontics is the science of straightening and correcting teeth.
Who Needs Orthodontic Treatment?
Children as well as adults, are choosing to have orthodontic treatment for several reasons:
1. Malocclusion (bite or occlusion is off)
2. Tooth malalignment (crooked teeth
3. Unhappy with appearance of teeth
During the preteen and teenage years, the jaws are growing and maturing, therefore it is easier to shift teeth at this stage rather than later on in adulthood.
More adults are choosing to have orthodontic treatment in order to improve the appearance of their teeth. Since their jaws are no longer growing, treatment may take a little longer.
What is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth ?
A tooth becomes impacted due to lack of space in the dental arch and gum, bone, another tooth or all three therefore prevent its eruption. Lack of space occurs because our jaws have become smaller (through evolution), we do not loose teeth through decay as frequently as in the past, and our diet is such that our teeth do not wear down as much.
What is Root Canal Treatment?
Today, with modern dentistry, root canal treatment has become a common form of treatment for diseased (abscessed) teeth.
Teeth that have had root canal treatment can stay as healthy and last as long as other teeth. In most instances, you won't be able to feel or see a difference.
Refer the general dentistry section of this site for a detailed explanation.
What is a Crown/Cap?
A crown or cap is a cover that fits over a properly prepared tooth that has been damaged by decay or accident, or is badly stained or shaped.
A crown can be made of acrylic, metal, porcelain, porcelain and metal, or resined metal. All-porcelain crowns look more like your natural teeth, and therefore are usually used for front teeth; while porcelain with metal underlay has more strength and is good for crowns in the back of the mouth. Sometimes all-metal crowns are used for back teeth because of the metal's strength.
HERE'S HOW IT'S DONE: In order to prepare your tooth for a crown, you require a local anaesthetic. Then the tooth is filed down so the cap can fit over it. An impression of your teeth and gums is made and a temporary cap is fitted over the tooth until the permanent crown is made. On your next visit, the dentist will remove the temporary cap and cement the crown onto the tooth. The crown will closely match your natural teeth and give you back your smile.
What Are Dentures?
Dentures are a set of replacement teeth for any teeth that are missing. There are partial dentures, which take the place of only a few teeth and prevent the others from changing position, and complete dentures, which replace every tooth in the mouth. Both types of dentures are removable and usually made of metal and acrylic resin (say: ah-kri-lick reh-zen), a plastic-like material that is molded to fit the exact shape of a person's mouth. Dentures are held in place with the help of a sticky cream that helps the dentures stick to the surface of a person's gums.
Although they may sound uncomfortable to wear and aren't always fun to look at (especially if someone takes out his dentures in front of you), dentures are important for older folks who have lost their teeth. They help a person chew, talk, and even smile! Because they are custom-made by dentists from molds of a person's mouth (much like a retainer), each set of dentures is as unique as the person who wears them. No buying them off the shelf at the denture store!
If you know someone with dentures, don't make fun of the dentures or act grossed out. After all, you know plenty of kids with braces and retainers, right? Dentures aren't all that different. For the person wearing them, they may take some getting used to at first. If you've had braces, you may remember how it took a while to get used to having a mouth full of metal. Your mouth may have felt sore, you may have had more saliva (spit), and it may have hurt to talk for a few days. It's the same with dentures. Like braces or retainers, they also need special care - they need to be brushed daily with a special denture brush and cleanser or toothpaste and soaked in denture solution when not in the mouth.
What is Tooth Erosion?
Tooth erosion is the wearing away of tooth enamel by acid. The enamel is the hard calcified tissue that covers and protects the outside of the tooth. It is the hardest substance in our bodies.
The saliva in our mouth contains calcium which helps to strengthen and remineralize the teeth, however, remineralization can not occur when a great deal of acid is present.
The high amount of acids in the food and drink that you consume can cause tooth erosion. Soft drinks and pure fruit juices contain a high amount of acid.
Tooth erosion can also be caused by medical factors such as a decrease in saliva, acid reflux disease, certain gastrointestinal conditions and the eating disorder bulimia.
If I cosmetically whiten (bleach) my teeth, how long will the effects last?
Teeth will become discolored over the years for a number of reasons. Consuming beverages like coffee, tea, red wine, dark grape juice, as well as having habits such as smoking (including smokeless tobacco), will lead to staining of your teeth. After your teeth have been whitened, these habits will tend to re-stain your teeth. Avoiding these tooth-staining substances can help keep your newly whitened teeth looking great for a long time to come.