Q: What causes tooth decay and gum disease?
A: Both are caused by bacterial infection.
Q: What can I do about bacterial infection?
A: Removing bacterial infection starts at home with good oral hygiene and a balanced diet. It’s continued in the dental office by the efforts of your dentist and dental hygienist to promote, restore and maintain your oral health. Prevention also includes regular dental exams, cleanings and x-rays. Sealants and fluoride are also great preventive treatments that help protect teeth.
Q: What are dental ozone treatments?
A: Dental ozone is one of the most exciting technologies we’ve seen in our 40 years of practicing dentistry. It’s new to the U.S. market, but has been available in Europe for several years. The technique uses the anti-bacterial properties of ozone gas (a form of oxygen) to treat tooth decay. We blow ozone gas onto the decay, and it penetrates and destroys the bacteria. Over the next several months, before the bacteria has a chance to repopulate, minerals that are present in saliva and filling materials enter the decay, re-mineralizing it and turning it back into healthy tooth structure that’s more resistant to decay than it was before. It’s not a cure-all, and because it’s new, it’s not yet covered by most dental insurance plans. Sometimes we have to drill a channel into the tooth to get access to the decay, and sometimes after the treatment, the tooth, which typically has turned brown due to the decay, doesn’t always return to the original color. If a tooth is damaged to the point where it needs replacing, ozone won’t help. But even with these limitations, ozone therapy has amazing results, preserving more of the original tooth than is possible with traditional fillings.
Q: Can anything be done about my old gray fillings?
A: Yes. Old amalgam (gray/black) fillings can now be replaced with color-matched, mercury-free white fillings. These are placed using special adhesives that increase the strength of the heavily filled tooth and eliminate sensitivity. Modern techniques of magnification and lighting mean only the old filling is removed and maximum sound tooth structure is retained. If the remaining tooth structure is weak, our highly skilled dental technicians make porcelain inlays.
Q: What’s the difference between a crown and a bridge?
A: Crowns are special sleeves made of metal or porcelain that are fitted over a damaged or weak tooth. We carefully match the size and shape of the crown so it looks indistinguishable from your other teeth. A dental bridge is used when there’s a missing tooth. It usually involves putting a crown on each tooth on either side of the missing one, and then a false tooth is suspended between the crowns.
Q: How long does it take to get a crown?
A: Traditionally, it’s done in two visits. Dentists drill the tooth to remove decay and reshape it some, take some molds of the teeth, and put a temporary crown in place. Then the dentist sends the molds out to a lab, and in a few weeks, the permanent crown comes and can be cemented in place on the second visit. We do Cerec restorations—a product that uses computer-aided manufacturing to make the crown right in our office. Instead of molds, we take digital pictures of the tooth and the computer manufactures a crown right on the spot. It’s all done in one visit.
Q: What’s a laser cavity finder?
A: That’s another technology we use. Decay reflects laser light differently than natural tooth material. We use lasers to penetrate the decay and analyze the reflection to find exactly where it is. With lasers, we can often identify decay earlier, and that means we can treat it with smaller fillings or even with just ozone and no fillings.
Q: Why do you need to take x-rays? Are they safe?
A: Dental x-rays are pictures of the teeth, bone and surrounding soft tissue that are used to help find problems with the teeth, mouth and jaw. X-rays can show cavities, hidden structures such as wisdom teeth, and bone loss that can’t be seen with a regular visual exam. Dental x-rays use very small amounts of radiation and are safe. Still, we take precautions to protect against even this small amount of radiation. We use digital x-rays, which use even less radiation than traditional film x-rays. We don’t take unnecessary x-rays, and we cover patients’ bodies with a protective shroud to prevent unnecessary exposure.
Q: Do you do teeth whitening?
A: Yes, we use a variety of teeth whitening techniques.
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