Everyone has questions about going to the dentist which is perfectly natural. So in this post about our 30 most frequently asked dental questions you’ll find detailed answers about our dental services including family dentistry, preventive care, cosmetic options, as well as some helpful tips about unexpected issues like a chipped tooth. With dental advancements due to technology like same day crowns and digital x-rays, it’s a good idea to ask questions about your options before arriving at your first appointment. At Northgate Dental it’s our goal to help make your dental visit as stress free as possible.
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Can I request an appointment on your website or should I call?
Yes, you can fill out an online appointment request here. (This form is for new appointments only.) Or if you prefer, you can call us at (415) 479-2623 to discuss an appointment or send us an email. To change an existing appointment please call. We look forward to hearing from you.
Do I need to arrive early for my first appointment?
If you haven’t filled out our online downloadable First Visit patient forms please arrive 10-15 minutes early to do so. Download our First Visit PDF patient form here.
What should I do if I require pre-medication?
Please be sure to request a prescription prior to your appointment, or if you are unsure, contact us and we can help.
What should I bring to my first appointment?
Please bring the following items with you to your appointment:
- Patient Information Form
- Dental Insurance Card (if applicable)
- Identification such as Driver’s License, Military ID or State ID
- Patient Health History Form
- HIPAA Consent Form
- Patient Authorization Form
- Try fluoride treatments
How long will my first appointment last?
It varies, but please plan on spending 30 minutes to an hour for your first visit. As family dentists we can eliminate the need for additional office visits saving busy families time. We make it a point to clearly explain the benefits and fees for each treatment beforehand during our initial meeting. We help with forms and insurance and believe an oral education is an important part of preventive dentistry. We honor this in everything we do.
What tooth paste should I use?
The most important ingredient to look for when choosing toothpaste is fluoride. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral. Its use has been instrumental in the dramatic drop in tooth decay and cavity occurrence that has taken place over the past 50 years. Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugars and starches that remain on your teeth after eating. Fluoride helps protect your teeth from the acid that is released when this happens. It does this in two ways. First, fluoride makes your tooth enamel stronger and less likely to suffer acid damage. Second, it can reverse the early stages of acid damage by solidifying areas that have started to decay.
What is plaque and why is it harmful?
Plaque develops when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches), such as milk, soft drinks, raisins, cakes, or candy are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay. Plaque can also develop on the tooth roots under the gum and cause breakdown of the bone supporting the tooth.
How often should I floss?
The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day to help remove plaque from the areas between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. This is important because plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.
Are electric toothbrushes better than manual brushes?
If a manual toothbrush is used for the appropriate amount of time, and done with proper technique, it can perform just as well as a powered toothbrush. But many people don’t brush for the recommended two to three minutes. Children are also good candidates for powered brushes as their brushing habits tend to be less than optimal. While everyone certainly does not need an electric toothbrush, in many instances they can be beneficial. Ask your dentist if you have any questions about which brush is best for you.
What causes bad breath?
While bad breath (or “halitosis”) can be linked to numerous systemic diseases, the majority of bad breath originates in the mouth. A dry mouth or a low salivary flow can also influence bad odor. There are two main goals in the management of bad breath. First, controlling the bacteria that produce the sulfur compounds and second, to neutralize the sulfur compounds that are produced.
It’s been a long time since I’ve visited the dentist. What do I need to do?
You’re not alone! Whether it’s been 6 months or 6 years, it’s never too late to get back into a healthy routine. At Northgate Dental, we can arrange for you to have a thorough and educational exam appointment. We have been taking care of people just like you for over 25 years, so take advantage of our experience! We’re here to help!
How many times a year should I have my teeth cleaned?
In a perfect world everyone would brush and floss twice a day. Plaque builds up over time and this sticky bacterial film can solidify and turn into calculus or tartar. This cement-like substance is removed by the hygienist at your regular cleaning visits. A six-month interval not only serves to keep your mouth healthy and clean, it allows potential problems to be found and diagnosed earlier.
When will my child get their first tooth?
The period when early hard teeth are growing is a major event in the life of an infant, and it can be difficult. The eruption of teeth causes inflammation, which leads to congestion, drooling, and discomfort. While the average time for the appearance of the first teeth is between five and seven months of age, there is a wide range before and after this that can still be considered “normal.” The teeth might come in as early as one month of age, or they may erupt when the child is one-and-a-half years old. Generally the lower front teeth come in first, and girls’ teeth typically erupt earlier than boys.
When should I take my child to the dentist for their first check-up?
In order to prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist between 6-9 months for a visual examination, or no later their first birthday. Download “First Visit” PDF
My child’s baby teeth have cavities. Should they be filled?
If baby teeth become diseased or decayed it can lead to pain and infection. It can also be difficult for children to eat a well-balanced meal with a mouth full of cavities. Untreated cavities also increase the amount of decay causing bacteria in the mouth. As permanent teeth erupt, they are at increased risk for developing cavities because of the higher bacteria count. Baby teeth also hold space in the mouth for the erupting permanent teeth. If the baby teeth become decayed or are taken out too early, the permanent teeth often become crowded and will likely need braces to straighten in the future.
What are dental sealants and why do my kids need them?
The American Dental Association recommends that kids receive dental sealants as soon as their adult teeth erupt. Dental sealants are a quick, easy, and relatively cheap solution for preventing cavities. They are thin coatings applied to the biting surfaces that help prevent bacteria and other debris from getting into the deep crevices on the teeth. Young children are great candidates for preventative measures like sealants because in many cases, decay has not set in. Children’s teeth tend to benefit more from sealants because these pits and groves tend to be deeper and less calcified then they are in adults. Kids are notoriously bad brushers and tend to ignore the problem areas in the back of the mouth that lead to cavities and decay.
What happens if a woman has a dental problem when she is pregnant?
Pregnancy and dental work questions are common for expecting moms. Preventive dental cleanings and annual exams during pregnancy are not only safe, but are recommended. The rise in hormone levels during pregnancy causes the gums to swell, bleed, and trap food causing increased irritation to your gums. Preventive dental work while pregnant is essential to avoid oral infections such as gum disease, which has been linked to preterm birth.
FILLINGS AND X-RAYS
My dentist says I have a cavity and that I need a filling. But why doesn’t my tooth hurt?
Most dental problems don’t have any symptoms until they reach more advanced stages, so don’t wait for things to hurt! It is best to get a thorough dental exam, and diagnose and treat problems early. Waiting often makes problems more difficult and more expensive to fix.
What is a root canal?
Millions of teeth are treated and saved each year with root canal, or endodontic, treatment. A root canal is a treatment to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth. The procedure involves removing the damaged area of the tooth (the pulp), cleaning and disinfecting it and then filling and sealing it. The common causes affecting the pulp are a cracked tooth, a deep cavity, repeated dental treatment to the tooth or trauma. The term “root canal” comes from cleaning of the canals inside the tooth’s root.
What is in amalgam (silver) fillings, and are they safe?
Dental amalgam is a filling material used by dentists to restore the proper size and shape of decayed or damaged teeth. It is an alloy that includes silver, tin, copper, and liquid mercury. It was the most commonly used filling material in the world until tooth colored composite resin came along. Amalgam is the most thoroughly researched and tested of all filling materials. Despite controversy over the mercury content, no health disorder or illness has ever been found to be linked to it. The FDA, CDC, and World Health Organization all view dental amalgam as a safe dental material.
If you are unsure whether amalgam is right for you, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each filling material with your dentist.
How safe are traditional dental x-rays, and are the new digital x-rays better?
Digital x-rays are one of the most important new advances that our profession has seen in quite some time. And at Northgate Dental we now use this new digital technology exclusively. The ability to reduce the exposure of radiation to the patient used by traditional x-ray while increasing the diagnostic proficiency has astounding implications. The reduction of the use of harsh chemicals and other waste materials associated with traditional x-rays is also an added benefit to our environment.
Comparatively, a traditional chest CT-scan exposes a patient to 2,800 times the radiation as a digital dental x-ray. Surprisingly, you can get the same amount of radiation as one of our digital x-rays from eating about 50 bananas.
I’m interested in changing the shape of my teeth. What options are available?
There are several different options available to change the shape of your teeth. You can choose to make your teeth look longer, close spaces between your teeth or repair a chipped or cracked tooth. Among the options are bonding, crowns, veneers, and re-contouring.
Dental bonding is a procedure in which a tooth-colored resin material (a durable plastic material) is applied to the tooth surface and hardened with a special light, which ultimately “bonds” the material to the tooth.
Dental crowns are tooth-shaped “caps” that are placed over teeth. The crowns, when cemented into place, fully encase the entire visible portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line.
Veneers (also called porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates) are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials that are designed to cover the front surface of teeth. These shells are bonded to the front of the teeth.
Re-contouring or reshaping of the teeth (also called odontoplasty, enameloplasty, stripping, or slenderizing) is a procedure in which small amounts of tooth enamel are removed to change a tooth’s length, shape or surface.
Each option differs with regard to cost, durability, and “chair time” necessary to complete the procedure and the best cosmetic approach to resolving your specific problem. We would be glad to discuss which one is right for you.
My tooth is cracked, how should I proceed?
If your tooth is broken, chipped, or fractured, see your dentist as soon as possible. Otherwise, your tooth could be damaged further or become infected, possibly causing you to end up losing the tooth.
Dental bonding is a procedure in which a tooth-colored resin material (a durable plastic material) is applied to the tooth surface. Bonding is a simple procedure that typically does not require numbing the tooth. After shaping the bonding material to look like a natural tooth, we use an ultraviolet light to harden the material, which ultimately “bonds” the material to the tooth.
What are my options for whitening my teeth?
Tooth discoloration may result from drinking coffee, tea, cola and red wine; or from smoking. The aging process also can stain and darken your teeth. Here are some options to consider when looking for whiter teeth. Before deciding whether in-office teeth whitening is right for you, we conduct a comprehensive examination of your teeth and gums to ensure proper health, and talk with you about your oral hygiene and lifestyle habits to determine if you will benefit from whitening. This helps us agree on the whitening product or technique that’s best for you.
Whitening Toothpastes – Whitening toothpastes can help remove surface stains only and do not contain bleach. Whitening toothpastes can lighten the tooth’s color by about one shade.
Bleaching Techniques – In contrast, light-activated whitening can make your teeth three to eight shades lighter. We offer our customers a range of teeth whitening that begins with Sinsational Smile. A simple, yet inexpensive and faster procedure. We also offer Zoom where we apply hydrogen peroxide whitening gel working together with the Zoom light to penetrate the teeth and break up the stains and discoloration. The gel remains in place for 15 minutes, 3 consecutive times, for a total of 45 minutes while the light is activated. During this time, you can relax by listening to music. Opalescence tooth bleaching is an affordable and convenient at home bleaching solution with custom take home trays. The bleach is placed in the tray and worn for 30-60 minutes a day until the desired whiteness and results are achieved. The custom trays can be used for years, reapplying as needed to sustain the desired shade of your teeth. This is clinically proven to make your teeth their whitest.
What if a tooth gets knocked out in an accident?
Time is your enemy when an accident or any trauma dislodges a tooth. First locate the tooth, or teeth, and determine if the tooth broke or if the entire tooth and root came out in one piece. Gather together the pieces you’ve found, and with warm water gently rinse off obvious dirt or debris. Avoid touching the root as much as possible. Place and transport the tooth in milk or in some of the person’s own saliva.
Rush the injured person and tooth to the dental office. Ideally the tooth will be re-implanted. The tooth may also be splinted with a wire to the adjacent teeth for a period of time.
This is a true dental emergency. If it is after regular business hours you should still call your dentist. The more time that goes by the less likely that the re-implantation will be successful. If you cannot contact a dentist your nearest Urgent Care or Emergency Room may be able to help.
What should I do if I have a dental emergency and can’t get a hold of my dentist?
If you’re unable to reach your dentist, check the local internet or yellow pages listings for a dentist or urgent care nearby. If you can’t reach any dentist, here are some helpful tips:
Rinse your mouth with warm salt water. Gently brush and floss the area to remove any trapped food or debris. If you can take over the counter pain medications (such as Ibuprofen) they may help in soothing the pain. Topical gels (such as Orajel) can sometimes help, but usually only a little bit and for a minimal amount of time. Make arrangements to see your dentist even if the pain goes. Without proper care your condition could return or even worsen. (To make salt water rinse: mix 1 teaspoon table salt with 1 cup warm water).
When a permanent (or temporary) crown comes off:
Keep the area clean by rinsing with warm salt water rinses and by gently brushing the area if it is not too sensitive. Avoid leaving the crown out for more than a few days as teeth can shift, making it difficult or impossible to re-cement it at a later date. If the tooth is painful, denture cream or toothpaste can be placed inside the crown and it can be gently fit back into place.
What are my options for replacing a missing tooth?
When a tooth is lost, a whole series of events can begin to occur. Chewing on the affected side becomes more difficult and over time the remaining teeth can actually tilt and erupt into the open space.
Depending on the location of the missing tooth, we would most likely recommend either a dental implant, a bridge, or a partial denture. All of these options have their benefits and drawbacks. If you would like more information we can schedule a consultation to go over the specifics of your case.
What causes teeth to decay?
Tooth decay, also known as a cavity, occurs when bacteria living in your mouth make acid that begins to eat away at your teeth. Untreated tooth decay may cause infection, extreme pain and the loss of tooth. The decay process begins with the unnoticeable damage to the enamel of your teeth and then steadily progresses to deeper layers of the tooth, eventually leading to the pulp. The pulp of your teeth contains highly-sensitive blood vessels and nerves. Proper oral hygiene includes brushing your teeth regularly, flossing regularly and brushing your tongue. If possible brush your teeth twice a day – morning and night.
The top causes of tooth decay include: Poor Oral Hygiene, Improper Nutrition, Sugary Foods, Acidic Foods and Drinks, Dry Mouth Issues, Tooth Grinding, Genetics, Age and Avoiding the Dentist.
Why do my gums bleed?
The main cause of bleeding gums is the buildup of plaque at the gum line. This will lead to a condition called gingivitis, or inflamed gums. Plaque that is not removed will harden into tartar. This will lead to increased bleeding and a more advanced form of gum and bone disease known as periodontitis. Bleeding gums can happen for a number of reasons, from gingivitis to a side effect of pregnancy. Changing your oral care routine can also make your gums bleed. We recommend brushing and flossing regularly and getting your semiannual dental visit in to stop your gums from bleeding. Certain medicines also increase the likelihood that your gums will bleed. If changing your oral care habits, adjusting your medications, and maintaining a healthy diet doesn’t help your gums stop bleeding, your next step should be to make a dental appointment.
Why are my teeth sensitive to cold?
When the hard enamel is worn down or gums have receded, causing the tiny dentinal tubule to be exposed, pain can be caused by touching your teeth with hot or cold foods and beverages, or exposing them to cold air. Exposed areas of the tooth can cause pain and even affect or change your eating, drinking, and breathing habits. Taking a spoonful of ice cream, for example, can be a painful experience for people who have sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common complaints among dental patients. Some toothpastes contain abrasive ingredients that may be too harsh for people who have sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity can be reduced by using a desensitizing toothpaste; having your dentist apply sealants and other desensitizing and filling materials, including fluoride; and decreasing the intake of acid-containing foods.
If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than three or four days and reacts to hot and cold temperatures, it’s best to get a diagnostic evaluation from your dentist to determine the extent of the problem.
What can I do if I have dry mouth?
To relieve your dry mouth try chewing sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free hard candies to stimulate the flow of saliva. For some people sugar-free gum or sugar-free candies may cause diarrhea or cramps if consumed in large amounts.
To relieve your dry mouth you can try limiting your caffeine intake because caffeine can make your mouth drier. Also don’t use mouthwashes that contain alcohol because they can be drying. You could stop all tobacco use if you smoke or chew tobacco. Sipping water regularly can help (and that’s a healthy thing to do) to keep the saliva flowing and has shown to relieve the symptom. There are also some over the counter products made by Biotene that have helped many of our patients with their dry mouth symptoms.
Are there any dental problems associated with diabetes?
Yes, if diabetes is left untreated, it can take a toll on your mouth. Here’s how:
- You may have less saliva, causing your mouth to feel dry (dry mouth is discussed above)
- Because saliva protects your teeth, you’re also at a higher risk of cavities
- Gums may become inflamed and bleed often (gingivitis)
- You may have problems tasting food
- You may experience delayed wound healing
- You may be susceptible to infections inside of your mouth
- For children with diabetes, teeth may erupt at an age earlier than is typical
Regular dental visits are important. Research suggests that treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in patients living with diabetes, decreasing the progression of the disease. Practicing good oral hygiene and having professional deep cleanings done by your dentist can help immensely.
All 30 of these frequently asked questions about dental care are insightful! Just what I needed, thanks.
Thanks for posting all this great dental information all in one convenient place. I love the accordion approach makes it so easy. I learned a lot about my teeth too!
Electric toothbrushes are better than manual brushes because most people are in a time crunch and don’t brush for the recommended two to three minutes. And thanks for all the other great pointers in the 30 most FAQ’s section!