Dental FAQs

What is dentistry?

Dentistry is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of conditions, disorders, and diseases of the teeth, gums, mouth, and jaw. Often considered necessary for complete oral health, dentistry can have an impact on the health of your entire body.

What is a dentist?

A dentist is a specialist who works to diagnose, treat, and prevent oral health problems. Dr. Alan has completed nine years of schooling, and received a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) degree from the University of Washington. Specialists in dentistry include

  • Endodontics (root canals)
  • Oral and maxillofacial (including pathology, radiology, and surgery)
  • Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
  • Pediatric dentistry
  • Periodontics (gum disease)
  • Prosthodontics (implants)

Why is visiting the dentist so important?

Visiting the dentist regularly will not only help keep your teeth and mouth healthy, but will also help keep the rest of your body healthy. Dental care is important because it:

  • Helps prevent tooth decay
  • Protects against periodontal (gum) disease, which can lead to tooth and bone loss and be a cause of heart attacks and strokes as well as other health problems
  • Prevents bad breath – brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist regularly will help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth that causes bad breath
  • Gives you a more attractive smile and increases your self-confidence
  • Helps keep teeth looking bright by preventing them from becoming stained by food, drinks, and tobacco
  • Strengthens your teeth so that you can enjoy a lifetime of healthy nutrition

My teeth feel fine. Do I still need to see a dentist?

Your teeth may feel fine, but it's still important to see the dentist regularly because problems can exist without you knowing. Many dental problems such as cavities can only be found using x-rays.  You may unknowingly have a gum infection with dangerous pathogens that not only cause gum disease but can cause cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and even Alzheimer's. Moreover, you may have dead nerves in teeth that have formed chronic abscesses that you do not feel.  You should also see us for

  • Healing mouth infections that cause gum disease and cavities
  • Fillings that mimic the appearance of natural teeth
  • Restoration of chewing ability when teeth are missing

How can I take care of my teeth between dental checkups?

  • Brush your teeth and floss at least two times a day.
  • Make sure to use toothpaste that contains fluoride, and ask Dr. Alan if you need a prescription fluoride toothpaste or antimicrobial rinse.  This will help prevent cavities.
  • Avoid foods with a lot of sugar (sugar increases the amount of bacteria that grows in your mouth causing more plaque and possibly cavities) and avoid tobacco (this can stain your teeth, cause gum disease, and eventually lead to oral cancer).
  • Don't be afraid to brush your tongue! By brushing your tongue, you will remove food particles and reduce the amount of plaque-causing bacteria. Tongue brushing also helps keep your breath fresh.
  • Be sure to schedule your routine checkup. It is recommended that you visit the dentist every six months.
  • Get tested for the presence and concentration of the germs that cause gum disease using OralDNA's simple salivary test that takes about a minute.

At what age should I start taking my child to see the dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children first see a dentist as early as six months of age and no later than one year of age. During this time, your child's baby teeth will be coming in and Dr. Alan can examine the health of your child's first few teeth. After the first visit, be sure to schedule regular checkups every six months.

How often should I see the dentist?

Children, teens, and adults should all see the dentist for a regular checkup at least once every six months. If you have gum disease (periodontal disease) we will see you more often for special cleanings.  Dr. Alan will help determine how often you should visit the dentist for regular checkups.

What is a cavity?

A cavity is a small hole that forms inside the tooth due to an infection in the mouth with cavity forming bacteria.  Cavities are formed when bacteria in the plaque on the outside of the tooth chemically converts sugars and starches in the food you eat. This produces an acid that can dissolves tooth structure.  The bacteria enter the cavity and the process continues until the bacteria reach the nerve or pulp.  If a cavity is left untreated, it can lead to more serious oral health problems. Cavities can be prevented by remembering to brush and floss your teeth at least two times a day.

What is a filling?

A filling is a synthetic material that Dr. Alan uses to fill a cavity after all of the tooth decay has been removed. Fillings do not generally hurt, unless the cavity is very deep, because Dr. Alan will numb your mouth with an anesthetic. Fillings are made from a variety of different materials, including composites, gold, or ceramic. At Dental Health Group, we generally place tooth colored non-metal fillings.  We do not use silver mercury amalgam.

How often should I brush and floss my teeth?

According to Dr. Alan and the American Dental Association, you should brush your teeth for two minutes at least two times a day. Brushing keeps your teeth, gums, and mouth clean and healthy by removing bacteria-causing plaque. It is also recommended that you use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste that contains fluoride when you brush your teeth. You should spend at least a minute on the top teeth and a minute on the bottom teeth, and remember to brush your tongue; it will help keep your breath smelling fresh!

When should I change my toothbrush?

Your toothbrush will eventually wear out, especially if you are brushing your teeth twice a day for two to three minutes each time. Dr. Alan recommends that adults and children change their toothbrush every three months. If you are using an electric toothbrush, be sure to read the directions because you may not need to change toothbrush heads as frequently. After brushing, rinse your toothbrush with hot water to kill germs and keep the bristles clean.

What is gum disease?

Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is an infection of the gums where they meet the teeth, creating a pocket that along the root that gets deeper as the infection progresses. Other causes of periodontal disease include tobacco use, teeth grinding, some medications, and genetics.  Advanced gum disease will lead to tooth and bone loss, and is a permanent condition. However, do not despair, we can control and in a few cases reverse some bone loss.

  • Red, irritated, bleeding, or swollen gums
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Loose teeth, or loss of teeth
  • Extreme tooth sensitivity
  • Receding gum line
  • Abscessed teeth

If I have braces, do I still need dental checkups every six months?

Yes! In fact, it's even more important that patients receiving orthodontic treatment visit their dentist regularly. With braces, food may be caught in places that your toothbrush can't reach. This causes bacteria to build up and can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Dr. Alan will work closely with your orthodontist to make sure that your teeth stay clean and healthy while wearing braces.

How do I schedule my next checkup?

Simply call our practice! Our front desk staff will be happy to help schedule your next dental checkup at your convenience. If you are a new patient, please let us know and we will provide you with all the information you need for your first dental visit.

Why do you test for bacteria that cause gum disease?

It is estimated that there are around 800 different bacterial species in the human mouth, most of them are harmless or even beneficial.  We test for 11 bacterial species that studies have currently shown to cause both gum disease and systemic diseases like heart attacks and strokes.  We also test to provide a baseline to see if our treatment is successfully eliminating your gum infection. It sounds like bad science fiction, but the germs that cause gum disease have been found, alive, in plaques taken from human arteries. Arterial plaque caused by the the same germs that create gunk on your teeth, who knew?

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