Frequently Asked Questions

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Q. Can the dentist whiten my teeth?

A. There are several methods available for bleaching the teeth: in-office, overnight or daily. One session of in-office bleaching generally lasts one and a half to two hours, and you can read or relax during the treatment. For overnight bleaching, we make an impression of your teeth and create a mouthguard that fits your bite. Each day you fill the mouthguard with a small amount of bleaching gel and wear it overnight or for a few hours during the day. The overnight bleaching process takes approximately two weeks.

Other over-the-counter daily bleaching products are available, but it is important to use any bleaching product only under the supervision of a dentist. To achieve the whitening results you desire, the ADA recommends that you seek the professional advice of a dentist, including examination and diagnosis of the cause of tooth discoloration, before you begin any bleaching program.

Q. How should I keep my child’s teeth clean?

A. A toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head, especially one designed for infants, is the best choice for infants. Brushing at least once a day, at bedtime, will remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay. "First visit by 1st birthday" is the general rule. To prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears, usually between 6 and 12 months of age, certainly no later than his/her 1st birthday. Primary, or "baby," teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt. Some of them are necessary until a child is 12 years old or longer. Pain, infection of the gums and jaws, impairment of general health and premature loss of teeth are just a few of the problems that can happen when baby teeth are neglected. Also, because tooth decay is really an infection and will spread, decay on baby teeth can cause decay on permanent teeth. Proper care of baby teeth is instrumental in enhancing the health of your child.

Q. What causes teeth grinding?

A. Teeth grinding or bruxism, is the habit of grinding, gnashing or clenching the teeth. Occasional teeth grinding is not harmful. However, severe teeth grinding that occurs on a daily basis, can lead to tooth fracture or loss. Other health complications as a result of severe and frequent teeth grinding include jaw disorders and headaches.

While some people unconsciously clench their teeth during the day, teeth grinding most often occurs during sleep. This means most people are unaware that they are grinding their teeth.

Signs and symptoms of teeth grinding include:

  • A dull headache
  • Sore jaw
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Fractured, flattened or chipped teeth
  • Chronic facial pain
  • Tightness in the jaw muscles or jaw pain

Although doctors do not completely understand what causes teeth grinding, possible causes include, stress, anxiety or the misalignment of the upper and lower teeth. Both children and adults can experience teeth grinding.

Q. Do medications impact oral health?

A. Prescription and over-the-counter (including vitamins and minerals, or herbal preparations) can have a negative effect on your oral health. Here are some common side effects:

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia), occurs when there is not enough saliva present. Saliva serves many purposes. It contains enzymes that aid in digestion. It helps prevent tooth decay by washing away food and debris from the teeth and gums. It neutralizes damaging acids, enhances the ability to taste food and makes swallowing and speaking easier. Minerals found in saliva also help repair microscopic tooth decay. Drying irritates the soft tissues in the mouth, which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become much more common. Medications are the most common cause of dry mouth. Those that list dry mouth as a potential adverse effect include antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, diuretics, high blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants, drugs for urinary incontinence, Parkinson's disease medications, antidepressants and many others. Increasing fluid intake may help while taking these medications. Your dentist or physician may recommend using an artificial saliva product. Avoid tobacco and restrict your intake of caffeine, alcohol and carbonated beverages and foods that are high in sugar. Because dry mouth increases the probability of tooth decay and other problems, it is critical that you take good care of your teeth and gums. Regular checkups are important. Be sure to inform the Doctor of any medications you are taking.

Bisphosphonates (Zometa and Aredia) have been associated with spontaneous reports of osteonecrosis of the jaw mainly in cancer patients who have received these drugs as a component of their therapy. While on these drugs, high risk patients should avoid invasive dental procedures if possible. Therefore, a dental examination followed by appropriate and restorative dentistry should be considered prior to treatment with bisphosphonates.

Some medications have been linked to the development of oral sores. These medications include those prescribed for blood pressure control, immunosuppressive agents, oral contraceptives and some chemotherapeutic agents.

Reduced blood clotting is a side effect of aspirins and anticoagulants, such as Heparin or Warfarin. These medications can cause bleeding problems during oral surgery or treatment for periodontal diseases.

Enlarged gum tissue is sometimes associated with anti-seizure medications such as phenytoin, immunosuppressant drugs, and calcium channel blockers. The overgrowth of tissue can make thorough oral hygiene difficult, therefore, meticulous attention to cleaning teeth and gums is important.

Teeth may be permanently stained if tetracycline products were used when the teeth were just developing. This can be a concern for pregnant women and for young children.

Some medications can affect the ability to taste or can cause a bitter or metallic taste. Some of these medications include cardiovascular agents, central nervous system stimulants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, respiratory inhalants, and smoking cessation products such as nicotine skin patches.

Sugar is frequently a main component of liquid medications, cough drops, vitamins, antacid tablets and antifungal agents. Those receiving long-term medication of these sweetened products may be at greater risk for tooth decay.