Read on for answers to some frequently asked questions that we receive.

What should I do if I have a dental emergency?

Emergencies can happen to anyone. We are here to help. During business hours, simply call us at 303-771-1009. Our appointment coordinator will ask a few questions about your symptoms and schedule an appointment. After business hours, there is a contact and phone number on our voicemail system. Naturally, if you have a life-threatening emergency, dial 911.

When should a child have his/her first dental appointment?

A child should have his first dental appointment no later than his third birthday. Many dentists recommend a child have his first appointment when his first tooth comes in.

How many times a day should I brush my teeth?

Most dental professionals recommend that you brush your teeth at least twice a day. Brushing after every meal (and flossing at least once a day) is also a good way to maintain dental health.

What type of toothbrush should I use?

The brand of the toothbrush is not as critical as the type of bristle and the size of the head. A soft toothbrush with a small head is recommended because medium and hard brushes tend to cause irritation and contribute to recession of the gums, and a small head allows you to get around each tooth more completely and is less likely to injure your gums. It's unnecessary to "scrub" the teeth as long as you are brushing at least twice a day and visiting your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings.

Is one toothbrush better than others?

Generally, no. However, it's advisable to use a fluoride-containing toothpaste to decrease the incidence of dental decay. We recommend our patients use what tastes good to them as long as it contains fluoride.

Why is it important to use dental floss?

Brushing our teeth removes food particles, plaque, and bacteria from all tooth surfaces, but not in between the teeth. Unfortunately, our toothbrush can’t reach these areas that are highly susceptible to decay and periodontal (gum) disease.

Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone. Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (acids) that cause cavities and irritate and inflame the gums. Also, when plaque is not removed above and below the gum line, it hardens and turns into calculus (tartar). This will further irritate and inflame the gums and also slowly destroy the bone. This is the beginning of periodontal disease.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is a serious, chronic bacterial infection that attacks the gums and bones that support your teeth.

How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontal disease (gum disease)?

Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don't know it! Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages. Unlike tooth decay, which often causes discomfort, it is possible to have periodontal disease without noticeable symptoms.

Having regular dental check-ups and periodontal examinations are very important and will help detect if periodontal problems exist.

Periodontal disease begins when plaque, a sticky, colorless, film of bacteria, food debris, and saliva, is left on the teeth and gums. The bacteria produce toxins (acids) that inflame the gums and slowly destroy the bone. Brushing and flossing regularly and properly will ensure that plaque is not left behind to do its damage.

Other than poor oral hygiene, there are several other factors that may increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco. Tobacco users are more likely than nonusers to form plaque and tartar on their teeth.
  • Certain tooth or appliance conditions. Bridges that no longer fit properly, crowded teeth, or defective fillings that may trap plaque and bacteria.
  • Many medications such as steroids, cancer therapy drugs, blood pressure meds, and oral contraceptives. Some medications have side effects that reduce saliva, making the mouth dry and plaque easier to adhere to the teeth and gums.
  • Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and puberty. All can cause changes in hormone levels, causing gum tissue to become more sensitive to bacteria toxins.
  • Systemic diseases. Diabetes, blood cell disorders, HIV / AIDS, etc.
  • Genetics may play role. Some patients may be predisposed to a more aggressive type of periodontitis. Patients with a family history of tooth loss should pay particular attention to their gums.

Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease:

  • Red and puffy gums. Gums should never be red or swollen.
  • Bleeding gums. Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
  • Persistent bad breath. Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
  • New spacing between teeth. Caused by bone loss.
  • Loose teeth. Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
  • Pus around the teeth and gums. Sign that there is an infection present.
  • Receding gums. Loss of gum around a tooth.
  • Tenderness or discomfort. Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.

Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.

It is recommended that I have scaling and root planing done. Why can’t I just get a regular cleaning?

Periodontal disease is caused by infections that damage the gum and bone that hold teeth in place. Periodontal disease can often be treated in the early stages with scaling and root planing. Scaling and root planing removes the bacteria-laden plaque and tartar below the gum line. The root surfaces are then smoothed to allow the gum tissue to heal. A professional prophylaxis (“regular cleaning”) removes plaque above the gum line and will not treat periodontal disease.

What is a periodontal maintenance procedure?

A periodontal maintenance procedure is not the same treatment as a regular cleaning even though a hygienist may perform both services. After a patient has been treated for periodontal disease, either with root planing or surgery, a standard cleaning addresses scaling and polishing above the gumline, a person who has periodontal disease requires below gum line maintenance. Typically an interval of three months between appointments is effective in maintaining. As in many other chronic conditions, successful long-term control of the disease and prevention of tooth loss depends on continual, and possibly lifetime, treatment.

If my insurance will only pay for periodontal maintenance twice per year, why should I have it done more often?

It is a mistake to let insurance benefits be the deciding factor on your dental health. People who have lost their teeth often say that they would pay any amount of money to get them back. A person's teeth, smile, and ability to chew and enjoy food are dependent on dental health. Don't forget that recent studies we have shared show the correlation between periodontal disease and certain heart conditions and other systemic diseases. It is worth the time and cost to keep your teeth for a lifetime. If you have periodontal disease, you are no longer benefiting from a “cleaning.” You need periodontal treatment.

What causes tooth loss?

Tooth decay and periodontal disease are the most common causes of tooth loss. Tooth decay takes place when most of the tooth's mineral makeup has been dissolved away and a hole (cavity) has formed. While tooth decay primarily affects children, periodontal disease (gum disease), affects mostly adults. Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums caused by the buildup of plaque, and its earliest stage is known as gingivitis.

I'm concerned about radiation. Why do you have to take x-rays?

Our office utilizes digital radiography to allow detection of tooth decay in between your teeth before cavities become large. They also help to detect bone loss, tumors, cysts, un-erupted teeth and other problems not seen with the naked eye. Rest assured, digital radiography requires far less radiation than conventional radiography and is much healthier for the environment.

What are dental sealants? Who should get them? How long do they last?

Sealants are a thin, plastic coating that is painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth -- usually the back teeth (the premolars and molars) -- to prevent tooth decay. The painted on liquid sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and groves of the teeth forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth.

Typically, children should get sealants on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in. In this way, the dental sealants can protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages 6 to 14.

However, adults without decay or fillings in their molars can also benefit from sealants.

Sealants can protect the teeth from decay for up to 10 years, but they need to be checked for chipping or wear at regular dental check-ups.

What should I do if I have bad breath?

Bad breath (halitosis) can be an unpleasant and embarrassing condition. Many of us may not realize that we have bad breath, but everyone has it from time to time, especially in the morning. There are various reasons one may have bad breath, but in healthy people, the major reason is due to microbial deposits on the tongue, especially the back of the tongue. Some studies have shown that simply brushing the tongue reduced bad breath by as much as 70 percent.

Why do I need a root canal?

When the inner most part of a tooth (the nerve) is injured or infected debilitating pain can result. The nerve is encapsulated within hard tooth with only a small opening to the jaw for blood flow. When increased blood flow happens due to injury or infection, pressure builds within the hard tooth resulting in pain. This pain ⁄ infection can only be resolved by removal of the nerve through extraction of the entire tooth or removal of the nerve by making a small hole in the top of the tooth and filling out the inner injured / infected position (a root canal).

Do I need to have a root canal just because I have a crown?

No. While most teeth which have had root canal treatments do need crowns to strengthen the teeth and to return the teeth to normal form and function, not every tooth needing a crown also needs to have a root canal.

What's the difference between a crown and a cap?

These are restorations to repair a severely broken tooth by covering all or most of the tooth after removing old fillings, fractured tooth structure, and all decay. The restoration material is made of gold, porcelain, composites, or even stainless steel. Dentists refer to all of these restorations as "crowns". However, patients often refer to the tooth-colored ones as "caps" and the gold or stainless steel ones as "crowns."

What's the difference between a bridge and a partial denture?

Both bridges and partial dentures replace missing teeth. A bridge is permanently attached to abutment teeth or, in some cases, implants. A partial denture is attached by clasps to the teeth and is easily removed by the patient. Patients are usually more satisfied with bridges than with partial dentures.

My insurance company mentioned “UCR.” What is “UCR,” and how is it determined?

“UCR” is the term used by insurance companies to describe the amount they are willing to pay for a particular dental procedure. There is no standard fee or accepted method for determining the UCR and the UCR has no relationship to the fee charged by your dentist. The administrator of each dental benefit plan determines the fees that the plan will pay, often based on many factors including region of the country, number of procedures performed and cost of living.

Why isn’t the recommended treatment a covered benefit?

Your dentist diagnoses and provides treatment based on his or her professional judgment and not on the cost of that care. Some employers or insurance plans exclude coverage for necessary treatment as a way to reduce their costs. Unfortunately, your plan may not include this particular treatment or procedure, although your dentist deemed the treatment necessary.

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