Frequently Asked Questions
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[wpspoiler name=”What can I do about bad breath?” ]
Deducing the cause of your bad breath is the first step toward preventing it. Greatly reduced saliva flow during sleep, certain foods (such as garlic, onions and peppers), poor oral hygiene, gum disease, dry mouth, tobacco, dieting, dehydration, and some medical conditions (including sinus infections and diabetes) are the most common causes of bad breath.
Brushing your teeth in the morning and at night is the best way to prevent bad breath, and brushing after every meal is even better. If you can’t brush, chew sugar-free gum to loosen the food particles from between your teeth. Clean between your teeth at least once a day with floss or an interdental cleaner, and don’t forget to brush your tongue. If you wear dentures, remove them at night and clean them thoroughly before replacing them the next morning. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months. Mouthwash can help too, but ask us which rinses actually kill the germs that cause bad breath, because some only temporarily mask odor.
[wpspoiler name=”I don’t have a toothache, and I brush and floss regularly. Do I really need a check-up?” ]
Biannual teeth cleanings performed by a dental hygienist will keep your teeth and gums looking, feeling and functioning their best. During cleanings, your hygienist will remove plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) from the surface of your teeth. She’ll also polish your teeth and floss to test the condition of your gums.
After your cleaning, Dr. Han will perform a more thorough examination of your teeth, jaw and gums. In addition to a visual assessment, he will check up on your current restorations and screen for early signs of gum disease and oral cancer. When x-rays have been taken, Dr. Han and his assistant will carefully review them to identify any possible areas of concern.
We understand that going to the dentist can be stressful, which is why we’ve designed our office to make your visits as comfortable as they are effective. If it’s been a while since your last cleaning, call us today to schedule an appointment. We’ll take great care of you!
[wpspoiler name=”Should I replace my silver (amalgam) fillings with composite fillings?”]
Silver fillings used to be the industry standard. They were inexpensive and durable, but usually required extensive preparation and the removal of a great deal of your natural tooth. In recent years, composite fillings have become a popular and effective alternative to silver fillings, and for good reason. Expressions Dental Care is an amalgam-free practice, and we think our patients really appreciate the benefits and the natural-looking results of composite fillings.
Composite fillings are made out of a mixture of glass and quartz materials, so Dr. Han can match them to the rest of your natural teeth. Composite materials are also versatile and can be bonded (adhesively held) to teeth, requiring less invasive preparation than amalgam and leaving more healthy tooth structure beneath the filling.
[wpspoiler name=”If my filling is still in place and my tooth does not hurt, why does my dentist want to replace the filling?”]
Constant pressure from chewing, grinding, or clenching can cause dental fillings to wear away and crack. If the seal between the tooth and the filling breaks down, food particles and decay-causing bacteria can work their way under the filling. You then run the risk of developing additional decay, which can progress to deeply infect the tooth or even cause an abscess.
When restorations are large, or if recurrent decay is extensive, there might not be enough remaining tooth structure to support a replacement filling. In these cases, Dr. Han may need to replace the filling with a natural looking porcelain crown.
[wpspoiler name=”How can I tell if I’m at risk for gum disease?”]
According to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, about 80 percent of U.S. adults currently have some form of gum disease, ranging from gingivitis to serious periodontal disease. The prevalence of gum disease increases with age, because as we age our teeth wear down, our gums naturally recede, and medications can affect oral changes. The most common symptoms of gingivitis are tender, swollen gums that bleed easily, sensitive or even loose teeth, and persistent bad breath.
If you have any symptoms of gum disease, the first thing to do is get a thorough dental evaluation. Dr. Han strongly believes that healthy gums are essential for a healthy mouth and body. Gum disease used to require surgery more often than not, and while surgery is still an option, many cases can be treated first with deep cleanings, local antibiotics, and special rinses. Please come in and let us help you achieve and maintain healthier gums for a healthier you!
[wpspoiler name=”Is there anything that can calm my nerves during an exam?”]
Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is one of the safest anti-anxiety treatments used in dentistry. Nitrous oxide is a colorless blend of oxygen and nitrous oxide gases with a pleasant, sweet smell and taste. When inhaled, it creates a sense of relaxation and increases your pain threshold, making the administration of anesthetic injections more comfortable. Nitrous oxide is especially beneficial for children and adolescents, patients with special needs, and people who have strong gag reflexes that interfere with dental treatment.
Nitrous oxide is non-addictive, and you will remain fully conscious during treatment. Normal breathing of pure oxygen for several minutes after treatment completely reverses the effects of the nitrous oxide, so adults can usually leave the dental office of their own accord.
Some individuals experience slight nausea if nitrous oxide is administered on a full stomach. For this reason, it is advisable to limit food intake for several hours before treatment, although fasting is not typically necessary. Nitrous oxide is not effective if a patient suffers from claustrophobia (because of the mask used to administer the gas), or has extreme dental anxieties. Because nitrous oxide is inhaled, it is also not effective if the patient has blocked nasal passages. For unknown reasons, it does not affect about 10% of individuals.
[wpspoiler name=”How can cosmetic dentistry improve my life?”]
A healthy and attractive smile can raise your self-esteem, increase your confidence, and help you make better first impressions on others. Sometimes it doesn’t take much treatment to feel MUCH better about your smile, and we offer a variety of subtle yet noticeable ways to enhance your smile. There are also more significant treatments and combinations of treatments (often called “smile makeovers”) that can give you the smile of your dreams.
Dr. Han has the skill and expertise to provide many leading-edge cosmetic dental treatments, including teeth whitening, porcelain veneers, tooth-colored fillings, dental implants, and invisible braces. Replacing your old silver fillings with tooth-colored fillings can also be considered cosmetic in nature, since it improves both the health and the appearance of your teeth.
[wpspoiler name=”I have crooked teeth, but I feel like metal braces are for kids. Are there other options?”]
Metal braces can be a hassle and can take between two to three years of treatment to fully realign your teeth. Dr. Han can help you fit braces into your busy life and give you the smile you’ve always wanted.
Invisalign® and ClearCorrect™ invisible braces utilize a series of custom-made plastic trays called aligners that are replaced every two weeks to straighten your teeth step by step. The trays are comfortable for the sensitive tissues of your gums and cheeks, and they’re conveniently removable so you can eat and brush your teeth normally. Because the trays are made from a transparent plastic material, clear braces are hardly noticeable. In fact, most people won’t even notice you’re wearing braces!
Invisible braces are a great option for patients with mild to moderately crowded teeth, widely spaced teeth, overbites, crossbites, and underbites. If you’re ready for straighter teeth, ask us about your treatment possibilities! A beautiful new smile could be closer than you think.
[wpspoiler name=”A couple of my teeth have been worn down and need to be replaced. Should I opt for crowns?”]
Dental crowns cover teeth to restore them to their appropriate shape and size after large fillings, fractures, or weakening forces such as intense grinding. In all of these cases, crowns not only cover teeth but also provide additional support. Crowns can also be used to attach bridges, cover dental implants, restore severely discolored or misshapen teeth, and even as a preventive measure to protect a tooth in danger of breaking.
Dr. Han can place a crown in as few as two appointments. Properly matching a porcelain crown to the surrounding healthy teeth can take more visits, but the natural-looking results are worth it to most patients. Crowns are generally very strong restorations, and if a crown is placed before a tooth fractures it can usually preempt the need for a root canal. A crown can also prevent a tooth from becoming so damaged or decayed that it needs to be removed, which would require a bridge or implant for restoration.
[wpspoiler name=”Hot or cold, my teeth hate both! Why are they so sensitive, and how can I stop the pain?”]
If you’ve been avoiding that ice cream cone or cup of coffee because of sensitive teeth, you don’t have to! Tooth sensitivity can be caused by a number of things, including involuntary grinding or jaw clenching, gum recession, and even enamel loss. Surface irritants such as braces and teeth whitening can also cause temporary sensitivity.
Because the causes of tooth sensitivity are so diverse, and because sensitive gum tissue can indicate a more serious problem, it’s important to ask Dr. Han which treatment is best for you. A softer toothbrush will usually help, and special toothpastes and over-the-counter rinses can reduce sensitivity over time. Dr. Han also provides in-office desensitizing treatments, including a laser procedure in which he seals off areas in a tooth’s root that are responsible for the sensations of heat and cold. The procedure is comfortable, non-invasive and takes only a few minutes. Ask us about your options at your visit!
[wpspoiler name=”What should I do in case of a dental emergency?”]
Accidents happen, and especially when they involve our teeth and mouths they can be pretty frightening. It’s important to know when home care will suffice and when a trip to the dentist is necessary, so here are some guidelines to help you through common situations:
Rinse with warm water to remove any food or debris; if you notice anything lodged between teeth, floss to remove it. Take an over the counter pain medication (but never apply the medication directly to tooth or gums), and call our office if the pain persists.
Apply an ice pack or a cold compress to the swollen lip or gum tissue near the chipped tooth to prevent swelling. If the area is bleeding, apply gauze for ten minutes, or until the bleeding has stopped. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Han as soon as possible.
If there is enough remaining healthy tooth structure, Dr. Han might be able to create a crown to attach to your natural tooth, eliminating the need for root removal. While the success of this process, known as “crown lengthening,” depends on the severity of the break, it’s worth asking about options other than complete removal.
Knocked Out Tooth
Depending on the situation, find the tooth and, holding it by the crown only, rinse it briefly with warm water. If possible, gently reinsert the tooth into the socket and bite down on gauze or cloth to keep it in place. If you cannot reinsert it, place it in a container of milk or salt-water. See Dr. Han as soon as possible—if it’s treated within 2 hours, the tooth might be salvaged.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Our gums, cheeks, lips, and tongue tend to bleed heavily because these tissues contain a great deal of blood flow. To control the bleeding, rinse your mouth with a warm, mild salt water solution, then apply pressure with gauze or a moistened towel for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterwards, to reduce swelling and help stop residual bleeding, apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth. In the event of a serious soft tissue injury in which the bleeding is profuse or the damage is visibly traumatic, it’s best to stay calm, keep applying pressure, and go to the emergency room.
[wpspoiler name=”Am I candidate for dental implant restorations?”]
Dr. Han and our team work hard to stay on the leading-edge of restorative dentistry. If you or someone you love struggles with ill-fitting, uncomfortable dentures or a retainer with false teeth, dental implants can give your smile a second chance! Implants are useful in denture stabilization and can also be used in conjunction with crowns, bridges, and in single-tooth replacements.
Dental implants are not only more durable and longer-lasting than removable dentures, but they also look and feel more like natural teeth. Most importantly, they function like natural teeth, so you can smile with confidence and eat the foods you love again. Because the implant procedure allows for more of your healthy tooth structure to be saved, implants can even prevent further bone loss.
Many patients suffering from advanced tooth decay, root canal failure, trauma to the mouth, or just extreme natural wear and tear on teeth are benefiting from this revolutionary option in restorative dentistry. However, there are still some things to consider before you decide on dental implants. For example, implants are best performed after adolescence, when the teeth and jaw bone are fully developed. The implant procedure can also be more complicated for individuals with gum disease, active diabetes, immune deficiencies, and for patients who smoke. To ensure that you get the treatment that’s right for you, keep Dr. Han and our team informed and up-to-date about your entire medical history and dental habits.
[wpspoiler name=”I have a recurring pain where my jaw meets my temple, and sometimes my jaw clicks when I chew. What’s the problem?”]
You could be suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD, which affects the flexibility and function of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. Because this area controls chewing, speech, and all other jaw movements, the pain can be severe.
The most common cause of TMD is a misaligned bite. This places pressure on the jaw joint and forces the muscles to work overtime in effort to correctly align the upper and lower jaws. This not only compromises the function of your jaw, but also results in a good deal of fatigue and pain in the facial muscles. Headaches, toothaches, and jaw clenching, or locking are all common symptoms of TMD. TMD can also occur after a jolting face injury which causes a normally aligned jaw joint to become damaged or repositioned.
Professional treatment of TMD ranges from minor fixes to surgical options. If Dr. Han determines that the main cause of your jaw pain is an irregular bite, he may recommend a retainer-style mouthguard, or a reshaping of the biting surfaces of your teeth to subtly change the way your upper and lower jaws meet. If it’s a structural issue occurring in your jaw bone (especially if your TMD is a result of injury), you may benefit from surgery.
In the meantime, treating the symptoms can give you some relief. Heating pads or cold compresses can reduce swelling, and limiting your jaw movement (for example, cutting especially chewy foods out of your diet) can stop the locking and/or popping. Massages can temporarily relieve muscle tension, and painkillers (medicated or over the counter) can reduce inflammation and make you more comfortable.
[wpspoiler name=”I’ve heard a lot about laser dentistry lately. What is it, and what is it used for?”]
Laser technology has revolutionized even the most ordinary dental procedures. Lasers are not only remarkably precise, but they can also shorten procedure time, minimize pain, and speed the healing process of many treatments. Even better, lasers are as useful in common procedures as they are in complicated ones, and they’ve been incorporated into everything from cavity detection and fillings to complex periodontal surgery. During routine cleanings or surgical procedures, lasers can reduce or completely eliminate the need for drills, scalpels, anesthesia and sutures. Surgery without sutures carries less risk of infection and requires fewer repeat visits.
Just as doctors use different scalpels for different procedures, dentists have different lasers for the various surfaces in your mouth. There are lasers for cavity detection, teeth whitening, and surgical procedures. Hard tissue lasers are used on teeth and bone, to prepare teeth for certain treatments, remove decayed areas, or repair fillings. Soft tissue lasers are better suited for the gums, cheeks, and tongue, and because they seal blood vessels as they work these lasers can reduce the pain and healing time of oral surgery.
The Academy of Laser Dentistry (ALD) has been actively researching technology and developing standards of excellence since 1993, and is dedicated to educating and certifying dentists internationally in the safe use of laser technology. Though most experts agree that lasers are the future of dentistry, it’s estimated that only around 5% of dentists currently offer them in their offices.
[wpspoiler name=”Why is fluoride good for my teeth?”]
Each day, foods and acids feed bacteria in your mouth, which can accumulate on your teeth to form plaque. Plaque wears away at a tooth’s enamel in a process known as demineralization. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that can promote the remineralization of enamel, replacing important minerals that strengthen your teeth and can protect them from tooth decay. Fluoride can also help reverse early stages of decay.
Children with newly-erupted permanent teeth benefit a great deal from fluoride exposure, but adults should make sure their teeth come into contact with it, too. The safe and easy way to ensure your teeth are getting enough fluoride is to use fluoride toothpaste, available at drugstores in a variety of types and flavors. If your dentist recommends more intense fluoride treatments, there are a number of gels, rinses, or even in-office procedures that can do the trick. Though the most fluoride is absorbed from direct contact with the teeth, many public drinking water systems contain small, safe amounts of fluoride that can have positive health effects.
[wpspoiler name=”When I floss, my gums bleed. If they don’t hurt and my teeth look fine, is it really a big deal?”]
If your gums are not sore, it’s safe to assume the bleeding hasn’t been caused by hard brushing or flossing. Bleeding gums are the most common symptom of gum disease and its early stage, gingivitis. Gingivitis is not a one-way ticket to gum disease; in fact, if it’s caught early enough, gingivitis can be treated and even reversed. The first lines of treatment are lifestyle changes: brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush, kick a tobacco habit if you have one, and if you have diabetes make sure that it’s under control. It’s important to stop gingivitis before it progresses, as studies have shown more and more serious illnesses are associated with gum disease. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even osteoporosis and inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis have been linked to poor oral health.
Though not the first suspect in a simple case of bleeding gums, oral cancer is also a possibility. Oral cancer can be difficult to diagnose because many of the signs of oral cancer can be mistaken for other dental conditions. They include slow-healing sores on the soft tissues, difficulty swallowing or moving the jaw, bleeding gums or cheeks, and a continuous pain in the mouth. If Dr. Han finds no other causes for your bleeding gums, he may recommend a visit to a specialist.