Here are some of the more general dental care questions we receive at our dental office in Madison, Alabama.

Do you offer financing?

We accept cash, check or credit card payments (Visa, MasterCard or American Express). We also accept CareCredit®, which allows you to make interest-free payments for up to a year. Click to apply online.

Why should I go to the dentist regularly?

So many people only go to the dentist when they have a problem. We call this "emergency treatment" as opposed to "preventive treatment". While these patients may feel they are saving money, it usually ends up costing them much more (both money and a patient's time). The reason: most dental problems do not have any symptoms until they reach the advanced stages of the disease process. The most simple example is tooth decay. Tooth decay does not hurt or show problematic symptoms until it gets close to the nerve in the tooth. By that time, the patient will be needing a root canal, followed by a post, buildup, and crown which can be very costly and time consuming. If the patient had come in for "preventative treatment" & cleanings, they most likely could have gotten a filling to prevent the tooth decay from spreading. A dentist can usually detect a cavity 3-4 years before it develops any symptoms. It is not uncommon to see a patient with a huge cavity and who has never felt a thing! This is why regular checkups & cleanings are important!

Why should I floss? I brush...isn’t that enough?

Flossing helps you to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth. There are millions of microscopic bacteria that lives in plaque inside your mouth and feeds on food particles left on your teeth. This bacteria can be removed by flossing. Brushing your teeth will get rid of some of the bacteria, but flossing gets rid of the bacteria your toothbrush can’t get to (like the bacteria hiding in the tiny crevices between your teeth). Brushing without flossing is like washing only one of your hands. The other hand remains dirty. When you forget to floss, you allow plaque to remain between your teeth. Eventually that plaque hardens into tartar. Plaque can be removed by brushing, but only your dentist/dental hygienist can remove tartar. If you're not sure that you are doing it correctly, ask your dentist/dental hygienist to show you the proper way to floss. You will both notice the difference at your next cleaning appointment.

How can I prevent cavities?

There are several ways minimize the number of cavities you get! You should be spending 2-3 minutes brushing your teeth twice a day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. It takes 2-3 minutes to get rid of the bacteria which destroy tooth enamel. No need to brush too hard, it takes very little pressure to remove bacteria and plaque.

You need to floss at least once a day. Flossing is the only way to get bacteria from between your teeth.

Cut back on the sugar you eat. There is sugar in candy, fruits, crackers, chips, and more. Check labels if you are not sure about sugar content. Sugary foods are what the bacteria in your mouth like best. Be especially careful with foods like gummy candies and peanut butter that stick to your teeth. They can provide a constant sugar supply for the bacteria to eat into your teeth.Try to clean your teeth soon after you eat these types of foods. If you cannot brush after a meal, at least rinse your mouth with water. The water can help to remove some food from your teeth. Or you can try chewing a piece of sugarless gum after a meal. Chewing stimulates the flow of saliva which acts as a natural plaque-fighting substance.

Most importantly, go see your dentist regularly (every 6 months is recommended). Good dental hygiene will go a long way toward a no-cavity visit.

What is fluoride and why is it important to dental health?

Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and in water. Some natural sources of fluoride are brewed black tea, lamb, cooked kale and spinach, carrots, and raisins. Some water systems contain fluoride, so by drinking tap water you will get fluoride. If you do not have access to fluoride in your water, supplements are available.

The lack of fluoride can put individuals of any age at risk for dental decay. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making the outer portion of the tooth enamel more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria in the mouth. Several studies have proven that children who consumed fluoridated water had less dental decay. Not only can fluoride reverse early decay, it can also help prevent osteoporosis (a disease that causes degenerative bone loss).

Talk to your dentist about whether you’re getting the daily amount of fluoride you need.

What are dental sealants?

The American Dental Association Dental recognizes sealants as an effective approach to preventing pit and fissure caries in children.

Dental sealants are a thin coating painted on chewing surfaces of molars and premolars. Sealants act as a barrier, protecting the teeth against decay-causing bacteria. They have proven effective with people of all ages, but are most commonly used with children. Sealants are about half the cost of fillings, but only a small percentage of school-aged children actually have sealants on their permanent teeth.

Make sure to your dentist whether sealants are a good choice for you or your children.

If a tooth is knocked out, can it be saved?

Oral injuries should be treated by a dentist as soon as possible. Here are some helpful hints to try and save the tooth:

Find the tooth that was knocked out
Gently rinse the tooth to remove dirt and debris
Do not attempt to place the tooth back into the socket as this could cause further damage.
Get to the dentist. Successful re-implantation is possible only when treatment is performed promptly

To transport the tooth, wrap it in a clean cloth or gauze and immerse it in milk (if available).

What can I do about my sensitive teeth?

Sensitivity toothpaste is readily available at any pharmacy or grocery store. This toothpaste contains either strontium chloride or potassium nitrate, which are very effective in treating sensitive teeth. After a few weeks of use you should notice a decrease in your sensitivity.

Try to avoid acidic foods such as lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and tomatoes. Other products that can increase tooth sensitivity are sodas, teas, & coffee. These will all counteract any sensitivity toothpaste. If you do not get relief from the sensitivity toothpaste, make an appointment to talk your dentist. There are special products that the dentist can apply to the roots of your tooth to reduce or even eliminate the sensitivity. High-fluoride containing products can also be recommended by your dentist to help reduce tooth sensitivity.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is inflammation and infection of the gums and supporting bone structure. If periodontal disease is left untreated, it can cause permanent jaw bone destruction and even tooth loss. Untreated periodontal disease has been linked to an increased risk for conditions such as heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and prostate cancer, low birth weight in babies and pre-term delivery. An advanced stage of periodontal disease exhibits inflamed gums pulling away from your bone and teeth. Other signs of periodontal disease include:

Bad breath
Red and/or swollen gums
Loose teeth or teeth that have shifted
Sensitive teeth
Pain on chewing
Tender gums
Bleeding gums
Pus coming from around the teeth

Treatment of early periodontal disease can be performed in-office. The treatment of periodontal disease begins with the removal of tartar and deposits. A dental hygienist will use a procedure called scaling and root planing as the first step in addressing periodontal problems. He/she will remove calculus by mechanically scraping it from tooth surfaces. More advanced stages may require surgery, so it is important to see your dentist regularly to prevent periodontal disease.

What causes morning breath?

Saliva is the mouth’s natural mouthwash. It helps to wash away bacteria and food particles, as well as, dissolving foul smelling sulfur compounds (it is actually these sulfur compounds which give our breath a bad odor).When you are sleeping, saliva production in your mouth decreases, which will cause most people to experience morning breath.

Chronic, long-term mouth odor can be a sign of more serious condition. See your dentist if this becomes a problem.

Do whitening toothpastes work?

Whitening toothpastes vary greatly in their ability to actually whiten teeth. They work by using mild abrasives to remove surface stains from teeth. However, unlike professional whitening, some whitening toothpastes do not alter the deep-seated color of the teeth. Also, toothpastes that are effective in removing stains can also destroy tooth enamel in their process. These toothpastes use harsh abrasives. With repeated use, harsh abrasives begin to damage tooth enamel and can contribute to increased tooth sensitivity. If you would like to try a whitening toothpaste, it is best to consult with your dentist first.

How long will the results of teeth whitening last?

If you have your teeth whitened, the length of time you can expect it to last can vary. If you are a smoker, drink red wine or coffee, or consume other high acid foods, then your white smile may begin to yellow more quickly. In general, a teeth whitening procedure can last up to a few years. Even if the results begin to fade, occasional touch-ups can be done to regain bright whiteness.

What should I do about bleeding gums?

Usually, gums that bleed are a symptom of the onset of periodontal disease or gingivitis. People often respond to bleeding gums with the wrong method of treatment (people stop brushing frequently because it may be painful or it may cause the gums to bleed). The correct course of action when gums are inflamed is to brush often and effectively. Most importantly, you should visit your dentist to have a periodontal screening to determine the level of disease present. They can then determine the best treatment course to pursue.

NOTE: Chronic dental pain and discomfort are obvious signs of a problem. Although over-the-counter drugs are available and may provide some temporary relief, these medications usually only mask the symptoms of a bigger problem and should be taken on a temporary basis only.

It is important to see your dentist as soon as possible if your gums begin to bleed.

Is smokeless tobacco harmful?

Yes! Smokeless tobacco can be harmful. Here are some of the potential risks:

Tooth abrasion from grit and sand in tobacco can scratch teeth and wear away the enamel
The constant irritation caused by chewing tobacco can result in gum recession and other permanent damage to gum tissue
Increased tooth decay can result from sugar that is added to smokeless tobacco
Tooth discoloration and bad breath are common with long term use
A diminished sense of taste and smell caused by tobacco use can lead to unhealthy eating habits
More nicotine is absorbed by smokeless tobacco use that by smoking a cigarette.
Smokeless tobacco use is a risk factor for the development of oral cancers and pre-cancers.

These are danger signs:

A sore that will not heal
A lump or white patch on or around your mouth or throat
A prolonged sore throat
Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
Restricted movement of the tongue or jaw
A feeling of something stuck in the throat

Long Term Effects can cause:

Esophageal cancer
Lip cancer
Mouth cancer
Pharynx cancer
Tongue cancer

Pain is rarely an early symptom. All tobacco users need to see their dentist regularly.

What causes canker sores?

The actual cause of a canker sore is unknown. Some factors thought to cause them include:

genetics
allergies
stress
toothbrush trauma (brushing too hard)
vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies such as vitamin B-12, zinc, folic acid, or iron deficiency
injury to the inside of the mouth
ill-fitting dental appliances such as dentures or braces
biting your cheek may also produce a canker sore

Certain foods have been linked to both causing canker sores and/or making them worse:

citrus or acidic fruits/vegetables
chips and pretzels
hard candies that have sharp edges can nick and injure the soft tissue of the mouth.
In some serious cases canker sores can be caused by an underlying health condition such as gastrointestinal tract disease, celiac disease or Crohn's disease. If the canker sore lasts longer than two weeks, see your dentist.

To treat a canker sore, try rinsing your mouth with antimicrobial mouthwash or you can use warm salt water. There are also over the counter treatments available. Ask your dentist for more information.

What is a mouthguard & when should it be used?

A mouthguard is a plastic shield held in the mouth by an athlete to protect the teeth and gums. They can prevent injuries to your face and teeth. Most people benefit from wearing a mouthguard when playing a sport. You should wear one whether you are playing professionally or just on weekends. Do what you can to preserve your smile and your health. The best mouthguards are the ones custom-fitted by your dentist. This is especially important if you wear braces or other fixed dental appliances.

Ready-made mouthguards can be purchased at most drug stores or sporting goods stores. They are relatively inexpensive but they are also less effective.

No matter which type of mouthguard you choose, make sure you rinse it with water or mouthwash after each use. With proper care, it should last for several months.

Should I let my dentist know if I have diabetes?

Yes!

Many studies now link gum disease and diabetes. Research now shows people with diabetes have a higher than normal risk of periodontal diseases. If blood glucose levels are poorly controlled you may be more likely to develop gum disease and could potentially lose your teeth. As with all infections, gum disease can be a factor in causing blood sugar levels to rise making diabetes harder to control.

If you have diabetes, make sure to visit your Dentist regularly and follow all home care recommendations. If you notice any conditions such as dry mouth or bleeding gums be sure to talk with your dentist, as this may be a symptom of a bigger problem. It is also important to inform all medical personal of any changes in medications.

Is it safe to go to the dentist if I'm pregnant?

Yes!

Not only is it safe, it is recommended that you visit the dentist while you are pregnant. About 50% experience a condition called pregnancy gingivitis during their pregnancy. This can cause swelling, bleeding, redness or tenderness in the gum tissue.

Also, if you develop periodontal disease (a serious gum infection and inflammation of the gums and supporting bone structure) it may affect the health of your baby. Studies have shown that any inflammation in the body, including the gums, results in increased levels of certain hormones and inflammatory molecules in the bloodstream. These hormones and inflammatory molecules can trigger contractions in the uterine wall, leading to premature birth. In fact, pregnant women with periodontal disease may be 7 times more likely to have a baby that’s born too early and too small.

Can chemotherapy and/or radiation for cancer treatment affect my mouth?

Chemotherapy and Radiation can cause a number of problems in the mouth:

Pain
Mouth sores
Infection
Bleeding
Dry Mouth
Tooth Decay
Taste Changes
Fatigue
Malnutrition
Mouth and Jaw Stiffness
Swallowing Problems
Tissue and Bone Loss
Oral Mucositis (an inflammation of mucous membranes in the mouth)

It can be harder to control these problems while undergoing treatment because the immune system is generally compromised by the treatment(s). There are some special mouth rinses that can be prescribed to help with discomfort during treatment. It is important to visit your Dentist before treatment begins and then to continue with recommended follow-up care.

Why do I have to take antibiotics prior to my dental appointment?

There are certain medical conditions that require pre-medication with an antibiotic prior to dental treatment. These are generally prescribed to prevent adverse affects and infection that can be caused by bacteria that enter the blood stream during certain treatments. Your Dentist can give you more information to help you figure out if you are a candidate for antibiotics before your appointment.

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7690 Highway 72 West, #101 · Madison, Alabama 35758 · (256) 864-2739
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