How often should I see the dentist?
Patients sometimes assume the six-month time frame for regular professional cleanings and exams is arbitrary, akin to getting your oil changed every 3,000 miles (when oil actually lasts more like 7,500 miles). But the timing of these dental appointments is anything but overscheduled.
The American Dental Association recommends patients should see their dentist every six months. This is because six months is about the time it takes for tartar to take hold in your usual spots, such as the inside of your lower front teeth. If left to continue to build, this tartar will begin to push under your gumline. This will cause the gum irritation known as gingivitis, and it is the beginning of gum disease.
But if we see you every six months at our offices on Old York Road, we can break the tartar loose from your teeth, keeping it at bay.
Also, when we see you twice every year, we can spot problems such as tooth decay when they are in the early stages and easy to address. It’s much easier to remove a small amount of decayed tooth material and place a composite filling than it is to attend to a tooth neglected for years with a root canal. And it’s a lot cheaper for the patient!
Why should I floss my teeth? Isn’t brushing enough?
You may have heard stories a couple years back asserting that a study showed flossing wasn’t necessary. The methodology of that study was flawed, to say the least.
While many people don’t floss every day, they do so at their own risk. Flossing is an easy process that takes maybe 30 to 45 seconds once a day. It is the only way to remove all the plaque and food particles that have built up between your teeth. Do you think your brushing is diligent enough to ensure bristles move effectively between every tooth? No. But dental floss will break up the plaque and remove any food that has lodged.
There is no downside to flossing. People make a much bigger deal out of it than they should considering they are messing with the health and longevity of their teeth.
I knocked out a tooth. Can it be saved?
When the family Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl involves a collision and you’ve knocked out two teeth, this is an emergency. The good news is that knocked out teeth can usually be saved, if the ligament can be kept alive.
The first thing to do is to retrieve the knocked-out tooth (or teeth) and handle it gently. When a tooth is knocked out the ligament attached is destroyed. For the tooth to survive, the tooth needs all the tiny nerve fibers to remain attached. Pick up the tooth by the crown (the part above the gumline). Don’t touch the root. Rinse it off with water. Don’t shrub it clean, and don’t remove any tissue fragments still attached — they can help to save the tooth. This sounds silly but try and put the tooth back in place. If it won’t stay in place, put the tooth in your mouth between your cheek and gums. This can also sound odd, but the saliva will help keep the tooth alive. If that’s not possible, store the tooth in cold, whole milk.
Contact us immediately, as there is a much better chance of saving the tooth if we can see you within the first few hours after it was dislodged.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is the clinical term for gum disease. It develops in stages. You don’t have healthy gums one day and the next you wake up with gum disease. Problems usually originate with poor home hygiene and a lack of regular professional cleanings and exams. If you don’t keep your teeth and gums clean, plaque builds up. Plaque is the sticky film on your teeth that is continually forming. You brush and floss and remove it, and new plaque immediately begins to form. That’s why home hygiene needs to be consistent. If it isn’t, plaque builds up on your teeth and it begins to move under your gums. This causes them to become inflamed. You’ve heard the term for this on TV commercials — gingivitis. All it really means is gum irritation. Your gums are still firmly anchoring your teeth, but they are red and beginning to bleed easily.
At this point, everything is reversible — you can step up your hygiene and come see us at McDowell Dental Group and all will be well. But if you let gingivitis progress, the plaque begins to become tartar and it moves under the gumline. This makes the gums begin to pull away from the teeth and form pockets. Now you’re entering full-blown gum disease, clinically known as periodontitis. As bacteria build up in these pockets, it starts to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold your teeth in place. Pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Your teeth begin to loosen and fall out. The end of gum disease is a mouth without any teeth.
How long can I expect the results from teeth whitening to last?
That depends on you. If your teeth became stained before by coffee and the like, they will become stained again. But you don’t have to give up that glass of red wine; when you feel your teeth are becoming a little dingy again, simply come back in and we’ll whiten them again. Or, if you have at-home trays, we’ll simply resupply your peroxide gel.
Home hygiene also makes a difference. Use a whitening toothpaste and brush twice daily for two minutes at a time. Plus, coming in for your twice-yearly professional cleanings with Dr. McDowell and out team is equally important to keeping your whites pearly.
What do bleeding gums mean?
You should use a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth, and it should not make your gums bleed. Flossing shouldn’t create widespread bleeding either.
Bleeding is the first sign that your gums need attention. Bleeding gums are irritated gums, meaning plaque and possibly tartar are starting to get under the gums. You may simply need to step up your home hygiene, which should include lightly brushing your gums along with your teeth. Or we may need to perform some gum scaling and gum planing to clear out the plaque and tartar.
Schedule Your Consultation With McDowell Dental Group Today!
If you would like to schedule a cosmetic dentistry consultation, please call our office at (215) 885-0555 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We provide patients with general and cosmetic dentistry services in Abington, Jenkintown, Horsham, Upper Dublin, Willow Grove, Lower Moreland, Bluebell and Philadelphia, PA.