Frequently Asked Questions

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What should I do in case of a dental emergency?

Let’s face the facts: accidents happen, and especially when it comes to our teeth and mouths, they can be pretty frightening. Being careful is good prevention, but being prepared promises reassurance in any oral health emergency. 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:

Toothache/Sore Gums.

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 see your dentist if the pain persists.

Chipped Tooth.

Save the pieces, if you can, and rinse them thoroughly. 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. See your dentist as soon as possible.

Broken Tooth.

With recent advancements in restorative and cosmetic dentistry, you might not lose your tooth. If there’s enough remaining healthy tooth structure, Dr. Parikh can create a crown that will “grab onto” 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. Parikh as soon as possible—if treated within 2 hours, the tooth may be salvaged.

Soft Tissue Injuries.
Soft tissues such as gums, cheeks, lips, and the tongue tend to bleed heavily, only because the tissue contains a great deal of blood flow. To control the bleeding, first rinse with a warm, mild salt water solution. 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.

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 skilled dental professional are central to keeping teeth and gums looking, feeling, and functioning well. If you have gum disease, more frequent visits to the our office will probably be recommended for your oral and overall health.

During cleanings, plaque and calculus (more commonly known as tartar) are removed from teeth. Plaque is a sticky deposit on teeth in which bacteria grows, and tartar is basically calcified or hardened plaque, so it is more difficult to remove. When tartar builds up under the gumline, causing gum disease, more extensive treatment than a standard cleaning is needed to remove it and help ensure healthier gums. During a cleaning, teeth are also polished and flossed (partly to test the condition of gums, to see if they bleed), and any bleeding or stains are documented in the patient’s file.

Dental exams with a dentist make it so problems can be diagnosed and treated before they grow to be big, often painful and expensive. A typical exam includes a visual assessment of teeth and occlusion (bite), along with an appraisal of current restorations. When x-rays have been taken, Dr. Parikh will carefully review them to identify areas of decay and other possible areas of concern for cysts, tumors, and other disorders of the mouth. Panoramic x-rays are especially revealing and beneficial to this process. Dr. Parikh will perform a general screening for early detection of gum disease and oral cancer, as well.

In between cleanings and exams at our office, brushing teeth at least twice a day (in the morning and at night) is the most important thing you can do to take care of your teeth. Brushing after every meal is even better, if you can. If not, chewing sugar-free gum after meals can get food particles out of teeth. Additionally, clean between teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners, and remember to brush your tongue. Brushing your tongue, especially the back areas, can make a big difference in how clean your mouth feels and smells, and how clean it actually is. Restorations, such as bridges and partial dentures, should be cleaned thoroughly, too, just like natural teeth. Toothbrushes should be replaced every two to three months.

Should I replace my silver (amalgam) fillings with composite fillings?

Silver (amalgam) has been something of the “gold standard” of dental fillings for years, but recently, composite fillings have become a popular method. Dentists and patients have plenty of reasons to prefer composite fillings, but before you surrender your silver, consider some facts about fillings.

Silver fillings are durable, lasting on average at least 10 to 20 years, and they are very strong, making them ideal for use in the large back molars. They also tend to be less expensive than composite fillings, but usually require more invasive preparations. The biggest drawback to silver fillings is aesthetic, as they can cast a gray hue over the surface of a tooth. Silver fillings have gotten a bad reputation because of their mercury content, but the FDA and the ADA agree that there’s no proof that the compound has any adverse side effects. In fact, the mercury in amalgam fillings is only one component of a chemically stable alloy. Silver fillings have been used in dentistry for hundreds of years, and allergic reactions are rare.

Composite fillings, made out of a mixture of glass and quartz materials, provide a tooth-colored restoration that looks more like your natural tooth. Composite materials are also versatile and can be bonded (held adhesively) to teeth, which calls for less invasive preparation and leaves more healthy tooth structure beneath the filling. Compared to amalgam, composite fillings are slightly less durable and are better suited for teeth with light or moderate bite pressure, and they can take longer to place. Depending on your dentist and your insurance options, composite fillings can cost a bit more than amalgam.

Unless your dentist notices cracks or damages in your current fillings or expresses other concerns regarding your dental health, replacing silver fillings is a matter of personal preference.

How can I tell if I'm at risk for gum disease?

If you have gum disease, you’re not alone. Many U.S. adults currently have some form of the disease, ranging from gingivitis to serious periodontal conditions. The prevalence of gum disease increases with age, because as we age, our teeth wear down, our gums naturally recede, teeth can become more sensitive, and medications can affect some oral changes. If your gums feel tender or sore, or if they look red and swollen, you may be at risk for gum disease. Other signs include bleeding and/or receding gums, pain or sensitivity in your teeth (and even loose teeth, caused by weakening gum fibers and/or bone loss), and persistent bad breath. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss as well as various other health problems. More and more life-threatening illnesses are being linked to the presence of dental diseases.

The first thing to do is get a thorough dental evaluation. If you have any degree of periodontal disease, Dr. Parikh can help. She strongly believes in and focuses on the importance of healthy gums for a healthy mouth and body. Gum disease used to require surgery more often than not. While surgery is still an option and sometimes needed, many cases are now treated with less invasive techniques first, such as deep cleanings, local antibiotics, and special rinses. Please come in and let Dr. Parikh help you achieve and maintain healthier gums for a healthier you.

A couple of my teeth have been worn down and need to be replaced. Should I opt for crowns?

Crowns, often called “caps,” cover teeth to restore them to their appropriate shape and size after large fillings, fractures, and/or weakening forces such as intense grinding. In all of these cases, crowns not only cover teeth but provide added support as well. Crowns can also be used to attach bridges, cover dental implants, restore seriously discolored or misshapen teeth, and even as a preventive measure to protect a tooth in danger of breaking. Crowns can be made of all-porcelain (ceramic) material, porcelain fused to metal (for added strength), gold alloys (high noble), or base metal alloys (non-noble). Each of these restorative materials has its advantages and disadvantages. All-porcelain restorations most closely mimic natural tooth appearance. Their strength depends on adequate porcelain thickness, thus this material requires more extensive preparation. Porcelain fused to metal alloy restorations are tooth-colored and stronger than all-porcelain crowns. Gold alloy crowns are very strong and wear resistant. They are well tolerated in terms of biocompatibility, but metal colors do not match natural teeth. Base metal alloy crowns are similar to gold for strength and durability. However, allergy to the non-noble base metals may be an issue with some patients.

Crowns can be placed in as few as two appointments. For porcelain crowns, properly matching the aesthetics of teeth can take more visits but the natural looking cosmetic results are worth it to most patients. Crowns in general are very strong restorations, and they help to protect teeth. If a crown is placed before the tooth is so badly decayed or so weak that it fractures, the necessity of a root canal can often be preempted. This can also help prevent a broken tooth from becoming so bad that it needs to be removed, which would require a bridge or implant for restoration.

In light of their excellent restorative capabilities, crowns have few disadvantages. As they are more extensive restorations than fillings, their relative cost is higher. However, if Dr. Parikh recommends a crown it is because she want to help you keep your teeth healthy and looking good for years to come. The problems crowns help to prevent and repair offset the cost.

Also, while crowns are highly resistant, due to normal wear they will eventually need to be re-cemented or replaced. Six to nine percent of teeth that are damaged enough to need a crown may someday need a root canal.

My dentist told me I'm going to need root canal therapy. What should I know before my appointment?

Beneath the top layer of your tooth (the enamel) and the second layer (the dentin), there is a pulp, or nerve, which delivers sensations such as heat, cold, and pain to the brain. Whether from excessive decay or physical trauma, this nerve can become damaged, causing an abscess to form at the root of the tooth. If Dr. Parikh has recommended root canal therapy, know that it’s a procedure in which the diseased pulp is removed from an infected tooth to prevent further damage and tooth loss, and most importantly, to relieve your pain.

Symptoms of an infected root include severe toothaches, sensitivity, discoloration, and upraised lesions on your gums. X-rays and a thorough dental examination determines whether a root canal is your best option. Though root canal therapy has a reputation for being painful, the toothaches associated with an infected root are most likely causing you more pain than the treatment will. In addition, there are a number of ways to relieve pain and discomfort, including nitrous oxide and oral sedation.

The nerve is not vitally important for day-to-day function, so removing it will not affect your tooth—unless you count saving the tooth from total loss! In fact, allowing it to decay further can lead to more pain and bone loss. Usually, an over the counter pain medication takes care of immediate post-operative discomfort, and most patients return to normal activities the very next day. Root canal therapy is highly successful, and a tooth receiving the treatment can last you a lifetime. Especially when used in conjunction with a restoration (a crown or composite filling), no one will even notice a difference in your smile.

Am I a candidate for dental implant restorations?

Dr. Parikh 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, we have a permanent solution. Quickly becoming the preferred method of dental replacement, implants can give your smile a second chance. They are useful in denture stabilization, but they can also be used in conjunction with crowns, bridges, and in single-tooth replacements.

Permanent implants are not only more durable and longer-lasting than traditional tooth replacements, they also look and feel more like natural teeth. Most importantly, they function like natural teeth, so you can chew, talk, and smile with confidence again. Because the implant procedure allows for more of your healthy tooth structure to be saved, fixed implants can even prevent 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, they are best performed after adolescence, when the teeth and jaw bone are fully developed. Additionally, the implant procedure can be more complicated for individuals with periodontal (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. Parikh and her team informed and up-to-date about your entire medical history and dental habits.

Is professional teeth whitening safe?

You have a number of options when it comes to whitening your teeth. Depending on your schedule and your brightening expectations, you and Dr. Parikh can decide which is best for you. With in-office whitening procedures, you can get a brighter smile in just 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. With a special gel placed directly on your teeth, our in-office whitening procedure can take your smile multiple shades brighter. During this safe treatment of 15-minute sessions, you can watch TV, listen to music, or just relax. Afterwards, you’ll leave with immediate, long-lasting results. For the convenience of whitening in your own home, there are a variety of over-the-counter gels, strips, and toothpastes designed to whiten your teeth, but they contain less concentrated ingredients and can take up to a month to show results.

As far as safety goes, numerous studies have examined the effects of whitening and bleaching methods. Some products, including certain whitening toothpastes and take-home kits available from dentists, have been evaluated and approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). While having the ADA seal of acceptance is a good sign, many safe and effective products don’t have an ADA seal simply because their manufacturers did not seek one. Bleaching is not recommended for children under 16, as their teeth are still developing, and is also not recommended for women who are pregnant.

The most common side effects of teeth whitening, both the in-office and take-home varieties, are teeth and gum sensitivity. This sensitivity is usually temporary, and should subside soon after you’ve stopped using the product.