Dental Hygiene & FAQs

DENTAL CLEANINGS

We recommend that patients see one of our hygienists at least twice a year for a thorough cleaning/scaling/polishing which includes a decay and gum disease assessment. Removal of the hardened tartar and stain on teeth and root surfaces is important because the rough and craggy surfaces harbor millions of potentially harmful and odorous bacteria. Our hygienists educate patients in all areas that might help alter habits to prevent cavities or gum and bone disease.  

SEALANTS

Sealants are composite materials laid onto the wrinkles and grooves of children's permanent molars, designed to keep the enamel of these surfaces cavity-free through the "cavity-prone" years (ages 6-18.) No tooth surface is drilled away or removed in this preventative procedure. Sealants greatly increase the chances of having few or no fillings for a lifetime.  Please ask for the American Dental Association pamphlet when you visit for more information on sealants.

FLUORIDE

We recommend and apply fluoride varnish to children's teeth at every cleaning appointment. Fluoride varnish is a sticky coating applied onto the enamel which remains in place until the teeth are brushed and flossed. It is a highly effective and safe procedure, greatly improved from former gels and foams. More fluoride is absorbed by the enamel of the teeth than with gels or foams and little to no fluoride is swallowed during the procedure. Recent studies suggest fluoride gels and foams are about 38% effective in preventing cavities and fluoride varnishes are 68% effective in preventing cavities.

Our goal is to have your child reach late adulthood with no fillings.

GUM AND BONE DISEASES AND NON-SURGICAL GUM TREATMENTS

The gums, ligaments, and bone around the teeth form the foundation for the teeth. These structures are also referred to as the periodontium. When the periodontium is not healthy, it jeopardizes the teeth just as a bad foundation threatens the stability of a building.

Signs of unhealthy periodontium (gum disease) may be as follows: gums that are red and bleed easily, persistent bad breath, gums that are pulled away from the teeth, loose teeth, and changes in the position or bite of the teeth.

Any of these signs may be an indication of moderate to severe gum disease: periodontitis.

With proper care and intervention, however, it is often possible to return gums to a healthy state.

The treatment of moderate to severe periodontitis involves a deep cleaning or root planing.  This is often done under a local anesthetic ("numbing".)

Depending on the location and extent of the periodontitis several sessions of root planing may be necessary. After root planing is complete the hygienist and Dr. Ference will assess the response to this first therapeutic step. Gums may be healthier and subsequently monitored with more frequent, regular cleanings (every three or four months.) After root planing some patients require additional treatments with Dr. Ference or a periodontist. In the most severe cases, surgery or tooth extraction may be necessary. As is obvious, periodontal disease is best treated at the first sign of a problem.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which type of toothbrush should I use?

A: For a manual or electric toothbrush, the most important quality of the brush is having "soft" or "extra-soft" bristles. Any other strength of bristle is harmful to gums and the root structure of teeth. During cleaning visits to our office, we provide our patients with a soft or extra soft bristle toothbrush for them to take home. The brand/style of manual brush is not critical as long as it is soft or extra soft. We do highly recommend electric toothbrushes. Clinical studies have proved that electric toothbrushes remove 35-40% more plaque than manual brushing. Again, it is essential that bristles are soft or extra soft.

Q: Is one toothpaste better than others?

A: Generally, no. We recommend using a fluoride toothpaste.

Q: At what age should I start bringing my child to the dentist?

A: Three years old is the ideal age for a child's first appointment. Your child will meet one of our hygienists and we take great care to make sure your child has a "fun" experience while he/she acclimates to the dental environment. In the first appointment, we count the teeth, polish them, talk to you and your child about brushing and flossing, and have Dr. Ference sit with them for an oral exam. Fluoride varnish may be administered at this first visit.

If you notice any issues with your child's teeth before three years of age please call for an appointment.

Q: Is "Tooth Whitening" or "Bleaching" Safe for my teeth?

A: Yes. The active ingredient in bleaching products is Hydrogen Peroxide. Over the counter products are of a lesser strength than the products administered in a dental office and produce extremely varied results. Dental offices, by law, prescribe, and supervise the use of stronger solutions that produce better and more predictable results.

Q: How often should I floss?

A: Flossing of the teeth once per day helps to prevent cavities from forming between the teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing also helps to keep gums healthy.

Q: What's the best kind of floss?

A: The easiest answer is, "The one you will use!" The best flosses are those that remove the most plaque and food debris from between teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. Dr. Ference prefers and recommends a thick floss or "tape" with a larger surface area, such as Johnson & Johnson Reach Dentoptape™. We also give samples of "slippery" types of flosses like Glide™  and Satin Floss™; and, for patients who might need flavor to motivate them to floss, we have flavored floss as well.

Q: Can Toothpicks, Softpiks, Plackers and other in-between the teeth cleaners replace flossing?

A: Almost all dental professionals consider floss wrapped between your fingers the "gold standard," when it comes to removing plaque from between teeth and keeping a healthy mouth. Flossers such as Plackers™ and the Johnson & Johnson Access™ can be effective. However, technique matters. The floss filament must be pushed and pulled against the side of the teeth to remove the plaque.  

Toothpiks and picks are considered to be an acceptable but less desirable alternative to flossing. Because of their non-pliable nature they cannot conform the pick to the rounded shape of the teeth. However, cleaning between the teeth is so critically important that daily use of picks still keeps a mouth healthier than merely brushing alone.

Q: Do I really need to have my teeth cleaned every six months?

A: Yes, you do, particularly if you are not a daily flosser. During the cleaning we are also checking for tooth decay, gum recession, gingivitis, loss of bone around the teeth, infection, and any indication of oral cancer. Studies conducted in the last twenty years suggest a strong link between the health of the mouth and the health of the heart.

Though most patients are well monitored with 2 cleanings a year, some patients require more frequent cleanings. We recommend whatever is necessary for you to maintain optimal oral health.

Q: What about "silver" fillings versus "white" fillings?

A: Although the U.S. Public Health Service issued a report in 1993 stating there is no health reason not to use amalgam (silver fillings), more patients today are requesting "white" or tooth-colored composite fillings. Dr. Ference also prefers tooth-colored composite fillings because they "bond" to the tooth structure and therefore help strengthen a tooth weakened by decay. White fillings are also usually less sensitive to temperature, and they look better. 

Q: I heard Dental X-rays are dangerous; I'm not sure I want them.

A: Dental x-rays emit far less radiation than any other kind of medical x-ray. Like any medical x-rays,  dental x-rays are a vital diagnostic tool. X-rays expose cavities, abscesses, cysts or tumors, and reveal the health of the bone around the teeth.

Our practice uses digital x-ray imaging, providing patients with the least amount of radiation possible in x-rays. Digital x-rays are the fastest and most up to date x-ray technology, providing quality x-ray diagnosis with the least amount of radiation exposure.      

We follow the American Dental Association current recommendations on dental x-ray exposure which means evaluating a patient's dental disease risk to decide the parameters in which we take their dental x-rays.

We are always happy to talk to our patients about dental x-rays and address any concerns.    

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