- What about amalgam fillings? Are they still used and do you replace existing ones?
We use porcelain or composite fillings for our patients and have for a number of years. Many patients still have amalgam fillings and if and when they require replacement we use the newer alternative materials. The controversy over the years surrounding amalgam fillings is in regards to mercury. It isn’t definitive whether mercury is a true safety concern or if it is harmless. The FDA had said any ties to diseases and autism, Alzheimer’s and MS is unfounded, but more recently has called for stricter regulations without sufficient evidence. In our practice, we take every precaution possible to ensure we meet and exceed safety guidelines and we use porcelain and composite for fillings.
- If I want to change the shape of my teeth what options do I have?
We can enhance the shape of teeth whether it is to close gaps, repair chipped or cracked teeth or have teeth appear longer. One way is by bonding, applying tooth-colored resin to the tooth surface and then harden it with a special light to “bond” it to the tooth. Crowns are another way to shape teeth. They are basically a cap that fits over the existing tooth, cemented into place and is visible above the gum line. Recontouring is another example of tooth shaping. And then there are veneers, thin translucent pieces of tooth-colored composite or porcelain are used to repair, strengthen and enhance the appearance of teeth. It is ideal for teeth that are chipped, cracked, stained or gapped.
- What are dental sealants?
Sealant is a thin plastic coating painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth (usually back molars) to protect enamel in the recesses or grooves. Studies have shown over the last two decades that the protective coating decreases tooth decay. This is ideal for children or people who are prone to cavities.
- Are dental x-rays safe?
The concern people have with x-rays is the exposure to radiation. Keep in mind that x-rays done at a routine dental exam expose a person to very low amounts of radiation, less than a day’s worth of typical background radiation from things like our TVs or spending time outside in the sunshine. Improvements in protective aprons and x-ray equipment allow for much less exposure to radiation than we had decades ago. X-rays allow dentists to see beneath the tooth’s surface and thus are the best diagnostic tool we have for identifying hidden tooth decay and periodontal disease. Uncovering problems before they become bigger is the goal. According to the ADA, how often a patient should have x-rays varies with age and history of tooth decay. The bottom line is that we do not want to do them unnecessarily.
- Can you just not use the drill?
The drill is used to create an opening and remove decay completely before filling and bonding the cavity. Drills are also used to remove plaque or old fillings. Most people’s fear is associated with the high-pitched sound of the drill and once a dentist begins the procedure, the patient is often able to relax as they soon realize it is harmless.
- Why is a teeth cleaning and checkup appointment necessary every 6 months?
Regular visits are so important because it is a preventative measure, avoiding problems before they start. We suggest twice a year, but if your teeth are in great condition and your habits are good then you might get by with once a year. We can usually catch small oral health issues before they become big issues. Many diseases and health conditions have symptoms that appear in the mouth so finding them early is essential to overall health.