Commonly Asked Dental Questions

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Commonly asked dental questions

1. Realistically, How Often Do I Need to Visit the Dentist?

Later in the blog, we’ll talk about what happens if you simply avoid the dentist altogether, but for now, we’ll answer exactly how often you should be in the dental chair.

Some people avoid it for years, decades even, and some people are extremely on top of going to the dentist. The former will tell you that they don’t need fancy dental care, that their toothbrush is enough, but the latter is the side that’s right.

The standard is that you’ll see your dentist twice yearly. Some people are lucky and don’t require as many visits, but the standard patient will need a cleaning every six months. Even if you’re extremely on the ball when it comes to your oral hygiene at home, your routine consisting of multiple rounds of brushing, flossing, and mouthwash per day, anyone and everyone is at risk for certain oral diseases and infection.

There are certain groups that are at a higher risk for developing infections, cavities, or moderate to severe gum disease. These people include:

  • People with current dental issues, or a history of them
  • People that are historically prone to cavities
  • Pregnant women
  • People that smoke
  • Diabetics

This high-risk group may find themselves in the chair more frequently than every six months, some as frequently as every 3 to 4 months.

If you aren’t high risk, you should be booking your hygiene appointments a minimum of twice per year. If you are high risk, have a conversation with your dentist about what schedule will work best for you and your specific needs!

2. What is a Cavity?

We’ve all heard of them, some of us have maybe even had them at one point, but what, exactly, are they?

A cavity is a hole that forms on the surface of the tooth. Based on brushing and cleaning habits, along with age, some people are more prone to them than others. They’re caused by the sugars and starches from our foods sticking to the surface of the teeth, and then beginning to eat away the enamel.

Cavities will be taken care of by your dentist in the way they see fit. There’s nothing uncommon or abnormal about getting them, but they aren’t something that will just go away, or resolve itself.

3. What is Gum Disease?

Like many other common dental problems, gum disease begins with plaque and the extreme build-up of it. If this plaque is not removed on a daily basis, it begins to harden between the teeth and gums and is then defined as tartar.

Tartar cannot be removed by flossing and brushing, and will eventually lead to infection. As the infection worsens, your gums may change colour, bleed, or become puffy. They may not be sore, but the impact can be very visual.

The infection can, when allowed to worsen, begin to break down the tissue. This can then result in tooth loss at its worst point.

4. What is the Best Way to Whiten my Teeth?

The thing about teeth whitening is that it will never be immediate. There’s no quick fix or one-time whitening treatment that will be able to accurately penetrate below the surface of the tooth to initiate a permanent colour change.

There are a million ways to whiten your teeth at home that you can read about, but none of them are long term, or as effective. The proven best way to whiten your teeth below the surface and retain that white smile is to have your dentist create custom whitening trays for you.

These are safer than any DIY remedies you may find online, or random products that weren’t prescribed by a professional. Your dentist will create trays that work for your teeth and instruct you on exactly how to use them.

Like we said before, a one-time treatment isn’t going to give you a perfect smile. While the whitening trays prescribed by your dentist will whiten your teeth permanently, teeth still naturally yellow as we age – there’s not much we can do about that. This means that you’ll need to reapply the treatment once every five years or so to maintain the desired colour of your smile.

When in doubt, always talk to your dentist about your options!

5. Why Do I Need X-Rays?

It’s no secret that these x-rays can be a pain, and almost seem to drag out your visit. The thing is, even if they prove to be a small annoyance, they are necessary for so many reasons!

When you come in for your hygiene appointments, your dentist wants to make sure you’re getting the best possible care. This means they’re going to do a complete examination to ensure you’re in optimal oral health – this complete examination includes x rays.

X-rays allow your dentist to see beyond just your teeth, gums, and the inside of your mouth. These radiographs allow your dentist to actually see between and inside your teeth, along with internal structures such as your roots and bone. None of these things are visible to the naked eye.

The main reasons you need x-rays are to check for infection, diseases, and other irregularities that may have an impact on your health. X-rays will check for:

  • Cavities
  • Cysts
  • Wisdom teeth/impacted or not impacted
  • Masses

These radiographs are a cautionary practice, and nothing more. Your dentist just wants to ensure you have the highest standard of care possible, so even if it’s a little uncomfortable, just try to bear with them.

6. Why Are My Teeth So Sensitive?

Tooth sensitivity is not at all uncommon, though it can be irritating. Many people find that when eating foods such as ice cream or consuming iced or hot drinks, the teeth can become irritated and bring you great discomfort.

Just so you don’t feel alone, almost 50% of the population suffers from some degree of tooth sensitivity.

Tooth sensitivity occurs when the natural enamel on your teeth has eroded and exposes something called ‘dentin’. Dentin is the dense, bony tissue formed beneath the enamel. Extremely hot, cold, or sweet things coming into contact with this tissue can cause great discomfort, even moderate pain.

If you’re wondering how this can occur, there are a few factors. Enamel can be destroyed by consuming a high amount of sugary or acidic foods, not being gentle enough when brushing your teeth, and excessively whitening or bleaching your teeth at home. Enamel does not come back on its own, so once it has been worn away, it’s extremely difficult to bring your teeth back to a ‘normal’ state.

If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, talk to your dentist. They’ll be able to make recommendations for how to live your life as comfortably as possible, and will most likely recommend a sensitive toothpaste to ease any discomfort.

7. Do I Need to Get My Wisdom Teeth Out?

Humans have begun to evolve – our mouths are getting smaller, and therefore, we have less room for the number of teeth we’re born with. Humans only have a need for 28 teeth, and yet, we’re born with 32.

However, just because we’re born with these unnecessary teeth, doesn’t mean they always have to be removed. Every case is different, each person’s dental situation completely unique. Some are even lucky enough to be born without their wisdom teeth!

The need to remove these extra teeth arises when they begin to enter the mouth, or “erupt”. This can cause pain or infection, which are the main reasons dental professionals will decide they need to be removed.

Your wisdom teeth can also be impacted, which means they will never protrude from the gum line, as they’re blocked by bone or other teeth. With impacted teeth, you may never feel any pain, or even be aware you have them. However, just because you may spend years being unaware of them, does not mean they won’t potentially cause you pain or discomfort in the future.

The short answer is, no, not everyone will need to. However, this isn’t a decision to make on your own – your dentist will decide whether or not the situation calls for it based on a thorough exam, and from there, you’ll be able to discuss options.

8. What Happens If I Just Don’t Go to the Dentist?

The reason going to the dentist is such a key factor in taking care of your overall health is because your dentist can remove certain things from your teeth that your hygiene routine simply can’t.

Regular teeth cleanings ensure that certain problematic things such as hardened plaque, tartar, and staining or discoloration are removed from the teeth. When you avoid your dental cleanings, you’re allowing your teeth to naturally decay, and develop a higher risk of getting cavities. You may also notice that your teeth are becoming increasingly yellow, or stained.

Cavities and tooth decay thrive beneath the built-up plaque and tartar on the surface of your teeth, and will only worsen with time. The only way to have these things properly removed and to ensure your teeth are entirely clean is to have a dental professional clean and polish the entirety of your mouth, and pay attention to these problem areas for you.

Gum disease is another issue that can transpire if teeth are left for too long without proper, professional care. Much like substantial build ups of plaque and tartar can build up on the surface of the teeth, it can also build up near the gum line to cause irritation. When the gums are irritated to the point where small pockets are formed, this allows more food, bacteria, plaque, and tartar to enter the gums, and eventually cause gum disease.