FAQ - General Questions

Who's Who in the Dental Office?
The dentist is a licensed health professional with the knowledge and diagnostic training and skill to examine your mouth and to recommend and carry out treatment, including prescribing medications, and to advising you on all aspects of oral health.

The dental hygienist is a licensed professional who cleans your teeth and instructs you in home care and oral hygiene. Hygienists are qualified to do preliminary assessments of your dental health.

The dental assistant is trained to help the dentist in examinations and treatment. Assistants may take radiographs (X-rays) as well, although the dentist must interpret them.

The dental receptionist usually schedules appointments, takes care of billings and payments and generally manages the flow of patients through the office.

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What can I do in the case of a dental emergency?
Here are some tips for common dental problems:

Broken or chipped tooth: Save the tooth parts and see your dentist.
Abscessed tooth or gum: Take a pain reliever and see your dentist.
Toothache or lost filling: Take   a pain reliever and see your dentist.
Broken crown: Save the pieces of the crown and see your dentist.
Broken wire on braces: Cover the end of the wire with wax or gauze and see your orthodontist or dentist.
Knocked-out tooth: Pick up the tooth by the crown, not the root. Rinse the tooth lightly with water or saline solution (e.g. contact lens solution) and try to replace the tooth. For best chance of survival, the tooth should be replaced within 20 minutes of being knocked out. If you cannot replant the tooth, store it in saline or milk or hold it in your mouth. Whether or not you are able to replant the tooth, see a dentist as soon as possible.
Bleeding gums: May be a sign of gum disease. See your dentist.
Fractured jaw: Immobilize the jaw and go immediately to your dentist or hospital emergency room.

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Why does my mouth always feel dry?
A dry mouth is a side effect of many medications. Many women also experience a dry mouth after menopause. A dry mouth is uncomfortable and may cause problems with the teeth and gums. See your dentist if you feel your mouth is dry.

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What does it mean if one of my teeth feels loose?
Loose teeth can be caused by a blow to the mouth or by gum disease. See your dentist when you notice a loose tooth.

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I can't seem to get rid of my bad breath. What does this mean?
Persistent bad breath can be caused by food, drinking, smoking, fad diets, some medications, gum disease or other health problems. If you are carefully brushing and flossing daily and still have bad breath, see your dentist.

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Are dental X-rays safe?
Dental x-rays are designed to be safe to patients. In addition, dentists protect you in 3 ways:

  1. X-ray equipment targets the location of the x-ray exactly. High-speed film and precise timers shorten exposure time. Equipment is checked routinely for effective and safe operation.
  2. A leaded apron and collar are used to act as an effective barrier to the small amount of scattered radiation that comes from x-rays.
  3. Dental staff are trained and certified to take x-rays.

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What is the difference between mouthguards I get from my dentist and ones I get at the store?

Custom-made mouthguards provide the maximum protection for your teeth. Have them fitted by a dentist or at a mouthguard clinic sponsored by local dental or dental hygiene societies or health units. Since they are custom-fitted, mouthguards need to be replaced periodically for growing children!

Boilable mouthguards are fitted at home. They are bulky and may cause problems with speech or breathing during play. Never fit one of these mouthguards over braces or other oral appliances without consulting a dentist.

Use a face shield or cage and a mouthguard for maximum protection. Mouth protectors should not be tampered with or adjusted at home. A dentist should make necessary alterations.

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Why does my dental insurance company say I can get my teeth cleaned every nine months instead of every six?

Dental insurance is actually a pre-payment plan between your employer or union and the insurance company. Your employer or union hires an insurance company to provide benefits to the employees and its company covers some of the costs of the dental bills. The insurer says to the union/employer: for "X" dollars I can give you package "A" that covers the procedures in that package. The insurer does not know what type of treatment you need and does not pay the dental bills. Insurance is there to help you cover some of the cost of your dental treatment, not to cover whatever treatment you need.

In your insurance package, certain procedures may be covered a certain number of times per year. This is an arbitrary number and most of the time has no scientific basis. The number of visits you need to keep your teeth and gums healthy may be very different from what your friends and relatives need. Your friend may need dental visits every three months while you may need them every twelve. Because children develop cavities faster than adults do, dentists recommend that they visit the dentist every six months. If your plan covers visits every nine months, that's because your employer/union wants to decrease the usage rate of the plan - they would like to decrease their costs.

If your insurer does not agree to pay for certain treatments this does not mean that you don't need them. It only means that in the agreement between the insurer and the employer/union all parties agreed not to cover those treatments.

You should ask your dentist what treatment is best for you and how often you should receive dental care to keep your smile good for life!

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Why is my dentist recommending fillings or other treatment when I don't notice anything wrong?

When your dentist examines your mouth he or she can see several things that you can't, including:

  1. deterioration in fillings, crown and other restorations
  2. root cavities (decay on roots of teeth exposed by receding gums and bone loss)
  3. periodontal pockets caused by gum disease
  4. new decay under the gumline
  5. cavities under existing fillings
  6. hairline tooth cracks
  7. impacted wisdom teeth
  8. early signs of gum disease

These may be present without you noticing any significant pain or other symptoms. Waiting until you feel pain may result in the loss of teeth because decay or bone loss may be too extensive to be treated.

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Is oral piercing OK?

Not exactly. Oral piercing has become much more common, but here's what you should keep in mind before having it done. In most cases, the person doing the piercing has no special medical training and may not know where the large nerves and blood vessels are in the tongue or lips. Also, some piercing studios may not be properly sterilizing their instruments. You may be risking serious infection, blood-borne disease transmission (including hepatitis, HIV and others) that can be life-threatening, nerve damage, loss of sensitivity, gum infection, bone loss around your teeth or serious tooth fractures for which you may need root canal treatment or extractions. An infection in the tongue can spread to the rest of your body very easily and lead to toxic shock syndrome or blood poisoning. If you insist on having a tongue piercing, keep it spotlessly clean and remove the barbell or ring at night and brush it as you would your teeth.

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Do I need to take supplemental flouride?

Fluoride is a natural element that is commonly found in trace amounts in food. In your body, the fluoride gets deposited in all growing bones and teeth which will become stronger and more resistant to decay. If your community has a fluoride content in the water supply of one part per million, you don't need to take supplemental fluoride. If you use a water filter at home, you may be removing all the fluoride and not getting any of its benefits. Also, if you use bottled water for drinking or cooking, it may not contain fluoride. The Public Health Unit can tell you where you can have your water tested for fluoride content and if you need additional fluoride, your dentist can give you the necessary prescription.

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