How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?
You should schedule your routine Dental Care Appointments for at least twice a year. Dr. Merendino may prescribe a different number of Dental Care Appointments for you if you experience any levels of periodontal disease, or if you prefer to have outstanding preventative care and wish to have additional appointments with your hygienist.
Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in preventing dental problems and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. At these visits, your teeth are cleaned and checked for cavities. Additionally, there are many other things that are checked and monitored to help detect, prevent, and maintain your dental health. These include:
Medical history review: Knowing the status of any current medical conditions, new medications, and illnesses, gives us insight to your overall health and also your dental health.
Examination of diagnostic X-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
Gum disease evaluation: Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
Examination of tooth decay: All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.
Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
Removal of calculus (tartar): Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for sometime and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line, and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease!
Teeth polishing: Removes stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during toothbrushing and scaling.
Oral hygiene recommendations: Review and recommend oral hygiene aids as needed (electric dental toothbrushes, special cleaning aids, fluorides, rinses, etc.).
Review dietary habits: Your eating habits play a very important role in your dental health.
As you can see, a good dental exam and cleaning involves much more than simply checking for cavities and polishing your teeth. We are committed to providing you with the best possible care, and to do so, will require regular check-ups and cleanings.
How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease)?
Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don’t know it! Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages. Unlike tooth decay, which often causes discomfort, it is possible to have periodontal disease without noticeable symptoms. Allow our team to complete your dental check-ups and periodontal examinations and this will help detect if periodontal problems exist.
Periodontal disease begins when plaque, a sticky, colorless, film of bacteria, food debris, and saliva, is left on the teeth and gums. The bacteria produce toxins (acids) that inflame the gums and slowly destroy the bone. Brushing and flossing regularly and properly will ensure that plaque is not left behind to do its damage.
Other than poor oral hygiene, there are several other factors that may increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:
Many medications – Steroids, cancer therapy drugs, blood pressure meds, oral contraceptives. Some medications have side affects that reduce saliva, making the mouth dry and plaque easier to adhere to the teeth and gums.
Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and puberty – Can cause changes in hormone levels, causing gum tissue to become more sensitive to bacteria toxins.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.
What are porcelain veneers and how can they improve my smile?
Porcelain veneers are very thin shells of tooth-shaped porcelain that are individually crafted to cover the fronts of teeth. They are very durable and will not stain, making them a very popular solution for those seeking to restore or enhance the beauty of their smile.
Veneers may be used to restore or correct the following dental conditions:
- Severely discolored or stained teeth
- Unwanted or uneven spaces
- Worn or chipped teeth
- Slight tooth crowding
- Misshapen teeth
- Teeth that are too small or large
Getting veneers usually requires two visits. Veneers are created from an impression (mold) of your teeth that is then sent to our professional dental laboratory where each veneer is custom-made (for shape and color) for your individual smile.
With little or no anesthesia, teeth are prepared by lightly buffing and shaping the front surface of the teeth to allow for the small thickness of veneers. The veneers are carefully fitted and bonded onto the tooth surface with special bonding cements and occasionally a specialized light may be used to harden and set the bond.
Veneers are an excellent dental treatment that can dramatically improve your teeth and give you a natural, beautiful smile.
What can I do about stained or discolored teeth?
Since teeth whitening has now become the number one aesthetic concern of many patients, there are many products and methods available to achieve a brighter smile.
Our practice offers ZOOM Whitening, which is a one hour treatment in which patients achieve dramatic results, typically improving tooth color by multiple shades lighter. This is an excellent, convenient option for our patients.
Our practice also offers custom made bleach trays, created in the office the same day you are scheduled. These trays offer flexibility as you can whiten your teeth when it is convenient for you on a daily basis. This is an option that provides gentle, gradual whitening over a period of time.
Dr. Merendino would love to assist you in your dental whitening needs, and discuss with you the best options to achieve the perfect smile!
What are my options if I have missing teeth?
If you are missing teeth, ask what options are available to you. Dr. Merendino will customize the best replacement option for your particular case. Prevention and early treatment are always less involved and less costly than delaying treatment and allowing a serious problem to develop.
Implants - Are a great way to replace one or more missing teeth. They can also provide great support for ill-fitting dentures. A dental implant is an artificial root that is surgically placed into the jaw bone to replace a missing tooth. An artificial tooth is placed on the implant, giving the appearance and feel of a natural tooth. Implants are very stable, durable, and are the most aesthetically pleasing tooth replacement option.
Removable bridges - This type of bridge is a good solution for replacing one or more missing teeth, especially in complex dental situations where other replacement options are not possible. They are usually made of tooth-colored, artificial teeth combined with metal clasps that hook onto adjacent natural teeth. Removable bridges are the most economical option for replacing missing teeth but might be the least aesthetically pleasing. This is because the metal clasps on the appliances are often impossible to completely conceal.
Fixed bridges - This type of bridge is generally made of porcelain or composite material and is permanently anchored (cemented) to a natural tooth adjacent to the missing tooth site. The benefit of this type of bridge is that it is fixed (not removable), and it is very sturdy. The disadvantage is that in order to create a fixed appliance, two healthy, natural teeth will have to be crowned (capped) to hold the bridge in place.
Dentures - This type of tooth replacement is used when most or all of the natural teeth are missing in one dental arch. Dentures are removable artificial teeth that are made to closely resemble the patient’s original teeth.
Are amalgam (silver) fillings safe?
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), up to 76% of dentists use silver containing mercury to fill teeth. The ADA also states that silver fillings are safe and that studies have failed to find any link between silver containing mercury and any medical disorder.
The general consensus is that amalgam (silver) fillings are safe. Along with the ADA’s position, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization, the FDA, and others support the use of silver fillings as safe, durable, and cost effective. The U.S. Public Health Service says that the only reason not to use silver fillings is when a patient has an allergy to any component of this type of filling.
Although studies indicate that there are no measurable health risks to patients who have silver fillings, we do know that mercury is a toxic material when we are exposed at high, unsafe levels. For instance, we have been warned to limit the consumption of certain types of fish that carry high levels of mercury in them. However, with respect to amalgam fillings, the ADA maintains that when the mercury combines with the other components of the filling, it becomes an inactive substance that is safe.
Although silver fillings are extremely durable and long lasting there are numerous alternatives, including composite (tooth-colored), porcelain, and gold fillings. We encourage you to discuss these options with Dr. Merendino so you can determine which option is best for you.
Many patients choose to have composite (tooth-colored) fillings for cosmetic purposes as well.