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One of our core values is respect for our patients. We think you deserve to have all the answers when it comes to your dental care, and we are happy to provide those to you. No question is too small or too silly. If it's important to you, it's important to us!
We've collected some of the questions we hear most often and posted answers for you. Take a look and see if your question has been addressed here. If not – or if you'd like more information – go ahead and give us a call! We're happy to hear from you and help you out.
Preventive Dental Care
Pregnancy is very hard on a woman’s teeth and gums. The gums can be quite sensitive to changes in hormone levels. Some women experience a phenomenon called Pregnancy Gingivitis in which the gums are red and puffy and bleed easily. Women may also experience Pregnancy Tumors on the gums. These are bulbous, red, raw-looking tissue growths or swellings between the teeth that tend to occur during the second trimester. Both of these conditions are typically monitored during the pregnancy and go away on their own following the baby’s birth.
How Pregnancy Can Affect Dental Health
Pregnancy can cause women to eat more frequently during the day and to have strong cravings, sometimes for foods high in sugar. This increased frequency of food intake means the pH in the mouth stays acidic for longer periods of time. This is particularly true in the case of high-sugar foods and snacks. Tooth decay starts more easily and progresses more quickly in an acidic environment because the acid softens the enamel of the tooth. Chewing sugarless or xylitol (xylitol is a sugar that kills cavity-causing bacteria) gum following meals helps stimulate saliva flow to buffer the acidity more quickly.
How Morning Sickness Affects Teeth
Pregnancy can also cause morning sickness for protracted periods of time. This exposes the teeth to stomach acid, which is extremely destructive to tooth enamel. Many women experience vomiting while getting ready for work, or at the workplace, which necessitates immediately brushing their teeth following vomiting. Ideally, you should rinse with a mixture of 1tsp baking soda in 8oz of water to neutralize the acid and then wait for 1 hour before brushing your teeth. This allows the compounds in your saliva to re-mineralize (or re-harden) the enamel before brushing.
It is also important to remember that tooth decay is a contagious disease. The bacteria that cause tooth decay are typically transferred from primary caregiver to the baby between the ages of 19 and 31 months. If the primary caregiver has active decay, they will have more bacteria and this transfer is likely to happen earlier, which puts your baby at higher risk for decay of baby and adult teeth.
Dark spots can be caused by many things, some of which include developmental enamel defects, deep grooves, stain, erosion of the enamel, a chip in the tooth, and decay.
Dr. Gray can take a close look at your tooth and determine what is causing the dark spot and discuss options for how to address it. By the time a cavity is visible as a dark spot on your tooth, it is already quite advanced, and has been growing for a long time (even though it may not hurt or cause sensitivity).
Contact Our Office
Any time you are concerned about a dark spot, call and make an appointment for an evaluation. If we catch a cavity soon enough, we may be able to repair the tooth with a filling. If it continues to grow larger, a root canal treatment and crown may be needed to save the tooth. Bear in mind that there is always the possibility that our exam will reveal that the dark spot is not a cavity and you can stop worrying about the tooth!
We will treat you the same way we treat patients who have been coming to see us every six months year-after-year.
Sometimes life plays out in ways that prevent us from doing certain things we ought to do--we understand. Our point of view is that we’re happy you made the decision to have your oral health evaluated. We’re here to understand your priorities, present our findings by telling you what we see during our exam, and provide you with the information you need to make decisions about how you want to move forward with your dental care.
If your cancer involves the head, neck, or throat, it is essential to discuss with your oncologist how treatment can be provided in a way which spares the salivary glands from radiation. If the salivary glands are destroyed by radiation, severe dry mouth can result, which puts you at very high risk for rampant tooth decay.
If your treatment will involve bisphosphonates, you must see a dentist before starting treatment.
Once bisphosphonates enter your system, there is some risk of jaw bone problems following certain dental procedures. Even without undergoing any dental procedures, areas of the jaw bone can begin to die due to the bisphosphonates, so it is important to schedule regular visits with your dentist for observation.
Dental Treatment During Cancer
In the case of any cancer, it is possible that you may be treated with radiation and/or chemotherapy. The side effects of these medications can cause dry mouth, prevent you from taking care of your teeth the way you did before treatment, cause frequent vomiting, and change the types of food you eat.
Dry mouth allows cavities to form and grow very quickly (See FAQs Why is dry mouth so destructive? and What should I do about dry mouth?). Frequent vomiting softens and damages tooth enamel, leading to decay and erosion. It is important to see your dentist regularly during your treatment and use of high-fluoride toothpaste or fluoride trays can be highly beneficial to prevent dental problems during treatment.
It’s difficult to know without examining the tooth. Sometimes front teeth that have been bumped or subjected to trauma can darken in shade. It is important to have these teeth evaluated because root canal treatment may be needed to prevent further damage to the tooth. This damage is called root resorption, and If left unchecked, the tooth may be lost.
Address Dental Decay
Front teeth can also start to turn black due to decay. This is a serious situation which needs to be addressed immediately. Although the decay is extensive and has caused severe destruction of the tooth by the time the tooth starts turning black, these teeth can often still be saved if they are treated right away.
Please bring your insurance card and/or any additional insurance information you may have to your appointment. If you are having dental records transferred from a previous office, please make these arrangements at least one week prior to your appointment to ensure the office has time to prepare and send the records before your first appointment with us.
We encourage you to save time the day of your appointment by printing forms from our Forms page. Please print, read, and fill out the forms and bring them with you to your appointment. If you're concerned about forgetting them, feel free to fax or mail them to us.
If you would prefer to complete the forms at our office, please plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before your reserved appointment. This provides you with a chance to fill out the necessary paperwork and ask any questions you may have for our office coordinator. It allows us to see you on time and spend the entire allotted appointment time focusing on you and your dental health.
We have coffee, wireless internet, and a variety of magazines available so you can relax or check your email during any free moments.
Dr. Gray and his entire staff are world-class in professionalism, skill, courtesy, friendliness, and care. They're the best. ~ Gus, Salado
Dry mouth is not only uncomfortable but can also lead to severe decay very quickly. There are a number of ways to alleviate dry mouth symptoms and a few things to absolutely avoid while experiencing dry mouth.
How to Alleviate Symptoms of Dry Mouth
- Keep a water bottle with you and sip water.
- Use Biotene Dry Mouth rinse.
- Use lozenges such as Salese (http://salesedrymouth.com/) or other similar products made with xylitol (xylitol is a sugar that kills cavity-causing bacteria) to stimulate saliva flow.
- Discuss your medications with your doctor and consider substituting one or more medications that cause dry mouth with a different brand or formulation. Everyone experiences different side effects from different medications. Even if all the available medications for a given condition list dry mouth as a side effect, you may find that one medication causes severe dry mouth and another does not.
- Consider a prescription medication such as Pilocarpine HCl or Cevimeline HCl. These medications are categorized as sialagogues and stimulate the salivary glands. If you have cardiovascular disease, discuss this option with your cardiologist, as these medications can affect cardiovascular function.
- Supplemental fluoride does not help the symptoms of dry mouth, but it will help prevent decay, which can happen rapidly in dry mouth conditions (See FAQ “Why is dry mouth so destructive”).
Things to Avoid with Dry Mouth
- Do NOT expose your teeth to sugar (avoid soda, lemonade, tea with sugar, candy, gum, mints, or anything else with natural sugar). Research has shown that most synthetic sugars do not significantly increase tooth decay, but xylitol is by far the best sweetener in the case of dry mouth.
- Use a mouthwash that does not contain alcohol. Alcohol has an additional drying effect on oral tissues and can make your mouth feel even drier.
Dr. Gray is sincerely dedicated to providing comprehensive, high-quality dental care with compassion and a personal touch. He believes each patient is an individual with different dental needs and degrees of comfort with dental treatment.
Thorough Dental Exam
In order to provide patient-specific dental care, Dr. Gray determines which radiographs will be needed to effectively diagnose any dental conditions. Then he reviews your health and dental histories and performs a thorough exam of the gums and teeth. Once the exam is completed, a treatment plan is provided to each patient.
From this starting point, Dr. Gray discusses the status of a patient’s oral health and outlines options for treatment to address specific problems. This format allows patients to have questions answered and actively participate in decisions about their dental care in a low-pressure, comfortable setting, one on one with the doctor.
Comfortable Dental Office
Dr. Gray places a premium on patient relationships and doing high-quality work. His relaxed office environment, willingness to spend time with patients, and exceptional staff, who are dedicated to treating patients with the respect and care they deserve, provide a distinctive dental care experience.
Dental radiographs (x-rays) allow us to examine parts of the teeth we cannot see. They are considered part of the standard of care for the dental profession. This means we are required to take radiographs periodically to ensure we are accurately diagnosing decay, bone loss, and other conditions.
We are sensitive to patients’ preference for limited exposure to x-rays, and we will discuss a frequency of dental radiographs appropriate for your condition and consistent with the American Dental Association guidelines. We have also made a substantial investment in digital radiography (allowing us to reduce the amount of radiation used by 70% compared to film). We always use beam collimation and lead aprons with neck shields to ensure the minimal amount of exposure to patients. In fact, individuals in the United States who work with radiation as part of their profession are allowed a maximum dose per year of 50,000 microsieverts. A typical dental radiograph exposes patients to only 5 microsieverts. Average background radiation during a single day is 10 microsieverts. There's no way to prevent all exposure, but you can see that we take all available measures to reduce it to very minimal amounts.
Cavities are caused by acid. The most common source of destructive acid is bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria metabolize sugar and produce acid as a byproduct. This is why sugar exposure and high bacterial loads put people at high risk for cavities.
How Saliva Protects Your Teeth
Saliva contains buffering compounds that counteract the acid and help the pH of the mouth remain neutral. Without saliva, the pH stays acidic for much longer periods of time, and the longer the teeth are exposed to acid, the more likely they are to develop cavities.