Frequently asked questions for your dentist – Answers to questions our patients ask
1. Information about whitening your teeth
If you are looking to whiten your smile, Dr. Christopher Naranjo and his team at Greenbelt Dental Health in Austin, Texas, can educate you on the available options. He is pleased to offer two primary types of whitening, including the in-office treatment and our take-home whitening kits with custom-made trays that fit over the dental arch to administer bleaching treatment. The whitening option performed in our practice is done within two hours and includes a thorough cleaning and a peroxide to remove stains and discoloration from the surfaces of the natural tooth enamel. This treatment will provide whitening that is several shades whiter.
Alternatively, some patients may consider gradual whitening, and can take advantage of the custom trays and at home whitening kits. These are used per the dentist’s instructions to brighten teeth over several weeks and can be used regularly to maintain the results over time. Some patients will pair our in-office power bleaching with take-home trays for the best results.
There are several advantages to using a professional teeth whitening treatment at our office. Professional teeth whitening:
- Offers the most dramatic and immediate results with our in-office treatment
- Performed at home can be just as effective but takes a little more time
- Can be combined for a more pronounced improvement in the stains and discoloration of the smile
- Reduces the risk of complications often seen with non-professional whitening systems, such as tooth sensitivity or irritation of the gum tissues
Our in-office professional whitening treatment is a costlier option than out of office treatments, but it provides immediate results and is performed under the care of our team. Alternatively, our take-home trays take several weeks to get results, and the improvements will vary depending on compliance.
As with any treatment for the body, some inherent risks always exist. This is true for professional teeth whitening treatments as well. We advise patients to consider the following factors before opting for teeth whitening treatment at our office:
- The teeth or gums may become sensitive due to the solution used to brighten the smile and may need to be discontinued if problems develop.
- Teeth whitening services do not affect dental restorations such as dental crowns, dental veneers, or dental bridges. Patients serious about maintaining a whiter smile over time may need to replace these to match their new smiles.
- Patients who are not mindful of the foods they eat and the beverages they drink may find their teeth staining faster after being whitened. We educate patients on foods and drinks that can affect their whitening treatment, such as soda, tea, coffee, red wine, and red or purple berries. Patients might also consider regular whitening if they indulge in these items regularly.
2. Information on periodontal disease
Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection sometimes referred to by its stage, such as gingivitis for the earlier stage and periodontitis in the later stages. When this condition develops, the body will react by starting an inflammatory process to try and protect the involved tissues – leading to gum recession and bone loss. This inflammation occurs in the mouth but can affect other parts of the body, like the cardiovascular system, leading to increased risks of heart disease. It is critical that Austin, Texas, area patients maintain routine dental visits with the team at Greenbelt Dental Health to monitor their oral health and wellness and catch conditions like this in their earliest stages.
There are a few warning signs that may develop in the earlier stages of periodontal disease that may indicate this condition has started. This includes:
- Bleeding gums when brushing and flossing
- Persistent bad breath
- Receding or puffy gum tissues
- Loose teeth
- Shifting in bite alignment
You should not feel ashamed if you have been diagnosed with gum disease. In fact, studies show that approximately 50% of patients aged 30 and above have this infection to some extent. However, this doesn’t mean it should be ignored and left untreated to cause further damage to the teeth and gums.
It has been found that there is a strong correlation between the extent of inflammation in the gum tissues and inflammation in the arteries around the heart and neck. Inflammation in the arteries is considered dangerous as it can lead to further medical issues such as heart attacks and strokes.
If you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, now is the time to work with an experienced dental provider to get appropriate treatment and bring your natural smile back to health as soon as possible. Our team will perform a thorough physical examination and monitor blood pressure at each appointment. Patients will want to be especially diligent if they have a history of early death from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol in the family. Genetic testing, lifestyle changes, and medication may be recommended in situations like this to keep the body’s health in check.
Concerns regarding periodontal disease should always be brought to your dentist’s attention. Your dentist will educate you on proper home care of the smile, along with an effective schedule for dental cleanings. Salivary testing may also be done to assess one’s risks of inflammation and to look for oral bacteria pathogens. If the inflammation has developed, it may require the help of a dentist to alleviate the issue. Therapies suggested for patients with periodontal disease may include ozone therapies, laser decontamination, and molecular iodine. Treating periodontal disease will not only save your smile, but it may save your life!
Non treatment of periodontal disease can result in uncontrollable periodontitis that can lead to bone loss and tooth loss. It can ultimately affect your ability to speak, eat, and confidently smile. Additionally, there are clear connections between periodontal disease and other diseases and chronic issues throughout the body, including an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. In women who are pregnant, it can also result in both preterm delivery and low birth weights.
3. Information on the use of nightguards
Our team at Greenbelt Dental Health of Austin, Texas, describes the nightguard as an appliance made of composite or acrylic worn at night to protect the teeth while one sleeps. It can help balance the jaw joints and protect teeth from clenching and grinding caused by bruxism.
When you have bite disorders like bruxism, which causes unconscious clenching and grinding of the teeth, you may benefit from using a nightguard. Other conditions, such as temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD, may also be remedied using a nightguard, protecting the teeth from wear and reducing muscle pain.
This oral appliance is made using digital impressions of your teeth to ensure a custom fit. They are fabricated with acrylic or composite materials in a certified dental laboratory. When the final nightguard arrives at Greenbelt Dental Health, we have you come back into the office for a try in appointment. This appointment allows our team to adjust and balance it to ensure the new appliance fits properly and supports the jaw and bite alignment.
At first, your nightguard may feel uncomfortable and bulky. As you get used to wearing the nightguard, you’ll notice improved sleep within a few weeks. Your dentist can help you learn how to ensure proper fit and function and will advise you to visit if the device is causing discomfort or issues after a month of daily use.
Nightguards are to be worn each night unless advised otherwise by our dental team.
Caring for your new appliance is easy. Using baking soda and a toothbrush, you can brush your appliance and rinse with warm water. When not using your nightguard, keep it in the container that it is to be stored in. If you have any staining on your nightguard, you can resolve this by soaking it in a solution of half white vinegar and half water for a day. We also encourage you to bring your nightguard to your routine dental appointments to examine it, clean it, and ensure it works as directed.
Not using your nightguard will increase the risk of issues that brought about the need for the nightguard in the first place. Most patients will experience unwanted wear of their teeth, increased tooth sensitivity, jaw pain, and adjustments to their bite if they fail to use their nightguard as directed by our dental team.
4. Information on natural oral remedies
A toothache is a pain that occurs when a tooth gets infected, fractured, or has nerve irritation. When this happens, it may be a sign of a more serious issue that needs to be evaluated by our dentist at Greenbelt Dental Health. We invite patients to our practice to address emergency dentistry situations like this.
- Clove oil. Clove oil contains eugenol, which can function as a natural anesthetic.
- Oregano oil. Oregano oil can reduce pain and swelling and can be diluted with jojoba or coconut oil. It can be applied to an abscessed tooth for several minutes a couple of times a day.
- Turmeric and ginger. Turmeric and ginger can be taken as a supplement to regular body inflammation and can be an option for alleviating severe toothaches.
Often, infection is the cause of bleeding gums. This is often an earlier sign of conditions like periodontal disease, which needs to be diagnosed and treated to successfully resolve. In the meantime, there may be a few home remedies and supplements to consider to take the edge off.
There are a few things to consider when getting treatment for periodontal disease. You may want to ask our team about using salt water rinsing, oil pulling, aloe vera, and certain supplements to reduce inflammation and eliminate bacteria in the mouth that can contribute to gum disease progression.
5. Information on what to do about a cracked tooth
A cracked tooth is when the structure of a tooth is fractured, either partially or completely. It is often caused by breakage due to impact, such as trauma to the face or mouth, or when chewing extremely hard objects. Sometimes, cracked teeth may start with a small fracture but can experience deepening with time, leaving patients at risk of infection and the need for procedures such as root canal therapy to save the tooth from extraction.
Everyone is susceptible to cracked teeth, though some patients may be more susceptible than others due to the following factors:
- Deep dental fillings that leave significantly less tooth structure remaining
- Previously placed large dental amalgam fillings
- Participation in high-impact sports like football, boxing, and hockey
- Individuals who have bruxism, which causes clenching and grinding of the teeth
- Patients who use their teeth as tools to open items or chew ice cubes
Our dentist at Greenbelt Dental Health in Austin, Texas, may make certain recommendations to help you protect your smile from damage. Some tips include:
- Wearing a sports mouthguard when participating in high-impact sports
- Using a nightguard or oral appliance to protect from grinding and clenching of the teeth
- Avoiding using your teeth as tools
- Having any old fillings replaced regularly
- Ensuring your bite is adjusted with the help of a dentist
- Having dental crowns placed over weak and susceptible teeth
- Aligners to help align and distribute bite evenly and improve chewing function
There are complications that can arise in the event you have a cracked tooth and don’t seek treatment. The crack will likely deepen with time and may result in more breakage to the natural tooth structure. A crack can also leave the dental pulp inside the tooth exposed and susceptible to the entrance of bacteria and the start of an infection. Root canal therapy might be needed to save the tooth, or extraction may occur.
6. Information about dental implants
The dentist at Greenbelt Dental Health describes dental implants as tooth root replacements. These special metal posts are placed into the jawbone during oral surgery to replace a missing tooth or support a full denture. Depending on the number of implants used, patients can replace a single tooth in the smile or the entire arch of teeth with this restoration. The whole process takes up to six months as the implant integrates into the jawbone during a process called osseointegration.
Most dental implants are made of titanium or a titanium alloy material. Patients who require a metal-free dental implant option can inquire about ceramic implants.
Dental implants have several benefits, which make them a popular choice for tooth replacement. Dental implants:
- Can replace one missing tooth without affecting the surrounding, adjacent teeth
- Allow the dentist to replace missing teeth when a dental bridge is not a viable solution
- Provide a stable base for a full denture, especially on the lower jaw
- Help preserve and maintain the jawbone in the area where teeth have been lost or extracted
- Can last a lifetime in restoring the smile’s appearance and function with proper care
As with any procedure, there are some potential problems which can occur. These include failure to integrate with the jawbone, requiring removal. Patients with certain medical conditions may not be good candidates for dental implants due to a higher risk of failure. Dental implants may need to be removed and replaced if they cannot properly support a restoration due to incorrect positioning. Patients may experience damage to the dental implant if they apply too much lateral pressure on them when chewing. Conditions like periodontal disease can cause bone loss and, ultimately, the loss of a dental implant if not treated and maintained with the help of a dental professional.
If you are seeking tooth replacement, there are alternatives to dental implants, including conventional dental bridges or dentures. Alternatively, you can leave the tooth without a replacement, but this can lead to issues such as unwanted shifting of the teeth, bite changes, or other complications.
7. Information about dental extractions
Tooth extraction is the manual removal of a primary or permanent tooth from the mouth. Also known as “pulling” or “tooth removal,” there are situations in which this must be done, though it is not the most desirable option. Extractions may be necessary if a tooth is badly damaged by trauma or decay and cannot be saved through procedures like root canal therapy. If a tooth becomes severely infected and cannot be resolved, it may need to be removed.
At times, removing a natural tooth may be necessary to eliminate infection and pain. Dental extractions may be required to address overcrowding and facilitate orthodontic treatment, allowing for easier alignment of the dental arch. Our team will recommend tooth removal if it benefits oral health and wellness in the long run.
There are a few complications that can occur with tooth extractions. These include:
- Nerve damage
Our dental team at Greenbelt Dental Health may recommend using antibiotics before the procedure to minimize the infection before removal. We will discuss any risks or concerns that can develop during or after your procedure so you are well-informed on what to expect with tooth extraction.
The only time a tooth extraction can be avoided is when the inside of the tooth is infected. In such cases, root canal treatment or endodontic therapy may be performed to resolve the issue. However, extraction may be necessary if the tooth is beyond saving or if the tooth has been necrotic for a long time.
8. Information on tooth-colored fillings and restorations
A tooth-colored filling uses a material called resin that is made to look just like natural tooth enamel when placed, cured, and polished. It is a blend of resin and clear glass particles to get the strength needed to function as a dental filling for an area of tooth decay. At Greenbelt Dental Health, we use a ceramic based filling material that is more biocompatible and also esthetic.
There are many benefits to using composite resin to restore a tooth. This material comes in many different shades, so the repair can be made to match the existing tooth structure. It is bonded in place and cured, then polished to achieve the desired outcome. It requires less removal of the healthy tooth structure when compared to alternative materials, such as silver amalgam dental fillings, which are still used by some dentists today. These contain approximately 50% mercury, which is toxic to the body and should be avoided whenever possible.
Fillings and the use of dental bonding may be best for a patient, but there are situations where inherent risks and complications can occur. Some of the risks of composite resin materials include:
- Limitations – they can seal a tooth but cannot prevent it from breaking
- Possible fractures, especially in larger fillings
- Decay that develops around the edge of a dental filling
- Post-operative sensitivity can occur after a filling is placed, sometimes up to three months afterward
In some instances, patients may have a dental crown placed over a tooth or consider the benefits of porcelain inlays or onlays as an alternative option.
Tooth-colored fillings and bonding may change in color with time, especially if you regularly enjoy enamel-staining foods and beverages such as coffees, dark teas, and red wines. Additionally, these restorations may chip or break if you participate in abnormal activities such as opening items with your teeth or eating ice cubes.
At Greenbelt Dental Health, we ensure all restorations are biocompatible and safe for the body. These materials do not have any harmful elements such as TEGDMA, DPICL, HMBP, BHT, BisGMA, or BPA.
9. Information on erosion
Dental erosion happens when the natural tooth enamel undergoes progressive and chemical wear due to stomach acids, significant dietary changes, or prolonged exposure to acidic foods/drinks. This type of tooth wear leads to the thinning of the enamel, which can cause sensitivity and increase the risk of cavities and disease.
There are several types of acids that can cause erosion of the teeth. The most common is stomach acid. An increase in stomach acid can be associated with conditions such as GERD, or “gastroesophageal reflux disease) or chronic vomiting caused by issues such as chemotherapy treatments or bulimia nervosa. GERD can also occur due to symptomatic obstructive sleep apnea. Some acids in foods, such as citric acid in fruits, can also be associated with the erosion of natural tooth enamel. Other causes may include professional wine tastings or routine exposure to acidic fumes in battery production careers and galvanizing.
Our dentist at Greenbelt Dental Health of Austin, Texas, may consider the following steps to get a definitive diagnosis of erosion before considering treatment options. This includes:
- A complete, thorough review of your medical and dental history
- Discussion of destructive acids that may be part of your daily nutrition
- Measurement and notes of areas of erosion
- Increased risks of erosion due to conditions such as dry mouth
- Evaluating and reviewing home care habits, including brushing and flossing
- Evaluating a possible occupational risk, including increased chances of erosion from specific careers where acid exposure occurs daily
Once you have received an official diagnosis from a dental professional, you can take time to learn about your treatment options. Treatments may include:
- Chewing sugar-free gum to reduce acid reflux
- Reducing GERD symptoms through natural means
- Using a low-abrasion toothpaste and a soft toothbrush
- Reducing acid exposures and frequency of exposures when possible
- Obtaining a medical referral when needed
- Scheduling regular evaluations and cleanings with our dental team
If the problem is not resolved with the help of our dental team, you are at risk of continued erosion that can result in changes to the appearance of the teeth, increased sensitivity, and the possibility of tooth loss.
10. Information on the adverse effects of antibiotics
There are several possible effects that can occur due to antibiotics, but the two most common include allergic reactions and the disruption in the normal balance of bacteria.
When there is an allergic reaction to antibiotics, it will often occur immediately or within several days of starting antibiotic treatments. Symptoms may include rashes, hives, redness, difficulty breathing, and digestive issues, including abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. If you have bacterial overgrowth in the digestive tract, this may take up to two months from the start of antibiotics and may include bloody stools, fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramping.
Anyone can experience issues from antibiotics, regardless of age, gender, and race. Knowing the risks and any history with antibiotics can help our dental team make an appropriate recommendation for treatment when infections have developed. Family history and the use of certain medications may increase one’s risk of experiencing problems from antibiotic therapies.
If you have had a reaction to an antibiotic in the past, notify your dentist at Greenbelt Dental Health. Call the doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms after starting your antibiotic treatment for further evaluation. Some patients may benefit from taking a high-quality probiotic when taking antibiotics to counteract any gastrointestinal issues that might develop. Talk to your dentist about your needs to find out the best solutions for you!
11. Information on socket preservation
Socket preservation can be achieved with many different materials that are readily available through Greenbelt Dental Health. These include:
- Bone taken from your body at a donor site and used at a graft site
- Bone taken from another body that is sterilized and freeze-dried before placement
- Synthetic, manmade, or biocompatible materials
These preservation materials are removed by your body and act as a scaffolding so your body can place its own bone.
With certain dental restorations, like dental implants, placement may not be possible unless bone grafting and socket preservation are performed. This treatment will increase the amount of bone in the area to sufficiently maintain an implant, building up the jawbone that may have been lost due to periodontal disease or tooth extractions.
As with most surgical treatments, there is a risk of infection at the grafting site and the donor site with socket preservation. The body may reject the bone graft and cause an infection as well. Another bone graft may be done later after the area has healed. Developing issues such as periodontal disease can also impact the bone in the area and cause loss that can later lead to the loss of dental implants. This is why routine visits to the dentist are encouraged to monitor the smile’s health.
There is no alternative treatment to building up the bone of the jaw with bone grafting other than using a restoration that does not require the jawbone to support it.
You should always avoid chewing near the surgical site to reduce the risk of potential complications and allow the area to heal. Your dentist at Greenbelt Dental Health will educate you on aftercare instructions to minimize issues that can occur with improper healing.
12. Information about tooth decay diagnosis, treatment, and prevention
Tooth decay is damage to the natural tooth enamel and structure. Also known as cavities or dental caries, this condition can become a serious issue and put the smile at risk of developing other problems such as periodontal disease or infection inside the natural tooth structure. Tooth decay is the world’s most common infectious disease in children and can be avoided with proper dental health measures.
There are a number of risk factors when considering the potential for experiencing tooth decay in one’s lifetime. Patients not taking care of their teeth may be at an increased risk of dental caries and infection, such as periodontal disease. Risk factors include:
- Poor oral health habits.
- A highly acidic diet.
- Thin natural enamel.
- The number of bad bacteria in the mouth.
The first step is to treat any cavities that have already developed. This is done using a dental filling, often formulated with a composite resin that matches the natural tooth structure and blends in with the tooth enamel. Dental sealants are another great way to protect the smile with an additional layer of protection and can be used for both children and adults. Patients should also be mindful of their diet and reduce acidic foods and beverages that can increase the likelihood of cavity development.
Cavities can become a much more serious problem if left untreated. Bacteria can enter the tooth’s inner canals and result in a painful infection. The tooth may need to be extracted or saved with a procedure such as root canal therapy. Extremely large cavities can also leave less remaining structure of the natural teeth and put a tooth at risk of fracturing. Large cavities that cannot be resolved may require tooth extraction.
13. Information on dental caries and decay management
Dental caries, also called cavities or tooth decay, can be a serious problem if left untreated. It is also completely preventable with proper oral health habits. Dental caries create a hole in the natural tooth structure that can become painful and problematic for many patients. If left without treatment, harmful bacteria can enter the tooth structure and cause an infection or abscess. This can only be resolved with root canal therapy or permanent extraction and replacement. Finding dental caries in the early stages and treating it as soon as it is spotted is the best course of action for our patients at Greenbelt Dental Health of Austin, Texas.
Every patient is at risk of developing cavities if they are not mindful about caring for their smiles every day by brushing, flossing, and healthy eating habits. Additionally, patients who visit the dentist at least twice a year for a cleaning and evaluation may reduce their risk of tooth decay development. If areas of decay are found, patients must seek treatment to protect their natural teeth and maintain them as long as possible during their lifetime.
A few protocols might be brought to your attention by our dental team regarding the prevention and treatment of tooth decay. These include:
- Toothpaste. When choosing a toothpaste to protect the smile from tooth decay, we recommend using a toothpaste with sodium bicarbonate, nano-hydroxyapatite, calcium, phosphate, and xylitol. Avoid toothpastes with sodium lauryl sulfate and carrageenan, as these can increase the risk of irritation in the gums.
- Mouth rinses. Mouth rinses should be chosen carefully to ensure they protect your smile against tooth decay. We recommend mouth rinses with xylitol to control and stimulate natural salivary flow to avoid dry mouth. Mouthwashes should also have a higher pH to help buffer any acidity in the mouth. Mouth rinses with natural oils such as orange, lemon, tea tree, aloe vera, peppermint, and eucalyptus boost the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, which help protect the natural bone.
- Dental hygiene. Maintaining proper oral hygiene is a wonderful way to reduce the risk of developing cavities that can ultimately damage the smile’s natural health and appearance. We encourage patients to brush and floss after all meals, including snacks, to reduce cavity risks.
- Diet and pH management. While some fruits, such as oranges, are acidic and contain sugar, you should not avoid them altogether. Instead, consider eating acidic foods with meals to prevent overexposure to any acidity. It is okay to consume foods with lower acidities and natural sugars, but be aware that they are best integrated into meals to reduce the risk of damage to the smile while consuming these nutritious foods.
- Additional therapies. Alternatively, our team may recommend using lozenges with xylitol, sugar-free chewing gum, or oil pulling to reduce bacteria levels and the potential for dental caries with time. Diluting hydrogen peroxide in your Waterpik is also another good way to help minimize bad bacteria in your mouth.
14. Information on dental sealants
Dental sealants are hard and thin resin coatings that our dentist administers at Greenbelt Dental Health to offer an extra layer of protection against cavities in areas such as the pits and grooves of the molars. This helps cover these areas to reduce the risk of food particles, bacteria, and acids resting in these hard-to-reach places and starting the formation of tooth decay.
We typically use dental sealants in children and teenagers who may not be as thorough about brushing and flossing their teeth as older adults. However, anyone of any age may benefit from dental sealant applications to protect vulnerable areas of the teeth.
The molars near the back of the mouth have deep grooves on the chewing surfaces that can trap foods, bacteria, and acids. These may not be brushed off properly and may lead to cavities. Instead, the placement of a dental sealant will smooth the chewing surface by filling these grooves and reducing the chance of developing cavities because of the accumulation of bacteria and plaque.
Placing dental sealants might not require anesthetics. Our dentist cleans the teeth with a laser or dental bur and then applies the solution to the pits of the teeth. The material can either cure naturally or with a specialized light device. The effectiveness of the dental sealant will be checked at each visit to ensure proper function and protection of the smile.
Dental sealants have little risk of potential for problems in most of our patients. In some instances, decay may develop underneath the sealant, though this is often rare. Repairing and evaluating dental sealants during routine appointments with our team will ensure they are functioning properly and not the cause of other potential issues.
Without the use of dental sealants, some patients may be at a much higher risk of developing tooth decay on their molars. Tooth decay can permanently weaken a tooth due to the loss of structure and may result in potential issues later without proper monitoring or treatment. Patients without sealants need to be diligent about brushing the pits and grooves of the molars to prevent decay and disease effectively.