Frequently Asked Questions
What is dentistry?
Dentistry is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of conditions, disorders, and diseases of the tooth, gums, mouth, and jaw. Often considered necessary for complete oral health, dentistry can have an impact on the health of your entire body.
What is a dentist?
A dentist is a specialist who works to diagnose, treat, and prevent oral health problems. Your dentist has completed at least eight years of schooling, and received either a DDS (doctor of dental surgery) degree, or a DMD (doctor of dental medicine) degree.
Why is visiting the dentist so important?
Visiting the dentist regularly will not only help keep your teeth and mouth healthy, but will also help keep the rest of your body healthy. Dental care is important because it:
- Helps prevent tooth decay.
- Protects against periodontal (gum) disease, which can lead to tooth and bone loss.
- Prevents bad breath – brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist regularly will help reduce the amount on bad-breath causing bacteria in your mouth.
- Gives you a more attractive smile and increases your self-confidence.
- Helps keep teeth looking bright by preventing them from becoming stained by food, drinks, and tobacco.
- Strengthens your teeth so that you can enjoy healthy, beautiful smiles for the rest of your life!
My teeth feel fine; do I still need to see a dentist?
Your teeth may feel fine, but it’s still important to see the dentist regularly because problems can exist without you knowing. Also, your smile’s appearance is important, and your dentist can help keep your smile healthy, and looking beautiful. With so many advances in dentistry, you no longer have to settle for stained, chipped, missing, or misshapen teeth. Today’s dentists offer many treatment choices that can help you smile with confidence, including:
- Professional teeth whitening.
- Fillings that mimic the appearance of natural teeth.
- Tooth replacement and full smile makeovers.
Which type of toothbrush should I use?
A: The brand of the toothbrush is not as critical as the type of bristle and the size of the head. A soft toothbrush with a small head is recommended because medium and hard brushes tend to cause irritation and contribute to recession of the gums, and a small head allows you to get around each tooth more completely and is less likely to injure your gums. It’s unnecessary to “scrub” the teeth as long as you are brushing at least twice a day and visiting your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings.
What should I look for when choosing the right dentist for me?
Choosing a dentist who “clicks” with you and your family is important; and, you may wish to consider several dentists before making your final decision. During your first visit, you should be able to determine if the dentist is right for you. During your appointment, consider the following:
- Is the appointment schedule convenient?
- Is the office easy to get to and close by?
- Does the office appear to be clean and orderly?
- Was your medical and dental history recorded and placed in a permanent file?
- Does the dentist explain techniques for good oral health?
- Is information about cost presented to you before treatment is scheduled?
- Is your dentist a member of the ADA (American Dental Association)?
How can I take care of my teeth in between dental checkups?
- ALWAYS remember to brush your teeth at least three times a day, and floss at least once!
- Make sure to use toothpaste that contains fluoride, and ask your dentist if you need a fluoride rinse. This will help prevent cavities!
- Avoid foods with a lot of sugar (sugar increases the amount of bacteria that grows in your mouth causing more plaque and possibly cavities). Also avoid tobacco (this can stain your teeth, cause gum disease, and eventually lead to oral cancer)
- Don’t be afraid to brush your tongue! By brushing your tongue, you will remove food particles and reduce the amount plaque causing bacteria. Tongue brushing also helps keep your breath fresh!
- Be sure to schedule your routine check-up. It is recommended that you visit the dentist every six months – that’s twice a year!
At what age should I start taking my child to see the dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children first see a dentist as early as six-months-old and no later than one-year-old. During this time, your child’s baby teeth will be coming in and your dentist can examine the health of your child’s first few teeth. After the first visit, be sure and schedule regular checkups every six months!
How often should I see the dentist?
Children, teens, and adults should all see the dentist for a regular check-up at least once every six months – that’s twice a year! Patients who are at a greater risk for oral cancer or gum disease may be required to see the dentist more than just twice a year. Dr. Larry Franks will help determine how often you should visit the dentist for regular checkups.
What is a cavity?
A cavity is a small hole that forms inside the tooth and I caused by tooth decay. Cavities are formed when plaque build-up on the outside of the tooth combines with sugars and starches in the food you eat. This can produce an acid that can eat away the enamel on your tooth. If a cavity is left untreated, it can lead to more serious oral health problems. Cavities can be prevented by remembering to brush your teeth at least three times a day, and floss in between teeth at least once.
What is a filling?
A filling is a synthetic material that your dentist uses to fill a cavity all of the tooth decay has been removed. Fillings do not generally hurt because your dentist will numb your mouth with an anesthetic (typically Novocain) and relax your body with a light dose of nitrous oxide. Fillings are made from a variety of different materials, including, amalgam, composites, gold, or ceramic. If you need a filling, be sure and talk to your doctor about what type is best for you and your teeth.
How often should I brush my teeth?
According to your dentist and the American Dental Association, you should be brushing your teeth at least three times a day. Brushing keeps your teeth, gums, and mouth clean and healthy by removing bacteria causing plaque. It is also recommended that when you brush your teeth, you use a soft bristle toothbrush and toothpaste that contains fluoride. You should spend at least two minutes on the top teeth and two minutes on the bottom teeth, and remember to brush your tongue; it will help keep your breath smelling fresh!
When should I change my toothbrush?
Your toothbrush will eventually wear out, especially if you are brushing your teeth three times a day for four minutes each time. Your dentist recommends that adults and children should change their toothbrush every three months. If you are using an electric toothbrush, be sure to read the directions as you may not need to change toothbrush heads as frequently. Patients with gum disease are encouraged to change their toothbrush every four to six weeks in order to keep any bacteria from spreading. After brushing, rinse your toothbrush with hot water to kill germs and keep the bristles clean. If you’ve been sick, be sure to change your toothbrush as soon as possible.
What is gum disease?
Also known as, periodontal disease, gum disease is mostly caused by plaque and bacteria buildup that is not treated in its early stage. Other causes of periodontal disease include, tobacco use, teeth grinding, some medications, and genetics. Gingivitis is the beginning stage of gum disease, and, if detected, is treatable. However, if you have gingivitis and it is left untreated, it may turn into gum disease. Advanced gum disease will lead to tooth and bone loss, and is a permanent condition. Brushing your teeth regularly, and visiting the dentist every six months will help prevent gingivitis and more severe cases of periodontal disease. Common signs of gum disease:
- Red, irritated, bleeding, or swollen gums
- Chronic bad breath
- Loose teeth, or loss of teeth
- Extreme tooth sensitivity
- Receding gum line
- Abscessed teeth
If I have braces, do I still need dental checkups every six months?
Yes! In fact, it’s even more important that patients receiving orthodontic treatment visit their dentist regularly. With braces, food may be caught in places that your toothbrush can’t reach. This causes bacteria to build up and can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Your dentist will work closely with your orthodontist to make sure that your teeth stay clean and healthy while wearing braces.
How do I schedule my next checkup?
Simply call our practice! Our front desk staff will be happy to help schedule your next dental checkup at your convenience. If you are a new patient, please let us know, and we will provide you with all the information you need for your first dental visit.
HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS
At Smiles Family dentistry our clinical staff members are dedicated to providing you with a pleasant visit. Our administrative staff is ready to help you with questions about scheduling, financial policy and insurance, to make that part of the process as simple as possible.
After Cosmetic Reconstruction
Remember that it will take time to adjust to the feel of your new bite. When the bite is altered or the position of the teeth is changed it takes several days for the brain to recognize the new position of your teeth or their thickness as normal. If you continue to detect any high spots or problems with your bite, call our office at 713-344-0498 so we can schedule an adjustment appointment.
It is normal to experience some hot and cold sensitivity. The teeth require some time to heal after removal of tooth structure and will be sensitive in the interim. Your gums may also be sore for a few days. Warm salt water rinses (a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water) three times a day will reduce pain and swelling. A mild pain medication (one tablet of Tylenol or Ibuprofen (Motrin) every 3-4 hours) should ease any residual discomfort.
Don’t be concerned if your speech is affected for the first few days. You’ll quickly adapt and be speaking normally. You may notice increased salivation. This is because your brain is responding to the new size and shape of your teeth. This should subside to normal in about a week.
Daily brushing and flossing are a must for your new dental work. Daily plaque removal is critical for the long-term success of your new teeth, as are regular cleaning appointments.
Any food that can crack, chip or damage a natural tooth can do the same to your new teeth. Avoid hard foods and substances (such as beer nuts, peanut brittle, ice, fingernails, or pencils) and sticky candies. Smoking will stain your new teeth. Minimize or avoid foods that stain such as coffee, red wine, tea and berries.
If you engage in sports let us know so we can make a custom mouthguard. If you grind your teeth at night, wear the night guard we have provided for you. Adjusting to the look and feel of your new smile will take time. If you have any problems or concerns, please let us know. We always welcome your questions.
After Crown and Bridge Appointments
Crowns and bridges usually take two or three appointments to complete. In the first visit, the teeth are prepared and molds of the mouth are taken. Temporary crowns or bridges are placed to protect the teeth while the custom restoration is being made. Since the teeth will be anesthetized, the tongue, lips and roof of the mouth may be numb. Please refrain from eating and drinking hot beverages until the numbness is completely worn off.
Occasionally a temporary crown may come off. Call us at 713-344-0498 if this happens and bring the temporary crown with you so we can re-cement it. It is very important for the temporary to stay in place, as it will prevent other teeth from moving and compromising the fit of your final restoration.
To keep your temporaries in place, avoid eating sticky foods (gum), hard foods, and if possible, chew on the opposite side of your mouth. It is important to brush normally, but floss carefully and don’t pull up on the floss which may dislodge the temporary but pull the floss out from the side of the temporary crown.
It is normal to experience some temperature and pressure sensitivity after each appointment. The sensitivity should subside a few weeks after the placement of the final restoration. Mild pain medications may also be used as directed by our office.
If your bite feels uneven, if you have persistent pain, or if you have any other questions or concerns, please call our office at 713-344-0498.
After Tooth Extraction
After tooth extraction, it’s important for a blood clot to form to stop the bleeding and begin the healing process. That’s why we ask you to bite on a gauze pad for 30-45 minutes after the appointment. If the bleeding or oozing still persists, place another gauze pad and bite firmly for another 30 minutes. You may have to do this several times.
After the blood clot forms, it is important not to disturb or dislodge the clot as it aids healing. Do not rinse vigorously, suck on straws, smoke, drink alcohol or brush teeth next to the extraction site for 72 hours. These activities will dislodge or dissolve the clot and retard the healing process. Limit vigorous exercise for the next 24 hours as this will increase blood pressure and may cause more bleeding from the extraction site.
After the tooth is extracted you may feel some pain and experience some swelling. An ice pack or an unopened bag of frozen peas or corn applied to the area will keep swelling to a minimum. Take pain medications as prescribed. The swelling usually subsides after 48 hours.
Use the pain medication as directed. Call the office at 713-344-0498 if the medication doesn’t seem to be working. If antibiotics are prescribed, continue to take them for the indicated length of time, even if signs and symptoms of infection are gone. Drink lots of fluid and eat nutritious soft food on the day of the extraction. You can eat normally as soon as you are comfortable.
It is important to resume your normal dental routine after 24 hours. This should include brushing and flossing your teeth at least once a day. This will speed healing and help keep your mouth fresh and clean.
After a few days you will feel fine and can resume your normal activities. If you have heavy bleeding, severe pain, continued swelling for 2-3 days, or a reaction to the medication, call our office immediately at 281-394-9600.
After Composite Fillings (white fillings)
When an anesthetic has been used, your lips and tongue may be numb for several hours after the appointment. Avoid any chewing and hot beverages until the numbness has completely worn off. It is very easy to bite or burn your tongue or lip while you are numb.
It is normal to experience some hot, cold & pressure sensitivity after your appointment. Injection sites may also be sore. Ibuprofen (Motrin), Tylenol or aspirin (one tablet every 3-4 hours as needed for pain) work well to alleviate the tenderness. If pressure sensitivity persists beyond a few days or if the sensitivity to hot or cold increases, contact our office at 713-344-0498.
You may chew with your composite fillings as soon as the anesthetic completely wears off, since they are fully set when you leave the office.
If your bite feels uneven, if you have persistent pain, or if you have any other questions or concerns, please call our office at 713-344-0498.