FAQ


Disease

What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. It is caused by the bacteria in plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If not removed through daily brushing and flossing, plaque can build up and the bacteria infect not only your gums and teeth, but eventually the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth. This can cause them to become loose, fall out or have to be removed by a dentist.

There are three stages of gum disease:

How Do I Know if I Have Gum Disease?
Gum disease can occur at any age, but it is most common among adults. If detected in its early stages, gum disease can be reversed — so see your dentist if you notice any of the following symptoms:

How is Gum Disease Treated?
The early stages of gum disease can often be reversed with proper brushing and flossing. Good oral health will help keep plaque from building up.

A professional cleaning by your dentist or hygienist is the only way to remove plaque that has built up and hardened into tartar. Your dentist or hygienist will clean or "scale" your teeth to remove the tartar above and below the gumline. If your condition is more severe, a root planing procedure may be performed. Root planing helps to smooth irregularities on the roots of the teeth making it more difficult for plaque to deposit there.

By scheduling regular checkups, early stage gum disease can be treated before it leads to a much more serious condition. If your condition is more advanced, treatment in the dental office will be required.

What Are Cavities?
"Cavities" is another way of saying tooth decay. Tooth decay is heavily influenced by lifestyle — what we eat, how well we take care of our teeth, the presence of fluoride in our water and toothpaste. Heredity also plays a role in how susceptible your teeth may be to decay. While cavities are generally more common among children, adults are also at risk. The types of cavities include:

How Do I Know if I Have a Cavity?
Only your dentist can tell for sure whether you have a cavity. That's because cavities develop below the tooth's surface, where you can't see them. When you eat foods that contain carbohydrates (sugars and starches), these carbohydrates are eaten by the bacteria in plaque, producing acids that eat into the tooth. Over time, the tooth enamel begins to break down beneath the surface while the surface remains intact. When enough of the sub-surface enamel is eaten away, the surface collapses, forming a cavity.

Cavities are most likely to develop in pits on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, in between teeth, and near the gumline. But regardless of where they occur, the best way to spot them and treat them before they become serious is by visiting your dentist regularly for checkups.

How Can I Help Prevent Cavities?
Brush at least twice a day and floss daily to remove plaque from between teeth and below the gumline.

Have regular dental checkups. Preventive care can help stop problems from occurring and keep minor problems from becoming major ones.

What Is Halitosis?
Halitosis simply means bad breath, a problem that many people experience at one time or another. It is estimated that 40% of the population suffers from chronic halitosis at some time.

Many things can cause bad breath, including:

How Do I Know if I Have Halitosis?
One way to test if you have bad breath is to cover your mouth and nose with your hand, exhale, and smell your breath. Another way is to ask someone you trust whether or not your breath smells bad. Keep in mind that many people experience "morning breath," which is the result of reduced saliva flow during sleep that allows acids and other debris to putrefy in the mouth. Brushing and flossing thoroughly before bed, and brushing your teeth and tongue first thing in the morning, will usually eliminate morning breath.

How Can I Help Prevent Halitosis?
In addition to avoiding foods that cause bad breath, you can reduce the chances of bad breath by:

If you have persistent bad breath that is not improved with brushing and flossing, see your dentist for a thorough dental examination as this could indicate a more serious problem. Only a dentist can tell if you have gum disease, dry mouth or excess plaque buildup as a possible cause of bad breath.

What Is Plaque?
Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria and sugars that constantly forms on our teeth. It is the main cause of cavities and gum disease, and can harden into tartar if not removed daily.

How Do I Know if I Have Plaque?
Everyone develops plaque — bacteria are constantly forming in our mouths. These bacteria use ingredients found in our diet and saliva to grow. Plaque causes cavities when the acids from plaque attack teeth after eating. With repeated acid attacks, the tooth enamel can break down and a cavity may form. Plaque that is not removed can also irritate the gums around your teeth, leading to gingivitis (red, swollen, bleeding gums), periodontal disease and tooth loss.

How Can I Prevent Plaque Buildup?
It's easy to prevent plaque buildup with proper care. Make sure to:

What Is Tartar?
Tartar, sometimes called calculus, is plaque that has hardened on your teeth. Tartar can also form at and underneath the gumline and can irritate gum tissues. Tartar gives plaque more surface area on which to grow and a much stickier surface to adhere, which can lead to more serious conditions, such as cavities and gum disease.

Not only can tartar threaten the health of your teeth and gums, it is also a cosmetic problem. Because tartar is more porous, it absorbs stains easily. So if you are a coffee or tea drinker, or if you smoke, it is especially important to prevent tartar buildup.

How Do I Know if I Have Tartar Buildup?
Unlike plaque, which is a colorless film of bacteria, tartar is a mineral buildup that's fairly easy to see if above the gumline. The most common sign of tartar is a yellow or brown color to teeth or gums. The only way for sure to detect tartar — and to remove it — is to see your dentist.

How Can I Prevent Tartar Buildup?
Proper brushing, especially with a tartar control toothpaste, and flossing are necessary to reduce plaque and tartar buildup.

Once tartar has formed, only your dentist or hygienist can remove it. The process for removing tartar is called scaling. During a scaling, the dentist or hygienist uses special instruments to remove tartar from your teeth above and below the gumline.