Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs

To complement the general and cosmetic dentistry services offered at Elliott McCarthy, we have prepared this list of answers to the most commonly asked questions about dentistry and dental health.

How Often Should I Brush My Teeth?

According to the British Dental Association, you should brush your teeth twice a day. Brushing your teeth helps to remove plaque which causes tooth decay and can lead to gum disease.

Always use a soft bristled toothbrush with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Make sure that the toothbrush fits inside of your mouth so that you can easily reach all areas. When brushing, use gentle back and forth strokes, brushing all sides of the teeth. Always brush your tongue to remove any bacteria and keep your breath fresh.

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How Often Should I Floss My Teeth?

You should floss your teeth at least once a day. Flossing in between your teeth removes food debris and plaque from in between the teeth that a toothbrush can't reach. Plaque causes tooth decay and can lead to gum disease. Another great reason to floss is that recent studies have shown that flossing helps to prevent a heart attack or stroke.

When flossing, be sure to gently insert the floss in between the teeth, without snapping, which could damage the gum tissue. Gently move the floss up and down into the spaces between the gum and teeth. Floss the sides of all of your teeth, even if there isn't a tooth next to another one. There are a number of dental products available that are designed to make flossing easier, such as disposable dental flossers.

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What are the stages of gum disease? How is gum disease treated?

Gum disease has several stages. The initial stage is called gingivitis and is an infection of the gingival (gum tissue). In this stage, gums become red, swollen, and prone to bleeding. The underlying bone is unaffected. In later stages, however, gum disease can lead to bone loss and the loosening or even loss of teeth.

Gum disease treatment varies according to the stage of the disease. At its mildest stages, gingivitis can be treated by clearing plaque and tartar deposits from the gum pockets. Severe gum disease, on the other hand, might require treatment that includes bone and gum grafts.

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How does fluoride help prevent tooth decay?

Fluoride helps reverse and prevent tooth decay in three ways:

  1. Promoting Tooth Remineralization
    Acids can demineralise a tooth - that is, create a weak spot that develops into a cavity. Fluoride helps promote the opposite process, called remineralization, which can reverse the very early stages of tooth decay.
  2. Helping Teeth Become More Resistant to Tooth Decay
    Fluoride actually strengthens teeth, giving them natural protection against future tooth decay.
  3. Inhibiting Oral Bacteria’s Ability to Create Tooth-Attacking Acids
    Fluoride disrupts bacteria’s ability to metabolise sugars, the process that leads to the attack of tooth enamel.

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What causes sensitive teeth?

Sensitive teeth can be caused by a range of factors. The porous part of the tooth, called dentine, is the region that registers pain, and dentine can become exposed due to:

  • Fractured or chipped teeth
  • Teeth injured by clenching or grinding
  • Receding gums caused by gum disease or improper brushing

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Do Teeth Whitening Toothpastes Really Work?

Teeth whitening toothpastes seem to be popping up everywhere and you've got to wonder if they really work.

Whitening toothpastes, like all other toothpastes, contain mild abrasives to remove surface stains. Teeth whitening toothpastes may have additional polishing agents and special chemicals that are more effective against stains than regular toothpastes. While whitening toothpastes can make your teeth appear a little lighter, by getting rid of stains, they do not actually bleach your teeth.

Teeth whitening toothpastes are ideal for people who smoke, drink coffee and tea and eat certain foods that can stain your teeth. Teeth whitening toothpastes are also good to use after you have undergone a teeth whitening procedure to keep surface stains from building up on your teeth.

If you decide to use a teeth whitening toothpaste, be sure that it contains fluoride for extra protection against tooth decay.

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Pregnancy Gingivitis - What is Pregnancy Gingivitis?

When I was pregnant, I woke up one morning with red, puffy and very tender gums. I had pregnancy gingivitis. Pregnancy gingivitis is a condition caused by increased hormone levels that can cause swollen, red and tender gums. It is often accompanied with bleeding when you brush your teeth.

According to the British Academy of Periodontology, about 50% of women experience pregnancy gingivitis. This condition is most common between the second to eighth month of pregnancy. If you experience the symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis, be sure to visit your dentist to see if you need more frequent dental cleanings or other treatment.

The best way to prevent pregnancy gingivitis is to practice good oral hygiene and to visit your dentist and dental hygienist for regular check ups and cleanings. While good oral hygiene is important to everyone, it is even more so with pregnant women.

Be sure to floss everyday, brush your teeth at least twice a day and use an antimicrobial mouth rinse.

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How could diabetes affect my dental health?

People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease than people without it. This is probably because diabetics are more likely to get infections in general. People who do not know they have diabetes, or whose diabetes is not under control, are especially at risk.

If you do have diabetes it is important that any gum disease is diagnosed, because it can increase your blood sugar. This would put you at risk of diabetic complications. Also, if you are diabetic, you may find that you heal more slowly. If you have a problem with your gums, or have problems after visits to your dentist, discuss this with your dentist before dental treatment.

New research has also shown that you are more likely to develop diabetes if you have gum disease.

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Can smoking affect my teeth and gums?

Smoking can make gum disease much worse. People who smoke are more likely to produce bacterial plaque that leads to gum disease. The gums are affected because smoking means you have less oxygen in your bloodstream, so the infected gums do not heal. Smoking can also lead to tooth staining, more teeth lost because of gum disease, bad breath, and in more severe cases mouth cancer.

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What are dental sealants?

Dental sealants are a plastic coating painted on the grooved, hard-to-reach surfaces of the back teeth. Pits and fissures on these surfaces are particularly susceptible to tooth decay. Dental sealants can be used to seal out cavity-causing bacteria from damaging the teeth.

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