When Dr. Baldwin recommends a particular treatment, our patients often have questions. For your convenience, we've placed some of our most frequently asked questions below. We're also happy to answer your questions before your visit when you call (510) 251-1962.
What is the difference between a regular cleaning and a deep cleaning?
The dental hygienist performs a regular cleaning if a patient has nothing more severe than gingivitis (gum inflammation), and just needs the general removal of plaque, and calculus (tartar). This patient normally will show little or no evidence of soft tissue or bone loss around the teeth, both by clinical and radiographic examination. A simple light scaling with hand instruments or ultrasonic scaler is performed, usually followed by polishing with paste. Regular cleaning appointments are recommended every six months to one year.
A deep cleaning, also known as periodontal scaling or root planing, is performed by the dental hygienist if a patient shows clinical and/or radiographic evidence of soft tissue attachment loss or bone loss around the teeth. Patients can exhibit periodontal disease in varying levels of severity depending on the patient's general health and lack of personal oral hygiene or professional dental therapy. Deep cleaning appointments usually consist of treating one small area, usually a quadrant of the mouth at a time, often utilizing a local anesthetic to eliminate discomfort. When the initial deep cleaning appointments are completed, the patient is placed on a three-month schedule for therapy.
What is a root canal?
The center of each tooth contains an area known as the pulp chamber. This pulp chamber is composed of nerves and blood vessels. If bacteria enter the pulp chamber from a crack, trauma, or decay, the pulp becomes infected and swollen, the result of which is intense pain. A root canal, also called an endodontic procedure, involves removing the infected pulp and treating and filling the empty pulp chamber with a natural gum-like material called gutta-percha. Once the tooth is no longer painful or symptomatic, a crown is usually placed over the treated tooth, to prevent fractures.
What is the difference between metal or amalgam fillings and composite fillings?
A metal or amalgam filling contains a mixture of gold or silver, mercury, and other metals. At one point, this was the best material available to dentists since gold and silver are long-lasting, highly malleable (they can be shaped easily), and non-corrosive.
Within the last decade, however, many dentists have begun using composite resin to fill cavities. While this material is durable and long-lasting, composite resin has the added benefit of matching the appearance of your natural teeth.
While some dentists are advising their patients to replace the metal or amalgam material in their fillings with composite, Dr.Baldwin feels that each mouth is unique. Our practice offers both metal and composite fillings to our patients. If you have a cavity that needs filling or you’ve been advised to replace your metal fillings with composite, call our practice at (510) 251-1962 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Baldwin.
What are crowns and which one is best for me?
A crown is a tooth-shaped restoration that completely covers the natural tooth to just below the gum line. Dr. Baldwin may recommend a crown if you have bite problems, cracks or fractures, or need to improve the appearance of a tooth. If you undergo a root canal, we may also cover the cleaned tooth with a crown.
Most crowns are made from porcelain, but we can also construct them with gold or composite material. The right material depends on the type of problem the crown is correcting and the state of your mouth.
When you need a crown, we will explain the differences in material and suggest why one material may be the best for you over another. The ultimate decision, however, is up to you. If you need a crown, call our practice at (510) 251-1962 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Baldwin.
What is the difference between a bridge and a denture?
A bridge is a set of prosthetic teeth used to replace up to ten missing teeth. The bridge can be made of porcelain or metal covered with porcelain. We usually recommend them to restore the function and appearance of your smile, stabilize your bite, prevent gum disease, and keep your remaining teeth from drifting out of position. Usually, the bridge is fixed to healthy teeth or support crowns placed over teeth.
A denture is also a set of prosthetic teeth. Unlike bridges, dentures are used to replace either the entire upper set, lower set, or both sets of teeth. Dentures can restore most of the function and appearance of your smile and are usually removable.
If you need to replace or repair your bridge or denture, call our practice at (510) 251-1962 to talk to our team about the problem you’re having. We are always happy to hear from our patients and can answer any questions you have.
What should I do if I have bad breath?
Microbial deposits on the tongue, especially the back of the tongue, cause bad breath or halitosis. Studies have shown that simply brushing the tongue can reduce bad breath by as much as 70 percent.
Other causes of bad breath include certain foods such as garlic and onions, poor oral hygiene, periodontal or gum disease, cavities, dry mouth (sometimes caused by medications), smoking, and dieting. Certain medical conditions such as diabetes, sinus problems, bronchitis, and liver or kidney problems can also cause bad breath.
A review of your medical and dental history with your dentist may identify a potential cause of bad breath.
The best prevention of bad breath is by practicing good oral hygiene, which means brushing and flossing as recommended by your dental professional. Discontinuing use of tobacco products can also eliminate bad breath. Make certain you are well hydrated; by drinking water often, you can limit bad breath caused by dehydration. If you continue to have bad breath, or halitosis, visit your dental professional.
How often should I brush and floss?
Brushing and flossing help control the plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease.
Plaque is a film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva that sticks to the teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque convert certain food particles into acids that cause tooth decay. Also, if plaque is not removed, it turns into calculus (tartar). If plaque and calculus are not removed, they begin to destroy the gums and bone, causing periodontal (gum) disease.
Plaque formation and growth is continuous and can only be controlled by regular brushing, flossing, and the use of other dental aids.
Tooth brushing – Brush your teeth at least twice a day (especially before going to bed at night) with an ADA approved soft bristle brush and toothpaste.
- Brush at a 45 degree angle to the gums, gently using a small, circular motion, ensuring that you always feel the bristles on the gums.
- Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth.
- Use the tip of the brush head to clean the inside front teeth.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and to freshen your breath.
- Electric toothbrushes are also recommended. They are easy to use and can remove plaque efficiently. Simply place the bristles of the electric brush on your gums and teeth and allow the brush to do its job, several teeth at a time.
Flossing – Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces; it also keeps plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.
- Take 12-16 inches (30-40cm) of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches (5cm) of floss between the hands.
- Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion.
- Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gumline. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.
Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss.
Rinsing – It is important to rinse your mouth with water after brushing, and also after meals if you are unable to brush. If you are using an over-the-counter product for rinsing, it’s a good idea to consult with your dentist or dental hygienist on its appropriateness for you.
Are amalgam (silver) fillings safe?
The use of dental amalgam, or silver fillings, has become somewhat controversial in the past few years, due to claims of exposure to mercury vapor leaching from the filling material after placement in the mouth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), up to 76% of dentists use silver containing mercury to fill teeth. The ADA also states that silver fillings are safe and that studies have failed to find any link between silver containing mercury and any medical disorder.
The consensus among experts is that amalgam (silver) fillings are safe. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the FDA, and others support the use of silver fillings as safe, durable, and cost effective. The U.S. Public Health Service says that the only reason not to use silver fillings is when a patient has an allergy to any component of this type of filling. The ADA has had fewer than 100 reported incidents of an allergy to components of silver fillings, and this is out of countless millions of silver fillings over many years. Most dentists offer other materials such as composite or porcelain for restorations. Your dental professional can help you decide which material to choose.
How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?
Dental exam and cleaning appointments should be scheduled every six months, however, if you have a potentially more serious condition, such as periodontal disease, your dental professional may recommend more frequent appointments.
How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease)?
Bacteria forming around the teeth and their supporting structures cause periodontal disease. This colony of bacteria produces toxins that can destroy soft and hard tissue support for teeth, consequently causing tooth loss. Periodontal disease is classified according to stages, depending on clinical measurements of the gum tissue and bone support. Gingivitis, or gum inflammation, will usually begin the process of periodontal disease and is characterized by red, swollen, and bleeding gum tissue. Gingivitis may develop into periodontitis due to poor oral hygiene, familial tendency, lack of professional dental care and other factors.
Studies suggest there may be a link between the presence of bacteria and periodontal disease to systemic conditions such as stroke, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and prenatal problems such as low birth weight babies.
During your initial and subsequent dental exam visits you will be informed of any evidence of gingivitis or periodontal disease. Regular cleanings are generally sufficient to treat gingivitis; however, if signs of periodontal disease are present, your dental professional may want to provide additional therapy, such as root planing.
Why is it important to use dental floss?
Dental problems such as decay, gum inflammation and bone loss commonly begin between the teeth. Bacteria can accumulate, producing toxins that can destroy the hard and soft tissues including dental enamel, gum tissue, and supporting bone.
Brushing is unable to adequately clean away plaque and bacteria between teeth. Flossing between teeth is the best method for removal of plaque and bacteria before conditions such as gingivitis, dental decay, or periodontal disease can occur.
How can cosmetic dentistry help improve the appearance of my smile?
Advances in the art and science of cosmetic dentistry in the past few years have made it possible to enhance the beauty and natural appearance of teeth for nearly everyone. The unsightly problems such as crowded teeth, poor shape, color, and appearance of teeth are now easily and inexpensively remedied by cosmetic treatments commonly available.
You can choose to improve the look and function of a single tooth, many teeth, or do a complete full-mouth makeover. The many procedures available include tooth whitening, composite (tooth-colored) restorations, porcelain veneers, or porcelain crowns. Cosmetic dentistry can provide you with a completely new look.
What are porcelain veneers and how can they improve my smile?
A veneer is a thin sheath of material, usually porcelain, which is bonded onto the front surface of a tooth. Veneers are custom made by dental technicians to achieve a nearly exact match to the color and shape of surrounding teeth. Veneers can be virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding teeth, making them an excellent choice for cosmetic smile enhancement. To prepare a tooth for veneer placement, the tooth surface is lightly smoothed and shaped, and because very little tooth surface is actually removed, veneers are a very conservative solution to misshapen and discolored teeth.
What are your finance options?
Our practice accepts most insurance plans (except HMOs). We'll file your insurance claims for you. We appreciate payment of your co-pay portion at the time of service. We also accept cash, check, Visa, and Master Card for your convenience.
It's often difficult to understand your insurance benefits. Most insurance companies only cover part of the total cost of your visit, which is why we recommend you look over your insurance policy before your appointment.
Please do not to let your insurance dictate or delay your treatment. We're always happy to answer your finance or insurance questions during your appointment or when you call us at (510) 251-1962.