We’ve compiled a list of questions we are commonly asked, sources are listed below each answer.
Please consult Dr. Stepka or your dentist with any questions you may have, this is just a reference.
How does my insurance benefit work?
How often do I need to come in for a dental hygiene appointment (teeth cleaning)?
At what age should my child start seeing the dentist?
Why is fluoride necessary for my child?
Why do I need to be pre-medicated before certain procedures?
Question: Why do my gums bleed?
Answer: Bleeding gums are mainly due to inadequate plaque removal from the teeth at the gum line. This will lead to a condition called gingivitis, or inflamed gums.
If plaque is not removed through regular brushing and dental appointments, it will harden into what is known as tartar. Ultimately, this will lead to increased bleeding and a more advanced form of gum and jawbone disease known as periodontitis.
Other causes of bleeding gums include:
• Any bleeding disorder
• Brushing too hard
• Hormonal changes during pregnancy
• Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
• Ill-fitting dentures
• Improper flossing
• Infection, which can be either tooth- or gum-related
• Use of blood thinners
• Vitamin K deficiency
Question: At what age should my child start seeing the dentist?
Answer: This is a somewhat controversial topic, as the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends by the first birthday and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends around the third birthday. At Stepka Family Dental, we generally recommend your child visit us around his or her third birthday, as long as the parent is following guidelines to keep the child’s mouth cavity free. Here are some guidelines from healthychildren.org for children’s dental care:
The Golden Rules for Raising Cavity-free Kids
• Support good dental health by taking care of your child’s gums and teeth on a daily basis. Once the child is old enough to “do it by herself,” continue monitoring daily habits and self-care.
• Be selective about any type of beverage you put in your child’s bottle or sippy cup besides water. Remember, dentists often refer to juice and soda as “liquid candy.”
• Keep a bottle or sippy cup away from your child’s naptime and nighttime slumbers. Liquids tend to stick to the teeth because the mouth is drier during sleep.
• Reward children with hugs, stickers, and toys instead of desserts and candy. Sugary foods leave behind a sticky coating that converts to harmful bacteria and enamel-eating acid. But if you feel compelled to give your child an occasional sweet, choose one that melts rapidly instead of gummy candy.
• Serve up calcium-rich foods such as yogurt, cheese, and milk, along with plenty of vitamin-heavy vegetables to help your child maintain strong, healthy teeth. Build good habits early by giving your child healthy treats in place of sweets at snack time.
• Talk to your child’s pediatrician or dentist about the appropriate amount of fluoride your child needs.
Source: Healthy Children, for more information: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/oral-health/pages/Good-Reasons-to-Smile.aspx
Question: Are x-rays necessary?
Answer: Yes, because many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth, an X-ray examination can help reveal:
◦ small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing restorations (fillings);
◦ infections in the bone;
◦ periodontal (gum) disease;
◦ abscesses or cysts;
◦ developmental abnormalities;
◦ some types of tumors.
Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort. Radiographs can help your dentist detect problems in your mouth that otherwise would not be seen.
Source: American Dental Association, for more information: http://www.ada.org/2760.aspx
Question: How often do I need to come in for a dental hygiene appointment (teeth cleaning)?
Answer: You should have your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year, though your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend more frequent visits.
Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in preventing dental problems and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. At these visits, your teeth are cleaned and checked for cavities. Additionally, there are many other things that are checked and monitored to help detect, prevent, and maintain your dental health. These include:
◦ Medical history review
◦ Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs)
◦ Oral cancer screening
◦ Gum disease evaluation
◦ Examination of tooth decay
◦ Examination of existing restorations
◦ Removal of plaque and calculus (tartar)
◦ Oral hygiene recommendations
◦ Review dietary habits
Question: How does my insurance benefit work?
Answer: December 31st marks the end of the year for your dental benefits. This means that if you don’t use all of your dental benefits, you lose them. Now is the time to make sure you schedule an appointment to ensure you use all of the dental benefits you are paying for. Contact your dental plan provider to find out what benefits you have.
Reasons you should use your dental insurance before the end of the year:
◦ Yearly Maximums- Unused benefits don’t typically rollover, so you should use your full benefits when possible.
◦ Premiums – You’re paying the monthly premium in order to have dental insurance, so take advantage of your benefits. Use your insurance for regular cleanings and check ups to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
◦ Visits to your dentist, and preventative services, such as x-rays, will help prevent more serious, extensive treatments down the road.
◦ Complete any outstanding treatment – If the dentist has suggested treatment for you that you have put off, now is the time to schedule it. Take advantage of your current dental insurance plan because next year your dental plan may change or you may not have dental insurance.
Question: Why is fluoride necessary for my child?
Answer: Cavities used to be a fact of life. But over the past few decades, tooth decay has been reduced dramatically. The key reason: fluoride. Research has shown that fluoride reduces cavities in both children and adults. It also helps repair the early stages of tooth decay even before the decay becomes visible. Unfortunately, many people continue to be misinformed about fluoride and fluoridation. Fluoride is like any other nutrient; it is safe and effective when used appropriately.
Source: American Dental Association, for more information:http://www.ada.org/3088.aspx
Question: Why do I have jaw pain?
Answer: You may have TMJ. Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJ disorders) are problems or symptoms of the chewing muscles and joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull.
Many TMJ-related symptoms are caused by the effects of physical stress on the structures around the joint. These structures include:
◦ Cartilage disk at the joint
◦ Muscles of the jaw, face, and neck
◦ Nearby ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves
For many people with temporomandibular joint disorders, the cause is unknown. Some causes given for this condition are not well proven. These included:
◦ A bad bite or orthodontic braces
◦ Stress and tooth grinding. Many people with TMJ problems do not grind their teeth, and many who have been grinding their teeth for a long time do not have problems with their TMJ joint. For some people, the stress associated with this disorder may be caused by the pain as opposed to being the cause of the problem.
Poor posture can also be an important factor in TMJ symptoms. For example, holding the head forward while looking at a computer all day strains the muscles of the face and neck.
Other factors that might make TMJ symptoms worse are stress, poor diet, and lack of sleep.
Many people end up having “trigger points” — contracted muscles in your jaw, head, and neck. Trigger points can refer pain to other areas, causing a headache, earache, or toothache.
Other possible causes of TMJ-related symptoms include arthritis, fractures, dislocations, and structural problems present since birth.
Source: National Institute of Health, for more information http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001227.htm
Question: What causes dry mouth?
Answer: People get dry mouth when the glands in the mouth that make saliva are not working properly. Because of this, there might not be enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. There are several reasons why these glands (called salivary glands) might not work right.
◦ Side effects of some medicines. More than 400 medicines can cause the salivary glands to make less saliva. For example, medicines for high blood pressure and depression often cause dry mouth.
◦ Disease. Some diseases affect the salivary glands. Sjögren’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes can all cause dry mouth.
◦ Radiation therapy. The salivary glands can be damaged if they are exposed to radiation during cancer treatment.
◦ Chemotherapy. Drugs used to treat cancer can make saliva thicker, causing the mouth to feel dry.
◦ Nerve damage. Injury to the head or neck can damage the nerves that tell salivary glands to make saliva.
Source: National Institute of Health, for more information: http://goo.gl/XTva
Question: Why do I need to be pre-medicated before certain procedures?
Answer: Before some dental treatments, patients who have certain heart conditions and those with artificial joints take antibiotics. These people may be at risk of developing an infection in the heart or at the site of the artificial joint, respectively. Antibiotics reduce this risk. This is called antibiotic prophylaxis (pronounced pro-fuh-lax-iss).
When treating patients with heart conditions, dentists follow guidelines developed by the American Heart Association (AHA), with input from the ADA. For patients who have total joint replacements, they refer to guidelines developed by theAmerican Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS).
Source: American Dental Association, for more information: http://www.ada.org/2157.aspx