Top Dentists – FAQs

We went straight to a few of the top dentists to get answers to some of their patients’ most frequently asked questions, saving you the trip. But you still need to get your teeth cleaned. And, seriously, don’t forget to floss.

I’m considering having my teeth bleached. Is it worth the extra cost of having it done professionally, or should I use an over-the-counter product?

Over-the-counter products frequently don’t allow for the customized and controlled delivery of the bleaching agents. In addition, the strength of the products available over the counter doesn’t compare to the products dispensed in the dental office. Professional tooth-whitening procedures, such as custom-made bleaching trays and in-office processes like the Zoom whitening system, use professional-strength bleach for more dramatic results.

If you’re interested in whitening your teeth, it’s important to have a professional dental exam first. Factors like restored teeth (tooth-colored fillings or porcelain crowns or veneers) and existing dental decay can cause problems during the process if they aren’t properly addressed.

– Deborah Aten, general dentistry

I’ve noticed that my gums sometimes bleed when I’m brushing. Is that a problem?

Bleeding gums are one of the signs of periodontal disease. Bleeding is generally caused by plaque and bacteria, which induce inflammation of the gums. This inflammation can lead to deterioration of the gums and even the bone support around the tooth. If left untreated, this can severely compromise the tooth, causing looseness, recession of the gums, and bad breath, and can even necessitate extraction.

Regular dental visits are critical to removing plaque and bacteria as well as to detecting early signs of gum disease. There are many treatment options to address gum infection and prevent loss of tooth support. Nonsurgical and surgical treatments can remove the infection, prevent further progression, and regenerate lost gum and bone support.

– Eric Kerr, periodontist

I want my front teeth to look better but don’t want to wear braces. What are my other options?

Some minor problems can be corrected with simple removable retainers. There’s also the option of Invisalign, which are clear aligner trays that can make some corrections. Sometimes, even simple cosmetic dentistry, like bonding or veneers, can work. With larger problems like overbites and underbites, major rotations of teeth, and more severe crowding, braces are usually necessary.

– Holt Foushee, orthodontist

At my last checkup, my dentist said I had impacted wisdom teeth and that I should have them removed, but I haven’t noticed any pain or discomfort. Should I see a specialist?

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to try to come into the mouth. When they come in straight with adequate space to allow for healthy gum tissue, they don’t need to be removed. Unfortunately, this doesn’t generally happen. When wisdom teeth don’t have enough room, they can cause several problems. They can become infected, damage or shift other teeth, and, because they’re difficult to keep clean, develop cavities or gum disease.

Pain, gum disease, and shifting of teeth often occur only after the problem has gone on for a while. At that point, the damage can be irreversible. For these reasons, I would recommend seeing an oral surgeon in this situation. Then, an individualized evaluation can be done.

– Priveer Dev Sharma, oral surgeon

I’ve noticed that my teeth have developed a sensitivity to hot and cold foods. What could be the problem?

The pulp tissue (nerve) in a tooth is capable of withstanding a large amount of stress during one’s lifetime. However, when the cumulative stress caused by various irritants reaches a certain threshold, inflammatory mediators may cause the pulp to become symptomatic. Such irritants include trauma, periodontal scaling/root planing, coronal microleakage, and unbased restorations. Worsening hot or cold sensitivity in a tooth may be indicative of inflammation of the pulp, which should be evaluated by your dentist for possible endodontic therapy.

– Luis Chamorro, endodontist

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