Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

About Dental Care:

Q: What is tooth whitening and when is it used?

A: Tooth whitening, or dental bleaching, is one of the most common elective dental procedures. It is used to remove stains from teeth and improve the overall appearance of the smile.

Q: Will my dentist provide tooth whitening services?

A: Yes, dentists practicing general dentistry and family dentistry frequently perform tooth whitening procedures. Tooth whitening is also commonly performed as part of a smile makeover, or as an individual procedure, by a cosmetic dentist.

Q: I’m considering tooth whitening but am on a tight budget. Are there options for me?

A: Yes, there are many methods of tooth whitening at a variety of price points. Some types of tooth whitening can be done at home; some are purchased over-the-counter while others must be obtained from a dentist.

Q: I had lovely white teeth as a youngster, but now my teeth have a yellowish hue. Why have my teeth changed color?

A: There are many reasons that teeth become darker. Sometimes changes in tooth color result from changes to the dentin, an internal tooth structure. Changes in tooth enamel can also contribute to tooth discoloration. Certain food and drink (especially tea, coffee, red wine, and soda) as well as bacteria and tobacco can cause a change in the appearance of teeth, as can exposure to select antibiotic medications.

Q: I’m going to have my teeth whitened by a cosmetic dentist. Will I have to do anything special to maintain my results?

A: It isn’t uncommon for a cosmetic dentist to recommend follow-up whitening methods for at-home use. In addition to maintenance whitening programs the cosmetic dentist may advise you to make certain changes, such as forgoing tea and giving up smoking, to maximize the effectiveness of your tooth whitening procedure.

Q: What options exist for tooth whitening?

A: There are many options in tooth whitening and dental bleaching. The American Dental Association distinguishes between four styles of tooth whitening: tooth whitening performed by a dentist in-office, tooth whitening performed in a special tooth whitening center (sometimes called a dental spa), tooth whitening done at home using products provided by the dentist, and over-the-counter tooth whitening. Talking with your dentist is the best way to determine the right type of tooth whitening program for your individual needs.

Q: Should I have a dental cleaning before beginning tooth whitening procedures?

A: Yes, regardless of the type of tooth whitening procedure that you are interested in, the ADA recommends having a thorough dental checkup before beginning tooth whitening. The dentist should take a full health history and observe and evaluate the health of the gums and tissues of the mouth. In some cases taking dental x-rays can help the dentist better understand any irregularities of the teeth that may exist.

Q: What kind of over-the-counter methods of tooth whitening are available?

A: Popular types of over-the-counter tooth whitening products include gel trays, adhesive strips, brush-on whitening agents, bleaching and whitening toothpastes, and even whitening floss, which can be effective in removing stains between teeth.

Q: How much does it cost to pursue tooth whitening with over-the-counter treatments?

A: The cost of these tooth whitening products varies from $20-$100.

Q: What are the risks associated with using over-the-counter tooth whitening?

A: Gums can become irritated or even damaged when over-the-counter tooth whitening products are applied incorrectly or too frequently, and tooth enamel can become damaged. Over-use can also lead to unnaturally white teeth that take on an odd, bluish hue. Your dentist can help you select the best type of over-the-counter tooth whitening system and guide you in its safe and proper application.

Q: What kind of at-home tooth whitening treatments are available?

A: At-home tooth whitening with dentist provided products is very effective. It almost always involves the use of a custom created tray which is filled with a bleaching gel and worn for a prescribed length of time.

Q: How much does at-home tooth whitening usually cost?

A: The cost of at-home tooth whitening varies depending on brand, however the average cost is around $300 to start. The cost of refill gels varies across product lines.

Q: What works better, at-home tooth whitening or tooth whitening performed in the dentist office?

A: Although in-office methods of tooth whitening often produce a more immediately visible result, dentists concur that over time the at-home whitening methods can produce wonderful results.

Q: What methods of tooth whitening do cosmetic dentists, general dentists, and family dentists perform in their offices?

A: Popular brands of in-office tooth whitening systems include BriteSmile, Opalescence Boost, Sapphire Whitening, and Zoom Chairside Whitening. In general, the cosmetic dentist will apply a highly concentrated peroxide gel to the teeth. This gel can cause burns to gums and surrounding tissue if not applied properly. As a precaution, the cosmetic dentist will carefully apply a paint-on rubber dam to the gums before coating the teeth with the peroxide gel. Depending on the specific system of tooth whitening being used, a bright light may be used to accelerate the effects of the bleaching gel.

Q: How long does it take to have in-office tooth whitening done by a dentist.

A:  Tooth whitening performed by a cosmetic dentist ranges in cost, but the nationwide average is around $650 per visit.

Q: I have extensive, deep staining on my teeth. Is there a way a cosmetic dentist can whiten them?

A: Most likely! Cosmetic dentists are specialists at improving the look of the smile. One option is  a multi-step deep bleaching approach. This type of bleaching involves multiple visits to the office for a variety of procedures, however it may be the most effective option for some people. Considering the number of visits and the amount of customized products required for a deep cleaning protocol the cost can be considerable. The nationwide average for this type of tooth whitening is around $1400. If this doesn’t work, your cosmetic dentist may recommend the application of porcelain veneers.

Q: What are dental spas?

A: With demand for tooth whitening on the rise, many free-standing tooth whitening centers have been opened. These facilities perform tooth whitening but do not offer many other dental services.

Q: What kind of whitening treatments are performed at tooth whitening centers?

A: Popular types of non-dental tooth whitening include BriteSmile, Zoom, and Laser Speed tooth whitening. The whitening technician will apply a highly concentrated peroxide gel to the teeth. This gel can cause burns to gums and surrounding tissue if not applied properly. As a precaution, the whitening technician will carefully apply a paint-on rubber dam to the gums before coating the teeth with the peroxide gel. Depending on the specific system of tooth whitening being used, a bright light may be used to accelerate the effects of the bleaching gel.

Q: How much does tooth whitening performed at a free-standing center cost?

A: Costs for tooth whitening performed at tooth whitening centers vary depending on location and procedure, however they average around $400 per visit.

Q: How will my teeth feel after tooth whitening?

A: For many people there is no noticeable difference in the way teeth feel. The most common side-effect of tooth whitening is increased sensitivity, which usually fades within a matter of hours. For some people, tooth sensitivity lasts for several days.

Q: My teenage daughter is self-conscious about her teeth and wants to have them whitened. Is it safe for teens and kids to undergo tooth whitening?

A: No, as a general rule, tooth whitening should not be done on children under the age of 16. This is because teeth are still in a developmental phase and the pulp of the tooth may become overly irritated by the bleaching agent.

Q: All the options in tooth whitening are overwhelming. How can I make a decision about the best method for me?

A: The best first step in any tooth whitening regimen is a discussion with the dentist. Setting up an appointment to discuss the various types of tooth whitening methods and to have a thorough dental exam will ensure the best results when pursuing a whiter, brighter smile.

Frequently Asked Questions

About Cosmetic Dentistry:

Q: What is cosmetic dentistry?

A: Cosmetic dentistry refers to dental work that is performed to enhance and improve the appearance of the gums, teeth, mouth, and smile. Cosmetic dentistry can be used to greatly enhance and improve the overall appearance of the smile.

Q: Are there dentists who only do cosmetic dentistry?

A: While some dentists choose to focus their practices solely on cosmetic procedures, many dentists who practice general dentistry and family dentistry also refer to themselves as cosmetic dentists. Often times there is overlap between medically necessary dental work and procedures that are strictly cosmetic.

Q: How does a dentist become a cosmetic dentist?

A: The American Dental Association does not formally recognize cosmetic dentistry as a specialized field of dentistry. Dentists who are interested in cosmetic procedures pursue various types of training and education to learn these procedures.

Q: What credentialing agencies exist within the field of cosmetic dentistry?

A: The American Society for Dental Aesthetics (ASDA) and the American Society for Dental Aesthetics (ASDA) promote education in the field of cosmetic dentistry and act as credentialing agents within the field.

Q: What is the most common cosmetic dentistry procedure?

A: Tooth whitening is the most commonly performed type of cosmetic dentistry.

Q: I need a filling but don’t want a dark colored amalgam filling. Can a cosmetic dentist offer me an alternative?

A: Yes, cosmetic dentists offer more aesthetically appealing fillings, such as those made of porcelain and composite materials. These can be permanently bonded to the teeth as an alternative to unsightly amalgam fillings.

Q: Years of tooth grinding has changed my bite and the overall appearance of my mouth. What can a cosmetic dentist do to help me?

A: Bite reclamation may help to restore the appearance of your mouth and jaw. This is a process used to open up the bite of patients who have diminished the vertical dimension of their smile.

Q: What is a dental bridge?

A: In the case of missing teeth a dental bridge can be constructed by a cosmetic dentist. The purpose of this structure is to, literally, “bridge” the gap between two healthy teeth.

Q: I have always felt like my smile is too gummy. Is there a way for a cosmetic dentist to change my gum line?

A: Yes, a cosmetic dentist can perform a “gum lift” or gingivectomy to improve the appearance of the smile and give a more even look to the teeth.

Q: What are veneers and when are they used?

A: Veneers are used by cosmetic dentists to restore and repair damaged teeth as well as to improve the overall appearance of the smile. Teeth with stubborn stains may be coated with veneer to improve appearance and veneers can also be used to fill gaps and create a more uniform appearance of the teeth.

Q: I think my smile would look better if my teeth were shaped differently. How can a cosmetic dentist fix the uneven appearance of my teeth?

A: Tooth sculpting involves the shaving and removing of tooth enamel to improve the appearance of the teeth. This technique is useful in fixing chipped teeth, uneven teeth, and oddly shaped teeth. Another option for reshaping the teeth is through a cosmetic dentistry procedure known as bonding. During bonding, the teeth are specially prepared and then a composite material, which acts like the enamel naturally found on teeth, is applied to the tooth’s surface. The composite material is sculpted into the proper, aesthetically appealing shape and is then hardened and polished.

Q: How can I choose a dentist with experience performing the procedures I require.

A: Talk with your cosmetic dentist and be sure they have a high level of expertise performing the procedures you are interested in. Most cosmetic dentists will provide you with a portfolio showcasing ‘before and after’ pictures to illustrate their skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

About Family Dentistry:

Q: What is family dentistry?

A: The term family dentistry refers to the field of dentistry that serves as the primary line of defense against dental problems and abnormalities. Also commonly called “general dentistry,” this type of dental care is primarily preventative in it’s approach to oral health.

Q: How does a dentist become a family dentist?

A: In order to become a practicing family dentist the individual must complete an undergraduate degree, pass the Dental Admission Test, and then complete a dental school program. Students must pass National Board exams in order to graduate from dental school and receive a degree either as a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD.) Upon graduating from dental school the dentist may immediately begin practicing as a family or general dentist.

Q: What is the focus of a family dentistry office?

A: Dentists practicing family dentistry focus on preventing, diagnosing and treating problems of the teeth, gums, jaw, and face. The main goals of family dentistry are the promotion of good oral hygiene habits and the prevention of dental problems and abnormalities.

Q: When should a child begin seeing a family dentist?

A: The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that children see the dentist at the age of 12 months.

Q: How often should we visit the family dentist?

A: According to the ADA individuals should be seen by a family dentist twice each year. Bi-annual visits to the family dentist allow for routine cleanings which are necessary to remove the buildup of plaque and tartar.

Q: What typically happens at a routine dental checkup performed by a family dentist?

A: At a routine checkup teeth are cleaned by a hygienist. Radiographs may be used to locate cavities in teeth, as well as to check for other tooth and maxillofacial problems. Cavities can be filled and gum health is monitored.  Regular visits to a family dentist allow for necessary deep cleaning and for screenings for cancer of the mouth and gums.

Q: How should I choose a family dentist?

A: Selecting a family dentist is an important decision because oral health affects overall health and well-being. You should choose a dentist with whom you and your family will be comfortable. Ask prospective family dentists about the types of procedures and treatments that they typically perform, as well as what their process is for referrals. You may also wish to discuss pre-medication and comfort measures, and the use of dental lasers as an alternative to drills.

Q. What is the cause of bad breath?

A.There is no one cause for bad breath. Many things like sinus and stomach problems are factors in bad breath. Although, the majority of people who have bad breath due to poor oral health. Many people don’t realize that they are practicing poor dental hygiene. By going to see a dental hygienist, you can better find out what is the cause of your bad breath. If you are unable to see a dental hygienist there are a few things you can try at home to help get rid of bad breath. One thing you can do is make sure that you are brushing and flossing properly. Many people don’t brush as well as they should or doesn’t floss on a regular basis, by taking a few minutes to make sure you can help fight bad breath. Another thing you can do to help stop bad breath is to rinse with some type of mouthwash that has zinc.

Q. What is the right age for someone to have their first dental appointment?

A. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child should have their first dentist visit at the age of one or when the child receives his or her first tooth.

Q. How should I whiten my teeth?

A. Everyone has very different teeth and the majority of people have teeth that are not pure white. By taking to your dentist you can find out which type of teeth whitening is best for you. Simple things that can help whiten teeth are to stop drinking coffee, tea, or smoking.  Another thing you can try to whiten teeth is whitening tooth paste.

Q. Which type of toothpaste is the best?

A. Since there isn’t one specific type of toothpaste that is right for everyone, the type of toothpaste you use is completely your choice. Although there are certain types of toothpaste that do a better job than others when it comes to a certain task such as stopping cavities, protecting tooth enamel and whiting teeth. Since everyone’s teeth are different, talking to your dentist or trying different toothpaste is the best way to find out which toothpaste is right for you.

Q. Should I be using an electric or manual toothbrush?

A. According to studies both electric and manual toothbrushes work just as effectively for removing plaque and preventing tartar buildups. The main thing to focus on instead of what type of toothbrush you are using is how you are brushing your teeth.

Q. How many times should I brush my teeth each day?

A. According to the American Dental Association you should brush your teeth at least two times a day.

Q. What is a dental hygienist?

A. A dental hygienist is a health care professional who provides educational and preventive and therapeutic services for oral health problems.