Your frequently asked dental questions are posted as often as we receive them. If you have a question please feel free to contact us at any of our three locations: Idaho Falls | Rexburg | Arco.

Below are the questions we receive the most.  We hope this information can help to answer your questions and give you the information you need to make the right decision when it comes to your dental health.

How do whitening toothpastes work and how effective are they?

All toothpastes get rid of surface stains through the action of mild abrasives. Some whitening toothpastes contain polishing or chemical agents that provide additional stain removal. Whitening toothpastes can help remove surface stains only and do not contain bleach; over-the-counter and professional whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide (a bleaching substance) that helps remove stains on the tooth surface as well as stains deep in the tooth.

What are dental sealants, who should get them, and how long do they last?

Sealants are a thin, plastic coating that is painted on the top surfaces of teeth. They are usually done on the molars, or back teeth to prevent tooth decay. The liquid sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and grooves of the teeth, forming a protective shield over each tooth and the enamel.

Children should get sealants on their new molars to help slow the decay as early as possible.

Sealants can protect your teeth from for many years, but they need to be checked every so often for wear during regular dental check-ups.

How safe are dental x-rays?

Exposure to all sources of radiation — including the sun, minerals in the soil, appliances in your home, and dental X-rays — can damage the body’s tissues and cells and lead to the development of cancer. Fortunately, the dose of radiation you are exposed to during the taking of X-rays is extremely small.

I have some old silver fillings are there any new options?

Silver amalgam fillings, which are composed of 50% mercury and 50% silver alloy, will eventually need to be replaced. It may surprise you to know that the average life span of a silver filling is only five to eight years. Your dentist can tell you when they NEED to be replaced due to leakage, breakdown or recurrent decay.

If your concern is strictly COSMETIC, there are many new methods available to replace the fillings with beautiful, functional long lasting restorations.

Such things as white filling materials, porcelain inlays, crowns and veneers may be used to give you the smile you are seeking.

There is currently a great deal of interest in new reinforced hybrid materials. These beautiful resin materials may be reinforced with fibers, similar to fiberglass, and used in very conservative inlays and bridges without having to grind away a whole healthy tooth.

What is the best method and products for whitening my teeth?

There are many products and techniques available. Some work great and some don’t work at all. The various over the counter products give the least predictable results.

To get a really great result you should probably use one of the products sold through dental offices that utilize custom made trays for home application of bleaching gel.

There are several great ones out there. Ask us about the options we like best.

We also get questions about “laser whitening”. With this method a laser is used as a light source to activate the bleaching gel that is applied to your teeth in the dental office. It may be necessary to use the “at home” trays in addition to this initial lengthy treatment. Side effects can include sensitivity to treated teeth.

What are implants and what is the procedure for getting them?

Dental implants are a wonderful way to replace missing teeth when certain conditions exist. Such things as your average general health and the length of time you have been missing your teeth must be considered. The replacement of missing teeth using dental implants frequently requires a team approach.

After your dentist does a thorough examination, a treatment plan of the surgical phase of treatment takes place. In most cases a periodontist or an oral surgeon will put the implant(s), the artificial root(s) into the jaw. When healing is complete, usually after 4-6 months, a general dentist or a prosthodontist can place the tooth or bridge segment on top of the healed implants. Some dentists are trained to place the surgical part of the implant as well as the prosthetic or tooth part.

You should ask your dentist if you are a good candidate for implants and ask for a referral if he or she doesn’t do them.

What to do about Wisdom Teeth?

Having regular dental checkups with x-rays allows you to learn about potential problems and have them corrected BEFORE they begin to bother you. There are a number of reasons for recommending removal of unerupted or impacted teeth. Your dentist may have felt these teeth could cause problems for the adjacent teeth if left in place. There is also the possibility you could develop such things as a cyst or abscess if left in place.

General dentists who provide any specialty services such as root canal treatment, braces, oral surgery or periodontal surgery are required by law to adhere to the same standard of care provided by a specialist.

Your dentist would be happy to talk more with you about this. If you still have questions, you might want to see another dentist for a second opinion.

Which toothbrush is right for me?

This is a good question, which we hear daily. The brand of the toothbrush is not nearly as critical as the type of bristle, the size and shape of the head and how frequently you replace your brush.

We recommend a soft bristled brush with a small head. The soft bristles are most important for the health of your gums. A small head allows you to get around each tooth more completely and is less likely to injure your gums. Daily brushing and frequent replacement with a new brush are much more important issues than the brand you choose.

We recommend replacing your toothbrush at least once a month.

We further recommend brushing after every meal, first thing in the morning and at the end of the day. At a minimum one should brush twice a day.

What actions do I need to take when my child's teeth begin to discolor?

Discoloration is a very normal situation and nothing to be concerned about. When the teeth are forming in the jaws, a soft tissue membrane called Nasmyth’s Membrane (named after Alexander Nasmyth, a Scottish dental surgeon in London who died in 1847), surrounds them.

As the teeth erupt, remnants of this membrane remain on the surface of the enamel. The fibrous nature of the membrane readily picks up coloration from food.

In most cases normal chewing and brushing will remove the remnants with time. If they don’t come off, they can be removed by having a professional cleaning.

Other causes for staining of teeth include high fevers during infancy, too much fluoride in drinking water and certain medications if taken while the teeth are still forming.

What does it mean when they say my tooth is capped?

Terminology used in dentistry is not 100% uniform throughout our profession.

The word “cap” as used in dentistry by different dentists can refer to a number of different things. A pulp cap refers to a calcium containing dressing placed under a deep filling to stimulate healing. A full crown, made by a dental laboratory, which completely covers the outside of your tooth, is frequently called a cap. A partly broken tooth may be built up by your dentist in the office with a bonded filling material. This is called a cap or “capping” by some dentists. This sounds like what you probably had done.

I hate the drill - are there any other options?

Dental technology has come a long way in recent years. If you have a new cavity that requires a filling, there is “new” air abrasive equipment, which replaces the drill for removing decay. It is quick, silent and in most cases you do not need a shot of anesthetic because it does not use heat or vibration that can cause pain.

Air abrasion theory has been around in dentistry since the fifties but has only recently become practical to use due to the compactness of newer equipment and the development of filling materials that can be used with the new way of preparing teeth for fillings.

Our patients love it. For youngsters who are experiencing their first cavity, it is a great way to go – no noise, no needle, no pain! It won’t work for all cavities, but with your dislike for the drill, you should certainly see a dentist who uses this technology.

What do dentists think of tongue piercing and is it sanitary and safe?

In a word (or four) PLEASE DON’T DO IT! Fortunately, I have only seen a couple of these in “real life”. I have read of numerous cases in our dental journals, which have resulted in all sorts of problems.

To begin with, the tongue is an extremely vascular organ, which means it has loads of blood vessels. A tremendous amount of swelling is expected when the tongue is pierced and a large oversized “barbell” is initially placed to accommodate for the expected swelling.

This can cause difficulty in breathing and swallowing. Eating, drinking and speech are all impaired. The large barbell flops around and has caused unrestorable fractures of teeth when accidentally bitten.

The barbell can come unscrewed and be swallowed or possibly be aspirated, sucked into the lung. Either of these could require surgery.