General FAQs

General FAQs

Q) How Often Should I Get a Dental Cleaning and Check Up?

A) Most children and adults should get a regular dental cleaning and check up every six months. People at a greater risk for oral diseases should have dental checkups more than twice a year. Tobacco and alcohol use, diabetes, pregnancy, periodontal and gum disease, poor oral hygiene, cavity activity, and certain medical conditions are some of the many factors that your dentist takes into consideration when deciding how often you need your dental cleaning and check up.

Going to your regular checkups will help to keep your gums and teeth healthy as well as detect any early problems such as gum disease, oral cancer and cavities. The best ways to maintain good oral health are to visit your dentist on a regular basis, practice good oral hygiene at home, and develop good nutritional habits.
If you don’t have your preventive appointment scheduled, please call our office so we can find a convenient time for this important date.

Q) How Often Should I Floss My Teeth?

A) Clean between teeth once each day with floss and/ or an interdental cleaner. Tooth decay–causing bacteria still linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach. Flossing helps remove the sticky film on teeth called plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.

Q) How Often Should I Change My Toothbrush?

A) Brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won't do a good job of cleaning your teeth. If your preventive appointment is coming up within the next two weeks, you will get a free one from us. If you don’t have your appointment scheduled, call now to make that all important appointment.

Q) What are Dental Sealants?

A) A sealant is a plastic material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth—premolars and molars. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids. Sealants are usually applied only to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often.

Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by "sealing out" plaque and food.

Once decay is detected on the biting surface of a tooth a sealant cannot be placed, so make sure you bring your child in every six months for his/her preventive appointment so that we can seal the molars before there is any chance of decay developing.

Q) When will my Baby get Teeth?

A) A child's primary teeth, sometimes called "baby teeth," are as important as the permanent adult teeth. Primary teeth typically begin to appear when a baby is between age six months and one year. This chart shows expected eruption ages for your baby’s teeth.

If your child is over three years old, it is time for its dental preventive appointment. If you don’t have one on your calendar, call today so we can help you find the perfect time for this important visit.

Q) What should I use to clean my baby's teeth?

A) Begin cleaning the baby's mouth during the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe the baby's gums with a clean gauze pad. This removes plaque (a sticky film of bacteria) and residual food that can harm erupting teeth.

As soon as teeth appear in the mouth, tooth decay can occur. Therefore, when your child's teeth begin to erupt, brush them gently with a child's size toothbrush and water. Brush the teeth of children over age two with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Be sure they spit out the toothpaste and rinse with water. (Ask our dental team or your physician if you are considering using fluoride toothpaste before age two.)

Infants should finish their bedtime and naptime bottle before going to bed. If you use a pacifier, use a clean one. Never dip a pacifier in sugar or honey before giving it to a baby. Never put a baby to bed with a bottle of anything other than plain water. (Ask your child's physician or us to recommend a type of pacifier.)

If your baby is over three years old, it is time for its dental preventive appointment. If you don’t have one on your calendar, call today so we can help you find the perfect time for this important visit.

Q) Are baby teeth really that important to my child?

A) Yes! A child's primary teeth, sometimes called "baby teeth," are as important as the permanent adult teeth. Primary teeth typically begin to appear when a baby is between age six months and one year. Primary teeth help children chew and speak. They also hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums. If your child doesn’t have a preventive appointment scheduled, contact us so we can get this important date set.

Q) What should I do if my child falls and knocks out a permanent tooth?

A) If the tooth is dirty, rinse it gently in running water. Do not scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. Gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket. If this is not possible, place the tooth in a cup of milk, or when milk is not available, in a cup of cool water. Go immediately to a dentist (within 30 minutes, if possible). Don’t forget to bring the tooth!

Q) How safe are dental x-rays?

A) The amount of radiation that we are exposed to from dental X-rays is very small compared to our daily exposure from things like, cosmic radiation and naturally-occurring radioactive elements (for example, those producing radon). Regardless, every precaution is taken to ensure that radiation exposure is As Low As Reasonably Achievable (the ALARA principle). A leaded apron minimizes exposure to the abdomen and should be used when any dental radiograph is taken.

The table below compares our estimated exposure to radiation from dental X-ray with other various sources. As indicated below, a millisievert (mSv) is a unit of measure that allows for some comparison between radiation sources that expose the entire body (such as natural background radiation) and those that only expose a portion of the body (such as X-rays).


Estimated Exposure (mSv)

Man Made
Dental X-rays


Medical X-rays
Lower gastrointestinal tract radiography
Upper gastrointestinal tract radiography


Cosmic (Outer Space) Radiation
Average radiation from outer space In Denver, CO (per year)


Earth and Atmospheric Radiation
Average radiation in the U.S. from Natural sources (per year)


Source: Adapted from Frederiksen NL. X-Rays: What is the Risk? Texas Dental Journal. 1995;112(2):68-72.

Q) What if I'm pregnant and need a dental radiograph examination?

A) A radiograph may be needed for dental treatment that can’t wait until after the baby is born. Because untreated dental infections can pose a risk to the fetus, dental treatment may be necessary to maintain the health of the mother and child. Radiation exposure resulting from dental X-rays is low. However, every precaution is taken to ensure that radiation exposure is As Low As Reasonably Achievable (the ALARA principle). A leaded apron minimizes exposure to the abdomen and should be used when any dental radiograph is taken. Also, a leaded thyroid collar can protect the thyroid from radiation, and should also be used whenever possible. The use of a leaded thyroid collar is recommended for women of childbearing age, pregnant women and children. Dental X-ray exams do not need to be delayed if you are trying to become pregnant or are breast feeding.

If you have further questions, please call us or your physician to discuss this issue in more detail. We always abide by the ALARA principle in our office.

Q) When do I need x-rays?

A) The frequency of getting X-rays of your teeth often depends on your medical and dental history and current condition. Some people may need X-rays as often as every six months; others with no recent dental or gum disease and who visit their dentist regularly may get X-rays every other year. If you are a new patient, your dentist may take X-rays as part of the initial examination and to establish a baseline record from which to compare changes that may occur over time.
Some general guidelines your dentist may follow regarding the frequency of dental X-rays is as follows:

New patients

Repeat patient, high risk (decay is present)

Repeat patient, no decay, not at high risk for decay

Current or history of gum disease

Other Comments

Children (before eruption of first tooth)

X-rays if the teeth are touching and all surfaces cannot be visualized or probed

X-rays taken every 6 months until no decay is present

X-rays taken every 12 to 24 months if the teeth are touching and all surfaces cannot be visualized or probed

X-rays of areas where disease is seen in the mouth

X-rays to check for growth and development are usually not indicated at this age

Adolescents (before eruption of wisdom teeth)

A full series of X-rays is indicated when there is evidence of dental disease or history of extensive decay.

X-rays taken every 6 to 12 months until no decay is present

X-rays taken every 18 to 36 months

X-rays of areas where disease is seen in the mouth

X-rays should be taken to check for development of wisdom teeth

Adults with teeth

A full series of X-rays is indicated when there is evidence of dental disease or history of extensive decay.

X-rays taken every 12 to 18 months

X-rays taken every 24 to 36 months

X-rays of areas where disease is seen in the mouth

X-rays to check for growth and development are usually not indicated.

Adults without teeth

X-rays are usually not indicated unless specific dental disease is clinically present.

People who fall into the high risk category who may need X-rays taken more frequently include:

  • Children . Children generally need more X-rays than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing and because their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay.
  • Adults with extensive restorative work, such as fillings to look for decay beneath existing fillings or in new locations.
  • People who drink a lot of sugary beverages to look for tooth decay (since the sugary environment creates a perfect situation for cavities to develop).
  • People with periodontal (gum) disease to monitor bone loss.
  • People who have dry mouth whether due to medications (such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, antihistamines, and others) or disease states (such as Sjögren's syndrome, damaged salivary glands, radiation treatment to head and neck). Dry mouth conditions can lead to the development of cavities.
  • Smokers to monitor bone loss resulting from periodontal disease (smokers are at increased risk of periodontal disease).

Q) Why do I need x-rays?

A) Dental X-ray examinations provide valuable information that helps your dentist evaluate your oral health. With the help of radiographs (the term for pictures taken with X-rays), your dentist can look at what is happening beneath the surface of your teeth and gums.
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. If you have questions about your dental X-ray exam, please let us know. We will be glad to explain the importance of this valuable tool.

Q) How can parents help prevent tooth decay?

A) Basically, there are four things you as a parent need to do help prevent tooth decay:
1. Make sure your child’s teeth are brushed after breakfast and directly before getting into bed. Only water should be given the child until waking.
2. Make sure your child does not eat sweet sticky snacks throughout the day. Try to restrict any sweets until after dinner so they are brushed off prior to going to bed.
3. Make sure your child’s teeth are flossed once each day.
4. Make sure your child sees the dentist for a preventive appointment every six months after age three years. If you don’t have one scheduled, call today so we can make a date for this important visit.

Q) Why do my gums bleed?

A) There are a number of reasons your gums may be bleeding. It could be due to improper brushing and flossing techniques, pregnancy, gum disease, or perhaps a serious systemic disease. Primarily, bleeding gums are due to inadequate plaque removal from the teeth at the gum line. This often leads 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 or calculus. Ultimately, this will lead to increased bleeding and a more advanced form of gum and jawbone disease known as periodontitis. If you start noticing bleeding on a regular basis, call and let us know. It is very important to catch gum problems early.

Q) What can I do to prevent my gums from bleeding?

A) Make sure you are coming in every six months for your preventive appointment, brush at least twice each day and floss at least once per day, and talk to us about your bleeding gums if it is in-between appointments. Depending upon the cause, we will give you individualized instructions on how to help prevent your gums from bleeding.

Q) What is periodontal disease (or gum disease)?

A) Periodontal disease is an infection that affects the tissues and bone that support teeth. It is often painless and invisible until the advanced stages.
Healthy gum tissue fits like a protective cuff around each tooth. When someone has periodontal disease, the gum tissue pulls away from the tooth. As the disease worsens, the tissue and bone that support the tooth are destroyed. Over time, teeth may fall out or need to be removed. Periodontal disease is also linked with cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stoke).
Treating periodontal disease in early stages can help prevent tooth loss. Some of the warnings of periodontal disease are:

Gums that bleed when you brush or floss.
Red, swollen or tender gums
Gums that have pulled away from your teeth.
Bad breath that doesn’t go away.
Pus between the teeth and gums
Loose or separating teeth
A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
A change in the fit of your partial denture.

Always report any of these symptoms to us and be sure to call and schedule your preventive appointment if it has been more than six months since your last one.

Q) What type of toothpaste do you recommend?

A) Any brand toothpaste will suffice as long as it has fluoride and has the American Dental Association seal of approval.

Q) It is hard for me to floss, what do you recommend?

A) Flossing can be difficult for many people for different reasons. Here are some flossing tips to aid you in this all important daily routine.
• Try a using a commercial floss holder. Ask us which ones might be most appropriate for your situation.
• Try tying the ends of the floss together into a circle if you or your child cannot hold on to it.
• Try using a commercial interdental cleaning aid for difficult areas. Ask us which ones might be best for your situation.
• Try different types of floss such as waxed, unwaxed, extra thin, wide, tape, Teflon coated, etc.

When you come in for your regular preventive care, please let us know if you are having difficulty flossing. We can show you some tricks of the trade that could perhaps reduce your difficulty.

Q) When should I start flossing my child’s teeth?

A) Flossing can make a big difference in preventing cavity formation between the teeth, so it's a good idea for parents to start flossing their children's teeth as soon as the teeth are in contact with one another, which can be as early as age 2 1/2 years.

Ideally, you'll floss your preschooler's teeth every night at bedtime. For inspiration, you might show your child a book with pictures of healthy and not-so-healthy teeth. When they are able to floss their own teeth, disposable floss holders can often make flossing easier for them. When you bring your child in for his/her preventive appointment we can also spend some time explaining how and why to floss and make it fun.

Q) What type of mouthwash do you recommend?

A) Mouthwashes do more than simply freshen your breath. In combination with brushing and flossing, the American Dental Assosiation says that bacteria-fighting mouth rinses can reduce bacteria in dental plaque and thus help prevent gum disease. Fluoride mouth rinses reduce and prevent tooth decay. These products may also contain alcohol and are not appropriate for children under 6 years of age because they can swallow the rinse, nor are they appropriate for patients suffering from dry mouth. If these are concerns for you, be sure and read the list of ingredients prior to purchase. You may also ask us for some recommendations.

Q) Are thumb sucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child's teeth?

A) You may be concerned about your child’s thumbsucking and wonder if it is harmful, at what age your child should stop, or what could happen if your child doesn’t stop.
Sucking is a natural reflex for children. As infants get older it serves many purposes. Sucking on their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects may make babies feel secure and happy and help them learn about their world. Young children may also suck to soothe themselves. Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may help them fall asleep.

Sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth. The intensity of the sucking is a factor that determines whether or not dental problems may result. If children rest their thumbs passively in their mouths, they are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs. Some aggressive thumbsuckers may cause problems with their baby (primary) teeth. If you notice changes in your child’s primary teeth, please let us know.

Children should have ceased sucking by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Usually children stop between the ages of two and four years. If you are helping your child cease their thumbsucking habit, please let us know. Sometimes it is helpful if we discuss it with them at their regular preventive appointment.

Pacifiers can affect the teeth essentially the same ways as sucking fingers and thumbs. However, it is often an easier habit to break.

Q) What should I do if my child has a toothache on the weekend?

A) Rinse the mouth with warm water to clean it out. Use dental floss to remove any food that might be trapped between the teeth. Do not place aspirin on the aching tooth or gum tissues. Orally, give your child the same type of medicine you would give he/she for a headache. Follow the directions carefully. Call our office and leave a message on the answering machine so that we will hear it first thing Monday morning and call you back with an appointment option. If the pain is debilitating or swelling is severe, please take your child to the closest Emergency Room.

Q) When do I need antibiotics?

A) Typically, only when your physician or we prescribe it for treatment. However, there are some particular circumstances when we recommend that you take an antibiotic prior to your dental appointment. This usually concerns patients who have artificial joints, artificial heart parts, certain heart murmurs, and certain medical histories. It is very important that you let us know if you have any of these situations.

Q) How many times a day should I brush my teeth?

A) The American Dental Association recommends twice each day: preferably, after breakfast and prior to going to bed. We strongly endorse that recommendation.

Q) When should a child have his/her first dental appointment?

A) If you don’t see any discoloration, broken teeth, or other such problems prior to age three, we recommend that your child have their first preventive appointment around their third birthday. However, if there is discoloration, signs of decay or staining, broken teeth, trauma, unusual tooth eruption or development, your child may need to see us, or a pedodontist, prior to their third birthday. Please contact our office, if you see any such issues in your child’s mouth.

Q) What are the warning signs of oral cancer?

A) Possible signs and symptoms of oral cancer include: a lump or thickening in the oral soft tissues, soreness or a feeling that something is caught in the throat, difficulty chewing or swallowing, ear pain, difficulty moving the jaw or tongue, hoarseness, numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth, or swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable. Also, Any white or red le

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