Frequently Asked Dental Questions Waco

We’re Here to Answer Your Questions

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At Heart of Texas Smiles General & Cosmetic Dentistry, our team of dental experts and professionals never want patients to feel uninformed or “in the dark.” Honesty, openness, and reliability are who we are, which is why we strive to deliver timely and transparent care to our patients. Part of this includes offering valuable patient education and being able to answer questions from those looking to learn more. Below, you will find just a few of the many FAQs we’ve received from patients over the years – all of which we have answered to ensure greater clarity.

What can I expect during my regular dental visits?

At every regularly scheduled dental appointment, we will carefully check your teeth, gums, mouth, and throat. A checkup at our office includes:

  • Head and neck examination: This includes a comprehensive oral cancer screening, facial exam, palpation of chewing muscles, palpation of lymph nodes, and an exam of the temporomandibular (jaw) joint.
  • Clinical dental examination: This includes a periodontal exam and examinations of the mobility of teeth, the mucous membranes, saliva, occlusion (bite), removable appliances, and contact between teeth. Clinical x-rays help us precisely diagnose any areas in need of attention. If we detect tooth decay or broken fillings, we will discuss the appropriate action with you.
  • Dental cleaning (prophylaxis): This includes scaling plaque, polishing teeth, flossing, assessing your mouth’s cleanliness, and providing oral hygiene instructions.

Following the clinical dental exam, we will discuss a detailed treatment plan, if necessary. Our team will also schedule a follow-up visit for you.

How does fluoride help prevent tooth decay?

  • Promotes tooth remineralization: Acids can demineralize a tooth, creating a weak spot that develops into a cavity. Fluoride helps promote the opposite process, called remineralization, which can reverse the very early stages of tooth decay.
  • Helps teeth become more resistant to decay: Fluoride strengthens teeth, giving them natural protection against future tooth decay.
  • Reduces oral bacteria’s ability to create acids: Fluoride disrupts bacteria's ability to metabolize sugars, the process that leads to the attack on tooth enamel.

My teeth are crooked! What are my options?

You don’t have to endure the uncomfortable metal braces of the past! Invisalign® is a system of orthodontics that uses invisible plastic aligners to comfortably shift your teeth into place.

Composite bonding and the application of porcelain veneers are both conservative ways to mask the appearance of crooked teeth. Be aware that these cosmetic approaches cannot address orthodontic issues such as overbite, underbite, or crossbite, and therefore are not suitable for every patient.

If you have crooked teeth and would like to achieve a more beautiful smile through cosmetic dentistry treatments, we can diagnose your specific issues, discuss your options, and recommend a few different plans of action!

Do you offer tooth-colored fillings? Can they replace my old metal fillings?

The placement of tooth-colored composite fillings is one of the most commonly performed general dentistry procedures at our office. In addition to filling new cavities, these beautiful restorations can replace old metal fillings that have blackened, fractured, popped out, or that simply take away from the beauty of your smile.

How do I keep my child’s teeth healthy?

  • Start oral care early! Oral care should start soon after your child is born. After feeding, clean your child’s gums using gauze or a clean, damp cloth. As soon as your child’s teeth appear as soon as four months after birth they should be brushed. Make this a fun part of your child’s daily routine early. Each day, brush your child’s teeth with a soft, wet toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride-free toothpaste. You can switch to a fluoride toothpaste once they are old enough not to swallow it. Children need help brushing their teeth through at least age 8.
  • Prevent nursing-bottle mouth Nursing-bottle mouth, also known as baby-bottle tooth decay or baby-bottle syndrome, can cause a baby’s front teeth to rapidly decay, which can lead to a lifetime of dental difficulties. Preventing nursing bottle mouth is easy: If you give your baby a bottle at nap or bed time, simply fill it with plain water rather than formula, milk, or juice never let your child fall asleep with a bottle filled with a liquid other than water. In addition, check your child for brown spots near the gums because they are a warning sign for tooth decay. Most importantly, only give juices at meal times, not throughout the day. Avoid giving children carbonated sodas (including clear sodas) and sports/energy drinks.
  • Take your child to the dentist Generally, preventative dentistry should start early. A child’s first dental visit should take place at 6 to 12 months after birth. Regular fluoride treatments, administered by a dentist or hygienist, are especially helpful in strengthening enamel and arresting tooth decay for children. Contact our practice to schedule an appointment for your child.
  • Take advantage of dental sealants Dental sealants are a popular and effective way to protect your child’s teeth against cavities. Dental sealants are a plastic coating applied on the grooved, hard-to-reach surfaces of the back teeth. Pits and fissures on these surfaces are particularly susceptible to tooth decay because toothbrush bristles are too big to reach within these grooves. Dental sealants can be used to seal out cavity-causing bacteria from damaging the teeth.

How are dental sealants applied?

Dental sealants are quickly applied in our office. A dentist or hygienist prepares the chewing surfaces of teeth, then applies the sealant. The sealant material bonds directly to the tooth and hardens with the aid of a special curing light. Dental sealants hold up well under the force of chewing, and they provide protection against cavities for about five years. During regular dental visits, we will examine the coverage of the sealants and re-apply them if necessary.

How do dental sealants protect teeth?

Because fluoride is effective in preventing decay from forming on the smooth surfaces of teeth, and dental sealants protect the grooves of teeth, these treatments are best used in conjunction.

Dental sealants are particularly effective for protecting children’s teeth. The first permanent molars emerge when a child is about 6. A dental sealant treatment performed shortly after these first permanent teeth emerge protects the teeth from developing cavities.

Another good time for applying sealants occurs when a child is about 12, when the second permanent molars emerge.

We may also recommend sealants for adults who are at a particularly high risk of tooth decay.

What causes sensitive teeth?

Sensitive teeth can be caused by a range of factors. The porous part of the tooth, called dentin, is the region that registers pain, and dentin can become exposed due to:

  • Fractured or chipped teeth
  • Cavities
  • Toothbrush abrasion
  • Sinus inflammation and congestion
  • Teeth injured by clenching or grinding
  • Receding gums caused by gum disease or improper brushing

How can sensitive teeth be managed?

Pain from sensitive teeth often comes and goes, but if you experience constant pain, you may have a more serious problem.

There are many effective treatments for sensitive teeth, including:

  • A soft-bristle toothbrush to prevent gum irritation
  • Toothpaste designed to insulate the nerve that registers pain
  • A fluoride rinse or gel, available at our office

If you have sensitive teeth, we can discuss your symptoms and determine the cause of your pain and develop a course of treatment.

What are the causes of bruxism (teeth grinding)?

Teeth grinding can be caused by a range of factors; often, both emotional and physical factors are involved. Causal factors can include stress, sleep disorders, an abnormal bite, and crooked or missing teeth.

Will I always need my nightguard?

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How can bruxism be treated?

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Once the cause or causes of bruxism are determined, your dentist can develop a course of treatment. Treatment methods may include:

  • Relaxation techniques if stress is at the root of the problem
  • Physical therapy
  • Muscle relaxants
  • A plastic mouthguard to wear at night during sleep

Bruxism can cause serious pain and headaches, as well as dangerous wear on the teeth. In severe cases, restorative dentistry techniques such as inlays or porcelain crowns are needed to rebuild teeth damaged by bruxism. Therefore, it is crucial to seek treatment for bruxism early to avoid waking up with headaches or jaw pain.

If I am missing one or more teeth, what are my options?

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Patients today have an array of options for replacing missing teeth. Dental bridges, dentures/partials, and dental implants all have their advantages and disadvantages, though modern cosmetic and restorative dentistry has come to favor dental implants because they look and function just like real teeth and require no special care.

If you have lost a tooth or several teeth, we urge you to seek treatment. Adjacent teeth can shift into the gap left by a lost tooth; in addition, a missing tooth can lead to bone loss, hygiene problems, difficulties with speaking and eating, and much more. Today's dental restorations are better than ever, and they can give you a strong bite and a beautiful smile. Contact our office today to learn more about your options for tooth replacement.

Who is a good candidate for dental implants?

Nearly anyone who is missing one or more teeth and desires a superior, long-lasting aesthetic result is a good candidate for dental implants. However, patients must have enough bone to support and stabilize the implant. Some individuals who have suffered bone loss as a result of gum disease or another condition may not be good candidates for dental implants. Please visit our office so we can determine the best course of treatment for you.