(304) 485-6241
2401 Garfield Avenue
Parkersburg, WV 26101
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Frequently Asked Questions

Parkersburg Dentist WV
Is smoking really that bad for my teeth?

Smoking isn’t just bad for your teeth—it affects the health of your entire mouth, especially your gums. Lighting up stains your teeth, causes bad breath, and promotes the buildup of plaque and tartar. Cigarette smoking is also one of the leading causes of tooth loss. Worst of all, smoking has been linked to the development of periodontal disease, a serious condition that puts the health of your entire body at risk.

Because of the damage smoking does to the soft tissues, complex dental procedures like implants and oral surgery tend to be less successful in people who smoke, This can result in a higher cost of dental healthcare and the need for more frequent (and complicated) treatments.

Pipes and cigars aren't any safer than cigarettes; in fact, they have similar rates of tooth and bone loss even if the smoke is not inhaled. Smokeless tobacco products like snuff and chewing tobacco increase your risk for both oral cancer and cancers of the throat, esophagus, and lips. Additionally, they contain a significant amount of sugar, which when pressed against your teeth for long periods of time can lead to tooth decay.

So what’s the verdict on tobacco? Seek help on how to quit, or just don’t start.

I have diabetes, and my doctor told me it could affect my oral health. Is that true?

While having diabetes does not automatically put your dental health at risk, it does make you more susceptible to certain oral health problems if you don’t keep it under control. Uncontrolled diabetes increases the glucose level in saliva, which can promote the growth of bacteria in your mouth and increase your risk of developing cavities. Diabetes also reduces the body’s resistance to infection, making it easier for conditions like gingivitis and gum disease to spread. Less serious (but still bothersome) problems that can occur with uncontrolled diabetes include ulcers, dry mouth, and thrush, a treatable fungal infection in the mouth and throat.

Interestingly enough, the connection between oral health and diabetes is a two-way street. Severe gum disease can increase blood glucose levels much like diabetes does, triggering the immune system and increasing a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Ultimately, the most important factor is monitoring your blood sugar. If you manage your diabetes with a healthy lifestyle and maintain good oral hygiene through regular check-ups, diabetes won't get the best of your smile.

My jaw aches and sometimes even clicks when I yawn or chew gum. What's the problem?

You could be suffering from temporomandibular disorder (TMD), which affects the flexibility and function of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. Because this area controls your bite, speech, and all other jaw movements, the pain can limit you in many areas of your daily life.

TMD has been attributed to a number of causes, but the most common factor is occlusion—the way your upper and lower jaws fit together. A misaligned bite places pressure on the jaw joint, forcing your facial muscles to work overtime in an effort to correctly align the upper and lower jaws. This can result in jaw fatigue, pain around the joint, chronic headaches, and a popping sensation when you open wide. Jolting face or head injuries can also cause a properly aligned jaw to become dysfunctional.

Professional treatment of TMD ranges from removable appliances to oral surgery. If Dr. Harris determines that the main cause of your jaw pain is an irregular bite, he might recommend a retainer-style mouthguard, or even a reshaping of the biting surfaces of your teeth, which subtly changes your occlusion. If it turns out to be a structural issue, which is often the case in TMD caused by injury, surgery could be the more effective option. Dr. Harris will do everything he can to provide the most conservative treatment possible.

In the meantime, treating your symptoms will temporarily alleviate your pain. Anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.), heating pads, and cold compresses will all help reduce swelling and ease sore muscles. It’s also a good idea to limit your jaw movement by cutting out gum and very chewy foods from your diet, at least until your symptoms subside.

What causes dry mouth, and what can I do about it?

Dry mouth is more than just insufficient saliva; it can alter your taste buds, give you bad breath, and even make your teeth more susceptible to cavities.

Dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications, from prescriptions to antihistamines. Diabetes, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal changes can also cause dry mouth.

Staying hydrated is a good defense against dry mouth, but sometimes it takes more targeted treatment to alleviate your symptoms. Ask Dr. Harris about oral sprays, prescription drugs, and lifestyle changes that can provide relief.

How can I get rid of bad breath?

Everyone has bad breath every now and then, but chronic bad breath can signify an underlying health issue. Deducing the cause is the first step to deciding how to treat it.

The most common causes of bad breath are dry mouth, odorous foods (garlic, onions, etc.), poor oral hygiene, gum disease, tobacco, acid reflux, dehydration, and sinus infections/postnasal drip.

Brushing your teeth in the morning and at night is the best way to prevent bad breath, and brushing after every meal is even better. If you can’t brush, chew sugar-free gum to freshen your breath and loosen any food particles caught between your teeth. Clean between your teeth at least once a day with floss or an interdental cleaner, and don’t forget to brush your tongue! If you wear dentures, remove them at night and clean them thoroughly before replacing them the next morning. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months. Mouthwash can help too, but ask us which rinses actually kill the germs that cause bad breath, because some only temporarily mask odor. Breaking a tobacco habit will also significantly improve your breath.

When bad breath is a symptom of a larger bacterial problem in your mouth, Dr. Harris can provide you with professional rinses, toothpastes, and other products that will ease your worries about bad breath.

When I floss, my gums bleed. If they don’t hurt and my teeth look fine, is it really a big deal?

Bleeding gums are always a concern for Dr. Harris, but they can indicate many different things. The bleeding could be from something easily fixed, like hard brushing, or something more serious, like gingivitis or gum disease.

Gingivitis is the earliest form of gum disease, signified by red, swollen gums that bleed easily. With proper treatment, gingivitis is completely reversible. However, untreated gingivitis can easily progress to periodontitis, a serious inflammatory disease that affects the soft and hard tissues that support the teeth. Periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, and it’s also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Although oral cancer is not the first suspect in a simple case of bleeding gums, it’s still a possibility. Oral cancer can be difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms are associated with other medical conditions. If the bleeding is accompanied by sores or unusual lumps on the gums, schedule an oral cancer screening with Dr. Harris as soon as possible.

If Dr. Harris rules out gum disease and oral cancer, he may recommend a visit to a periodontist.

I don't have a toothache, and I brush and floss regularly. Do I really need a check-up?

Biannual teeth cleanings performed by our dental hygienist are vital to keeping your teeth and gums looking, feeling, and functioning their best. Proper home care is important too, but there are many things we do at Harris Family Dentistry that brushing and flossing just can’t do.

During cleanings, our hygienist gently removes plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) from your teeth. She also polishes your teeth, flosses to test the condition of your gums, and documents any bleeding or irregularities that she notices during your cleaning.

Dr. Harris will then perform a visual assessment of your teeth, soft tissues, and existing restorations. When X-rays have been taken, he will carefully review them with you to identify potential cavities, cysts, or tumors. He will also screen for signs of gum disease and oral cancer.

What causes tooth discoloration?

The two main types of tooth discoloration are extrinsic (external or surface stains) and intrinsic (internal stains). External stains affect the outside of the tooth, whereas internal stains discolor a tooth from the inside.

External stains can be attributed to anything that comes into contact with the enamel of your teeth, including red wine, coffee, tea, soda, and tobacco products. Internal discoloration reflects the actual condition of a tooth, often occurring as a result of invasive treatments, too much exposure to fluoride (Fluorosis), and certain antibiotics (especially tetracycline).

Some types and degrees of discoloration respond well to whitening methods, while others require veneers, bonding, or other restorative procedures. Dr. Harris can easily determine which type of stains you have and which whitening method will work best for you.

Hot or cold, my teeth hate both! Why are they so sensitive?

If you’ve been avoiding that ice cream cone or cup of coffee because of sensitive teeth, you don't have to. Sensitivity is one of the most common complaints we hear from our patients, and there are many causes. Teeth grinding, jaw clenching, gum recession, and enamel loss can all make teeth extra sensitive, because a layer of your teeth that’s usually protected by your enamel is being exposed to external stimuli. Surface irritants like braces and teeth whitening can also cause temporary sensitivity.

Because the causes of sensitivity are so diverse, and because sensitive gum tissue can indicate a more serious problem, it’s important to mention your sensitivity to Dr. Harris. A softer toothbrush is usually the first step, and special toothpastes can reduce sensitivity over time. There are also in-office procedures that coat your teeth with a protective agent, as well as over-the-counter fluoride rinses that protect your enamel against further damage.

Why is fluoride good for my teeth?

Each day, the foods you eat feed the bacteria in your mouth, which then produce an acid that sits on your teeth and forms plaque. Unremoved plaque wears away your enamel in a process known as demineralization. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring compound that promotes the remineralization of tooth enamel, replacing important minerals that strengthen your teeth and protect them from decay. Fluoride can even help reverse the early stages of decay.

Children with newly-erupted permanent teeth benefit a great deal from fluoride exposure, but adults should make sure their teeth come into contact with it, too. The safe and easy way to ensure your teeth are getting enough fluoride is to use fluoride toothpaste, available at drugstores in a variety of types and flavors. If Dr. Harris recommends more intense fluoride treatments, there are a number of gels, rinses, and in-office procedures that can do the trick. Though the most fluoride is absorbed from direct contact with the teeth, many public drinking water systems contain small, safe amounts of fluoride that can have positive health effects.

How do I choose the right oral hygiene product for me?

In recent years, companies have introduced so many options for toothpastes, toothbrushes, flosses, and mouthwashes that even the most discerning consumer often doesn’t know where to begin. Here are a some hints for picking the right oral hygiene products for your needs:

Toothbrush. The big question we usually hear is, electric or manual? It’s really about your personal preference. Both brushes are effective at removing plaque; electric brushes just take away some of the guesswork. If you have trouble brushing for the recommended 2-3 minutes with a manual brush or have a tendency to brush too hard, an electric toothbrush might make it easier for you to do a better job. Many of the newer models have timers and sensors that indicate when you’re pressing too hard. If you'd rather stick with a manual brush, pick one with soft bristles and a small head—they're easier on gum tissue and can fit around the back molars.

Toothpaste. We recommend choosing a paste that contains fluoride, which strengthens enamel and makes teeth less prone to decay. Tartar-control toothpastes usually contain fluoride, but they also contain chemicals that break down plaque and antibacterials that kill lingering germs. After checking those two qualities off, choose your paste based on your personal preferences. Whitening varieties have added abrasive agents that gently polish the surfaces of your teeth without damaging enamel. If you have sensitive teeth, certain toothpastes provide chemical compounds that, when used on a regular basis, can reduce sensitivity over time.

Floss. Did you know that up to 50% of plaque accumulation occurs between your teeth? Neglecting to floss at least once a day leaves all of that plaque behind to form cavities. It’s a good idea to floss before you brush, as it helps to loosen up that plaque for easier removal with your toothbrush. If you find flossing too difficult or unpleasant, try using a flosser. They have handles that make flossing as neat and easy as brushing your teeth.

Mouthwash. There are as many different types of mouthwashes available as there are flavors. Cosmetic mouthwashes can rinse away debris, provide a pleasant taste, and temporarily mask bad breath. If you’re looking for a mouthwash with a purpose, look for an FDA-approved therapeutic rinse with either antiplaque or anticavity ingredients. Mouthwashes are particularly useful for people with canker sores, braces, and dry mouth, but they can’t replace proper brushing and flossing.

Should I replace my silver fillings with composite fillings?

Silver (amalgam) fillings are durable and strong, making them ideal for use in the large back molars. They also tend to be less expensive than composite fillings, but usually require more invasive preparations. The biggest drawback to silver fillings is the gray tint they can give to the teeth they’re used in.

Silver fillings have gotten a bad reputation because of their mercury content, but the FDA and the ADA agree that there's no proof that the compound has any adverse side effects. In fact, the mercury in amalgam fillings is only one component of a chemically stable alloy.

Composite fillings are made out of a mixture of glass and quartz materials, which blends in seamlessly with your teeth. Composite fillings also require less preparation than silver fillings, so Dr. Harris can remove less of your healthy tooth structure when he’s placing them.

Unless Dr. Harris notices any damage or expresses concerns about your old fillings, replacing them comes down to how satisfied you are with their appearance.

If my filling is still in place and my tooth doesn’t hurt, why would Dr. Harris want to replace the filling?

Constant pressure from chewing, grinding, and clenching your teeth can cause dental fillings to wear away and even crack. If the seal between the tooth enamel and the filling breaks down, food particles and decay-causing plaque can work their way under the filling. You then run the risk of developing further decay in that tooth. Decay that is left untreated can progress to deeply infect the tooth, causing an abscess or even requiring extraction.

If your filling is very large or the decay is too extensive, there might not be enough of your tooth left to support a replacement filling. In these cases, Dr. Harris might need to replace the filling with a porcelain crown.

I want to straighten my teeth, but I really don’t want to be in braces for the next two years. Do I have any other options?

Metal braces can be a hassle, especially for adults and older teens who don’t necessarily want the world knowing that they’re straightening their teeth.

With Invisalign® aligner therapy, you can get the straight smile you’ve always wanted without any bars or brackets. Invisalign uses a carefully-planned series of custom-made plastic aligners to reposition your teeth step by step. The trays are comfortable for the sensitive tissues of your gums and cheeks, and they're conveniently removable so you can eat and brush your teeth as you normally would. Because the trays are made from a transparent plastic material, they’re hardly noticeable. In fact, most people won’t even notice you’re wearing them!

Invisalign is a great option for patients with mild to moderately crowded teeth, widely spaced teeth, overbites, crossbites, and underbites. Ask Dr. Harris if Invisalign is right for you!

I’ve been told that I need a root canal. What do I need to know before my appointment?

Root canal therapy is a highly successful restorative treatment for a tooth that is or is likely to become infected. Although root canal therapy has a reputation for being painful, the toothaches associated with an infected root are probably causing you more pain than the treatment will.

Beneath the top two layers of a tooth lies a nerve that delivers sensations to the brain. Whether from excessive decay or physical trauma, this nerve can become damaged, causing an abscess to form at the root of the tooth. If Dr. Harris recommends root canal therapy, it’s because he believes that this is the best way to preserve your tooth, prevent further damage, and most importantly, relieve your pain.

Most patients are able to return to their normal activities and diet the day after treatment. We also provide nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and sedation to keep you comfortable throughout your visit.

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