FAQs

General Dentistry (5)

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

Sealants are a thin, plastic coating that are painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth — usually the back teeth (the premolars, and molars) — to prevent tooth decay. The painted on liquid sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and groves of the teeth forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth.

Typically, children should get sealants on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in. In this way, the dental sealants can protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages 6 to 14. However, adults without decay or fillings in their molars can also benefit from sealants.

Sealants can protect the teeth from decay for up to 10 years, but they need to be checked for chipping or wearing at regular dental check-ups.

What’s the latest word on the safety of amalgam-type fillings?

Over the past several years, concerns have been raised about silver-colored fillings, otherwise called amalgams. Because amalgams contain the toxic substance mercury, some people think that amalgams are responsible for causing a number of diseases, including autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

The American Dental Association (ADA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and numerous public health agencies say amalgams are safe, and that any link between mercury-based fillings and disease is unfounded. The cause of autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis remains unknown. Additionally, there is no solid, scientific evidence to back up the claim that if a person has amalgam fillings removed, he or she will be cured of these or any other diseases.

As recently as March of 2002, the FDA reconfirmed the safety of amalgams. Although amalgams do contain mercury, when they are mixed with other metals, such as silver, copper, tin, and zinc, they form a stable alloy that dentists have used for more than 100 years to fill and preserve hundreds of millions of decayed teeth. The National Institutes of Health has several large-scale studies currently under way to ultimately answer many of the questions raised about silver-colored amalgams. Results of these studies are expected to be released in 2006.

In addition, there has been concern over the release of a small amount of mercury vapor from these fillings, but according to the ADA, there is no scientific evidence that this small amount results in adverse health effects.

Is it possible to have an allergic reaction to amalgam?

It is possible, but fewer than 100 cases have ever been reported, according to the ADA. In these rare circumstances, mercury or one of the metals used in an amalgam restoration is thought to trigger the allergic response. Symptoms of amalgam allergy are similar to those experienced in a typical skin allergy, and include skin rashes and itching. Patients who suffer amalgam allergies typically have a medical or family history of allergies to metals. Once an allergy is confirmed, another restorative material can be used.

What about whitening strips and whitening gels? What’s the opinion on these products?

Both of these products contain peroxide in a concentration that is much lower than the peroxide-based products that are used in your dentist’s office. Although some teeth lightening will be achieved, the degree of whitening is much lower than results achieved with in-office or dentist-supervised whitening systems. Additionally, use of over-the-counter products do not benefit from the close supervision of your dentist — to determine what whitening process might be best for you, to check on the progress of the teeth whitening, and look for signs of gum irritation. On the positive, the over-the-counter gels and strips are considerably less expense (ranging from $10 to about $55) than the top-of-the line in-office whitening procedures, which can cost nearly $800.

I have a terrible fear of going to the dentist yet I recognize the importance of seeing the dentist to maintain good oral health. What should I do?

If you fear going to the dentist, you are not alone. Between 9 percent and 15 percent of Americans state they avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety or fear. The first thing you should do is talk with your dentist. In fact, if your dentist doesn’t take your fear seriously, find another dentist. The key to coping with dental anxiety is to discuss your fears with your dentist. Once your dentist knows what your fears are, he or she will be better able to work with you to determine the best ways to make you less anxious and more comfortable.

The good news is that today there are a number of strategies that can be tailored to the individual to reduce fear, anxiety, and pain. These strategies include use of medicines (to either numb the treatment area or sedatives or anesthesia to help you relax), use of lasers instead of the traditional drill for removing decay, application of a variety of mind/body pain and anxiety-reducing techniques (such as guided imagery, biofeedback and deep breathing, acupuncture, mental health therapies), and perhaps even visits to a dentophobia clinic or a support group.

Orthodontics (1)

Do you do Invisible Braces?

Yes, we do! Feel free to contact our office to speak to Dr. Matthew Ghiz, D.D.S., M.S., our orthodontic specialist, for more detailed information.