Ask The Doctor

ask the doctorAsk The Doctor

We’ve provided answers to a number of commonly asked dental questions.

CLICK HERE to view our patient educational information in pdf format.

If you have a question that is not addressed here, please call us at (702) 476-2700. We look forward to resolving all of your dental concerns.

Q: What causes bad breath?

A: Bad breath is generally a result of dental decay and periodontitis, a disease affecting the gums and bone. Periodontitis occurs when the gums become inflamed and infected, ultimately spreading pockets of plaque and tartar from the gums to the bone that supports the teeth. The teeth may become loose and eventually fall out if left untreated. Periodontitis is treatable, but good oral hygiene is the best method of avoiding this problem.

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Q: Is there an easy way of repairing my chipped tooth?

A: Cosmetic bonding is an affordable, quick and painless way to repair many cosmetic flaws or injuries, including:

  • Gaps in teeth
  • Spots or stains
  • Chipped teeth

Dental bonding sculpts individual teeth without requiring removal of any tooth structure. This technique bonds a composite material that looks, acts and feels like the real thing, to an existing tooth. This procedure usually doesn’t require the use of an anesthetic; is relatively quick to apply; gives an immediate result and is less expensive than veneers.

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Q: Is tooth bleaching safe?

A: Teeth whitening may be one of the best ways to quickly whiten and brighten your smile. We offer several options for whitening your teeth.

  • In-office bleaching- A bleaching solution is applied to your teeth and is activated by heat and light. This in-office procedure typically lasts 30 minutes to one hour and significantly whitens teeth after only one visit. Although stubborn stains may require another visit, results generally last for years and can be maximized with regular dental hygiene.
  • At-home bleaching- During a visit to your dentist, you will be given a whitening gel and fitted with a custom-made whitening tray. Once you return home, you apply the gel to the tray and wear it for two to three hours per day for two or three weeks.

Even with today’s advanced whitening techniques, not everyone’s teeth will whiten with the same results. During the visit with your dentist, your situation will be carefully evaluated and you will be advised accordingly.

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Q: What are porcelain veneers?

A: Porcelain veneers can change the shape, color and length of your teeth. They are thin, durable shells designed to cover the front of the tooth. They are typically made of porcelain and are extremely durable, stain resistant, natural-looking and easy to maintain.

Veneers are custom-fitted to your teeth by removing a small amount of enamel and bonding the veneer to your teeth using a safe, high tech polymer resin. You can expect veneers to stay bright and strong for many years by performing good oral hygiene.

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Q: Why do I need a crown instead of a bigger filling?

A: Teeth are often restored using silver or composite fillings. However, when too much of a tooth’s structure is removed to support a filling, a crown or “cap” may be needed. A crown may be needed to:

  • Restore a tooth when it is unable to support a large filling
  • Attach bridges
  • Protect a weak tooth from fracturing or restore fractured teeth
  • Cover badly shaped or discolored teeth
  • Cover dental implants

A crown essentially covers a tooth to restore it to its natural shape and size. This permanent covering fits over your original tooth to strengthen or improve the appearance of the tooth. Fitting a crown generally requires at least two visits to the dentist’s office.

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Q: Why should I replace silver-mercury fillings?

A: Until recently, dentists used an inexpensive silver and mercury amalgam to fill and seal cavities. Because silver fillings do not bond to a tooth, a chamber must be cut into the tooth that is larger than the exterior. This “undercut” keeps the filling in the tooth. Because a larger amount of the original tooth must be removed, these types of fillings often weaken teeth.

Recent innovations now allow us to replace old silver fillings with composite or porcelain fillings that are stronger, safer and more natural looking. Unlike silver fillings, composite fillings bond to the tooth and provide more protection from fracturing. The quartz-like material is layered into the tooth and hardened with highly intense visible light. The final surface is shaped and polished to match the tooth, making it virtually invisible to the naked eye. Say goodbye to “metal mouth” and hello to a beautiful new smile.

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Q: What do I do if my tooth is loose or knocked out?

A: If the tooth is loose, but still in the socket, leave it in place and see your dentist immediately. If it has been knocked out, pick it up by the crown, not the root. Gently rinse, but do not scrub it or attempt to dry it off. If possible, gently push it into the socket or place it in a glass of milk. Do not let the tooth dry out! Time is of the essence; see a dentist within 30 minutes.

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Q: How do I manage dry mouth?

A: More seniors today have retained their own teeth, avoiding the trauma of removable dentures. Many are on medications creating dryness of the mouth as a side effect. Without the natural benefit of saliva to decrease bacterial action, we see an increase of cavities on the root surfaces of these patients. Anyone on a medication causing a dry mouth effect should be encouraged to see their dentist for regular dental cleanings and topical fluoride rinses.

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Q: What are dental implants?

A: The loss of just a single tooth can set a course that can destroy an entire mouth. Teeth will drift and tip into a space that is created by missing teeth. When you lose a tooth, a dental implant may be needed to replace the tooth root and crown. Dental implants are simply “anchors” that permanently support replacement teeth. They are secure and durable and can be cleaned and cared for much like your natural teeth.

The procedure requires a titanium root be fitted into your jaw to replace the lost tooth’s root. Once the implant is anchored into the bone, the bone around the implant requires six weeks to six months of healing. Once the bone has healed, a support post and replacement tooth is anchored onto the implant.

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Q: What is tooth decay?

A: Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in dental plaque damages the enamel of your teeth, leaving a hole or cavity. Any part of a tooth can decay, from the roots below the gum line to the chewing surface. If plaque bacteria reach and damage the pulp, the tooth will likely die, because the pulp contains nerves and blood vessels that supply the tooth. Tooth decay can occur due to a number of issues, including poor brushing and flossing habits, diets rich in sugar, the presence of risk factors such as smoking and lack of fluoride in the water supply.

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Q: How does aesthetic orthodontics differ from traditional orthodontics?

A: Traditional orthodontic treatments use fixed appliances such as stainless steel or ceramic braces, elastic bands, headgear and retainers to treat misalignments of the teeth and jaws. The treatments are noticeable and can be irritating to the mouth. Fixed appliances can also make brushing and flossing difficult – a significant drawback for patients with gingivitis or other gum-related conditions. Patients also need to watch what they eat and drink to ensure braces and bands aren’t damaged. Aesthetic orthodontic treatments use removable appliances called aligners to move teeth. Aligners are custom-made from clear, strong, medical grade plastic and are virtually unnoticeable when worn. There are no metal parts to irritate the mouth or affect speech. And, because aligners are removable, the patient’s diet is not restricted and brushing and flossing can be done normally.

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Q: Does every patient receive the same course of orthodontic treatment?

A: Aligners and treatment plans are custom fit to the needs of each patient. Some patients may need only minor adjustment and aligners may be the only element in their treatment program. Other patients may need more extensive adjustment and aligners may be only part of the treatment plan. Your doctor will work with you to develop the plan that’s right for you.

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Q: Is aligner treatment painful?

A: Some patients may experience temporary discomfort at the start of each phase of the treatment. Discomfort typically lasts a day or so and simply means that the aligner is moving the teeth.

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Q: Is aesthetic orthodontia covered by insurance?

A: If orthodontic care is provided in your plan, aligner treatment and traditional braces should be covered equally. However, it is always wise to review your policy to confirm the orthodontic benefits specifically covered by your plan.

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Q: What should my child’s first dental visit be like?

A: While we have techniques specifically designed for children, you can assist us in making your child’s first visit to the dentist positive and non-threatening. You can do this by refraining from using frightening words such as needle, shot, drill or hurt. Prepare your child by explaining what to expect, building understanding and excitement. This helps eliminate any surprises or unnecessary anxiety. Patience and calm on the part of the parent and reassuring communication with your child are very important.

The first visit is merely an ice-breaker to acquaint your child with the dentist and the practice. Parents may be asked to wait in the reception area so a relationship can be built between your child and the dentist. Depending on the age, your child will receive a gentle but thorough examination of the teeth, jaw, bite, gums and oral tissues; and a gentle cleaning and assessment of the need for fluoride. Children, like adults should see the dentist every six months. In South West Las Vegas, Dr. Steve Lazar will answer any questions you may have about your child’s oral health.

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Common Dental Links

If you would like additional information about your dental health, visit these very informative sites:Academy of General Dentistry – www.agd.org
American Dental Association – www.ada.org
Floss.com – www.floss.com
Zoom! Tooth Whitening – www.zoomnow.com
MedLine Plus: Dental Health –nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dentalhealth.html
WebMD Dental Health Center –webmd.com/health_and_wellness/tooth_and_dental.htm
Invisalign – www.invisalign.com
OrthoClear – www.orthoclear.com
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry –www.aacd.com
American Academy of Orthodontics – www.braces.org
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry –www.aapd.org
American Assn. for Functional Orthodontics –www.aafo.org