Dental Health Questions and Answers
Select a topic below to read answers to dental questions provided by the dental Advisory Board. If you have a question that is not answered here, read our FAQs.
Does brushing your tongue really help with bad breath?The tongue is a common location for the bacteria that cause bad breath. Brushing your tongue should be part of your overall routine to help remove bacteria from all areas of the mouth – not just your teeth. Be sure to consult your dental professional if you continue to have chronic bad breath.
I've tried all kinds of rinses and mints, but I still have bad breath. What can I do?Chronic bad breath can be a sign of the onset of periodontal disease. If you’ve already discussed this with your dental professional and he or she feels that it’s not an oral hygiene issue, then you should consult your family physician. Bad breath can also be a sign of gastric (stomach/esophagus) issues.
I brush my teeth everyday and my breath still does not stay fresh, I also floss, what else can I do?Local sources of bad taste or simply not feeling fresh can potentially come from the tongue. Tongue brushing or even using a tongue scraper is recommended. Tongue scrapers are available at most drug stores. Rinsing can be beneficial when used along with good brushing and flossing. Some over-the-counter rinses are alcohol free in order to avoid burning sensations on the tissues, cheeks, or tongue, and causing dry mouth, which could create more bacteria retention and bad breath.
We recommend Crest Pro-Health Rinse, which is an alcohol-free rinse that is available at most grocery and drug stores. Rinsing can be beneficial when used along with good dental hygiene practices such as brushing teeth and flossing. Other unpleasant tastes in your mouth could potentially stem from upper respiratory infections, or medical issues involving substances in the bloodstream casting unpleasant tastes or smells.
Do today's dental fillings still have mercury in them?The dental amalgam used in metal fillings contains trace elements of mercury, as well as other metals such as silver, copper, tin and zinc. However, the total amount of mercury used is less than 3 percent. Major U.S. and international associations, including the American Dental Association, support the safety and efficacy of amalgam. If you’re still concerned about metal fillings, you should discuss other options with your dental professional.
Do white fillings last as long as metal fillings?White fillings are a composite of powdered glass and plastic resin, which can be made to resemble the appearance of the natural tooth. They are strong and durable, but can be more expensive than amalgam fillings. Besides having a more natural appearance, composite resin fillings usually require removal of less of the tooth’s structure to achieve adequate strength. Discuss options with your dental professional because he or she may prefer one method over another based on your individual needs.
What should I do if I lose a dental filling?Losing a filling isn’t normally an emergency, but can sometimes be painful because the tooth is exposed. You should schedule a visit with your dental professional to get the tooth repaired as soon as possible. Your dentist may recommend an over-the-counter dental product to temporarily help relieve the discomfort.
I visit my dentist regularly and often have a cavity. Recently, I have developed numerous cavities for no apparent reason. What could be the cause of this, and is it possible to reverse cavities?Dental decay can occur at any age, and its frequency can stem from many factors: diet, sugary foods and/or drinks, dental hygiene practices, dry mouth, and even an influx of too much acid from medical circumstances such as gastric issues.
Dry mouth is a common side effect from medications, whether they are prescription or over-the-counter.
The proper use of fluorides in toothpaste and rinses can offer continued support for a lifetime. Each time you brush your teeth with an ADA-accepted toothpaste — such as Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste — your teeth become re-mineralized (hardened) from the fluoride content in the paste.
Once a cavity has formed, you cannot reverse it, but you can keep it from getting worse by having it filled and checked by your dental professional during your routine exams.
How long should a dental filling last?Many factors can contribute to the life of a dental filling. The location within the tooth, materials used, the amount of the material necessary to restore the tooth, size of original cavity, chewing forces, and bacterial plaque accumulation around the tooth are all simple factors that dictate how long a filling can last. The dentist who treated the filling can give you the best estimate for how long it should last.
I think my daughter has a cavity on a baby tooth. Should I get it filled if she’s going to eventually lose that tooth anyway?Yes. Even though your daughter will lose the tooth, it will decay not only can damage the tooth, but bone too if left untreated. Additionally, she may be in pain so it should be treated.
How old should my infant son be when I first take him to the dentist?It is recommended that children have their first dental visit by age one or within six months of the appearance of the first tooth. There are pediatric dentists who specialize in children’s dental needs.
My children are afraid to go to the dentist. What can I do to help ease their fear?If you project a good attitude about going to the dentist, your children will be more at ease as well. Stay positive and explain to your child that the dentist just wants to make sure they have a healthy mouth. Never share negative or unpleasant experiences you may have had. If your child is five years of age or older, it may be worth talking to them about the basis for their fear. Your child’s oral health is a partnership between you and your dental professional. You may want to consider a pediatric dentist, as they specialize in the dental health needs of children.
How old should children be to start brushing?Between the ages of 3 years to 6 years, children can begin to brush their own teeth; however, they still require assistance to ensure the teeth are properly cleaned. Parents should monitor the tooth brushing and assist their children in supervising good dental hygiene methods up until 7 years to 9 years. Typically around 9 years of age, the child is more independent, nevertheless, this does not remove the need for the parent to assist and supervise the child’s oral hygiene habits. Parents should start removing plaque from the baby’s teeth as soon as they appear, as early as 6 months either with a baby toothbrush, or soft gauze. By age 1 year, the baby may have four to eight baby teeth. Keep in mind, that the parent or the caregiver should begin oral hygiene care as soon as the first tooth comes into the baby’s mouth. Infants sleeping with a bottle are at increased risk for tooth decay, bear in mind by the age of 18 months, a child may have 12 baby teeth, and may need evaluation by a dental professional. Dental health at any age is very important.
Do all dentists use laughing gas? Is it safe?Nitrous oxide, often called “laughing gas,” is an inhaled anesthetic that can help relieve pain and keep a patient calm during scaling, drilling or root canal procedures. Nitrous oxide can affect breathing, heartbeat and blood pressure, so if you are currently being treated for any condition affecting the lungs or the heart, you need to discuss this treatment with your medical doctor first.
Do root canals hurt?In general, root canals shouldn’t hurt. A person needs a root canal when the nerve tissue in the pulp (center) of a tooth becomes decayed and needs to be removed. The procedure is a two-visit process. First, the pulp is removed. On the second visit, a crown is placed over the tooth. About 95% of root canals are successful in saving the tooth.
Should I see a specialist if I can’t get rid of my gingivitis?If you and your dental professional have tried several treatments and your gingivitis still persists, you may want to ask your dentist for a referral to a periodontist.
How do I teach my children good dental health habits?Good habits begin with you. Brushing a child’s gums and teeth early on teaches the importance of a clean mouth. As children get older, you should be there to teach them to brush, floss and rinse properly. Let your children take an active part in their dental hygiene by letting them pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste.
How can I keep my mouth clean when I can’t brush?Rinsing with a therapeutic mouth rinse is one option. If that’s not possible, rinse for at least 30 seconds with water. And have a pack of sugarless gum handy. Chewing helps generate more saliva, which is your natural defense against bacteria. It can help cleanse the mouth until you can brush.
Is brushing alone enough to get rid of my bad plaque problem?Both brushing and flossing are important to help remove plaque buildup, as brushing alone won’t get under the gum line and between teeth like flossing can. You may want to consider buying a power toothbrush and using an anti-plaque toothpaste or rinse.
Why do I get more plaque buildup than my husband? We use the same toothpaste and go to the dentist every six months.Everyone is different. You should talk to your dental professional about your plaque buildup. He or she may suggest visiting more often than every six months. You should also consider using toothpaste that is formulated to help control plaque build-up.
How do whitening products work?Whitening toothpastes can work in several ways. Some help gently polish away surface stains. Others help to loosen stains on the teeth surface and provide a protective barrier to help prevent new surface stains from forming.
If your teeth are already stained or are not as white as you would like, try an over-the-counter whitening strips, such as Crest Whitestrips teeth whitening systems, which help whiten teeth below the surface. You may also want to talk to your dentist about professional products or techniques. Your dental professional can recommend the correct product for your specific needs.
How does laser whitening work and how much does it cost?Laser whitening can only be performed by a dental professional. A bleaching agent is applied to the teeth and a laser may be used to help heat the bleach with the intent of accelerating the whitening process. Treatments are usually 30-60 minutes depending on the level of whitening a patient wants to achieve. Average cost is $400.
For a less expensive and still effective tooth whitening process, try Crest Whitestrips, which you can do at home and cost between $20-45.
I’ve noticed since I started using Crest Pro–Health mouthwash, that I have more teeth staining (from the dye in the rinse) than I have ever had. I have switched to brushing after using the rinse and timing the rinse to make sure it is only 30 seconds. Have you ever heard of this issue before?Crest Pro–Health Rinse Refreshing Clean Mint flavor does contain a blue dye. It is safe and will not permanently stain your teeth or tongue. In fact, it should wash away with normal eating and drinking. However, you might want to try Crest Pro-Health rinse Cool Wintergreen or Clean Night Mint flavors, which do not contain blue dye.
As a dental hygienist, I have noticed some staining in my patients using Crest Pro-Health Rinse. Is there chlorhexidine in this like there is in Peridex?Like all mouthwashes that effectively fight plaque and gingivitis, Crest Pro-Health Rinse can contribute to temporary, surface-level brown teeth discoloration, which is reported by a small percentage of individuals.
- Teeth stains could actually be one indication, in some people, that the product is working: after the rinse kills germs in your mouth, the dead germs can collect on the teeth surface and create the appearance of a brown stain.
- Teeth discoloration could be exaggerated by many other factors, such as existing tartar on teeth, consumption of colored beverages like coffee, tea and/or red wine, or tobacco use.
- Brown teeth stains from use of mouthwashes that effectively fight plaque and gingivitis are not harmful. It is reversible — and largely preventable — through options like brushing with a power toothbrush and tartar-control/whitening toothpaste, flossing, and visiting the dentist regularly.
I have cosmetic bonding on the front of my upper teeth. I've been using Crest Pro-Health rinse for a little over a year now and noticed a staining to the bonding. Is there any way to remove the stains?Crest Pro-Health Rinse — Refreshing Clean Mint flavor contains a blue dye. The dye is safe, will not permanently stain your teeth or tongue, and should wash away with normal eating and drinking. However, you might want to try Crest Pro-Health Rinse Cool Wintergreen flavor, or Crest Pro-Health Night Rinse, neither of which contain blue dye.
Some consumers may notice blue specks in their sink after spitting out Crest Pro-Health Rinse — Refreshing Clean Mint. The blue dye in the mouthwash can bind to germs in your mouth, making them more visible when you spit into the sink. Some consumers find that running water in the sink before spitting out the rinse helps prevent the blue specks from sticking.
Any advice on the best way to whiten teeth?In 2000, a trayless delivery system from Crest was introduced. This product is Crest Whitestrips and they are very easy to use. The strips contain a fairly low concentration of peroxide, which is generally well tolerated by patients. The single most important criteria for success in bleaching with the Crest Whitestrips is first to determine what type of stain may be present, any dental materials such as fillings present in the area, and any hypersensitivity to teeth in the area to be whitened.
This type of whitening method is of course very convenient, easy to use, well tolerated and cost effective. There are great advantages to using these strips as opposed to trays, which can be cumbersome, potentially create gum irritation in the event they do not fit, and may cause teeth sensitivity if a user overloads the tray with too much bleaching gel. With Whitestrips, you can easily place the customized strip either on the top or bottom teeth. I would recommend that you follow up brushing with a whitening toothpaste.
These strips will only whiten natural teeth; no dental work — such as crowns or fillings — can be whitened by teeth whitening systems or procedures.
Can toothpastes get rid of tartar buildup?Toothpastes with anti-tartar ingredients help prevent tartar buildup, but only a dental professional can remove tartar buildup once it’s occurred. Make sure you see your dentist at least once every 6 months for a proper cleaning.
How long does it take for plaque to become tartar?There isn’t a standard rule of thumb. Everyone is different. However, visits to the dentist at least once every six months can help ensure tartar doesn’t get out of hand. Some patients need to go to the dentist more than twice a year. Your dental professional will recommend what is best for you and your dental health.
Are there other treatments for sensitive teeth besides toothpaste?Yes, but a desensitizing toothpaste is usually the first option. It may take a couple of weeks to take full effect. However, if sensitivity persists, your dental professional may recommend a fluoride gel. Additionally, if receding gums are the cause of the sensitivity, your dentist may apply a polymer to the area to help control severe sensitivity.
How do I get over my fear of going to the dentist?Talk to your dentist and tell him or her what upsets you or makes you afraid. Dental professionals want to make your visit comfortable and will work with you to help you work through your fears. They can’t help you if you don’t bring it up.
My dentist recommended I visit more than twice a year. Is that unusual?No, it’s not that unusual. Visiting the dentist every six months is the standard. However, some patients may need additional cleanings or visits to ensure their mouth stays its healthiest.
How often should my teeth be x-rayed?The frequency of x-rays depends on your individual dental health needs. Your dentist will determine the proper frequency based on your medical history and examination. If you are pregnant, or think you may be pregnant, please be sure to mention that prior to the start of any dental procedure.
I have a lot of tooth pain all the time and some teeth that are loose. Why would this happen?Tenderness and pain can potentially be the result of inflammation at the root of the tooth or surrounding bone and gum areas. Please seek a dental professional for clinical evaluation of your areas of concern.
I am allergic to gluten. Do Crest Pro-Health products contain any type of gluten/wheat substances?Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste does not contain gluten.
Crest Pro-Health Rinse does not directly add any ingredients that contain gluten, though it is possible that it may contain trace amounts. We recommend you contact your doctor before using Crest Pro-Health Rinse.
I use Crest Pro-Health toothpaste and just started using Pro-Health mouthwash. When is the best time to use the mouthwash — before brushing, after, or at other times? I don't want to interfere with the helpful anti-gingivitis effects of the toothpaste.We recommend brushing before you use Crest Pro-Health Rinse. We have found that many consumers brush their teeth first then rinse with mouthwash, therefore our clinical testing for Crest Pro-Health has followed this same order of brushing then rinsing.
Can Pro-Health toothpaste be made with white paste? My whole family would switch if it were the white paste we all love.There are several Crest Pro-Health products that are available in a paste variety. Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste — Clean Cinnamon is in a white paste formula, as are Crest Pro-Health Night Toothpaste and Crest Pro-Health Enamel Shield Toothpaste.
My daughter is in the sixth grade and is to write a paper on a product and one of its ingredients. She chose Crest Toothpaste and the ingredient is glycerin. She'd like to know why it is in the toothpaste and what it does to take care of teeth.Glycerin is included in toothpaste to act as a humectant. In this capacity, it helps prevent the paste from drying out and contributes to the smooth, creamy feel of the toothpaste during brushing. This ensures that the fluoride is efficacious, as it will remain in a soluble state. Some other common humectants are sorbitol, polyethylene glycol, and propylene glycol.
Does Crest Pro-Health Rinse have ADA acceptance?Crest Pro-Health Rinse does not currently have the ADA Seal of Acceptance. The process to apply can take several months or even years to complete. The active ingredient in Crest Pro-Health Rinse has been clinically proven to fight plaque and gingivitis and is one of those found to be safe and effective by an FDA advisory panel.
Since using Pro-Health toothpaste, I've noticed a "shedding" of the lining of my mouth. It is like a layer peels off each time I use it. My mouth feels cleaner than ever, but I'm not sure if this is normal.The shedding that you have noticed in your mouth is not unsafe and is a result of the natural process to remove dead cells from the skin surfaces in your mouth. The cleaning action of both Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste and Crest Pro-Health Rinse can accelerate this process and often results in the skin coming off in sheets, making the removal of dead skin cells more noticeable.
I am having trouble with soreness on the inside of my lower lip due to dental work. How can I speed up the healing process?Tenderness in soft tissues such as the lip can be common from being opened for any period of time during dental work procedures. Often, soreness in soft tissues just takes some time to heal and recover. If any soft tissues are red and/or inflamed, try warm salt water to alleviate the discomfort. If the tenderness persists more than 5 days after the dental procedure, you should return to your dental professional for evaluation.
My dental hygienist told me that I must have gum surgery due to a part of my gum line receding and exposing root on my tooth. I was told there was no treatment for this in the meantime. Then someone else told me that flossing will bring my gum line back down. What is true?Gum recession is the movement of the gum margin, resulting in exposure of the root surface. The recession may be related to tooth anatomy and the location of the tooth in the mouth as well as being caused by inflammatory periodontal disease or it can be from the result of trauma simply from incorrect tooth brushing. The recession can certainly create tooth sensitivity and the opportunity for root cavities.
If the recession worsens over time, surgical correction of the recession is indicated. Recession in the presence of healthy tissues may be observed without immediate treatment. Seek the advice of a periodontist in order to best address what has caused the recession, the location of the recession, other potential mechanical issues affecting your recession such as your tooth alignment, or any grinding or clenching concerns, and to be sure that you are not dealing with any periodontal inflammatory conditions. A periodontist can evaluate all of these factors for you. Be sure you are using a soft toothbrush, changing it frequently (once every 3 months), and using proper tooth brushing technique.
The gum line will not grow back up or down; however, flossing is essential in preventing gum disease and cavities between the teeth. Flossing is essential in order to remove the plaque bacteria from between your teeth and aids in preventing gum disease and decay.