Frequently Asked Questions
Biannual teeth cleanings performed by our skilled hygienists at McNeely Family Dentistry are central to keeping teeth and gums looking, feeling, and functioning well. If you have gum disease, more frequent visits to the dentist will probably be recommended for your oral and overall health.
During cleanings, plaque and calculus (more commonly known as tartar) are removed from teeth. Plaque is a sticky deposit on teeth in which bacteria grow, and tartar is practically calcified or hardened plaque, so it is more difficult to remove. When tartar builds up under the gumline, causing gum disease, more extensive treatment than a standard cleaning is needed to remove it and help ensure healthier gums. Hygienists also polish teeth, floss (partly to test the condition of gums, to see if they bleed), and they document any bleeding along with stains they noted during the cleaning in a patient’s file.
Dental exams with our team make it so problems can be diagnosed and treated before they progress into needing more extensive treatment. A typical exam includes a visual assessment of teeth and occlusion (bite), along with an appraisal of current restorations. When X-rays have been taken, Dr. McNeely will carefully review them to identify areas of decay and other possible areas of concern for cysts, tumors, and other disorders of the mouth. Panoramic X-rays are especially revealing and beneficial to this process. Our dentists will perform a general screening for early detection of gum disease and oral cancer, as well.
In between cleanings and exams at McNeely Family Dentistry, brushing teeth at least twice a day (in the morning and at night) is the most important thing you can do to take care of your teeth. If possible, brushing after every meal is even better. If not, chewing sugar-free gum after meals can get food particles out of teeth. Additionally, clean between teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners, and remember to brush your tongue. Brushing your tongue, especially the back areas, can make a big difference in how clean your mouth feels and smells, and how clean it actually is. Restorations, such as bridges and partial dentures, should be cleaned thoroughly, too, just like natural teeth. Toothbrushes should be replaced every two to three months.
X-rays, also known as radiographs, are commonly used in dental exams of patients of all ages. Panoramic X-rays, which are taken every five to seven years and show the entire mouth, are particularly useful diagnostic tools. Panoramic X-rays are taken with a machine that circles your head, providing a complete overview of all the teeth as well as the roots, upper and lower jawbones, the sinuses, and other hard surfaces in the mouth. Many problems with teeth and the surrounding tissues cannot be seen when we visually examine your mouth. An X-ray examination is needed to reveal:
- Small areas of decay between teeth or below existing restorations (fillings)
- Deep cavities
- Infections that can develop in the mouth bones
- Periodontal (gum) disease
- Abscesses or cysts
- Developmental abnormalities
- Some types of tumors
- TMJ Dysfunction
Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save you unnecessary discomfort, money, and time. In cases where X-rays help us detect oral cancer and periodontal disease early, radiographs can also help save your life!
Constant pressure from chewing, grinding, and/or clenching can cause dental fillings to wear away, chip, and even crack. If the seal between the tooth enamel and the filling breaks down, food particles and decay-causing bacteria can work their way under the filling. You then run the risk of developing additional decay in that tooth. Decay that is left untreated can progress to deeply infect the tooth and even cause an abscess or eventual loss of the tooth. Again, regular dental checkups at McNeely Family Dentistry allow us to monitor areas of concern and help keep you in optimal oral health.
When restorations are large, or if recurrent decay is extensive, there might not be enough remaining tooth structure to support a replacement filling. In these cases, we may need to replace the filling with a natural looking porcelain crown.
If your gums are not sore, it’s safe to assume your bleeding gums are not the result of hard brushing or flossing. Bleeding gums that apparently have no cause are always a warning sign, often indicating such conditions as gingivitis or even gum disease. Gingivitis (inflamed, bleeding gums) is not a one-way ticket to gum disease. In fact, if it’s caught early enough, gingivitis can be treated and even reversed. The first lines of treatment when it comes to gingivitis are lifestyle changes. Poor oral hygiene, smoking, uncontrolled diabetes, and high levels of stress can all contribute to gingivitis. Choosing a toothbrush with soft bristles can ease gum damage, too, and getting regular dental cleanings will control plaque and tooth decay. It’s important to stop gingivitis before it progresses, as studies have shown more and more serious illnesses are associated with gum disease. Heart disease, strokes, diabetes, even osteoporosis and inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis have been linked to poor oral health.
Though not the first suspect in a simple case of bleeding gums, oral cancer is also a possibility. Oral cancer can be difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms are associated with other medical conditions. They include sores, difficulty swallowing or moving the jaw, bleeding gums or cheeks, and continuous pain in the mouth. If Dr. McNeely finds no other causes for your bleeding gums, he may recommend a visit to a specialist.
Regular check-ups are vital to cancer prevention, as is good oral hygiene, avoiding tobacco, and maintaining a balanced diet. Inform our team if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms. You’d go to the doctor if a cut on your hand were infected—do your gums the same service! They’ll thank you later.
Nitrous oxide is one of the safest anesthetics used in dentistry. Nitrous oxide is a colorless blend of oxygen and nitrous oxide gases with a pleasant, sweet smell and taste. It is also known as “laughing gas.” Inhaling nitrous oxide creates a sense of well-being and relaxation, and it is used effectively to help individuals who experience anxiety or fear about dental treatment feel more comfortable and at ease. Nitrous oxide increases a patient’s pain threshold and, when necessary, makes the administration of anesthetic injections more comfortable. Combined with our caring McNeely Family Dentistry team, nitrous oxide can be especially beneficial for children and adolescents who experience dental anxiety. It has also been found helpful if a patient has a strong gag reflex that interferes with dental treatment.
Nitrous oxide can help make visits to the dental office less difficult for individuals with mental or physical disabilities, as well. Dr. McNeely has special equipment, which is regularly checked and calibrated, to monitor the proportion of nitrous oxide released and adjust the flow rate to the individual patient. The gas is administered by specifically trained members of our dental staff.
Nitrous oxide has few side effects and/or risks. It is non-addictive, and patients remain fully conscious during treatment. Nitrous oxide is administered comfortably with a mask over the mouth and nose, and a pleasant feeling of calm and sedation are felt almost immediately. Normal breathing of pure oxygen for several minutes after dental treatment is finished completely reverses the effects of the nitrous oxide, so adults can usually leave the dental office of their own accord.
Some individuals may experience slight nausea if nitrous oxide is administered on a full stomach. For this reason, it is advisable to limit food intake for several hours before treatment, although fasting is not typically necessary. Nitrous oxide is not effective if a patient suffers from claustrophobia (because of the mask used to administer the gas), or has extreme dental anxieties. Because nitrous oxide is inhaled, it is also not effective if the patient has blocked nasal passages. For unknown reasons, it does not affect about 10% of individuals.
Oral conscious sedation medications are measured and evaluated by pharmacists and physicians on a safety scale called the therapeutic index, where the higher the number on the scale, the better the safety rating of the drug. The sedation medications commonly used by Dr. McNeely have high numbers on this index, and you will probably recognize some of the names of the drugs (including Valium®, Halcion®, and Sonata®). When Dr. McNeely is working with you to choose a drug protocol (primary sedation agent)—because there are several—factors such as age, weight, and level of dental anxiety are taken into careful account. Health history, including medications (prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, and supplements), and habits such as alcohol consumption and smoking are critical to talk to Dr. McNeely about, as well. Even certain fruit juices can affect the reaction of sedation medications in the body. For example, patients should not drink grapefruit juice within 72 hours before or after dental treatment with sedation. Prior to your sedation visit, Dr. McNeely will go through the proper preparation steps, from diet adjustments and possibly taking a sleep agent the night before, to having a companion drive you to your appointment and what to expect after treatment.
When patients feel anxiety, their threshold of pain is lower, so dental treatments feel more uncomfortable, stressful, and panic-causing than they otherwise would. The most advantageous aspect of oral conscious sedation is that this can be eliminated. The object is to enable anxious patients, and patients with special needs, relax the body and mind to be able to receive the treatment they need. Getting the dental care you need is essential to maintaining your optimal overall health.
Taking medication or undergoing any type of anesthesia involves a certain level of inherent risk, so our team will consult with you about this. Also, patients’ bodies metabolize pills differently, so the calming effect of sedation medications might take longer. In these cases, Dr. McNeely is careful not to over medicate.
Most patients experience little to no discomfort or remaining effects from a sedation dentistry visit. Immediately after treatment, you might feel a little wobbly while the medication wears off, but Dr. McNeely will give you simple, helpful instructions for the rest of your day.
A more beautiful smile can make life more beautiful. Studies have shown that a healthy and attractive smile can raise self-esteem, increase confidence, improve your personal as well as your professional life, and help you make better first impressions on others. Sometimes it doesn’t take much treatment for you to feel better about your smile, and there are a variety of subtle, yet noticeable ways that smiles can be enhanced. There are also more significant and dramatic treatment procedures (and combinations of procedures), often called “smile makeovers,” that can totally change teeth and smile appearance, giving you the smile of your dreams.
Advancements in dental technology have made it possible for Dr. McNeely to address a wide variety of issues affecting smile appearance. Some common cosmetic dentistry treatments include teeth whitening, porcelain veneers, bridges, and orthodontic solutions, such as Invisalign®. Replacing old, amalgam (silver) fillings with tooth-colored fillings can also be considered cosmetic in nature, as it is done to improve both the health and structure and the appearance of teeth. Really, all dental treatment aimed to improve the appearance of your teeth, gum shape, and smile can be considered cosmetic in nature.
You have a number of options when it comes to whitening your teeth. Depending on your schedule and your brightening expectations, you and our doctors can decide which is best for you. With in-office whitening procedures, you can get a brighter smile in just 45 minutes–1.5 hours. For the convenience of whitening in your own home, we offer custom whitening trays and professional-strength whitening gel. There are also a variety of over-the-counter gels, strips, and toothpaste designed to whiten your teeth, but they contain less concentrated ingredients and can take up to a month to show results.
As far as safety goes, numerous studies have examined the effects of whitening and bleaching methods. Some products, including certain whitening toothpaste and take-home kits, have been evaluated and approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). While having the ADA seal of acceptance is a good sign, many safe and effective products don’t have an ADA seal simply because their manufacturers did not seek one. Bleaching is not recommended for children under 16, as their teeth are still developing, and is also not recommended for women who are pregnant.
The most common side effects of teeth-whitening — both the in-office and take-home varieties — are teeth and gum sensitivity. This sensitivity is usually temporary and should subside soon after you’ve stopped using the product.
Dr. McNeely and our team work hard to stay on the leading-edge of restorative dentistry. If you or someone you love struggles with ill-fitting, uncomfortable dentures or a retainer with false teeth, we have a permanent solution. Quickly becoming the preferred method of dental replacement, implants can give your smile a second chance. They are useful in denture stabilization, but they can also be used in conjunction with crowns, bridges, and in single-tooth replacements.
Permanent implants are not only more durable and long-lasting than traditional tooth replacements, they also look and feel more like natural teeth. Most importantly, they function like natural teeth, so you can chew, talk, and smile with confidence again. Because the implant procedure allows for more of your healthy tooth structure to be saved, fixed implants can even prevent bone loss.
Many patients suffering from advanced tooth decay, root canal failure, trauma to the mouth, or just extreme natural wear and tear on teeth are benefiting from this revolutionary option in restorative dentistry. However, there are still some things to consider before you decide on dental implants. For example, they are best performed after adolescence, when the teeth and jawbone are fully developed. Additionally, the implant procedure can be more complicated for individuals with periodontal (gum) disease, active diabetes, immune deficiencies, and for patients who smoke. To ensure that you get the treatment that’s right for you, keep Dr. McNeely and our team informed and up-to-date about your entire medical history and dental habits.
Let’s face the facts: accidents happen, and especially when it comes to our teeth and mouths, they can be pretty frightening. Being careful is good prevention, but being prepared promises reassurance in any oral health emergency. It’s important to know when home care will suffice and when a trip to McNeely Family Dentistry is necessary, so here are some guidelines to help you through common situations:
- Toothache/Sore Gums: Rinse with warm water to remove any food or debris; if you notice anything lodged between teeth, floss to remove it. Take an over-the-counter pain medication (but never apply the medication directly to tooth or gums), and visit our team if the pain persists.
- Chipped Tooth: Save the pieces, if you can, and rinse them thoroughly. Apply an ice pack or a cold compress to the swollen lip or gum tissue near the chipped tooth to prevent swelling. If the area is bleeding, apply gauze for ten minutes, or until the bleeding has stopped. Visit us as soon as possible.
- Broken Tooth: With recent advancements in restorative and cosmetic dentistry, you might not lose your tooth. If there’s enough remaining healthy tooth structure, we can create a crown that will “grab onto” your natural tooth, eliminating the need for root removal. While the success of this process, known as “crown lengthening,” depends on the severity of the break, it’s worth asking about options other than complete removal.
- Knocked Out Tooth: Depending on the situation, find the tooth and, holding it by the crown only, rinse it briefly with warm water. If possible, gently reinsert the tooth into the socket and bite down on gauze or cloth to keep it in place. If you cannot reinsert it, place it in a container of milk or salt-water. See our team as soon as possible—if treated within 2 hours, the tooth may be salvaged.
- Soft Tissue Injuries: Soft tissues such as gums, cheeks, lips, and the tongue tend to bleed heavily, only because the tissue contains a great deal of blood flow. To control the bleeding, first rinse with a warm, mild salt-water solution. Apply pressure with gauze or a moistened towel for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterward, to reduce swelling and help stop residual bleeding, apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth. In the event of a serious soft tissue injury, in which the bleeding is profuse or the damage is visibly traumatic, it’s best to stay calm, keep applying pressure, and go to the emergency room.