What is dentistry?
Dentistry is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of conditions, disorders, and diseases of the teeth, gums, mouth, and jaw. Often considered necessary for complete oral health, dentistry can have an impact on the health of your entire body.
Who is a dentist?
A dentist is a medical professional who works to diagnose, treat, and prevent oral health problems. Dr. Pendergrast & Dr. Summerfelt completed at least eight years of schooling to obtain either a DDS Doctorate of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctorate of Dental Medicine (DMD). When a doctor is a specialist, this means that he or she has further education and training to perform that specialties. Specializations include:
- Endodontics (root canals)
- Pediatric Dentistry (advanced children’s dentistry)
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
- Dental Radiology
- Dental Pathology
- Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
- Periodontics (gum disease, periodontal surgery including implants)
- Prosthodontics (dentures, crowns, implants)
Why is visiting the dentist so important?
Visiting our office regularly will not only help keep your teeth and mouth healthy, but will also help keep the rest of your body healthy. Dental care is important because it:
- Helps prevent tooth decay
- Protects against periodontal (gum and bone) disease, which can lead to tooth and bone loss
- Prevents bad breath; brushing, flossing, and seeing us regularly will help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth that causes bad breath
- Gives you a more attractive smile and increases your self-confidence
- Helps keep teeth looking bright by preventing them from becoming stained by food, drinks, and tobacco
- Strengthens your teeth so you can enjoy healthy, beautiful smiles for the rest of your life!
My teeth feel fine; do I still need to see a dentist?
Your teeth may feel fine, but it’s still worthwhile to see the dentist regularly because problems can exist without your knowing. Most cavities do not cause pain or sensitivity until the decay is deep. Your smile’s appearance is important, and we can help keep it healthy and looking beautiful.
With so many advances in dentistry, you no longer have to settle for stained, chipped, missing, or misshapen teeth. Today’s dentists offer many treatment choices that can help you smile with confidence, including:
- Professional teeth whitening
- Fillings that mimic the appearance of natural teeth
- Tooth replacement and full smile makeovers
What should I look for when choosing the right dentist for me?
Choosing a dentist who “clicks” with you and your family is important. During your first visit, you should be able to determine whether the dentist is right for you. During your appointment, consider the following:
- Is the appointment schedule convenient?
- Is the office easy to get to and close by?
- Does the office appear to be clean and orderly?
- Was your medical and dental history recorded and placed in a permanent file?
- Does the dentist or hygienist explain techniques for good oral health?
- Is information about cost presented to you before treatment is scheduled?
- Is your dentist a member of the ADA (American Dental Association)?
How can I take care of my teeth between dental checkups?
- Remember to brush your teeth at least two times every day, and floss at least once every day!
- Make sure to use toothpaste that contains fluoride, and ask Dr. Pendergrast or Dr. Summerfelt if you need a stronger prescription fluoride toothpaste. We recommend prescription toothpaste if you have had cavities recently or to protect existing fillings and crowns from decay.
- Avoid foods with added sugar including corn syrup, cane juice, honey, or fruit syrups (because added sugar increases the amount of bacteria that grows in your mouth and can cause more plaque and potential cavities), and avoid all forms of tobacco (which can stain your teeth, cause gum disease, and eventually lead to oral, throat, or lung cancer).
- Don’t be afraid to brush your tongue! This will remove food particles and reduce the amount of plaque-causing bacteria. Tongue brushing also helps keep your breath fresh.
- Be sure to schedule your routine checkup. It is recommended that people with healthy gums and bone visit the dentist every six months. If you have periodontal disease, you will need more frequent cleanings: every three or four months depending on what our office recommends.
At what age should I start taking my child to see the dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children first see a dentist as early as six months of age and no later than one year. During this time, your child’s baby teeth will be coming in and a dentist can examine the health of those first few teeth. After the first visit, be sure to schedule regular checkups every six months.
How often should I see the dentist?
Children, teens, and adults should all see the dentist for a regular checkup at least once every six months. Patients who are at a greater risk for oral cancer or gum disease may be required to come in more than just twice a year. We will help determine how often you should visit our office for regular checkups.
What is a cavity?
A cavity is a small hole that forms inside the tooth because of tooth decay. Cavities form when plaque buildup on the outside of the tooth combines with sugars and starches in the food you eat. This produces an acid that can eat away the enamel on your tooth.
If a cavity is left untreated, it can lead to more serious oral health problems. Cavities can be prevented by remembering to brush your teeth at least two times a day and floss between teeth at least once a day.
What is a filling?
A filling is a synthetic material that a dentist uses to fill a cavity after all the tooth decay has been removed. Fillings do not generally hurt because we will numb your mouth with an anesthetic.
Fillings are made from a variety of different materials, including composites, silver alloy, gold, or ceramic. If you need a filling, be sure to talk to Dr. Pendergrast or Dr. Summerfelt about what type is best for you and your teeth.
How often should I brush my teeth?
According to our office and the American Dental Association, you should brush your teeth at least two times a day. Brushing keeps your teeth, gums, and mouth clean and healthy by removing bacteria-causing plaque.
It is also recommended that you use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste that contains fluoride when you brush your teeth. You should spend at least one minute on the top teeth and one minute on the bottom, and remember to brush your tongue; it will help keep your breath smelling fresh!
When should I change my toothbrush?
Your toothbrush will eventually wear out, especially if you are brushing your teeth twice a day for two to three minutes each time. We recommend that adults and children change their toothbrush every three months. If you are using an electric toothbrush, be sure to read the directions for brush head replacement.
Patients with gum disease are encouraged to change their toothbrush every four to six weeks to keep bacteria from spreading. After brushing, rinse your toothbrush with hot water to keep the bristles clean. If you’ve been sick, be sure to change your toothbrush as soon as possible.
What is gum disease?
Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is mostly caused by plaque and bacteria buildup that is not treated in its early stage. Other causes of periodontal disease include tobacco use, teeth grinding, some medications, and genetics.
Gingivitis is the beginning stage of gum disease. If detected, it is treatable. Gingivitis left untreated may turn into periodontitis, which is the stage when bone loss starts. Advanced gum disease will lead to tooth and bone loss, and is a permanent condition.
Brushing your teeth regularly and visiting our office every six months will help prevent gingivitis and more severe cases of periodontal disease. Common signs of gum disease:
- Bleeding when flossing or brushing
- Red, irritated, bleeding, or swollen gums
- Chronic bad breath
- Loose teeth, or loss of teeth
- Extreme tooth sensitivity
- Receding gum line
- Abscessed teeth
If I have braces, do I still need dental checkups every six months?
Yes! In fact, it’s even more important that patients receiving orthodontic treatment visit their dentist regularly. We may recommend you visit the office for a cleaning every three months if you’re wearing braces.
With braces, food may be caught in places your toothbrush can’t reach. This causes bacteria to build up and can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Dr. Pendergrast or Dr. Summerfelt will work closely with your orthodontist to make sure your teeth stay clean and healthy while you’re wearing braces.
How do I schedule my next checkup?
Simply call our practice! Our front desk staff will be happy to schedule your next dental checkup at your convenience. If you are a new patient, please let us know and we will provide you with all the information you need for your first dental visit.