Dental Patient Education − Washington, MI

At Northstar Family Dentistry, we want you to be an active participant in your own health. We take the time to listen to your concerns & explain different options, so you can make informed decisions about your dental care & stay involved. We encourage an open dialogue between our dental professionals & our patients. Like any health professionals, we are prone to doctor-speak, but we always strive to speak plainly & avoid jargon! If we ever say a word you don’t understand, please ask us to explain. We believe that the more our patients understand their care, the healthier their smiles will be.

Here are some frequently asked questions about dental care. Please take a look & feel free to contact us if you want more information on any topic.

Why do I need to see the dentist twice a year?

Our mouths are constantly changing depending on what we eat & drink, our habits & our age. Seeing a dentist regularly is the best way to catch a potential problem before it becomes a big deal. Not to alarm you, but lots of dental conditions don’t necessarily have obvious symptoms that you can rely on to spot something early. Dentists have the expertise & advanced tools to properly examine your oral health in a way that patients simply can’t do for themselves.

Not everyone needs to see the dentist every six months: some patients need to see us more often. Depending on your oral health situation, the dentist will recommend the frequency at which you need to visit us. Some patients see us every 3 or 4 months, especially if they have gum disease. If the dentist asks you to come in more frequently than you did in the past, please know that this advice is given with the idea of keeping you healthier in the long run.

Your regular visits are your best chance for keeping your teeth strong, clean & white & your breath fresh. Hygienists can remove stains that regular brushing & flossing & in-home whitening treatments can’t! Plus, we’re always happy to give you refresher training on the best techniques for your at-home oral hygiene routine.

Remind me, how often do I need to brush & floss?

You should be brushing your teeth twice a day & flossing at least once a day. Most people brush in the morning when they wake up & brush & floss at night before bed. If you want to brush after lunch too, we highly approve. When you brush your teeth it should be for a full two minutes. Make sure you get the back & front sides of your upper and lower teeth & their biting surfaces. Floss with about an arm span’s worth of floss, using a clean two inches for each tooth to prevent cross-contamination from one tooth to another. If you’d like the dentist or hygienist to demonstrate proper brushing & flossing technique, please just ask during your visit!

I’ve heard I don’t really need to floss. Is that true?

Don’t believe everything your hear in the news. It’s true that more studies are needed to solidify the connection between flossing & various effects on your oral health. But that doesn’t mean flossing is ineffective, it just means we need to know more. To us, the idea of not ever cleaning plaque & food out from between your teeth is scary, not to mention gross! Why would you want all that nasty stuff hiding away somewhere in your mouth, feeding bacteria & causing bad breath? You still need to floss everyday!

I brush my teeth & floss thoroughly every day. Do I still need to see a hygienist for a cleaning?

Yes! There is some stubborn tooth gunk that even the best brushing & flossing can’t get off. This is especially true of tartar, which is the hard substance that plaque can turn into if not cleaned off in time. Getting a professional scaling & polishing (the technical term for a teeth cleaning) by a hygienist can actually improve the appearance of your smile by removing stains. Polished teeth are also smoother & harder for bacteria to stick to, which will make your at-home brushing & polishing efforts more effective.

What causes cavities?

As children, we’re taught that eating too much candy causes cavities, so it must be sugar that causes tooth decay, right? Actually, that’s an overly simple way of explaining the process. Sugar is more like the fuel for decay & it doesn’t just come from sweet foods. When you eat, chemicals called enzymes in your saliva break down carbohydrates into sugars. These sugars—plus the sugar compounds that occurs naturally in fruit & foods sweetened with refined sugar or corn syrup—are then eaten by the bacteria in your mouth. Unless you brush or floss them away, these bacteria hang out in your mouth, consuming the sugar & excreting a waste product in the form of acid. This acid is what eats holes in your tooth enamel & the softer dentin layer underneath, causing cavities & tooth decay.

At what age should children first visit a dentist?

Children should see the dentist when their first tooth comes in or by age 1, whichever comes first. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be caring for your baby’s oral health before then. After feeding, you can clean your baby’s gums by rubbing them gently with a damp washcloth. For more advice about caring for your baby’s mouth, please feel free to ask your pediatrician or us.

I’m very nervous about visiting the dentist. What should I do?

Tell us! The last thing we want is for you to be uncomfortable in silence. Being nervous at the dentist is not uncommon so don’t be embarrassed about it. Knowing that you are a nervous patient helps us prepare properly for your appointment. There are steps we can take to make you more comfortable during your visit. We may be able to provide music, movies, or TV to distract you during your visit. We can take things slower & explain more about what we’re doing at each step. We can work with you to develop a communication system so you can tell us clearly when something is bothering you or you need to take a break. Sedation is also an option in some cases & we’d be happy to discuss it.

One of the biggest ways we can help you overcome your nervousness is by working through it together. We want our office to be a warm, welcoming & pleasant place for you. The easier & less intimidating we can make your visit, the better we’ll be able to care for your oral health, now & in the future. If there is anything we can to do improve your experience, just ask. We promise you, you won’t be the first person who has brought up these concerns.

Are my silver fillings bad for me?

Although silver fillings are not proven to be harmful, they are an inferior product when compared to composite or “white” fillings. Not only are white fillings more aesthetic, but they also allow us to remove less tooth structure when placing fillings. Since white fillings are bonded restorations, they tend to function better under biting pressures whereas silver fillings often crack or cause the tooth it sits in to crack. In order to provide you with the best treatment possible, we recommend any cavities you may have be treated with composite fillings.

Why does my child have bad breath?

Children often have bad breath because they are not properly brushing their teeth and tongue. It is important that as a parent, you physically brush your child’s teeth until he or she is able to thoroughly do so himself/herself. Another way to address bad breath is to implement a children’s mouthwash regimen after brushing and flossing. We recommend ACT anticavity mouth rinse.

How can I whiten my teeth?

There are many ways to whiten a person’s teeth. From the most simple approach- buying whitening tooth paste, to more complex ways- veneers. It is important that an individual’s desires and expectations are known so that we can properly guide you to achieving the results you want.

When should my child get braces?

As every child is unique, each child’s dentition must be approached as an individual case. Some children require braces at an early age while others are not ready for braces until they reach their early teens. It is important that a child is evaluated every 6 months to monitor growth patterns and tooth eruption.

Why are my teeth so sensitive?

Sensitivity may be caused by a variety of reasons including cavities, recession, gum disease, and grinding. It is important that you have a comprehensive examination to diagnose the reason for your sensitivity.

How can I avoid getting cavities?

Just like staying fit and healthy requires a combination of actions to maintain, preventing cavities cannot be avoided by doing just one thing. In order to prevent cavities, you should brush and floss your teeth regularly, see a dentist twice a year, and avoid sugary drinks and snacks on a regular basis.