Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do about bad breath?
If you are constantly worried about your bad breath, you’re not alone. Each year, Americans spend over $10 billion on oral hygiene products like mints and gum to combat chronic bad breath. Unfortunately, oral hygiene products only mask the symptoms — they do not cure bad breath.
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is a common problem for many people. Not to mention, it is embarrassing and distracting for you and others around you. Finding out exactly what is causing your bad breath will help you and Dr. Covatto determine which treatment plan will best prevent your bad breath from reoccurring.
Common Causes for Bad Breath:
- Greatly reduced saliva flow during sleep
- Foods like garlic, onions, and peppers
- Poor oral hygiene
- Periodontal (gum) disease
- Dry mouth
- Medical conditions including sinus infections and diabetes
Brushing your teeth at least twice a day (in the morning and at night) is the first step to combating bad breath, and brushing after every meal is even better. If you cannot brush your teeth after each meal, chewing sugar-free gum can help get food particles out of your teeth. Additionally, flossing daily and cleaning your tongue with your toothbrush can significantly help with bad breath.
Biannual dental cleanings and checkups at Covatto Family Dentistry will not only keep your teeth and gums healthy, but these checkups also allow Dr. Covatto to detect possible causes (gum disease, dry mouth, tooth decay) for your bad breath.
Breaking a tobacco habit (smoking or chewing tobacco) can significantly improve your oral health and the way your breath smells. Ask us about ways we suggest to help break a tobacco habit.
Drinking plenty of water and eating healthy keeps your mouth moist and free of bad bacteria. Mouth rinses can help, too, but ask Dr. Covatto which rinses actually kill the germs that cause bad breath, because some only mask odors.
Dr. Covatto may refer you to your general physician if he finds that your mouth is healthy, but you are still experiencing bad breath.
I don’t have a toothache, and I brush and floss regularly. Do I really need a check-up?
Biannual teeth cleanings performed by one of our skilled dental hygienists is important to keeping your teeth and gums looking, feeling, and functioning well. If you have gum disease, you will most likely need more frequent dental visits. Maintaining routine dental exams with Dr. Covatto help him diagnose and treat dental issues before they become bigger, more painful, and more expensive. A typical exam includes a visual assessment of teeth and occlusion (bite), along with a quick look at your of current restorations. After digital X-rays have been taken, Dr. Covatto will carefully review the images to identify areas of decay or other possible areas of concern. Dr. Covatto will also perform an oral cancer screening and a gum disease screening.
During dental cleanings, plaque and calculus (more commonly known as tartar) are removed from your teeth. When tartar builds up under the gumline, causing gum disease, more extensive treatment is needed to help ensure healthy gums. Our dental hygienists also polish your teeth, floss in between your teeth, and document any bleeding gums or stained teeth.
Should I replace my silver (amalgam) fillings with composite (white) fillings?
Silver or amalgam fillings have been the “gold standard” for dental fillings for years, but recently, composite or white fillings have become a very popular method. Dentists and patients have plenty of reasons to prefer composite fillings, but before you surrender your silver, consider some facts about fillings:
- Durable, lasting on average 10-20 years
- Very strong, making them ideal for use in the large back molars
- Usually less expensive than composite fillings
- Have been used in dentistry for hundreds of years
- Require more invasive preparations than composite fillings
- Cast a gray hue over the surface of a tooth
Composite fillings, which are made out of a mixture of glass and quartz materials, provide a tooth-colored restoration that looks more like your natural tooth.
- Versatile and can be bonded (held adhesively) to teeth
- Less invasive preparation
- Leave more healthy tooth structure beneath the filling
- Take longer to place
- Slightly less durable, which makes them better suited for teeth with light or moderate bite pressure
- Usually cost a bit more than silver fillings
How can I tell if I’m at risk for gum disease?
According to the American Dental Association, about half of all American adults aged 30 or older have some form of periodontal (gum) disease. The prevalence of gum disease increases with age because as we age, our teeth tend to wear down, our gums naturally recede, and medications can affect a variety of oral changes. If your gums feel tender or look red and swollen, you may have a form of gum disease. Other signs include bleeding and/or receding gums, pain or sensitivity in your teeth, loose teeth (caused by weakening gum fibers and/or bone loss), and persistent bad breath. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss, bone loss, and an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
The first thing to do is get a thorough dental evaluation to determine whether you have any degree of gum disease. Dr. Covatto and his team offer a wide variety of treatments, including deep cleanings, medicated rinses, and local antibiotics.
Is there anything that can calm my nerves during an exam?
Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, 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. Inhaling it creates a sense of well-being and relaxation, and it effectively helps individuals who experience dental anxieties feel more comfortable. Combined with a caring dental staff, nitrous oxide is especially beneficial for children and adolescents. It can also help patients who have a strong gag reflex that interferes with dental treatment. The gas is administered by specifically trained members of the dental staff.
Nitrous oxide is non-addictive and allows patients to remain fully conscious during treatment. A few deep breaths of pure oxygen completely reverses the effects of nitrous oxide, so adults can usually drive themselves back home or back to work.
We also offer oral conscious sedation for those who experience moderate to severe dental anxiety.
I have crooked teeth, but I feel like metal braces are for kids. Are there other options?
Metal braces can be a hassle and can take between two to three years of treatment to fully realign your teeth. Advancements in orthodontics are helping adults fit braces into their lives and giving them the smiles they’ve always wanted.
Invisalign® aligner therapy is a great option for adults who don’t want to mess with traditional braces. The Invisalign system involves a series of custom-made plastic trays, called aligners, that are replaced every two weeks to straighten your teeth comfortably and gradually. The trays are comfortable for the sensitive tissues of your gums and cheeks, and they’re conveniently removable so you can eat your favorite foods and brush your teeth. Because the trays are made from a transparent plastic material, Invisalign clear braces are hardly noticeable. If you don’t tell people you are wearing them, they may never even know!
I need root canal therapy. What should I know before my appointment?
Beneath the top layer of your tooth (the enamel) and the second layer (the dentin), there is a pulp, or nerve, that delivers sensations of heat, cold, and pain from your tooth to your brain. Whether from excessive decay or physical trauma, this nerve can become damaged, causing an abscess to form at the root of the tooth. Dr. Covatto has recommended root canal therapy, a procedure in which the diseased pulp is removed from an infected tooth, in order to prevent further damage, tooth loss, and most importantly, to relieve your pain.
Symptoms of an infected root include:
- Severe toothaches
- Tooth sensitivity
- Upraised lesions on your gums
Though root canal therapy has a reputation for being painful, the toothaches associated with an infected root are most likely causing you more pain than the treatment will. In addition, there are a number of ways to relieve pain or discomfort during treatment, including nitrous oxide and oral sedation. Root canal therapy is highly successful, and a tooth that’s been restored with root canal therapy can last a lifetime.
I know certain foods are bad for my teeth. But are there any foods that are good for them?
In fact, there are! Dairy products, nuts, chicken, and other lean meats contain calcium and phosphorous, which have been proven to strengthen bones and protect enamel. Calcium is essential for bone development, and while your teeth do not directly absorb it, a stronger jawbone leads to healthy gums, and healthy gums make healthy teeth. Fruits and vegetables are just as good for your teeth as they are for your body, especially firm, crunchy ones with a high water content, such as apples and pears. Water is critical for your oral health because it rinses away food particles and keeps your mouth and gums moist.
The most important part of the “dentist diet” is brushing your teeth after each meal. If you do snack between meals and cannot brush your teeth, drink plenty of water or chew gum to loosen any residue.
Hot or cold, my teeth hate both! Why are they so sensitive, and how can I stop the pain?
If you’ve been avoiding ice cream or coffee because the extreme temperatures hurt your teeth, we have a solution for you! Tooth sensitivity is a common complaint and can be caused by of a number of factors including:
- Involuntary grinding
- Jaw clenching
- Gum recession
- Braces and teeth whitening can cause temporary sensitivity
Because the causes of sensitivity are so diverse, and because sensitive gum tissue can indicate a more serious problem, it’s important for Dr. Covatto to examine your teeth so he can determine the best treatment plan for you. A softer toothbrush is usually the first step, and special toothpastes can reduce sensitivity over time. There are also over-the-counter fluoride rinses to protect your enamel against further damage, and Dr. Covatto can even provide an in-office procedure to coat your teeth with a protective agent.
What should I do in case of a dental emergency?
Accidents happen, but when they involve our teeth and mouths, they can be pretty frightening and painful. It’s important to know when proper home care will suffice for a dental emergency and when a trip to Covatto Family Dentistry is necessary, so here are some guidelines to help you through common situations:
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 see Dr. Covatto if the pain persists.
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. See Dr. Covatto as soon as possible.
With recent advancements in restorative and cosmetic dentistry, you might not lose your tooth. If there’s enough remaining healthy tooth structure, Dr. Covatto can create a crown that will “grab onto” your natural tooth, eliminating the need for root removal. If you have a broken tooth, call us immediately. 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. Come in to Covatto Family Dentistry immediately—if treated within two hours, the tooth may be salvaged.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissues such as gums, cheeks, lips, and the tongue tend to bleed heavily because the tissues contain 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. Afterwards, 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.
I have a recurring pain where my jaw meets my temple, and sometimes my jaw clicks when I chew. What’s the problem?
You could be suffering from temporomandibular disorder, or TMJ, which affects the flexibility and function of the temporal jaw joint and surrounding muscles. Because this area controls bite, speech, chewing, and all other jaw movements, the pain can be severe.
TMJ has been associated with a number of different causes, but the most common factor is the bite itself. A misaligned bite can place pressure on the jaw joint, forcing the muscles to work overtime in effort to correctly align the upper and lower jaws. This not only compromises the function of your jaw, but it can cause a good deal of fatigue and pain in the facial muscles. Headaches, toothaches, and jaw clenching, popping, or locking are all common symptoms of TMJ. TMJ can also occur after a jolting face injury which causes a normally aligned jaw joint to become damaged or repositioned.
Professional treatment of TMJ ranges from minor fixes to surgical options. If Dr. Covatto determines that the main cause of your TMJ pain is an irregular bite, he may recommend a retainer-style mouthguard or reshaping the biting surfaces of your teeth to subtly change the way your upper and lower jaws meet. If it’s a structural issue occurring in your jaw bone (especially if your TMJ is a result of injury), you may benefit from surgery. When it comes to TMJ treatment, it’s important to choose the most conservative plan for your individual needs.
In the meantime, alleviating the pain by treating the symptoms can give you some relief. Heating pads or cold compresses can reduce swelling, and limiting your jaw movement (for example, cutting especially chewy foods out of your diet) can stop the clicking or popping. Massages can temporarily relieve muscle tension, and painkillers (medicated or over the counter) can reduce inflammation and make you more comfortable.
What are the benefits of a dental X-ray examination?
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, X-rays can also help save your life!
Why is fluoride good for my teeth?
Each day, foods and acids feed bacteria in your mouth, which can accumulate on your teeth to form plaque. Plaque wears away at a tooth’s enamel in a process known as demineralization. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that can promote the remineralization of enamel, replacing important minerals that strengthen your teeth and can protect them from decay. Fluoride can also help reverse early stages of decay.
Children with newly-erupted permanent teeth benefit a great deal from fluoride exposure, but adults should make sure their teeth come into contact with it, too. The safe and easy way to ensure that your teeth are getting enough fluoride is to use fluoride toothpaste. If Dr. Covatto recommends more intensive fluoride treatments, there are a number of gels, rinses, and even in-office procedures that can do the trick. Though the most fluoride is absorbed from direct contact with the teeth, many public drinking water systems contain small, safe amounts of fluoride that can have positive health effects.
What causes tooth discoloration?
The two main types for tooth discoloration are extrinsic (external or surface stains) and intrinsic (internal stains). External stains affect the outside of the tooth, while internal stains discolor a tooth from within. External stains can be attributed to anything that comes into contact with the surface of the teeth, such as red wine, coffee, tea, or tobacco products. Internal discoloration reflects the actual condition of the tooth, often occurring as a result of treatment procedures, exposure to excessive amounts of fluoride (fluorosis), and certain antibiotics.
Some types and degrees of discoloration respond well to professional teeth whitening, while others require veneers, bonding, or other restorative treatments. Dr. Covatto can determine which type of stains you have and which solution is right for you.
What could be causing my dry mouth, and what can I do about it?
Dry mouth is particularly common in the elderly and the very young, but it can affect anyone at any given time, and there are a number of causes. It’s one of the most common side effects of medication, and hormone changes, chemotherapy, radiation, uncontrolled diabetes, and other medical conditions can also cause recurrent dry mouth.
Dry mouth can be uncomfortable, and is one of the leading causes of chronic bad breath, but it can also make teeth more prone to decay and soft tissues more susceptible to infection. Because insufficient saliva endangers the health of your entire mouth, it’s important to ask Dr. Covatto about oral sprays, prescription drugs, or simple lifestyle changes that can provide relief.
When I floss, my gums bleed. If they don’t hurt and my teeth look fine, is it really a big deal?
If your gums are not sore, it’s safe to assume that the bleeding is 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. It’s important to stop gingivitis before it progresses, since studies have shown more and more serious illnesses are associated with gum disease. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even osteoporosis 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 its symptoms are fairly general and can be mistaken for other conditions. Symptoms of oral cancer include sores, bleeding gums or cheeks, difficulty swallowing or moving the jaw, and a continuous pain in the mouth. If Dr. Covatto finds no other causes for your bleeding gums, he may recommend visiting a specialist.
Regular dental check-ups are vital to cancer prevention, as are good oral hygiene and a balanced diet. Inform Dr. Covatto if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms.
My teeth are killing me, but I can’t really tell where the pain is coming from. What do you think is going on?
Believe it or not, you could have a sinus infection. Recent studies have found a direct connection between sinus infections and impacted or damaged teeth. Sinuses can also become inflamed as a result of intensive dental work or cracked restorations. Sinusitis can mimic the sensation of a toothache — or even cause one — because of the proximity between the paranasal sinuses and the roots of your teeth. If you’re experiencing chronic sinus pain or pressure accompanied by a general, unidentified toothache, it couldn’t hurt to ask Dr. Covatto to check it out. A regular check-up and a series of X-rays are usually enough to reveal a tooth-related cause, but if they don’t, Dr. Covatto can also perform a “percussion test,” during which he gently taps on individual teeth to pinpoint the source of your discomfort. After all, when deciding on a treatment plan, it’s helpful to know whether it’s a toothache or just your nose playing tricks on you.