Smiles of Madison Dentistry
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For an Appointment: (256) 233-6200
12090 County Line Rd, Ste L, Madison, AL 35756



How safe are dental X-rays?

Exposure to all sources of radiation -- including the sun, minerals in the soil, appliances in your home, and dental X-rays -- can damage the body's tissues and cells and lead to the development of cancer. Fortunately, the dose of radiation you are exposed to during the taking of X-rays is extremely small.
Advances in dentistry over the years have lead to the low radiation levels emitted by dental X-rays. Some of the improvements are new digital X-ray machines that limit the radiation beam to the small area being X-rayed, higher speed X-ray films that require shorter exposure time compared with older film speeds to get the same results, and the use of film holders that keep the film in place in the mouth (which prevents the film from slipping and the need for repeat X-rays and additional radiation exposure). Also, the use of lead-lined, full-body aprons protects the body from stray radiation (though this is almost nonexistent with the modern dental X-ray machines.) In addition, federal law requires that X-ray machines be checked for accuracy and safety every two years, with some states requiring more frequent checks.

What are dental sealants, who should get them, and how long do they last?

Sealants are a thin, plastic coating that is painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth -- usually the back teeth (the premolars, and molars) -- to prevent tooth decay. The painted on liquid sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and groves of the teeth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth.
Typically, children should get sealants on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in. In this way, the dental sealants can protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages 6 to 14. However, adults without decay or fillings in their molars can also benefit from sealants.
Sealants can protect the teeth from decay for many years, but they need to be checked for chipping or wear at regular dental check-ups.

How do whitening toothpastes work and how effective are they?

All toothpastes help remove surface stains through the action of mild abrasives. Some whitening toothpastes contain gentle polishing or chemical agents that provide additional stain removal. Whitening toothpastes can help remove surface stains only and do not contain bleach; over-the-counter and professional whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide (a bleaching substance) that helps remove stains on the tooth surface as well as stains deep in the tooth. None of the home use whitening toothpastes can come even close to producing the bleaching effect you get from your dentist's office through chair-side bleaching or power bleaching. Whitening toothpastes can lighten your tooth's color by about one shade. In contrast, light-activated whitening conducted in your dentist's office can make your teeth three to eight shades lighter.

I'm interested in changing the shape of my teeth. What options are available?

Several different options are available to change the shape of teeth, make teeth look longer, close spaces between teeth or repair chipped or cracked teeth. Among the options are bonding, crowns, veneers, and recontouring.

I have a terrible fear of going to the dentist. What should I do?

If you fear going to the dentist, you are not alone. Between 9% and 15% of Americans state they avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety or fear. The first thing you should do is talk with your dentist. The key to coping with dental anxiety is to discuss your fears with your dentist. Once your dentist knows what your fears are, he or she will be better able to work with you to determine the best ways to make you less anxious and more comfortable. The good news is that today there are a number of strategies that can be used to help reduce fear, anxiety, and pain.

Why should I floss, isn't brushing enough?

You should floss to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth. There are millions of these microscopic creatures feeding on food particles left on your teeth. This bacteria live in plaque which can be removed by flossing. Brushing your teeth gets rid of some of the bacteria in your mouth. Flossing gets rid of the bacteria your toothbrush can't get to. That's the bacteria hiding in the tiny spaces between your teeth. Brushing without flossing is like washing only half your face. The other half remains dirty.
If you do not floss, you allow plaque to remain between your teeth. Eventually it hardens into tartar. Plaque can be removed by brushing. Only your dentist can remove tartar.
Ask the staff at Smiles of Madison Dentistry to show you the proper way to floss. You will both notice the difference at your next cleaning appointment.

How can I prevent cavities?

You can certainly minimize the number of cavities you get. Always spend two to three minutes brushing your teeth. It takes that long to get rid of the bacteria which destroy tooth enamel. Do not brush too hard. It takes very little pressure to remove bacteria and plaque. Floss at least once a day. It is the only way to get bacteria from between your teeth.
Watch the sugar you eat. There is sugar in candy, fruits, crackers and chips. These are the foods that the bacteria in your mouth like best. Be mindful of foods like raisins and peanut butter that stick to your teeth. They can provide a constant supply for the bacteria eating into your teeth. Try to minimize the times during the day when sweet items are eaten and clean your teeth afterwards.
If you cannot brush after a meal, rinse your mouth with water—which can help to remove food from your teeth. Chewing sugarless gum after a meal can also help. Chewing stimulates the flow of saliva which acts as a natural plaque-fighting substance.
Do not forget your regular dental visits. Good dental habits will go a long way toward a no-cavity visit.

Why does the dentist take X-rays?

Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth. An X-ray examination may reveal:
  • small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing restorations (fillings)
  • infections in the bone
  • periodontal (gum) disease
  • abscesses or cysts
  • developmental abnormalities
  • some types of tumors
Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save time, money and often unnecessary discomfort. Dental radiographs can detect damage to oral structures not visible during a regular exam. If you have a hidden tumor, radiographs may even help save your life. Your dentist will evaluate your need for radiographs based on the conditions present in your mouth. The schedule for radiographs can vary with age, risk for disease or for evaluation of growth and development. There are many benefits to having dental radiographs taken. Any additional questions or concerns should be discussed with your dentist.

What is fluoride and why is it important to dental health?

Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and in water. Some natural sources of fluoride are brewed tea, canned fish, cooked kale and spinach, apples, and skim milk. Some city water contains fluoride, so by drinking tap water you will acquire fluoride. If your drinking water does not have fluoride, supplements are available.
The lack of exposure to fluoride places individuals of any age at risk for dental decay. Fluoride is important to dental health because it helps prevent tooth decay by making the enamel outer portion of the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria in the mouth.
Studies have shown that children who consumed fluoridated water from birth had less dental decay. Fluoride can reverse early decay and help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that causes degenerative bone loss.
Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about whether you're getting the daily amount of fluoride you need.

What are the dangers of oral piercing?

The American Dental Association recognizes that piercing is a widely accepted form of self-expression, and that includes piercings in the mouth. However, the potential problems are numerous. Some symptoms after a piercing include pain, swelling, infection, drooling, taste loss, scarring, chipped teeth, tooth loss, and an increased flow of saliva, none of which are particularly pleasant. Tongue piercing can also cause excessive bleeding.
Most piercings require some sort of manipulation – putting your or somebody else's hands in your mouth. Difficulty talking and damage to your teeth are distinct possibilities. So if you're thinking of some sort of piercing in or around your mouth, talk to your dentist first.
If you already have piercings and are having problems, see your dentist right away.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is inflammation and infection of the gums and supporting bone structure, which is left untreated, can cause permanent jaw bone destruction and possible tooth loss. Untreated periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk for conditions such as heart disease, stroke, low birth weight babies and pre-term delivery, respiratory disease, and prostate cancer. An advanced stage of periodontal disease exhibits inflamed gums pulling away from your bone and teeth. Other signs of periodontal disease include:
  • Bad breath
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Loose teeth or teeth that have moved
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Pus coming from around the teeth
  • Pain on chewing
  • Tender gums
  • Bleeding gums
Treatment of early periodontal disease can be performed in-office. However, advanced stages may require surgery. Periodontal disease can be prevented and treated successfully by seeing your dentist and dental hygienist regularly and following recommended care plans.

What can I do about sensitive teeth?

Sensitivity toothpaste, which contains strontium chloride or potassium nitrate are very effective in treating sensitive teeth. After a few weeks of use you may notice a decrease in sensitivity. Highly acidic foods such as oranges, grapefruits and lemons, as well as tea and soda can increase tooth sensitivity, and work against any sensitivity toothpaste. If you do not get relief by brushing gently and using a desensitizing toothpaste, see your dentist. There are special compounds that can be applied in office to the roots of your tooth to reduce—if not eliminate—the sensitivity. High-fluoride containing home care products can also be recommended to help reduce tooth sensitivity.

Why should I use a mouthguard?

A mouthguard can prevent injuries to your face and teeth. Most people benefit from wearing a mouthguard when playing any sport. You should wear one whether you are playing professionally or just on weekends. Do what you can to preserve your smile and your health. The best mouthguards are custom-fitted by your dentist. This is especially important if you wear braces or fixed bridgework.
Commercial, ready-made mouthguards can be purchased at most sporting goods stores. They are relatively inexpensive but they are also less effective. In either case, rinse your mouthguard with water or mouthwash after each use. With proper care, it should last for several months.