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Answers to Common

Dental-Related Questions:


How do dental X-rays work?

When X-rays pass through your mouth during a dental exam, more X-rays are absorbed by the more dense parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums) before striking the film. This creates an image called a radiograph. Teeth appear lighter because fewer X-rays penetrate to reach the film. Tooth decay, infections and signs of gum disease, including changes in the bone and ligaments holding teeth in place, appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. Dental restorations (fillings, crowns) may appear lighter or darker, depending on the type of material used for the restoration. The interpretation of these radiographs allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

How often should radiographs be taken?

How often X-rays (radiographs) should be taken depends on the patient’s individual health needs. It is important to recognize that each patient is different, therefore X-ray exams should be individualized for each patient. Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and then decide whether you need radiographs and what type. If you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend radiographs to determine the present status of the hidden areas of your mouth and to help analyze changes that may occur later. If you have had recent radiographs at your previous dentist, we can have the current radiographs forwarded to our office.

The schedule for needing radiographs at recall visits varies according to your age, risk for disease, signs and symptoms. Recent films may be needed to detect new cavities, to determine the status of gum disease or for evaluation of growth and development. Children may need X-rays more often than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing and are more likely to be affected by tooth decay.
ADA and FDA Guide to Patient Selection for Dental Radiographs



What are the benefits of a dental radiograph examination?

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 unnecessary discomfort. It 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.


What if I’m pregnant and need a dental radiograph examination?

A radiograph may be needed for dental treatment or a dental emergency that can’t wait until after the baby is born. Untreated dental infections can pose a risk to the fetus, and dental treatment may be necessary to maintain the health of the mother and child. Radiation from digital X-rays is extremely low. However, every precaution is taken to minimize radiation exposure. A leaded apron minimizes exposure to the abdomen and should be used when any dental radiograph is taken. A leaded thyroid collar can protect the thyroid from radiation, and should be used whenever possible. The use of a leaded thyroid collar is strongly recommended for women of childbearing age, pregnant women and children. Dental radiographs are permitted if you are trying to become pregnant or are breast feeding.


What is in-office whitening?

If you are a candidate for whitening, Dr. Hutton may suggest a procedure that can be done in-office. This procedure is called chair-side whitening and may require more than one office visit. Each visit may take from 30 minutes to one hour.

During chair-side whitening, the dentist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect the oral soft tissues. A whitening agent is then applied to the teeth and a special laser light may be used to enhance the action of the agent.



What are at-home procedures and products?

There are several types of products available for use at home, which can either be dispensed by Dr. Hutton or purchased over-the-counter.

Whitening solutions- These products contain peroxide(s), which actually bleach the tooth enamel. These products typically rely on carbamide peroxide as the whitening agent. Carbamide peroxide comes in several different concentrations (10%, 16%, 22%).

Peroxide-containing whiteners typically come in a gel and are placed in a tray or retainer. Usage regimens vary. Some products are used for about twice a day for two weeks, and others are intended for overnight use for 1-2 weeks. If you obtain the whitening solution from your dentist, he or she can make a custom-fitted tray for you that will fit your teeth precisely.

You also may want to speak with Dr. Hutton should any side effects become bothersome. For example, teeth can become sensitive during the period when you are using the whitening material. In many cases, this sensitivity is temporary and should lessen once the treatment is finished. Some people also experience soft tissue irritation-either from a tray that does not fit properly or from solution that may come in contact with the tissues. If you have concerns about such side effects, you should discuss them with your dentist.

Toothpaste- All toothpaste help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives. “Whitening” toothpaste in the ADA Seal of Acceptance program has special chemical or polishing agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these ADA Accepted products do not alter the intrinsic color of teeth.


What can I do about bad breath?

Whether you call it bad breath or halitosis, it is an unpleasant condition that is cause for embarrassment. Some people with bad breath aren’t even aware there is a problem. If you’re concerned about bad breath, Dr. Hutton can help identify the cause. If it’s due to an oral condition, he can develop a treatment plan to help eliminate it.

What you eat affects the air you exhale. Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, contribute to objectionable breath. Once the food is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transferred to the lungs, where it is expelled. Brushing, flossing and mouthwash will only mask the odor temporarily. Odors continue until the body eliminates the food. Dieters may develop unpleasant breath from infrequent eating.

If you don’t brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth, collecting bacteria, which can cause bad breath. Food that collects between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums can rot, leaving an unpleasant odor.

Bad breath can also be caused by dry mouth (xerostomia), which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases. Saliva is necessary to cleanse the mouth and remove particles that may cause odor. Dry mouth may be caused by various medications, salivary gland problems or continuously breathing through the mouth. If you suffer from dry mouth, Dr. Hutton may prescribe artificial saliva or suggest using sugarless candy and increasing your fluid intake.

Tobacco products cause bad breath. If you use tobacco, ask Dr. Hutton for tips on kicking the habit.

Bad breath may be the sign of a medical disorder, such as a local infection in the respiratory tract, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, a liver or kidney ailment. If Dr. Hutton determines that your mouth is healthy, he may refer you to your family doctor or a specialist to determine the cause of bad breath.

Maintaining good oral health is essential to reducing bad breath. Schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup. If you think you have constant bad breath, keep a log of the foods you eat and make a list of medications you take. Some medications may play a role in creating mouth odors. Let Dr. Hutton know if you’ve had any surgery or illness since your last appointment.

Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove food debris and plaque. Brush your tongue, too. Once a day, use floss or an interdental cleaner to clean between teeth.

Mouthwashes are generally cosmetic and do not have a long-lasting effect on bad breath. If you must constantly use a breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, see Dr. Hutton. If you need extra help in controlling plaque, he may recommend using a special antimicrobial mouth rinse. A fluoride mouth rinse, used along with brushing and flossing, can help prevent tooth decay.


The information provided on this page was provided by the American Dental Association. For more FAQs and information, please visit the ADA.

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