Frequently Asked Questions
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 can lead to the development of cancer in some instances. 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 today's 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.
Even with these advancements in safety, it should be kept in mind, however, that the effects of radiation are added together over a lifetime. So every little bit of radiation you receive from all sources counts.
What You Can Do About Bad Breath
- Brush and floss more frequently
- Scrape your tongue
- Avoid foods that sour your breath
- Kick the habit -stop smoking
- Rinse your mouth out
- Skip after-dinner mints and chew gum instead
What is basic dental care?
Basic dental care involves brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, seeing your dentist and/or dental hygienist for regular checkups and cleanings, and eating a mouth-healthy diet, which means foods high in whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and dairy products.
When should my child start seeing a dentist?
By the time your child is 6 months of age, your doctor should assess the likelihood of your child having future dental problems. If he or she thinks your child will have dental problems, be sure your child sees a dentist before his or her first birthday or 6 months after the first primary teeth appear camera, whichever comes first. After your first visit, schedule regular visits every 6 months or as your dentist recommends.
Experts recommend that your child's dental care start at 12 months of age. If your baby has dental problems caused by injury, disease, or a developmental problem, see your pediatric dentist right away.
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay is the process that results in a cavity (dental caries). It occurs when bacteria in your mouth make acids that eat away at a tooth. If not treated, tooth decay can cause pain, infection, and tooth loss.
You can easily prevent tooth decay by brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, seeing your dentist for teeth cleaning and checkups, and avoiding foods that are high in sugar.
Still Not Flossing? More Reasons Why You Should
Every six months, you visit the dentist for a cleaning -- and likely a lecture about the importance of flossing. But if you're like many dental patients, the advice travels in one ear and out the other -- much like, well, dental floss gliding between the spaces of your teeth.
"There is no instant gratification with flossing -- that's the problem," says Alla Wheeler, RDH, MPA, associate professor of the Dental Hygiene Program at the New York University School of Dentistry. "Patients don't think it does anything."
But flossing does about 40% of the work required to remove sticky bacteria, or plaque, from your teeth. Plaque generates acid, which can cause cavities, irritate the gums, and lead to gum disease. "Each tooth has five surfaces. If you don't floss, you are leaving at least two of the surfaces unclean," Wheeler explains. "Floss is the only thing that can really get into that space between the teeth and remove bacteria."