Many patients have questions about their dental care.  To give you a better understanding of your oral health and dental treatments, our dentists have provided this page of answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about dentistry.  If you have further questions, and to make your appointment with Drs. David O’Donnell, and Matt VanZanten in Lexington, Kentucky, please call ODonnell Family Dentistry at 859-269-4613.

How often should I brush and floss?

Brush at least twice a day, or after every meal, and floss daily.  Use a soft bristled toothbrush and an ADA approved toothpaste.  You may want to consider using an electric toothbrush or a waterpick as well.  We also recommend that you rinse your mouth with water after brushing, and after meals when you are unable to brush.

Why is flossing important?

Flossing reaches the areas of your mouth that your toothbrush can’t, namely, the surfaces between the teeth and under the gumline.  Flossing cleans out these spaces and disrupts the colonies of plaque before they can build up and cause gum disease.

How much does dental care cost?

The cost of your dental care will depend on the treatments you need.  After your consultation, we will provide you with your exact cost, and with information about our financial options.  We will work with you to determine the best payment plan to meet your needs.

Are silver fillings safe?

Yes.  Silver, or amalgam fillings, have been determined to be safe by the American Dental Association, the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the FDA, and many other organizations.  However, there are alternative materials for your dental fillings that may provide you with more aesthetically pleasing results, including composite (tooth-colored) resin, porcelain, and gold.  We invite you to discuss your options with our dentists to determine the best option for you.

How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?

The American Dental Association recommends that you receive a dental exam and cleaning at least twice a year, though our dentist and hygienist may recommend that you visit our office more frequently.  During your dental checkup, you can expect us to provide you with the following services:

  • A review of your medical history
  • An exam of your teeth, roots, and supporting structures using dental x-rays
  • Oral cancer screening
  • Gum disease evaluation
  • Tooth decay evaluation
  • An examination of any existing restorations (fillings, crowns, bridges, etc.)
  • Removal of plaque and calculus
  • Teeth polishing
  • A review of your dietary habits
  • Oral hygiene recommendations

Do I need to visit my family dentist if I’m wearing braces?

Yes.  In fact, visiting the dentist for your regular checkups is even more important if you are wearing braces.  Your dentist can help you keep your teeth clean and free from cavities, and ensure that no food or debris is stuck in your brackets and wires.

How can I tell if I have gum disease?

Gum disease is very difficult to notice in the early stages, as it is usually painless.  Regular dental appointments help our dentists to monitor your oral health and ensure that periodontal disease is diagnosed and treated quickly.

Common signs of periodontal disease include:

  • Red and swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Pus around the teeth and gums
  • Gum recession
  • Tenderness and discomfort

You can reduce your risk of developing gum disease by practicing good oral hygiene, maintaining a balanced diet, and visiting our dentists regularly.

What is cosmetic dentistry?

Cosmetic dentistry is the field of dentistry that focuses on improve the appearance of your teeth.  It includes preventive care, and each treatment is provided with the goal of helping you achieve a healthier, brighter smile.  Cosmetic treatments may include:

  • Teeth whitening
  • Composite (tooth-colored) dental fillings
  • Porcelain dental veneers
  • Porcelain dental crowns
  • Dental implants
  • Orthodontic treatments

What do I do if I have bad breath?

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be unpleasant, and even embarrassing at times.  Bad breath may be caused by:

  • Microbial deposits on the tongue
  • Morning time
  • Foods with strong odors
  • Poor oral hygiene habits
  • Gum disease
  • Cavities
  • Poorly fitted dental appliances
  • Dry mouth (which may in turn be caused by medication, salivary gland problems, or continuous mouth breathing)
  • Tobacco products
  • Dieting
  • Dehydration, hunger, and missed meals
  • Certain medical conditions and illnesses (including diabetes, liver and kidney problems, sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia)

If you have bad breath, keep a record of what you eat, and review your current medications, and any recent illnesses or surgeries with our dentist.  We also recommend that you take the following preventive steps:

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice a day, and floss daily.  Make sure to brush your tongue during your oral hygiene routine – this can reduce bad breath by up to 70%.  Replace your tooth brush ever 2-3 months, and clean your removable oral appliances thoroughly before replacing them in your mouth.
  • Visit the dentist regularly for dental checkups.
  • Stop smoking or using tobacco products.
  • Stay hydrated! This helps keep your mouth moist and washes away bacteria.
  • Use mouthwashes. Check with your dentist and hygienist about rinses that not only alleviate bad breath, but also kill the bacteria that cause it.

What causes tooth decay?

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria the collect on your teeth.  These bacteria produce acid that wears away at the enamel on your teeth.  You can protect your teeth from tooth decay by brushing and flossing often, visiting our dentists regularly, and avoiding sugary foods.

What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth is a dental condition caused by a reduced flow of saliva.  Saliva helps to control the bacteria in your mouth and wash away debris from food.  Dry mouth may be caused by certain medications or diseases, or by the use of tobacco.  Our dentists will be able to recommend an appropriate treatment for your condition when you visit our practice.

How do I know if I have oral cancer?

Oral cancer often starts as a tiny, unnoticed white or red spot in the mouth, and can affect the lips, gums, cheeks, tongue, and palate.  When you visit our dentists, we will provide you with an oral cancer screening to detect this disease in its earliest stages and quickly begin treatments.