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Commonly Asked Questions

Below is a list of commonly asked dental questions from new patients. Please contact our office with additional questions or to schedule a visit.

Where are you located?

We have two convenient locations:

Meridian Dental

780 W Cherry Ln
Meridian, ID 83642

Middleton Dental

18 W. Main St.
Middleton, ID 83644

Call us to schedule an appointment today.

How often should I have my teeth cleaned?

In a mouth free from periodontal disease it is advisable for many people to have their teeth cleaned at least every 6 months. Some people may need to come in sooner for a variety of reasons:

  • Poor home care
  • The presence of moderate or severe periodontal disease
  • Systemic problems that cause dry mouth (xerostomia) and an increased risk for decay
  • People who build plaque and calculus at an accelerated rate

Examinations by your dentist are also a good reason to come in at least every six months. Regular exams and radiographs can often spot disease at an early stage and make treatment much more conservative.

Visit our preventative dental page to learn more.

How do I know if I need a root canal?

Symptoms of a dead or dying nerve in a tooth are usually pain to cold, hot, or biting pressure. Cold sensitivity that lingers for a while can be a symptom that the nerve is inflamed and may die.

A nerve can die for many reasons, a few are:

  • Trauma - Such as getting hit in the mouth
  • Decay - Caries that has gone deep into the tooth and into the nerve chamber
  • Multiple or Large Restorations - Sometimes after a tooth has been restored multiple times it traumatizes the nerve
  • Cracked Teeth - A crack in a tooth that extends into the nerve canal may require root canal treatment or extraction if it is severe enough.
  • Internal Resorption - This can happen due to trauma of the tooth or for no known reason and causes the tooth root to resorb from the inside out.

Visit our root canal page to learn more.

How can I replace missing teeth?

There are several procedures we perform in our office to replace missing teeth. These include dental implants, bridges, and partial dentures.

Dental implants essentially consist of a titanium screw that is placed in the bone. The bone then grows around the implant and locks it in. After a period of healing, an abutment and crown is placed on the implant. Advantages of dental implants include the ability to floss around the tooth without special implements, the ability to replace a tooth without touching adjacent teeth, high success rates, and others. There are times that dental implants cannot be placed or have a lower success rate. These instances include a deficiency in the quality or quantity of bone (this can sometimes be remedied with bone grafts or sinus lifts), systemic diseases such as uncontrolled diabetes, insufficient space between teeth and others. See our section on dental implants for more information.

Bridges are made by placing crowns/caps on teeth adjacent to one or more missing teeth. Bridges have less initial cost than an implant and can usually be placed in less time so you will go without a missing tooth for less time. Bridges can also be very aesthetic and can last a long time when taken care of properly. Disadvantages of a bridge are the need to prepare adjacent teeth and the need to redo the bridge if something goes wrong with either tooth.

Partial dentures utilize remaining teeth for anchorage and retention of a cast or plastic framework with teeth on it. Partial dentures are generally the least expensive of the options to replace teeth, can usually be added onto if another tooth is lost and can replace many missing teeth with one solution. The main disadvantage is that they are not fixed to the teeth and can slide around. They also may need to be relined if the bone or soft tissue changes form. A good solution to add retention to a partial denture is to use a precision attachment or anchor them to one or multiple implants. This provides a more fixed feeling.

Visit our dental services pages to learn more.

How do I whiten my teeth?

Bleaching is the process by which teeth that are discolored or stained are whitened using a hydrogen peroxide gel or like substance. Meridian and Middleton Dental offer custom tray whitening as a way to improve the look of your smile. Bleaching trays are made from models of your teeth. Custom trays are then fabricated to comfortably fit your mouth. Gel of various strengths is then applying every day or every other day, depending on if you have sensitivity. For patients with sensitivity, we recommend a fluoride gel before whitening to decrease sensitivity. Tray whitening has several advantages over store-bought products:

  • Custom trays evenly apply gel, especially if teeth are crowded
  • Trays keep more gel on the tooth and less in your mouth
  • Trays are economical as additional gel can be purchased and trays reused for years.

Most people can lighten and whiten their teeth by bleaching, but there are some cases in which bleaching may not work well. These include the following:

  • Endodontically treated (root canal) teeth
  • Grey teeth often do not show as dramatic an improvement
  • Patients with hypersensitive teeth (may need a pre-operative regimen of fluoride desensitizer)

Visit our cosmetic dentistry page to learn more.

How does periodontal disease develop?

The main cause of periodontal disease is bacterial plaque (the white stuff on your teeth after eating carbohydrates). Secondary causes are: smoking/tobacco, genetics, diabetes, pregnancy, puberty, stress, medications, occlusal trauma (clenching, grinding, “bad bite”), poor nutrition, systemic diseases and poor oral hygiene. Any or some of these factors can cause inflammation in the gums and resultant bleeding, increase periodontal pocket depth and bone loss. Left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to the loosening of teeth and eventual tooth loss.

The good news is that periodontal disease can be controlled with regular cleanings, examinations, good home care, and other antibacterial products.

Visit our periodontal page to learn more.

What are veneers?

There are two types of veneers available - porcelain or composite.

Porcelain veneers are thin pieces of porcelain that are bonded to the surface of the teeth to correct discoloration, shape, size or malposition. They look very similar to enamel and can really enhance your smile.

Composite veneers are directly bonded onto the teeth in one appointment. They can also change the color and sometimes the shape of teeth, but have more restrictions on when they can be placed. Composite veneers are less costly, but do not have the same look as porcelain. We are happy to have a consultation with you if you are thinking about veneers and give you information on the pros and cons.

Visit our cosmetic dentistry page to learn more.

I don't like the way my teeth look, should I get veneers?

There are many different types of cosmetic treatments that we offer to help improve the look of your smile. Sometimes, simple aesthetic contouring or small composite fillings can improve minor chips or wear facets. Other times, we may elect to place composite to reshape teeth or fill in spaces.

Porcelain veneers may be ideal if larger scale changes in tooth position are desired, or your teeth are discolored. We have placed porcelain veneers in our office for years, with beautiful results.

In addition to veneers, you may also benefit from gum re-contouring, orthodontic tooth movement or porcelain crowns for previously restored teeth. See our smile gallery for examples of veneers, bonding, and aesthetic porcelain crowns.

Learn more about veneers.

My dentures are loose, what can I do about it?

Sometimes a simple denture reline is all that is needed to get dentures to fit better. However, even new dentures, especially lower dentures, do not stay in well. This is because there is not a lot of natural retention for lower dentures. Dental implants can alleviate a lot of the problems associated with loose dentures by attaching them securely to the jaw. See our page on dental implants for more information on this topic.

Learn more about dentures.

What can I do for sensitive teeth?

Sensitive teeth can be caused by many problems, such as cracks, chips, worn teeth, an inflamed nerve in the tooth, sinus problems, or exposed roots/dentin. The last problem, exposed roots or dentin, is one of the most common. Dentin is the softer tooth material under the hard outer enamel or on the root surface. According to the latest research, dentin is composed of tiny tubes that lead to the pulp. When the dentin comes in contact with cold, hot, air or certain chemical (sugars, etc.), fluid moves inward or outward through the tooth and causes pain. Tooth sensitivity associated with exposed dentin is sharp and brief and goes away after the stimulus is gone.

There are two things that need to be done to treat dentin hypersensitivity. The first is to treat the pain symptoms. One option is potassium nitrate, which is found in the toothpaste Sensodyne. Potassium nitrate almost acts as an anesthetic to the pulp. Using the toothpaste can help, but your dentist can also make custom trays to help keep the potassium nitrate in contact with the tooth longer. There are also other products that attempt to close off dentin tubules and stop the flow of water through the tubules. Calcium containing substances or high-concentration fluoride are examples. Finally, there are resin materials that are placed on the tooth to attempt to physically block the tubules.

The second, and most important, thing to do is address the cause of the exposed dentin. A common problem is overbrushing. Brushing with excessive force can cause recession of the gums and exposure of the root surfaces leading to sensitivity. If this is the problem, using a soft brush and using less force can help the problem over time. Although debated, clenching and grinding can cause small pieces of the tooth to break off and the root surface to break down. Fixing the bite or providing a guard to wear at night can help reduce the sensitivity associated with clenching/grinding.

There are many causes to hypersensitivity. Schedule an appointment with one of our dentists to help identify the problem and come up with a solution to fix it.

Why doesn't my insurance cover this?

Dental insurance plans may have restrictions on the benefits they will pay for. This may include crowns, occlusal guards, or dental implants. Our doctors base their recommendations on what is the correct treatment, not what insurance pays for, so if you have questions, please talk to our doctors or our insurance specialist.

Since there are so many different insurance plans, it is important that you have a good understanding of what your insurance will pay for. Our office can usually send a predetermination of benefits to your insurance company before we start your treatment so you have a good idea of what can be expected. Remember, you are responsible for your insurance benefits and for understanding its limitations.