Questions Your Dentist Can Answer

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When discussing dental or other mouth-related problems with your dentist, you shouldn't be afraid to ask questions. Although the questions you have may not rank as some of the most frequent dental concerns patients ask about, your dentist is knowledgeable about a wide range of related issues. You should be asking any questions you have about your oral health. Otherwise, you may not get the answers you need to keep your mouth and teeth healthy.

Is tongue piercing safe?

Unless oral piercing is done in a very sterile environment, there's a high risk of infection. Tongue piercing can also lead to chipped teeth or cracked fillings if you bite down too hard. Other problems that can occur if you pierce your tongue include

  • Pain

  • Blood loss if the piercing procedure damages vessels in your tongue

  • Swelling that can block your airway

  • Drooling caused by increased saliva flow

  • Choking on jewelry

  • Numbness resulting from nerve damage

  • Allergic reactions if you are hypersensitive to metals in the jewelry

  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or talking.

Are bleeding gums always a sign of periodontal disease?

Even if your gums bleed just a little, it's usually a sign of gum disease. You could have gingivitis -- the early stage of gum disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gum disease is common, occurring in nearly half of adults age 30 and older. The older you get, the more your risk increases.

In its earliest stages, gum disease is reversible. If gum disease progresses past gingivitis to a later stage, your dentist can still take steps to manage the disease so that it doesn't get worse and cause more extensive damage.

Can chewing gum prevent cavities?

The answer is yes if you chew sugarless gum. Chewing gum that contains the sugar substitute xylitol, aspartame, mannitol, or sorbitol increases saliva flow which helps reduce the tooth-decaying acids in your mouth that oral bacteria produce. Unlike sugar, sugar substitutes aren't converted to the acids that cause tooth decay.

Saliva also contains calcium and phosphate -- minerals that help strengthen tooth enamel. Look for a sugarless gum that carries the ADA Seal on the label to know if you are getting a gum that will be effective against fighting cavities.

Are dental X-rays safe?

Although dental X-rays can be helpful to your dentist, they aren't always necessary. Some dentists take X-rays as part of every routine dental examine. Others only do them if you are having a dental problem and your dentist needs to have a closer look at bones or tissue he or she can't see by visually examining your mouth. You can opt not to have dental X-rays but without them, your dentist might miss a problem in your mouth not easily visible.

However, with all the talk about cancer risks, it's an important question to ask. Even though dental X-rays involve a small amount of radiation, the effect is cumulative over your lifetime. Thyroid cancer is a particular concern, especially for children whose thyroid glands are more prone to the effects of radiation. If you or your child need dental X-rays because of cavities or other dental problems, make certain that in addition to the lead apron a dentist like Scott Brenner, DDS uses to cover your chest, he or she covers your neck with a thyroid collar.