The Many Ways We Provide Gentle Dental Care
When we talk to patients about dentistry, one of the main concerns they bring up is whether the dental care they receive will be gentle. As dentists, our main concern of course is your health, but we understand the desire to have a gentle dental care experience. We know it’s not everyday you have to let another person look around your mouth, so we strive to do all we can to make sure your visit & your treatment comfortable, & we mean this in the broadest sense possible.
Gentle Dental Hygienists & Dentists
We pride ourselves on having brought together a team of dental professionals who always use a gentle touch when treating patients. Our dentists & dental hygienists provide meticulous teeth cleanings & take care & time when navigating the delicate structures of your mouth, such as your gums. And we are always happy to make accommodations for you if you have specific sensitivities. If you are uncomfortable in any way, please let us know! We prefer hearing feedback to worrying that you might have endured some kind of discomfort in silence!
Gentle Dental Care Through the Latest Technology
Advances in dental technology, procedures & materials mean that we can take a more conservative approach to dental care than ever before. Plus, many of the technological advances we use at our office result in quicker, more comfortable processes & procedures. Even taking x-rays has become a faster & more efficient process now that we use digital radiograph technology. Technology means being able to catch problems early when they’re easier to fix & shorter recovery times for procedures that were more invasive with the limited instrumentation of the past. We’re living in a bright new future of dentistry & we’re happy to bring all of the best advances in smile care here at our practice.
Gentle Impact on Your Daily Schedule
We know one of the roughest parts about going to your regular teeth cleanings is fitting the visits into your busy schedule. We don’t want anything to stand between you & regular preventive dental care. That’s why we offer teeth cleaning appointments that fit around your work schedule, so you don’t have to take time off to see us. We will always do our best to learn your availability & schedule you into an appropriate time slot in the first place. However, please let us know if an appointment time conflicts with another obligation in your schedule. Asking to reschedule is always preferable to a last-minute cancellation. Seeing you consistently for cleanings is vital to keeping your smile healthy for the long run.
If You Have Insurance, Your Cleanings Are Free!
We know many dental patients find the ins & outs of dental insurance confusing, but if you have dental insurance the most important thing for you to know is that you get two free cleanings per year!
Nearly all dental insurance plans are set up in favor of preventive care. Most plan benefits cover two annual teeth cleanings (also referred to as hygiene or prophylaxis in clinical terms) at 100%, meaning you won’t pay anything out of pocket for your visit & the insurance company covers the cost of your annual cleanings. This is one of the ways that insurance companies & your dentist encourage you to prevent dental problems. By seeing the dentist for a cleaning every six months, which usually includes a brief exam, we can catch problems before they become painful, costly or both!
At a typical dental clinic, teeth cleanings are the most common reason patients come in to the office. If your teeth are relatively health, you’ve avoided having a dental injury, & you haven’t chosen to have cosmetic dentistry, most of time your visits to our office will not involve a financial transaction on your part at all. That being said, we will bill your insurance for your cleaning, meaning each cleaning won’t cost you cash, but it will cost you one of your annually allotted teeth cleaning benefits from your dental plan.
In some very rare situations, your insurance company may request you pay a small out-of-pocket cost for your cleaning. However, this shouldn’t be a reason not to get your cleaning. The $10 copay you pay twice a year for your cleaning if you have this kind of insurance plan is small compared to the hundreds or thousands you might pay out of pocket if something goes wrong & you need a crown because you haven’t been going to the dentist!
We don’t want anything to stand between you & optimal dental health. That’s why we offer teeth cleaning appointments that fit your busy schedule. We strive to provide appointment times that don’t require you to take off work (or school). We’d much rather see you before or after work for your teeth cleaning than pull you away from your obligations in the middle of the day. If you don’t already have your next 6-month teeth cleaning appointment scheduled, call us today so we can arrange it!
Take advantage of your teeth cleaning benefits! They’re made available to you in order to keep both your smile & your wallet healthy!
Be Sure to Use Your Dental Benefits Every Year
If you have dental insurance, your insurance company provides you with a certain dental benefits each year. In case you’re not very familiar with insurance vocabulary, you can think of an insurance benefit as a dental service that the insurance company pays all or most of the cost of. Most dental plans cover the most common preventive services at 100%, meaning the insurance company pays 100% of the cost & you pay nothing. But you should know, if you don’t use these benefits each year, they’re gone forever!
Why does it matter whether you use your benefits each year? For one thing, these benefits are provided as a way to help keep you healthy. That’s why preventive & diagnostic services such as exams & x-rays are usually covered at 100% by the insurance company. Even your free cleanings are a great opportunity for the dental hygienist or the dentist to detect potential problems. Think of it as an incentive to get your teeth checked out by the dentist twice per year.
The other advantage of using up your preventive benefits each year is that it can save you money. The healthier you stay & the earlier problems can be uncovered, the less both you & the insurance company will have to pay for more complex care in the future. For example, a cavity that is caught when it’s relatively small & minor will just result in a filling. A big cavity that has gone undetected for a long time until it started causing problems might result in a crown instead, which is a longer, more complex, & more expensive procedure.
Another reason to use up your dental benefits is if you encounter the need for more than one relatively major dental procedure in a single year. If you’ve been told you need a crown, rather than put off the treatment, if you get it done right away you’ll hit your deductible, the minimum you have to pay out-of-pocket before the insurance company starts helping pay for the cost of your care. But say a few months later you end up needing a root canal on a different tooth. If both treatments fall in the same calendar year, you only pay your deductible once. But if the two treatments fall in two different calendar years, you’ll pay your deductible each time. You’ll save money by completing your dental treatment sooner rather than later & using up your dental benefits!
We know dental insurance (or any insurance for that matter) can be confusing. If you have questions about your coverage, we will do our best to answer them. Our staff is trained to make the most of your dental benefits.
Your Guide to Understanding How Dental Insurance Works
Most people get their dental insurance through their employer, who will choose it depending on what they expect the dental needs of their employees are. However, if you are self-employed, not working, or your employer doesn’t offer dental insurance, you can sign up for dental insurance as an individual. Whether you’re buying dental insurance for yourself or you’re the person at a company who’s in charge of this task, it’s important to understand some basics about how dental insurance works so you can choose the best plan.
Some may be surprised to hear this, but dental insurance doesn’t really resemble insurance in the traditional sense (a payment to cover the cost of a loss). Most plans operate more like a cost-savings membership than an insurance plan. While your auto insurance will pay to repair your car if you have an accident, if one of your tooth gets damaged, your dental insurance will not pay for all of it. The cost of repairing the tooth will be split between you and the insurance company, and the portion you pay is determined by the plan you chose.
Many dental insurance plans include coverage for some services but not others. For example one plan may cover tooth sealants but not braces, compared to another that covers braces but not sealants. The fact that a dental plan doesn’t cover a certain service doesn’t mean that this treatment isn’t necessary or that you should hesitate to get a treatment that your dentist has recommended.
Some dental plans will also offer an alternate lower cost version of a treatment for a given dental program. For example, if you need a crown, your dental insurance may suggest a lower cost amalgam (metal) crown instead of a composite (tooth-colored) crown. This doesn’t mean that the composite option is “extra” or less recommended, it simply means that the insurance company is trying to reduce how much they have to pay. You should always select the treatment that is both recommended by your dentist and fits your goals for the outcome of treatment. For example, if you’d rather have a composite crown that looks like a natural tooth than a metal one that stands out, you should get the composite, even though the insurance company will not help you pay for as much of it.
It’s a good idea to try to find a plan that emphasizes preventive care by paying to cover these services at 100%. That means that routine preventive care such as teeth cleanings, exams and x-rays won’t cost you anything out-of-pocket. Preventive care will help save you money in the long run. Problems can be prevented entirely (e.g. removing tartar from teeth to prevent decay) or caught earlier when they’re easier and cheaper to treat (e.g. filling a cavity when it’s still really small).
There are three major types of dental insurance plans, and it can be helpful to know the differences.
Preferred Provider Organization
With a Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) plan, patients select a dentist from a list of participating providers. These dentists have contracted with the insurance company to offer a discount on their fees. While most PPO plans allow patients to go to a dentist who is not a preferred provider, these patients will usually pay a slightly higher co-pay at a non-participating dentist (for example: 80% coverage on a crown procedure at a non-provider vs. 90% at a contracted provider).
Dental Health Maintenance Organization
A DHMO plan (sometimes just called an HMO) contracts with dentists & pays them a fixed amount (usually monthly) per family or individual enrolled in the plan, regardless of whether they go to the dentist or get treatments. In exchange, the dentist doesn’t charge the patients for certain types of treatment. In theory, these plans are designed to reward dentists who keep patients in good dental health, because it reduces costs for everyone. However, the result is often a more limited choice of which dentists you can go to.
Direct Reimbursement plans do exactly what their name implies: the insurance company reimburses patients for the dollars spent on dental care. The biggest benefit of this is that patients get total freedom to choose a dentist, because the dentist is removed from the insurance equation. However, it does mean that the patient will have to pay the whole cost of their payment up front, then wait for a check to be sent after they file a claim. If paying for treatment out-of-pocket immediately is a hardship for a patient, many dentists now offer payment plans or financing to help spread the cost of treatment out over time.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU REPLACE YOUR TOOTHBRUSH?
We’ve all heard that the pen is mightier than the sword. You might also say that the toothbrush is mightier than the drill! That’s because if you wield your toothbrush properly, it’s a very powerful weapon against tooth decay & gum disease. But like any tool, if you want it to work best, you need to take care of it. That’s why you need to replace your toothbrush frequently to maintain proper oral hygiene!
Change Your Toothbrush Every 3 Months
The American Dental Association recommends replacing your toothbrush every 3-4 months. Toothbrushes become worn over time & bristles bend & fray they become less effective at cleaning your teeth. A toothbrush with straight, stiff (not hard!) bristles will do the best job.
If you find you often forget to replace your toothbrush on time, try putting a note or a reminder in your personal calendar every 3 months to buy a new one. Always buy soft-bristled toothbrushes. Hard or medium bristles are not necessary to properly or effectively clean your teeth, & may even damage your enamel, making your teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay.
Another good reminder of when to change your toothbrush is when we hand you a new one at your 6-month cleaning appointment! You should replace your toothbrush at least once between every bi-yearly oral hygiene appointment with us.
Signs It’s Time to Change
Not everyone knows this, but toothbrushes will actually show physical signs that it’s time for them to be replaced. The most obvious sign is that the bristles will start to fray & splay outward instead of standing up straight.
(This effect will be more severe if you brush your teeth to hard. If you notice your brush’s bristles fraying very soon after they’re new, it may be a sign that you’re brushing so hard you can damage your teeth or cause sensitivity. How thorough you are is much more important than how hard you brush. Be gentle!)
Many toothbrush manufacturers also build a wear guide into the bristles of their brushes. Most of the time this is in the form of a colored strip of bristles. Once the color on these bristles has faded significantly, it’s time to replace your toothbrush.
SIGNS OF A CAVITY
Cavities, or tooth decay, is a fairly common dental ailment, particularly in children or young adults. Even though most of our patients are familiar with what cavities are, we find that many are still surprised when we tell them they have a cavity! That’s because many cavities, especially early on, do not cause tooth pain & may not be visible to the untrained eye. So we’ve provided the following basic information about the signs of cavities so that you’ll be better informed in the hopefully unlikely event that we tell you you’ve got a cavity.
White spots may appear on your teeth as a sign of early decay. These white spots are a sign of where minerals have been lost from the surface of your teeth. Luckily, when these white spots appear, it’s not too late. At this point, the development of a cavity can be stopped or reversed. Your tooth enamel can repair the damage naturally using minerals such a fluoride, found in saliva, fluoride toothpaste, & other sources such as fluoridated drinking water. These things can also help prevent decay in the first place by making your teeth stronger.
Light or dark brown spots on your teeth are a sign of a more progressed cavity. These spots are where your tooth’s structure has started to soften & dissolve. You are most likely to see these spots on front teeth or the tops of molars. However, they can also exist between your teeth without being visible. That’s why it’s important to visit the dentist for cleanings & checkups. The dentist has techniques & technology for detecting cavities that are not easily visible otherwise.
Tooth Pain or Sensitivity
First of all, we should note that many cavities do not cause a toothache! You can have no pain or sensitivity at all & still have a cavity that is getting bad. However, if you do experience pain or sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet foods, this is a big sign that you may have a cavity.
Always call us right away if you have a toothache! The sooner we see you the sooner you’ll be out of pain.
Dark Spots on Your X-Rays
Typically, we take x-rays of your teeth every 12 months (roughly once a year) to get a deeper understanding of the health of your teeth. While dental x-rays have many uses for diagnosis & treatment of dental health issues, one of the primary purposes of getting x-rays regularly is to give the dentist an opportunity to check for cavities between your teeth (which dentists call inter-proximal caries) which might not be detectable otherwise. These cavities between your teeth show up as dark spots that the dentist is trained to identify.
Treatment for Cavities
Treatments for cavities vary depending on the severity & location of the cavity, & your individual dental health. Most of the time, a cavity that is caught early enough just results in a filling. In more serious cases, you may need a crown (i.e. a cap) to restore a tooth that has been extensively damaged by decay. If caught early enough, some micro-cavities can even be reversed using re-mineralization treatments to strengthen your enamel. If you suspect you may have a cavity, please contact us for an appointment right away. No matter what, we’ll keep checking your smile for cavities at your regular check-up & cleaning.
CLEAR BRACES VS. METAL BRACEs
The choice between clear braces or metal braces is becoming an age-old debate at the orthodontist’s office or the dentist’s office. For many patients who wish to straighten their teeth, the choice comes down to balancing the affect of orthodontics on your appearance, it’s impact on your budget, & the expected or desired outcome for your particular case.
Are you considering getting braces but don’t know which kind is right for you? Or has your dentist or orthodontist has told you you aren’t eligible for clear braces? Here are some basics that we hope will clear things up.
There’s More Than One Kind of Clear Braces
When we say clear braces, most people think of clear plastic aligners like Invisalign or ClearCorrect. These aligners are made from a mold of your teeth & look like a thin mouthguard. Because they are clear, these aligners are nearly invisible. People won’t know you’re wearing an orthodontic appliance, even from a few feet away. They work by gently pushing your teeth into a position that matches the custom-designed aligner. We refer to this type of orthodontic treatment as clear aligners or invisible braces. We should note that clear aligners treatments usual cost more than traditional braces options.
There are also traditional braces made from innovative new materials that are nearly invisible. The difference is the brackets that attach to your teeth & hold the archwire in place are clear instead of metal, hence why we call them clear braces. As a result, you won’t have the typical “metal mouth” appearance that we associate with traditional braces, but you’ll get the same treatment power as traditional braces. Examples of these clear braces are Damon System or Six Month Smiles. If this is an option that interests you, ask your orthodontist about clear braces.
A similar option is white or ceramic braces. White or ceramic refers to tooth-colored brackets that are attached to your teeth & hold the arch wire. Just like clear braces, with white or ceramic braces you won’t have a mouth full of metal, & people might not even notice you have braces from a distance or in photographs. Both ceramic braces & clear braces tend to be about the same price as metal braces.
Traditional Metal Braces Are Sticking Around for Good
Despite all the advances in orthodontics technology & the new braces & aligners products on the market, traditional metal braces will always be an option. The major reason for this is only the technology of traditional metal braces can be used to treat certain severe or complex cases. If some of your teeth need to be moved pretty far in order to give you a straight & aligned smile, traditional braces may be the only choice…at least at first. It is possible to start your orthodontics treatment using traditional braces to complete complex tooth movements & then switch to clear aligners to bring teeth into their final position.
If your dentist or orthodontist has told you that you’re not a candidate for invisible aligners (such as Invisalign), keep in mind that they have the best results for a straight smile in mind. Even if you’re worried about how you’ll look with metal braces, think about how amazing you’ll look with a new smile in a few months when the orthodontic treatment is complete! So if metal braces are your only option, we still say, go for it! You’ll be grateful for your new smile in the end.
We Respect the Schedules of Our Working Patients
We know the majority of our patients work during the middle of the day. You may not work 9 to 5 exactly (maybe you work 8 to 4) but chances are that in the middle of the day, your employer or clients expect you to be at work or available. That’s why we do our best to offer teeth cleaning appointments that fit your work schedule.
We don’t want anything to come between you & your regular preventive dental care appointments. That being said, we also don’t want you to view 6-month visits to our office as something that disrupts your ability to provide for yourself & your family. That’s why we go the extra mile to provide appointments that are convenient for your work schedule.
We have morning appointments available so that you can stop in before work for your cleaning. We also have evening appointments available so that you can stop by on your way home. Our teeth cleaning appointments are less than an hour long, so you’ll be in & out quickly. We work early & late so you don’t have to take time off!
The best way to ensure your long term dental health is to see us regularly for preventive dental care. Catching problems early & getting a professional cleaning every 6 months (or however often the dentist or dental hygienist recommends) can prevent potentially costly & painful dental problems in the future. We don’t say this to scare you, just as a reminder that an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Or in this case, a one-hour cleaning is worth sparing yourself the expense & inconvenience of dental disease & tooth decay!
The importance of preventive teeth cleaning visits is why we always strive to pre-appoint you for your next visit in a time that fits with your work schedule. Please don’t hesitate to let us know when you need to be at work. If it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to make it for a 4pm appointment, we’d much rather see you at 5:30pm than have you miss or cancel! Our goal is always to make dentistry as easy as possible for you. It’s how we keep our family of patients smiling!