Question & Answer

Our Question and Answer Section below is some of the most frequently asked questions patients have about dentistry and oral health issues. If you or your family have any other questions, or would like to schedule an appointment, feel free to call or visit one of our convenient locations. We are here to help you and we are always accepting new patients.

What should I do if I have bad breath?

Halitosis, or bad breath, is a condition that can be both unpleasant and embarrassing for the sufferer. Many people don’t even realize they suffer from bad breath, but it is very common from time to time. Many of you may experience it in the morning. There are a variety of reasons for bad breath; the most common reason, in healthy people, is the result of microbial deposits on the tongue. Studies show that by brushing your teeth and tongue you can significantly reduce bad breath.

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What may cause bad breath?
  • Morning time – Saliva flow almost stops during sleep and its reduced cleansing action allows bacteria to grow, causing bad breath.
  • Certain foods – Garlic, onions, etc. Foods containing odor-causing compounds enter the blood stream; they are transferred to the lungs, where they are exhaled.
  • Poor oral hygiene habits – Food particles remaining in the mouth promote bacterial growth.
  • Periodontal (gum) disease – Colonies of bacteria and food debris residing under inflamed gums.
  • Dental cavities and improperly fitted dental appliances – may also contribute to bad breath.
  • Dry mouth (Xerostomia) – May be caused by certain medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous mouth breathing.
  • Tobacco products – Dry the mouth, causing bad breath.
  • Dieting – Certain chemicals called ketones are released in the breath as the body burns fat.
  • Dehydration, hunger, and missed meals – Drinking water and chewing food increases saliva flow and washes bacteria away.
  • Certain medical conditions and illnesses – Diabetes, liver, and kidney problems, chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia are several conditions that may contribute to bad breath.

Note: Keeping a record of what you eat may help identify the cause of bad breath. Also, review your current medications, recent surgeries, or illnesses with your dentist.

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What can I do to prevent bad breath?
  • Practice good oral hygiene – Brush at least twice a day with an ADA approved fluoride toothpaste and toothbrush. Floss daily to remove food debris and plaque from in between the teeth and under the gumline. Brush or use a tongue scraper to clean the tongue and reach the back areas. Replace your toothbrush every 2-3 months. If you wear dentures or removable bridges, clean them thoroughly and place them back in your mouth in the morning.
  • See your dentist regularly – Get a check-up and cleaning at least twice a year. If you have or have had periodontal disease, your dentist will recommend more frequent visits.
  • Stop smoking/chewing tobacco – Ask your dentist what they recommend to help break the habit.
  • Drink water frequently – Water will help keep your mouth moist and wash away bacteria.
  • Use mouthwash/rinses – Some over-the-counter products only provide a temporary solution to mask unpleasant mouth odor. Ask your dentist about antiseptic rinses that not only alleviate bad breath, but also kill the germs that cause the problem.

Most cases of bad breath can be treated by your dentist. You may be referred to a physician to determine the continual cause of odor and a treatment plan, if your dentist determines that you have a healthy mouth, but continued bad breath.

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How often should I brush and floss?

Brushing and flossing helps control the plaque and bacteria that causes dental disease.

What is Plaque?

Plaque is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva that forms a sticky, almost invisible film on the surface of your teeth. Removal of this plaque is very important to your overall health. The bacteria produce toxins that will inflame your gums and can begin the early stages of periodontal disease.

What is Tartar?

Tartar is found above and below the gum line and requires special dental instruments to remove. The tartar is plaque that has been on the tooth surface for so long that it has hardened and is fully attached to the tooth surface.

Tooth brushing

Brush your teeth at least twice a day with an ADA approved soft bristle brush and toothpaste. The most common times include before going to bed and upon waking up in the morning. If you have questions about the quality of your toothbrush or how to properly brush your teeth, please talk with your dentist or dental hygienist about finding the right one for you at your next visit.

For immediate help follow these simple tips until you can see your dentist:

  • Brush at a 45 degree angle to the gums, gently using a small, circular motion, ensuring that you always feel the bristles on the gums.
  • Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth.
  • Use the tip of the brush head to clean the inside front teeth.
  • Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

Electric toothbrushes are also recommended. They are easy to use and can remove plaque efficiently. Simply place the bristles of the electric brush on your gums and teeth and allow the brush to do its job, several teeth at a time.

Daily Flossing

Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gumline. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.

For immediate help follow these simple tips until you can see your dentist:

  • Take 12-16 inches (30-40cm) of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches (5cm) of floss between the hands.
  • Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion.
  • Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gumline. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.

Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss.


It is important to rinse your mouth with water after brushing, and also after meals if you are unable to brush. If you are using an over-the-counter product for rinsing, it is a good idea to consult with your dentist or dental hygienist on its appropriateness for you.

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How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?

It is recommended that you have your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year, although your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend more frequent visits.

These regular dental exams and cleanings are essential in preventing dental problems and to help you maintain the health of your teeth and gums. At these visits, your teeth are cleaned and checked for cavities. Additionally, there are many other things that are checked and monitored to help detect, prevent, and maintain your dental health. These include:

  • Medical history review: Knowing the status of any current medical conditions, new medications, and illnesses, gives us insight to your overall health and also your dental health.
  • Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
  • Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
  • Gum disease evaluation: Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
  • Examination of tooth decay: All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.
  • Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
  • Removal of calculus (tartar): Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line, and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
  • Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease!
  • Teeth polishing: Removes stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
  • Review dietary habits: Your eating habits play a very important role in your dental health.

We check for many things in your dental exam and cleaning. At Family First Dental we strive to provide you with a comprehensive and comfortable experience.

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How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease)?

This is a serious bacterial condition that damages and destroys the gum tissue and bone that support your teeth. Untreated periodontal disease is a leading cause of tooth loss among adults. Except in its earliest stages, periodontal disease cannot be completely cured. It can be controlled and managed. Current research shows some alarming new information about the effects of periodontal disease. Many studies, including several published in the Journal of Periodontology, confirm that people with periodontal disease are at a greater risk for other serious illnesses. That is because infected gums release significantly higher levels of bacteria into the bloodstream which then spread to other organs in the body.

Periodontal bacteria may contribute to, but is not limited to: Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and pre-term and low birth weight babies. There are many stages of periodontal diseases and it is important to discuss your individual situation with your doctor.

Contributing risk factors include but are not limited to: age, smoking, stress, poor dental care, diabetes, genetics, hormonal changes, medications, other systemic diseases, poor nutrition, and cleaning and grinding teeth.

Other than poor oral hygiene, there are several other factors that may increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco: Tobacco users are more likely than non-users to form plaque and tartar on their teeth.
  • Certain tooth or appliance conditions: Bridges that no longer fit properly, crowded teeth, or defective fillings that may trap plaque and bacteria.
  • Many medications: Steroids, cancer therapy drugs, blood pressure meds, oral contraceptives. Some medications have side effects that reduce saliva, making the mouth dry and plaque easier to adhere to the teeth and gums.
  • Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and puberty: Can cause changes in hormone levels, causing gum tissue to become more sensitive to bacteria toxins.
  • Systemic diseases: Diabetes, blood cell disorders, HIV / AIDS, etc.
  • Genetics may play a role: Some patients may be predisposed to a more aggressive type of periodontitis. Patients with a family history of tooth loss should pay particular attention to their gums.

Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease:

  • Red and puffy gums. Gums should never be red or swollen.
  • Bleeding gums. Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
  • Persistent bad breath, caused by bacteria in the mouth.
  • New spacing between teeth, caused by bone loss.
  • Loose teeth. Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
  • Pus around the teeth and gums is a sign that there is an infection present.
  • Receding gum or loss of gum around a tooth.
  • Tenderness or discomfort is caused by plaque, calculus, and bacteria which irritate the gums and teeth.
  • Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.

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How can cosmetic dentistry help improve the appearance of my smile?

Cosmetic dental treatments may be the answer if you are feeling self-conscious about your smile and teeth or wish to improve your entire smile. We can help give you that confident and beautiful smile. Family First Dental enjoys helping you achieve a healthier, whiter, more radiant smile!

There are many options available to give you the smile you have always wanted. From restoring one tooth to a complete make-over on your smile. Call or stop by one of our convenient locations to find out how you can enhance your smile and improve your health through cosmetic dentistry.

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What are porcelain veneers?

They are a thin, custom-made shell of tooth-colored plastic or porcelain that are bonded directly to the front side of natural teeth to improve their appearance -- for example, to replace lost tooth structure, close spaces, straighten teeth, or change color and/or shape. Like other dental restorations, veneers are not permanent and may need to be replaced in the future, but are very durable and will last you many years. Many people choose veneers for cosmetic reasons to have uniform white teeth. They are also used in cases of crooked, misshapen, discolored, or stained teeth, or for those that are too small or large with unwanted or uneven spaces or to cover worn or chipped teeth.

Porcelain Inlay or Onlays

These are tooth-colored restorations made of porcelain, cemented or bonded in place.

Tooth Bleaching and Whitening

This is a simple, non-invasive dental treatment which is used to change the color of natural tooth enamel to enhance the aesthetic look of the teeth.

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Note: For more information on dentistry, please visit the following two websites: The American Dental Association Website and WebMD at or visit our Links page. Please ask our knowledgeable staff any questions or concerns you may have. They are there to help you!