Frequently Asked Questions

Great Lakes Dental Care appreciates patients who try to stay informed about their oral health and commit to awareness about improving and maintaining the health of their teeth and gums. Our Grand Rapids dental practice wants you to feel confident that you are receiving the best and most advanced service available to you for your specific issue.

Below are various questions and answers that may help you to understand your current situation or other issues you may be suffering from in relation to your teeth, gums, mouth and jaw. While our professional dental team is always available to answer any questions, this page aims to introduce you to some common issues to help eliminate any confusion or reluctance you may have to deal with your problem.

What is Gum Disease and How Can it be Treated?

The gums, ligaments, and bone around the teeth form the foundation for your teeth. All structures are also referred to as the periodontium. When the periodontium is not healthy, it jeopardizes the teeth just as a bad foundation would threaten the stability of a house.

Signs of unhealthy periodontium include:

  • Gums that are red and bleed easily
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Gums that are pulled away from the tooth
  • Loose teeth
  • Changes in the position or bite of the teeth

Any of these may be a sign of problem. With proper gum treatments, however, it may be possible to return gum tissue to a healthy state. If you're having a problem, come in and see us so we may treat it right away. The treatment usually involves a deep cleaning or root planing done under a local anesthetic, along with local antibiotic agents. If the gum disease gets too severe it may need to be treated through surgery or extraction. This is why it is important to have it treated at the first sign of a problem.

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What Causes Bad Breath (Halitosis)?

Halitosis is a sophisticated word for bad breath. Depending on the cause, bad breath may strike occasionally or may be a more persistent condition. The most common cause of bad breath is bacteria. Because the mouth is moist and warm, it creates perfect conditions for the millions of bacteria that live there. In fact, approximately 80% of bad breath is caused by something in the mouth.

Fortunately, bad breath caused by bacteria in the mouth can easily be treated. Brushing your teeth, tongue and gums after meals as well as flossing and rinsing with mouthwash will usually take care of the problem. Regular visits to the dentist for dental examinations and professional cleanings will also help reduce mouth bacteria.

Some types of bad breath, such as morning breath, are considered fairly normal and are not usually health concerns. However, persistent bad breath may be a sign of more serious problems with the gums and teeth.

Bad breath may be caused by the following:

  • Poor dental hygiene can leave food particles to decay in the mouth
  • Infections in the mouth such as periodontal (gum) disease
  • Respiratory-tract infections such as throat infections, sinus infections, lung infections
  • External agents such as garlic, onions, coffee, cigarettes and chewing tobacco
  • Dry mouth caused by salivary gland problems or by breathing through the mouth
  • Systemic illnesses such as diabetes or liver, kidney, lung, sinus, reflux or other diseases

Contact us promptly if you have bad breath with painful, swollen gums that bleed easily or loose teeth. We will perform a physical examination of your mouth to determine the cause. If we discover that systematic problems are the cause, we may refer you to your family physician. In severe cases of gum disease, we may recommend a doctor specialized to treat gum disease called a periodontist.

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What is Cosmetic Dentistry?

People choose cosmetic dental procedures for various reasons – to repair a defect such as a malformed bite or crooked teeth, treat an injury, or just improve their overall appearance. For these and many other reasons, cosmetic dentistry has become a vital and important part of the dental profession and one of the fastest growing areas of dentistry.

Common cosmetic dental procedures can correct mis-shapen, discolored, chipped or missing teeth. It also can change the overall shape of teeth – from teeth that are too long or short, have gaps or simply need reshaping.

Cosmetic dentistry procedures include:

  • Cosmetic Fillings: Natural-looking materials made from porcelain and composite resins
  • Whitening/Bleaching: Chemicals used to whiten teeth and restore their natural brightness
  • Veneers: Thin laminates used to cover stained, discolored, worn, cracked, gapped or chipped teeth
  • Bonding: A tooth-colored material used to improve the color of a tooth or close unsightly gaps
  • Contouring & Reshaping: Used to correct crooked, chipped, cracked, or overlapping teeth
  • Crowns: Porcelain synthetic caps placed over a tooth to restore function or appearance, attach bridges, cover implants, or prevent cracks in teeth from expanding.
  • Crown Lengthening: To reshape gums or bone tissue, and often used to correct a ‘gummy’ smile.
  • Bridges: Natural-looking dental appliances that can replace a section of missing teeth and restore natural contour of your teeth and the proper bite relationship between upper and lower teeth. Also known as fixed partial dentures, they are semi-permanent and bonded to existing teeth or implants.
  • Specialty Dentures: Partial or complete lightweight dentures that mimic the look and feel of natural teeth, made from a combination of metals and synthetic material such as acrylic resin
  • Excessive/Uneven Gums: Gum lifts or soft tissue grafts can even gum lines, or cover roots
  • Ridge Augmentation: Used to shore up dents and other abnormalities in your gum line
  • Grafts: Small pieces of tissue taken from other areas and surgically implanted to correct severe gum disease, cover exposed roots, stop bone loss or gum recession and reduce root sensitivity
  • Gum Tissue Replacement: Gum tissue can be augmented or replaced by soft tissue grafts
  • Implants: Synthetic structures placed near the tooth and an alternative to partial dentures

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Can too much Fluoride Cause Problems?

For decades, fluoride has been considered by the dental community to be an important mineral that strengthens tooth enamel and helps to prevent the decay of tooth structures.

Water fluoridation is endorsed by nearly every major health and safety-related organization in the world. Grand Rapids was one of the first cities to ‘fluoridate’ their drinking supply in order for the general population to benefit from this inexpensive and effective preventative treatment. Today, according to the American Dental Association, more than 144 million U.S. residents in more than 10,000 communities drink fluoridated water, most from public water systems with sodium fluoride added artificially.

Can the consistent use of bottled water result in individuals missing the benefits of optimally fluoridated water? Can home water treatment systems (e.g., water filters) affect optimally fluoridated water supplies? The answer is yes to both.

The American Dental Association`s Council on Scientific Affairs believes that one part of the warning now required on fluoride toothpastes by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could unnecessarily frighten parents and children, and that the label greatly overstates any demonstrated or potential danger posed by fluoride toothpastes. The label language, "If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately," is now required on all fluoride toothpastes. But the ADA has pointed out that a child could not absorb enough fluoride from toothpaste to cause a serious problem and that the excellent safety record on fluoride toothpaste argues against any unnecessary regulation.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child may face a condition called enamel fluorosis if he or she receives too much fluoride during the years of tooth development. Too much fluoride can result in defects in tooth enamel.

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Why is Flossing Important and How Do I Do It?

Flossing is a method for removing bacteria and other debris that cannot be reached by a toothbrush. It generally entails a very thin piece of synthetic cord you insert and move up and down between the sides of two adjoining teeth.

Many dentists believe that flossing is the single most important weapon against plaque. In any event, daily flossing is an excellent and proven method for complementing your brushing routine and helping to prevent cavities, periodontal disease, and other dental problems later in life. It also increases blood circulation in your gums. Floss removes plaque and debris that stick to your teeth and gums.

Floss at least once every day. Like brushing, flossing should take about three minutes and can easily be done while doing another activity, such as watching television. Do not attempt to floss your teeth while operating a motor vehicle or other machinery.

There are two common methods for flossing, the ‘spool method’ and the ‘loop method. The spool method is the most popular for those who do not have problems with stiff joints or fingers. The spool method works like this: Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around your middle finger. Wind the rest of the floss similarly around the middle finger of your other hand. This finger takes up the floss as it becomes soiled or frayed. Move the floss between your teeth with your index fingers and thumbs. Maneuver the floss up and down several times forming a "C" shape around the tooth. While doing this, make sure you go below the gum line, where bacteria are known to collect heavily.

The loop method is often effective for children or adults with dexterity problems like arthritis. The loop method works like this: Break off about 18 inches of floss and form it into a circle. Tie it securely with two or three knots. Place all of your fingers, except the thumb, within the loop. Use your index fingers to guide the floss through your lower teeth, and use your thumbs to guide the floss through the upper teeth, going below the gum line and forming a "C" on the side of the tooth.

With either method of flossing, never "snap" the floss because this can cut your gums. Make sure that you gently scrape the side of each tooth with the floss. Your gums may be tender or even bleed for the first few days after flossing — a condition that generally heals within a few days.

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When Should I Use a Mouth-guard or Night-guard?

Custom designed mouth-guards or night-guards are made of flexible plastic and molded to fit the shape of your teeth.

Mouth-guards are recommended to protect the jaw and teeth during physical activity and sports such as boxing, football, basketball or other activities where your mouth may get hit. In addition, these guards protect the soft tissues of your tongue, lips and cheek lining.

Night-guards are recommended for patients who clench or grind their teeth at night as a way to protect their teeth and bite.

If you think a guard is right for you, the dentist will first take an impression of your teeth, which will then be sent to a lab to make a custom fit guard for you. In most cases you can choose from a variety of colors and styles for your guard. On average, guards last between

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What is Oral Cancer and How Do You Test for It?

Every hour of every day, someone in America dies from Oral Cancer. Recently, 25% of all reported cases were found in patients under age 40 with none of the commonly known risk factors. For this reason, Great Lakes Dental Care encourages all of our Grand Rapids and West Michigan dental patients over age 25 to be screened for this dangerous form of cancer using our simple, quick and painless Velscope blue-light scanner technology.

We also suggest screening for patients of all ages if you:

  • Frequently consume alcohol
  • Have a compromised smmune system
  • Have a family history of cancer
  • Use tobacco
  • Have a presence of the HPV virus

Today, oral cancer is more common than cervical cancer, and is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved in the last 50 years — due mainly to a lack of detection methods. Unfortunately, by the time you can see the cancer with the naked eye, it is often too late to treat or the surgical procedure to remove it could have devastating effects. However, when diagnosis and treatment are performed at or before a Stage 1 carcinoma level, the survival rate is over 90%.

The Grand Rapids dental professionals at Great Lakes Dental Care now offer Velscope Screening to detect Oral Cancer in patients before it becomes a serious problem.

This potentially life-saving exam is offered through Great Lakes Dental Care for only $20, which is $45 less than the national average. Our caring team has tried very hard to make this affordable to everyone since our primary goal is to save as many lives as possible.

For more information about Oral Cancer or the Velscope Scanner, please contact our Grand Rapids dental office today or call us at 616.784.6300.

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