1. Why are X-rays important?
X-rays allow the dentist to visualize oral structures that are not visible by just looking in the mouth. Many diseases or problems can be found before they become painful and are much more difficult (and expensive) to fix. These include:
- Small cavities
- Infections in the bone
- Abscesses and cysts
- Periodontitis (advanced gum disease)
- Some types of tumors
2. How much radiation is there in X-rays? Are they safe?
The newer dental X-ray films use far less radiation than previous films, and are very safe. Most people are exposed to about 3.000 mSV (millisievert) of radiation per year from natural sources such as from outer space and minerals in the soil. The total amount of radiation from bitewings (4 dental X-rays – the usual number of X-rays taken during a check-up) is about 0.038 mSV. Compared to the average amount of radiation from natural sources, dental X-rays only make up about 1% of the total amount of radiation that most people are exposed to in one year.
3. Why do teeth that have root canals need to be crowned?
Teeth that have had a root canal are dead because the living tissue inside the tooth has been removed and only the hard outer layers of dentin and enamel remain. Over time, dead teeth become more brittle and are more prone to fractures of the root and/or cusps. Only by placing a full coverage crown can possible fracture or breakage be prevented, ensuring many more years of service from the tooth.
4. Are amalgam (silver) fillings safe?
Yes, amalgam fillings are safe. Amalgam fillings are the oldest and most researched filling material in use today and are still the most common type of filling used in Canada. The filling material is made up of a mix of metals including mercury, silver, copper and tin. Tiny amounts of mercury are released from the filling when you chew. For most people, this bit of mercury is nothing to worry about. Studies have shown that amalgam fillings do not cause illness. They have been used on people for more than 150 years. Health Canada advises pregnant women in need of a filling to wait until the baby is born before they go ahead with the procedure. Your dentist can suggest other kinds of fillings, if the work is urgent. If you are unsure about amalgam fillings please discuss this with your dentist and other options can be discussed.
5. How does fluoride work and is it safe?
Fluoride works by making the outer layer of teeth (called tooth enamel) stronger. When the outer layer is strong, teeth are less likely to get cavities. Fluoride is provided mainly through drinking water, toothpaste, mouthwash, supplements (chewable tablets or drops), and other materials such as gels and rinses that may be applied during your visit to the dentist. Many studies have looked at this topic. A U.S. committee on environmental health that has reviewed many of these studies has concluded that there is no link between cancer in humans and fluoride levels. And although some studies suggest that increased bone fragility may be linked to higher rates of exposure, we don't know yet for certain as there are too many factors involved. Like many natural substances, fluoride can be harmful in excessive amounts. Even table salt can be harmful if taken in large quantities. However, we are typically exposed to acceptable amounts of fluoride, even though it is available from a number of sources.
6. Is it safe to whiten my teeth?
Yes. Teeth whitening is safe but it’s important to have your dentist check your teeth first and make sure you are a good candidate for whitening.
Whitening products use either carbomide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide in differing concentrations. This product does not damage the enamel of your teeth. However, there are some side effects that may occur. Tooth sensitivity may occur during or after the procedure. This is temporary and usually only lasts for a day or two. The in-office bleaching done by the dentist may cause more gum or tooth sensitivity, because the whitening gels the dentists use have higher concentrations of peroxide compared to at-home whitening products.