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Q: Why does my dentist take X-rays?

A: By looking at an X-ray of your mouth, your dentist can see potential problems that otherwise are not visible. On an X-ray, your dentist may discover bone loss, wisdom teeth trapped in the gums, cavities between your teeth or cracks in your teeth. Your dentist can then begin repairing the problem before it becomes painful.

Q: Are X-rays safe?

A: The levels of radiation in today’s X-rays are completely safe. Still, your dentist will take precautions to target only the area that needs viewing and to limit the amount of time you’re exposed to this low level of radiation. Your dentist will provide you with a lead apron and collar to limit the area of your body exposed to the X-ray, as well.

Q: What is plaque?

A: Plaque is the sticky bacterial film that builds up on your teeth every day – you can’t avoid it. Brushing removes plaque on the surface of your teeth, so you need to brush regularly. Flossing will help remove the plaque in hard-to-reach places, such as between teeth. Plaque begins to harden within two days and – if not removed – becomes tartar.

Q: Is this going to hurt?

A: Modern dentistry is virtually pain-free. Fear of going to the dentist can severely affect your dental health if it keeps you from regular dental exams. But there are lots of ways that modern dentists can control pain now. Your dentist will be sensitive to your fears and will be happy to talk to you about various pain-control options.

Q: I’m a thorough brusher. Why do I still need cleanings?

A: Only a professional dental cleaning can get rid of tartar, the hardened deposits on your teeth that can cause gum disease if not removed. No toothpaste or brush will remove tartar build-up. Cleaning also smoothes the surface of your teeth so that plaque does not adhere as easily. Cleaning also removes discoloration, so you’ll look great!

Q: Why does my dentist ask about my other medical problems when they have nothing to do with my teeth?

A: It’s amazing how seemingly unrelated body parts can affect each other. Your dentist may be checking to see if you are on any medications that increase your risk for infection – for example, immunosuppressive drugs that lower your immune system. You should tell your dentist if you are pregnant, a smoker, or allergic to anything. Your dentist is keeping your health and safety in mind.

Q: Why does my dentist examine the area around my neck and ears?

A: Dentists are trained to spot unusual areas not only in your teeth, but also in the places around them. By exploring areas outside the mouth, your dentist can find – for example – signs of infection or Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

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