Frequently Asked Dental Questions

General Questions

What are your hours of operation?

We are open Monday through Thursday from 7am to 5pm. Fridays by appointment only.

What should I do in case of a dental emergency?

Please contact our after hours emergency contact line @ 503-400-2453. Please leave a message with your name, phone number and complaint and we will return your call immediately to direct you in the manner that Dr. Kim deems appropriate. If you are currently in the middle of treatment, you should have instructions and our ER contact info as well

Dental Procedures

How safe are dental X-rays?

Exposure to all sources of radiation – including the sun, minerals in the soil, appliances in your home, and dental X-rays – can damage the body’s tissues and cells and can lead to the development of cancer in some instances. Fortunately, the dose of radiation you are exposed to during the taking of X-rays is extremely small.

Advances in dentistry over the years have led to the low radiation levels emitted by today’s X-rays. Some of the improvements are new digital X-ray machines that limit the radiation beam to the small area being X-rayed, higher speed X-ray films that require shorter exposure time compared with older film speeds to get the same results, and the use of film holders that keep the film in place in the mouth (which prevents the film from slipping and the need for repeat X-rays and additional radiation exposure). Also, the use of lead-lined, full-body aprons protects the body from stray radiation (though this is almost nonexistent with the modern dental X-ray machines.) In addition, federal law requires that X-ray machines be checked for accuracy and safety every two years, with some states requiring more frequent checks.

Do I need to take a PRE-MED prior to my dental appointment?

As of 04-19-07 the American Heart Association changed it’s guidelines requiring prophylactic coverage for heart murmurs including MVP. You should check with your physician to be sure whether you need antibiotic premedication. However, in most cases only people with artificial heart valves or those that have had prior infections of the heart will require premedication. If you have a joint replacement that is two years old or less, have lost a previous joint due to infection, have rheumatoid arthritis, are immunocompromised, or have a blood dyscrasia, you will also need to premedicate for your dental visit if it will be any more invasive than an x-ray. These guidelines are established by the AHA and AAOS (American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons). Failure to do this simple task could result in an infection around the heart, and in some cases can be fatal.

Can I just have the tooth pulled, especially it if is a back tooth?

If the tooth is periodontally sound (little or no gum disease) it is always better to save the tooth if the long-term prognosis is at least fair. Your back teeth are responsible for chewing, space maintenance, bone support, cheek support, and overall function of the mouth. If the tooth is removed and not replaced by some means, including an implant, bridge or partial, a “domino effect” will surely take place. If for example, the second tooth from the back on the lower right side of the mouth is lost, the back tooth will start to drift and lean forward. Also, the upper opposing tooth now has nothing to bite against and will start to drop down into the vacant space, possibly causing a host of other problems, including additional tooth loss from “Hyper-eruption”.

Why is it necessary to put a crown (cap) on my tooth after the dentist does a root canal? Do I have to have it done right away?

After root canal therapy the inside of the tooth has been hollowed out so there is less supporting tooth structure and as a result the tooth is not as strong. Also, the tooth undergoes some physiologic changes that contribute to this phenomenon. Because the tooth’s blood and nerve supply has been removed the tooth does not get the same nourishment that it did prior to root canal therapy (RCT) and therefore is more desiccated, compounding its brittleness. As if that weren’t enough, the periodontal ligament, which surrounds the root, also atrophies, and the tooth loses its natural “shock absorber” qualities, sometimes causing the tooth to fuse to the bone (ankylosis).Placing a crown or cap on the tooth provides a “retaining wall” on the five sides of the tooth so that it can’t split or break, which would require extraction. This procedure should be done as soon as possible after the RCT so that the chances of tooth breakage are minimized. Failure to do so increases your chances of early tooth loss, not because RCT didn’t work, but because the follow-up crown was not done. In some instances your dentist may not require you to have a crown placed on the tooth. Those might include an already existing crown that is adequate or a tooth that is in a relatively low area of stress and therefore is less likely to break.

What is the best way to get my teeth whiter?

Most people have teeth that are naturally darker than “pure” white. If you want them whiter, the best thing you can do is talk to your professional oral health care provider about your options. Different people respond differently to different procedures used to whiten teeth, and it will take an in-person consultation with a professional to determine what is best for you. Sometimes all it takes is professional prophylaxis to remove stain and then abstinence from behaviors that stain teeth, such as drinking coffee or tea, or smoking tobacco. Some people respond well to the use of whitening toothpastes while some do not. Other options available include bleaching, at home or in the office, with chemicals or with lasers, as prescribed by a dentist. Sometimes a combination of options is used.

Does bleaching harm my teeth?

Dr. Kim has done extensive research into the bleaching services/options that are offered in our office and feels most comfortable with these select few options bases on the scientific studies and results, so in essence, no. Some of the very early bleaching systems required etching of the tooth with a mild acid, or applying moist heat prior to or during bleaching. Even with these systems the teeth would remineralize and usually be fine. Today, these systems are much improved, safe and effective if used correctly. Some people experience an increase in hot and cold sensitivity while bleaching, however, Dr. Kim utilizes a specialized bleaching treatments that include desensitizing agents for prevention of this entirely.

Dental Conditions

What causes tooth loss?

The most common causes of tooth loss are dental caries, also known as tooth decay, and periodontal disease, which affects the gums and bone structure that supports the teeth. Dental caries is the major cause of tooth loss in children, and periodontal disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults; however, it too can afflict youngsters.

What causes periodontal diseases?

Plaque, a thin, colorless, sticky film containing bacteria, which constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria use carbohydrates—sugars and starches—to produce an acid that attacks the enamel covering the teeth. After repeated acid attacks, the enamel can be broken down and a cavity begins. Continued acid attacks eventually dissolve the enamel and penetrate the softer, inner layer of the tooth, where decay can spread rapidly throughout the tooth’s structure. Acid attacks begin immediately after every meal or snack and last about 20 to 30 minutes.

Can periodontal diseases be prevented?

Teeth can be protected from acid attacks by removing plaque, reducing the number of times and the amount of sugar and starches eaten, using fluorides, having plastic sealants applied to teeth, and by regular professional cleaning of teeth by a dental hygienist.

How does plaque attack the gums?

Plaque can also produce harmful byproducts that irritate the gums, causing gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal diseases. If plaque isn’t removed daily, it will build up into a hard deposit called calculus. If plaque continues to form on top of the calculus, it can irritate the gums, and a pocket may develop between the teeth and gums. Plaque build up can eventually destroy the gums and bone that support the teeth.

How do you stop plaque attacks?

Two key factors in preventing dental caries are fluoride and dental sealants. Fluoride compounds are found naturally in soil, water, and in many foods. Plaque attacks can’t be stopped, but you can help to prevent plaque build-up by following a good oral care program of brushing, flossing, rinsing, and regular visits to your oral health care professional.

How do I get rid of bad breath?

That depends on what is causing it. Often, bad breath results from less-than-optimal oral health, and sometimes people are not aware that they are not performing oral hygiene as effectively as they could be. A dental hygienist or dentist will be able to evaluate your oral health procedures and make recommendations for improvement; also, these professionals will be able to recognize any associated problems that might be contributing to an unpleasant mouth odor. In addition to evaluating and suggesting alterations to your brushing, flossing, and tongue deplaquing regimen, your dental hygienist may recommend products such as a mouthrinse that contains zinc. If it turns out that the problem isn’t in the mouth, a physician appointment is advisable. Sinus problems, stomach problems, certain foods and medications, and other factors can contribute to bad breath.

Oral Hygiene & Maintenance

Why should I have my teeth professionally cleaned when I can clean them at home?

A dental hygienist is a licensed health care professional, oral health educator, and clinician who, as a co-therapist with the dentist, provides preventive, educational, and therapeutic services supporting total health for the control of oral diseases and the promotion of oral health. A registered dental hygienist has graduated from a minimum two-year college program that includes classroom studies and extensive supervised clinical experience. A dental hygienist also must pass a national written exam and a comprehensive state clinical exam to earn the RDH license.

Generally, the dental hygienist may work in general and specialty oral health practices. Other areas of employment include programs for research, professional education, and community health; hospital and institutional care of disabled persons; federal programs, such as the armed services; or other health service locations as specified in statute or as authorized by the state board of dentistry.

How many times a day should I brush my teeth?

The American Dental Association advocates brushing twice each day. Although there is research indicating that brushing once a day is sufficient to disrupt the formation of plaque that feeds the bacteria that cause decay, this may not be enough for some people, depending on factors such as their diets and the efficacy of their brushing technique. ADHA recommends that you discuss this with your dental hygienist who understands your individual oral health needs and will be able to make a recommendation appropriate for you.

How often should I floss my teeth?

It is best to floss your teeth after every meal, but at least once in the morning and in the evening as well. It is like the old saying goes, “You only need to flush and brush the ones you want to keep.”

When should dentures be replaced?

The American Dental Association recommends replacing your dentures every 5 to 7 years, including when they are uncomfortable, you are using more and more adhesive to get them to stay in and it has become more difficult to eat food.

Children’s Dental Care

Do you see kids?

Yes! Dr. Kim has developed incentive plans and created the “No Cavities Kids Club” in the office as well, with an outstanding partnership with our patients. If you haven’t heard about the NCKC club yet, chances are that you will be hearing about it a great deal once your child becomes a member!

When should a child have his or her first dental appointment?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that a child have his or her first oral health care appointment around age one. ADHA suggests an oral health visit as soon as a baby’s first tooth erupts. We will start seeing them at least at two years of age and will base the visits on their comfort level, including rides in the dental chair to get them acclimated, including counting teeth and letting them touch and try out the air suction, water spray system etc. We find that most kids are very receptive and have developed relationships with our staff based on trust.

My child has decay (cavity) in a baby tooth, why should I have it filled if it is going to fall out anyway?

It is important to address decay upon first diagnosis, as decay that is left untreated can spread and result in pain and premature tooth loss, including an abcess. Adjacent teeth can then drift into the spaces that are needed for un-erupted permanent teeth which can cause crowding problems that are more costly to correct.