Q. How often should I see a dentist?

A. The American Dental Association (ADA) guidelines recommend visiting a dentist at least twice a year for a check-up and professional cleaning. Our office also recommends a minimum of two visits per year.

Q. What should I expect during my appointment?

A. One of our staff members will compile your medical and dental history during your first visit. We will then examine your teeth and gums, screen you for oral cancer, take X-rays of your teeth as needed and complete a TMJ (temporomandibular or jaw joint) exam. After we review your dental profile, we will discuss a diagnosis with you. If treatment such as a root canal (endodontics), braces (orthodontics) or oral surgery is needed, we will plan to treat you in our office or refer you to a specialist. We will discuss your options for treatment and fee payment and help you determine the best plan to fit your needs.

During regular follow-up visits, we will examine your teeth and gums, screen you for oral cancer, clean your teeth and make plans for treatment, as needed. We will discuss any pain or problems you may be experiencing and answer any questions you may have.

Q. What does “painless dentistry” mean?

A. Painless dentistry is a means of ensuring your total experience in our office is as stress-free and pain-free as possible. We will discuss treatment options that may require no local anesthetic and whenever possible, alleviate pain by the means most comfortable to you.

Q. What if I have an emergency?

A. Please call our office as soon as you determine that you have a dental emergency. We will be glad to work you in to our schedule if you have a dental emergency during regular business hours. After hours, over the weekend and during holidays, please call our office for the doctor’s emergency contact number.

Q. Can the dentist whiten my teeth?

A. There are several methods available for bleaching the teeth: in-office, overnight or daily. One session of in-office bleaching generally lasts one and a half to two hours, and you can read or relax during the treatment. For overnight bleaching, we make an impression of your teeth and create a mouthguard that fits your bite. Each day you fill the mouthguard with a small amount of bleaching gel and wear it overnight or for a few hours during the day. The overnight bleaching process takes approximately two weeks.

Other over-the-counter daily bleaching products are available, but it is important to use any bleaching product only under the supervision of a dentist. To achieve the whitening results you desire, the ADA recommends that you seek the professional advice of a dentist, including examination and diagnosis of the cause of tooth discoloration, before you begin any bleaching program.

Q. What if I have a gap in my teeth, a chipped tooth or teeth that do not respond to normal bleaching methods?

A. We have many different procedures that can help these problems. Porcelain veneers are designed to look like your natural teeth and are individually attached to the fronts of your existing teeth. Veneers can be positioned to close gaps. Bonding utilizes a composite material made of plastic to fill in areas of your teeth and correct chipping and shape problems. Both porcelain veneers and bonding are color-matched to the rest of your teeth.

Q. Are amalgam (silver) fillings safe?

A. There has long been controversy over the safety of amalgam due to the presence of mercury, a known toxic material, in its ingredients. The American Dental Association maintains a hard line regarding the complete safety of amalgam as a restorative material. They claim that the scientific data, although incomplete, do not support those who claim amalgam causes everything from Multiple Sclerosis to suicidal tendencies.

Alternatively, a good case can be made for never placing another amalgam restoration, based on the safety of using mercury, and the possibility of corrosions and leaking requiring replacement during the life of the patient. If not for economic reasons, gold restorations would be the material of choice to provide optimum oral health.

Q. How often should a dentist take X-rays?

A. Many of my patients share a concern about the safety of dental x-rays. If your definition of routine is a set customary and often mechanically performed procedures, then I would say that no medical or dental test should be done routinely.

Every dentist is aware of the health risk from too much ionizing radiation, however there is no better way to search for problems between the teeth and under gums than to use a dental X-ray. Just as your physician uses a blood test to screen for pathology, a dentist uses X-rays to find hidden problems.

Now that I have told you that dental X-rays are very important, how often they should be taken varies for individuals. Some mouths are more prone to dental disease and require more vigilance. Before determining the frequency for taking dental X-rays the risk factors must be considered.

If you have old fillings of poor quality, a high sugar diet, family disorder, alcohol abuse, a history of dental decay or a diagnosis of gum disease it may be necessary to have X-rays taken every six months.

If you visit the dentist regularly and rarely have tooth decay, it may only be necessary to have X-rays taken every 36 months. Once your dentist determines your individual risk factors, he/she should discuss the appropriate frequency for taking dental X-rays.

To minimize your exposure to radiation the American Dental Association recommends your dentist follow the ALARA Principle (as low as reasonably achievable). This includes using the fastest dental film that is still diagnostic, and using leaded aprons and thyroid collars. Digital X-rays have also provided a slight reduction in the necessary radiation; however, that benefit does increase the cost of equipment.

When proper guidelines are followed, your body receives negligible radiation below the neck, however there is some evidence that radiation to the thyroid gland during pregnancy can cause low birth weight. For this reason, it is recommended that thyroid collars and aprons be worn whenever possible, especially for children and women of childbearing age. In your effort to remain dentally healthy the proper use of dental X-rays is an important tool.

Q. What are the benefits of an electric toothbrush?

A. Patients frequently ask if electric toothbrushes are better than manual brushes. For years my answer was yes based on our experiences with patients. In adults with gum disease we witnessed improvements in home care and resultant healthier gums. Unfortunately, since they sold for over $100, parents rarely purchased them for their children. Recently, when a new wave of inexpensive electric toothbrush became available our office wanted to know if they were as effective as the expensive rechargeable model. Well based on what we have seen so far the answer is yes.

Now it’s possible to get either an adults disposable electric toothbrush or battery operated child’s version for about the same price as a manual brush. The newest electric toothbrush from Crest is called SpinBrush and retails for about $5.99. It comes in kid-friendly styles such as a race-car or mermaid or their solid-color adult line. At this price it is a must have for children to improve home care and reduce cavities.

The big question is with inexpensive electric toothbrushes is it necessary to purchase an expensive sonic brush. The answer from my experience is that the extra action and effectiveness of the sonic brushes such as Braun’s Oral-B or Philips Sonicare is worth the price difference. Therefore the choice is yours, whether expensive or inexpensive the electric brushes are better than manual.

Q. What is the best toothpaste to use?

A. Dental professionals across the U.S. are currently discussing the effects that abrasive toothpastes have on some patient’s teeth. If your teeth are becoming increasingly sensitive or you are noticing increased wear and recession then this may be a result from using abrasive toothpaste. Many of the hard silica particles used in toothpaste are causing these issues. The following toothpastes may be too abrasive for some people and should be avoided:

  • Crest Whitening (Vanilla, Cinnamon, Citrus)
  • Any whitening toothpaste
  • Aquafresh Extreme Clean
  • Colgate Total
  • Crest Multi-Care Fresh Mint
  • Colgate Tartar Control Baking Soda and Peroxide

Not everyone is experiencing problems with these toothpastes and if you have some concerns please discuss with your hygienist and Dr. Reitz at your next appointment.

The following list includes low abrasion toothpaste formulas which allow for a great cleaning result without causing wear and increased tooth sensitivity. Patients who are very cavity prone would benefit from these toothpastes as well:

  • Crest Cavity Protection
  • Colgate Cavity Protection
  • Arm and Hammer Peroxicare
  • Arm and Hammer Advanced Care
  • Aquafresh Cavity Protection
  • Regular Mentadent Original Toothpaste

These are a few samples of the many kinds of toothpastes on the market.

Q. What are gold restorations, and will they last long?

A. Gold castings are dentistry’s best restorative materials; however, they are being used less and less. Convenience, cosmetics, economics, psychology and insufficient technical training are a few of the reasons why dentists are restoring to more expedient materials and procedures. In our quest to provide optimum oral health care, I feel it is our duty to advise all patients of the benefits of both gold inlays and gold foil restorations. There is no material used in dentistry that has the same durability, biocompatibility, and functional ability as a gold restoration. In over a decade of practice, I have learned that people appreciate dental restorations that last. With the limited life span of amalgam and composite restorations, gold is the only material that provides a lasting treatment for dental disease. Although no material can better replace what nature provided us from birth. Gold is our best alternative.

Q. What causes tooth decay?

A. Tooth decay is the loss of the mineral structure of the tooth due to an infectious disease. Unlike commonly thought, tooth decay is neither a dietary disease nor resultant from inherited weak teeth. The most common bacteria responsible for the disease is mutans streptococci (abbreviated here M. Strep). M. Strep is transmitted from the mother’s mouth to the child as an infant. We know they came from the mother and not the father because of studies using DNA testing of the bacteria. The cross contamination occurs by habits such as kissing or sharing eating utensils. The more bacteria the mother has the greater chance the child will get a sufficient dose to cause decay. This is a good reason parents should not have tooth decay. Unfortunately, full and partial dentures can also harbor the bacteria if kept unclean.

M. Strep produces lactic acid in the fermentation process using sucrose, fructose and glucose. Lactic acid lower the pH of the saliva and causes the enamel of the tooth to demineralize. In defense of the teeth, saliva acts as a buffer to neutralize the tooth structure. When the amount of sugar and the concentration of bacteria exceeds the saliva’s healing ability, tooth decay results.

Q. Why should I choose your office?

A. If your dental needs have been minimal over the years, you may not appreciate the scope of our practice. As you all know our mission statement is “To guide people in developing their own optimal oral health.” In pursuit of that mission the most important decision is designing the right treatment plan for each patient. The plan must include the patient’s long term expectations for their teeth, their current general health and life status, cost implications, and most importantly, what my experience has shown to be successful for other patients. I see my position as your architect and general contractor to an aesthetic well functioning mouth. Many times to restore teeth properly requires the assistance of expert dental technicians. With the help of lab technicians, we can provide patients the latest in dental restorations such as all porcelain fillings, porcelain crowns and dental implants.

To pursue our mission statement sometimes means referring people to other dental specialists for specific procedures. In this way the quality of the end results dictates which procedures we perform in the office and which are done out of our office. As that architect the work must be done as though each mouth were placed on the parade of homes. My ultimate goal is that you find our level of care adds to the quality of your life through a beautiful well functioning mouth.

Q. What measures are taken in your office to provide patient safety?

A. Along with our goal of optimum oral health comes the added responsibility of protecting our patients from contacting infections from previous patients. Long before the news media enlightened the public about AIDS, our office was serious about sterilization techniques. We were one of the first dental offices in Berks County to wear gloves and masks for patient safety. Traditional sterilization techniques have always been used in our practice. Our quest to provide the best in safety for our patients prompted us to re-evaluate procedures and develop systems to improve patient safety.

All counter tops and chairs are sprayed and wiped down between patients. Instruments are bagged before autoclaving to remain sterile until ready for use. Finally the autoclave (sterilization machine) is tested weekly by Reading Hospital Laboratory for sterilization effectiveness. Although they require extra time and expense, these and other infection control procedures assure our patients of the safest possible dental visit.