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Dental FAQ—What You Need To Know To Protect Your Health And Keep Up With The Latest Trends

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Staying up-to-date with the latest dental care recommendations can sometimes feel like trying to keep up with the changing weather. If you want the skinny on what's safe and what's trending in the dental community, here are answers to three of the most commonly asked questions. That way you'll be armed and ready to maintain your oral health.

Amalgam Fillings—Are They Bad or Not?

They're bad. They're not bad. It seems as though there's been about as much back and forth as a tennis match regarding the safety of this substance. You should be concerned about everything that goes in your body, especially things that are permanent. But you need to know the truth about what's harmful.

While amalgam fillings are made with mercury—which by itself is not a good substance to be exposed to—this element is actually mixed with other ingredients like silver, tin, and copper that make it rather stable.

The truth is, amalgam fillings have been used in cavities for over a century. There have been claims they can cause Alzheimer's disease and autism, but that has not been proven. Very low levels of mercury vapor can be released when the fillings are put in, removed, and when you chew. But the amount of vapor that's needed to have an adverse effect on your health is much higher.

When addressing the question of whether or not you should have your amalgam fillings removed, you're better off consulting with your dentist. Unless you have an allergy or sensitivity to mercury, there really isn't any evidence that removing them will improve your health. In fact, removing them could injure the tooth, making it weaker and more susceptible to cracks and infection. That's why it's vital to take an active role in your oral health and decide what's best for you after speaking with your dental health provider.

Can Dentists Finally Get Rid of the Drill?

The sound of the drill has become an auditory icon for dentistry everywhere. And some dentists are now offering an alternative to the 'grind and whir' that appeals to many patients.

Air abrasion is a procedure that blows out tiny little particles, sort of like a miniature sandblaster. It's perfect for preparing shallow cavities for resin composite fillings. It also removes tooth decay, prepares teeth for sealants and bonding procedures, and removes stains. Your dentist will place some sort of barrier around the surrounding teeth to protect them from being unnecessarily affected by the air abrasion treatment.

The good news is over time this procedure should become more widely available. The bad news is that as of yet, it's not recommended for deep cavities or those that will be filled with amalgam. The reason for this is because in order to "stick" to the tooth properly, amalgam requires a rough surface that can only be achieved with a regular drill. Your dentist will also need to use a drill for any crowns and root canals you may need to have.

Why Does That Tooth Still Hurt After a Root Canal?

Pain after a root canal can leave you baffled and frustrated. After all, the nerve is supposed to be gone, right?

Well, it is, but there are still nerves surrounding the tooth. These nerves are actually the source of pain since all other nerves in the tooth are gone. So, if you're still hurting, here's what could be going on.

The ligaments and tissues that attach the tooth to the jawbone can become inflamed and sensitive following the procedure. This type of pain should resolve itself over time as long as it's not due to an infection.

Secondly, a bad bite—also known as a malocclusion—can lead to pain after a root canal. But how do you know if that's the culprit? If you bite down without food in your mouth and your root canaled tooth hurts, it could be due to a malocclusion. Your dentist can address this at your next visit.

The last and probably most obvious cause is a bacterial infection, and that should receive immediate attention. You may need antibiotics or an additional treatment. Any time you have pain following a root canal, be sure to let your dentist know.