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Coker Dentistry

Frequently Asked Questions

What is TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint, also known as TMJ, is the ball and socket joint that connects the lower jaw to the bone on each side of the head. The temporomandibular joint is stabilized by muscles that make it possible to open and close the mouth. The pain, discomfort or tenderness in or around these joints is referred to as TMJ disorders. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, TMJ disorders are more common in women than men and over 10 million people are affected by TMJ disorders.

What is Nitrous Oxide?

Nitrous oxide is a gas that's combined with oxygen to produce a calming effect and a sense of well being when inhaled. Many dentists use nitrous oxide to help patients relax during dental treatments. When the dental procedure is over, patients breathe only oxygen for a few minutes to eliminate the effects of the nitrous oxide. Unlike other sedations, the patient should have a clear head within minutes of coming off of the nitrous oxide allowing them to function normally with no lingering effects. Nitrous oxide is also known as laughing gas.

Is Nitrous Oxide Safe?

Nitrous oxide is very safe because it's easy to take and is not addictive. While inhaling nitrous oxide, patients remain fully conscience and aware of their surroundings. After coming off of the gas, the effects of it are gone.

What Are Dental Insurance Coverage Types?

According to most dental insurance companies, dental procedures are broken down into three categories:

1. Preventative - Most insurance companies consider routine cleanings and examinations as preventative dental care, however, X-rays, sealants and fluoride can be deemed as preventative or basic, depending upon the specific insurance carrier.

2. Basic or Restorative - Basic or restorative dental treatment usually consists of fillings and simple extractions. Root canals can be considered basic or major. However, the majority of dental plans list root canals as basic.

3. Major - Crowns, bridges, dentures, partials, surgical extractions and dental implants are dental procedures that most dental insurance companies consider as a major procedure. Since all dental insurance carriers are different, it is important to clarify which dental procedures fall under each specific category. This is important because some insurance plans don't cover major procedures and others have waiting periods for certain procedures. If you know that you will need major dental work that is not covered by a given plan, you should probably look elsewhere to find one that suits all of your needs.

What is Tooth Erosion?

Tooth erosion is the wearing away of tooth enamel by acid. The enamel is the hard calcified tissue that covers and protects the outside of the tooth. It is the hardest substance in our bodies. The saliva in our mouths contains calcium which helps to strengthen and remineralize the teeth; however, remineralization can not occur when a great deal of acid is present. The high amount of acids in the food and drinks that you consume can cause tooth erosion. Soft drinks and pure fruit juices contain a high amount of acid. Tooth erosion can also be caused by medical factors such as a decrease in saliva, acid reflux disease, certain gastrointestinal conditions and bulimia.

What is Trench Mouth?

Trench mouth is a painful and severe gum infection. This infection occurs because of high bacteria levels in the mouth, usually from poor oral hygiene. Trench mouth can also be caused from lack of sleep, stress and/or poor nutrition. Trench mouth occurs more in smokers than non-smokers. The name “trench mouth” comes from World War I, where soldiers were stuck in trenches without the means to take care of their mouth and teeth. Trench mouth is also known as Vincent's Stomatitis or Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis, hence the acronym ANUG. While trench mouth is rare and not contagious, it can be extremely painful and will only worsen without treatment. If treatment is not sought, the infection may travel to other parts of the body. Antibiotics, along with a professional dental cleaning, can usually clear the infection from trench mouth. Practicing good oral hygiene and regular dental check ups are the best way to prevent trench mouth.

What is Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is the reduced flow of saliva. Sufficient saliva is needed in the mouth to wash away food debris and reduce plaque by neutralizing the acids that plaque produces.

Gingivitis, gum disease and severe tooth decay often occur if dry mouth is left untreated. Other common problems linked to dry mouth are:

  • Difficulty Speaking
  • Hoarseness
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Problems with swallowing
  • Burning sensation in the mouth
  • Dry nasal passages

What Causes Dry Mouth?

While anyone can get dry mouth, also called xerostomia, it is a more common problem among older adults. In fact, the Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that 20% of elderly people suffer from dry mouth; this condition is also a hidden cause of tooth loss and gum disease in 30 percent of adults. Dry mouth, which is the reduced flow of saliva, could be a symptom of a particular medical condition or a side effect of certain medications.

Common medications taken that may cause dry mouth are:

  • Antihistamines
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Pain pills
  • Decongestants
  • Incontinence medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Diuretics
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Parkinson's disease medications

How Does Your Mouth Affect Your Overall Health?

In the past, oral health has been associated only with the mouth. New research has found that the advanced stage of gum disease, periodontitis, is linked with health problems such as heart disease and stroke. Some researchers have even suggested that periodontitis can cause premature birth, low birth weight, pancreatic cancer, high blood sugar levels and even bacterial pneumonia.

Even though studies have linked gum disease to many health problems, the American Dental Association states that, "just because two conditions occur at the same time, doesn’t necessarily mean that one condition causes the other." Much more research is needed on this subject.

What is an Abscessed Tooth?

An abscess of the tooth is an infection. An abscess can include puss and swelling of the soft gum tissues surrounding the tooth. An abscess can develop from tooth decay or tooth trauma, such as a broken tooth. If there is an opening in the enamel of a tooth, such as a cavity, bacteria can get in and infect the pulp (center) of the tooth and cause an abscess.

Once an abscess happens, the infection could spread throughout the mouth and body. A root canal is usually the only option to save a tooth once it has become abscessed. If you suspect that you have an abscessed tooth, you should make a dental appointment right away.

What is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is a common problem that affects millions of people. Basically, tooth sensitivity means experiencing pain or discomfort to your teeth from sweets, cold air, hot drinks, cold drinks or ice cream. Some people with sensitive teeth even experience discomfort from brushing and flossing.

Why is Oral Hygiene so Important During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a very exciting and busy time. There are so many changes going on in your body, and your mouth is no exception. Good oral hygiene is extremely important during pregnancy because the increase of hormone levels during pregnancy can cause dental problems to be intensified.

Good oral health during pregnancy could also be important to your fetus. Some researchers have suggested that the serious stage of gum disease, periodontitis, could cause premature birth and low birth weight.

The tips listed here can help you maintain good oral health throughout your pregnancy.

  • Visit your dentist for regular check ups and cleanings. This is the best way to make sure that you are maintaining good oral hygiene.
  • Brush your teeth properly at least twice a day to remove plaque.
  • Floss your teeth daily. Flossing will remove food debris from in between the teeth that a toothbrush can't reach.
  • Use an antimicrobial mouth rinse. Antimicrobial mouth rinses can help prevent gingivitis.
  • Brush or scrape your tongue daily to help remove bacteria.
  • Eat nutritious meals and healthy snacks.

Now that you know what to do to protect your oral health, sit back, relax and enjoy this beautiful time in your life.

What is Pregnancy Gingivitis?

Pregnancy gingivitis is a condition caused by increased hormone levels that can cause swollen, red and tender gums. It is often accompanied with bleeding when you brush your teeth.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, about 50% of women experience pregnancy gingivitis. This condition is most common between the second to eighth month of pregnancy. If you experience the symptoms of pregnancy gingivitis, be sure to visit your dentist to see if you need more frequent dental cleanings or other treatment. The best way to prevent pregnancy gingivitis is to practice good oral hygiene and to visit your dentist and dental hygienist for regular check ups and cleanings.

Be sure to floss everyday, brush your teeth at least twice a day and use an antimicrobial mouth rinse such as Listerine or Crest Pro-Health Rinse.

What is Periodontitis?

Periodontitis is the serious and advanced stage of gum disease which includes bone loss. Periodontitis is irreversible. The gum tissue and bone that surround and support your teeth could become seriously damaged and the teeth affected could become loose and fall out. Periodontitis occurs when the early stage of periodontal disease, gingivitis, is left untreated.

Periodontitis has also been linked to serious health problems such as an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks. Periodontitis could also cause higher blood sugar levels.

Some researchers have even suggested that gum disease can cause premature birth and low birth weight. Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of periodontitis. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily and regular dental check ups are the best ways to prevent periodontitis.

Mouth guards and Sports – Are Mouth guards Really Necessary?

According to the American Dental Association, an athlete is 60 times more likely to have a tooth injury when not wearing a protective mouth guard. A mouth guard is designed to help buffer the mouth and teeth from trauma. It is an important piece of gear that should not be overlooked during participation in sports.

Wearing a mouth guard is common in contact sports such as football, boxing, hockey and basketball. But a protective mouth guard can also be beneficial in non-contact sports, such as snow skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, soccer and bicycling.

Choosing a Mouth Guard

There are 3 types of mouth guards to choose from:

  • Ready-made
  • Boil and bit
  • Custom (made by a dentist)

When choosing a mouth guard, keep in mind that a custom mouth guard from your dentist is designed to offer superior protection.

These guidelines can help you choose the right mouth guard. Make sure that the mouth guard:

  • is confortable and fits well
  • is resistant to tearing or ripping
  • doesn't impair breathing
  • doesn't hamper speech
  • can be easily cleaned

Taking Care of a Mouth Guard

After investing in a mouth guard, it is important to take care of it by following these tips:

  • Keep your mouth guard in a vented and sturdy container.
  • Rinse thoroughly before and after use, or brush with toothpaste and a toothbrush.
  • Replace your mouth guard if it becomes worn out.
  • Never leave it in the sun or in hot temperatures.
  • On occasion, use cool soapy water to clean your mouth guard, being sure to rinse it thoroughly.

Since studies have linked almost a third of dental injuries to sports-related activities, a mouth guard is an important piece of sports gear that should be chosen carefully and taken care of properly.

What is Tooth Decay?

Decay is the destruction of tooth structure. Decay occurs when plague, the sticky substance that forms on teeth, combines with the sugars and/or starches of the foods that we eat. This combination produces acids that attack tooth enamel. The best way to prevent tooth decay is by brushing twice a day and flossing daily. If decay reaches the pulp of the tooth, a root canal may be necessary to save the tooth. Eating healthy foods and avoiding snacks and drinks that are high in sugar are also ways to prevent decay.

What is Plaque?

Plaque is the soft and sticky substance that accumulates on the teeth from food debris and bacteria. Plaque can be removed by brushing and flossing thoroughly. If plaque is not removed, it can lead to gum disease and cavities. Regular dental check ups, brushing twice a day, flossing daily and eating nutritional snacks will help to prevent plaque from forming on the teeth.

What is Calculus?

Calculus, also known as tartar, is the hardened residue that forms on your teeth when plaque is not removed. Plaque can be removed by brushing twice a day and flossing daily. If tartar is allowed to remain on the teeth and below the gumline, it can lead to chronic infection and inflammation. The only way to remove tartar is to have your teeth professionally cleaned at your dental office.

What is a Veneer?

A veneer is a thin shell made out of porcelain or composite material. Veneers are custom made and cemented to the front side of the tooth. A veneer can be used to treat dental conditions such as a slightly crooked tooth, discolored teeth, chipped teeth or can even be used to cover spaces in between the teeth.

When do Children get their Permanent Teeth?

Both baby and permanent teeth have fairly well-defined times of eruption. The ages listed are the typical ages that an adult tooth has fully emerged.



Central incisor

7th Yr

Lateral incisor

8th Yr

Canine (Cuspid)

11-12th Yr

First premolar (Bicuspid)

9th Yr

Second premolar(Bicuspid)

10th Yr

First molar

6th Yr

Second molar

12-13th Yr

Third molar

17-25th Yr

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay. It occurs naturally in all water sources. Studies show that fluoride reduces cavities in people of all ages and is effective and safe when used correctly. The correct use of fluoride has been said to have dramatically reduced tooth decay over the past few decades.

What is a Cavity?

A cavity is a hole in the tooth that is caused by decay. Decay occurs when plague, the sticky substance that forms on teeth, combines with the sugars and/or starches in the food we eat. This combination produces acids that attack tooth enamel. The best way to prevent tooth decay is brushing twice a day, flossing daily and having regular dental check ups. Eating healthy foods and avoiding snacks and drinks that are high in sugar are also ways to prevent decay.

What is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, which can be treated and reversed if diagnosed early. The signs and symptoms are red, swollen and puffy gums that bleed easily. If treatment is not received, gingivitis could progress into periodontitis, an advanced and more serious stage of gum disease which includes bone loss and is not reversible. Gum disease is one of the main causes of tooth loss in adults and has also been linked to heart attacks and strokes.
Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, regular dental checkups and dental cleanings are the best preventions against gum disease.

How Often Should I See the Dentist for a Check Up and Cleaning?

Most children and adults should see their dentist for a regular cleaning and check up every six months. People at a greater risk for oral diseases should have dental check ups more than twice a year. Tobacco and alcohol use, diabetes, pregnancy, periodontal and gum disease, poor oral hygiene and certain medical conditions are some of the many factors that are taken into consideration when deciding how often patients need to receive dental cleanings and check ups.

Going to your regular check ups will help to keep your gums and teeth healthy as well as detect any early problems such as gum disease, oral cancer and cavities.

How Often Should I Brush My Teeth?

According to the American Dental Association, you should brush your teeth twice a day. Brushing your teeth helps remove plaque which causes tooth decay and can lead to gum disease.

Always use a soft bristled toothbrush with toothpaste that contains fluoride. Make sure that the toothbrush fits inside of your mouth so that you can easily reach all areas. When brushing, use gentle back and forth strokes, brushing all sides of the teeth. Always brush your tongue to remove any bacteria and keep your breath fresh.

How Often Should I Floss My Teeth?

You should floss your teeth at least once a day. Flossing in between your teeth removes food debris and plaque from in between the teeth that a toothbrush can't reach.

When flossing, be sure to gently insert the floss in between the teeth, without snapping, which could damage the gum tissue. Gently move the floss up and down into the spaces between the gum and teeth. Floss the sides of all of your teeth, even if there isn't a tooth next to another one.

How Often Should I Change My Toothbrush?

Adults and children should change their toothbrush every 3 months. Exceptions to this would be if you were using an electric toothbrush, and the manufacturer states otherwise. Some electric rechargeable toothbrushes have very good brush heads that only need to be changed every 6 months. If you have gum disease, you should change your toothbrush every 4 - 6 weeks because bacteria can harbor in the bristles. You should always rinse your toothbrush out with hot water after every use and change it after you have been sick.

What Causes Bad Breath?

According to dental studies, about 85% of people with persistent bad breath (also known as halitosis) have a dental condition that is to blame. These conditions could be one or more of the following:

  • Gum disease
  • Cavities
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Oral cancer
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • Bacteria on the tongue

If bad breath is the cause of a dental condition, mouthwash will only mask the odor and not cure it. Regular dental check ups & cleanings, flossing daily, and brushing your teeth & tongue twice a day can greatly reduce and possibly eliminate bad breath.

What are Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants are a great way to protect your child's permanent teeth from cavities. They are a clear and protective coating that is applied to the biting surfaces of the back teeth. The sealant protects the tooth from getting a cavity by shielding against bacteria and plaque. Sealants are most commonly placed on children's permanent back teeth because they are more prone to cavities. Most insurance companies pay for sealants on children's teeth. They can also be placed on adult's teeth, however, insurance usually won't cover them.

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism is the clenching and/or grinding of your teeth, especially at night. Clenching refers to tightly clamping your top and bottom teeth together. The force of clenching causes stressful pressure on the muscles, tissues and jaw. Jaw disorders, jaw pain, soreness, headaches, earaches, damaged teeth and other problems can result from bruxism. If clenching causes jaw pain, it can disrupt sleeping and eating, lead to other dental problems or create TMJ problems. Nightly grinding can also disturb sleeping partners.


Patient Testimonials

I just want to take a minute to thank you so much for doing such beautiful work on my teeth!  I feel much better about my smile and they feel so good also.  I’m very thankful to have you as my dentist.  You’re the best!!
-Pam G