Toothpaste Frequently Asked Questions

Toothpaste Frequently Asked Questions, please see below regarding common dentistry issues and treatments. Make sure to book in for regular check-ups with Toothpaste Family Dentistry. The earlier problems can be detected and treated, the better.


What is a bridge?

A bridge is an appliance permanently fixed in the mouth to replace missing teeth. It uses remaining teeth to support the new artificial tooth or teeth. A conventional fixed bridge consists of crowns that are fixed to the teeth on either side of the missing teeth and false teeth are rigidly attached to these crowns. An enamel bonded bridge uses a metal or porcelain framework., to which the artificial teeth are attached, then resin bonded to supporting teeth.

What causes bruxism?

It is believed to be caused by a lack of symmetry in the teeth, a disturbed sleep pattern or life stresses.

What does bruxism mean for me and my teeth?

Bruxism causes chips in the teeth, wear of the biting surface and cracks in the teeth. This wears down tooth enamel, removes the sharp biting surfaces and flattens the edges of the teeth.

Sometimes there is a tendency to grind the molars together, which can be loud enough to wake a sleeping partner. Bruxism is one of the worlds most common sleep disorders. Over a period of time, tooth damage will occur and may also cause tooth loss.

Bruxism can eventually lead to pain in the joint of the jaw and cause headaches. The majority of people do not even know they are clenching or grinding and the condition may be quite advanced before sufferers are aware of the damage they have done.

What does bruxism mean for me and my teeth?

At Toothpaste, we will bring to the patient’s attention worn down teeth during their dental examination. If enough enamel has been worn, the softer dentine will be exposed. This also leaves you at greater risk of tooth decay and also tooth fracture and in some people, gum recession.

Early intervention is advisable. We will assess your situation on a case-by-case basis, and may develop for you a custom-made protective night guard or bite splint to prevent any further damage.

Why does a cracked tooth hurt?

The crack will expose the inside of the tooth (the ‘dentine’) that has very small fluid filled tubes that lead to the nerve (‘pulp’). Flexing of the tooth opens the crack and causes movement of the fluid within the tubes. When you let the biting pressure off the crack closes and the fluid pressure simulates the nerve and causes pain.

How can I prevent my teeth from fracturing?

Most fractures cannot be avoided because they happen when you least expect them. However, you can reduce the risk of breaking teeth by:

  • Trying to eliminate clenching habits during waking hours,
  • Avoiding chewing hard objects (eg bones, pencils, ice),
  • Avoiding chewing hard foods such as pork crackling and hard-grain bread

If you think you grind your teeth at night, ask your dentist if a nightguard or a splint will be of use to you. It is very important to preserve the strength of your teeth so they are not as susceptible to fracture. Try to prevent dental decay and have it treated early.

Heavily decayed and therefore heavily filled teeth are weaker than teeth that have never been filled. Individuals who have problems with tooth wear or “cracked tooth syndrome” should consider wearing a nightguard while sleeping. This will absorb most of the grinding forces. Relaxation exercises may be beneficial.

How does the dentist treat a cracked tooth?

It depends on the direction and severity of the crack. If the crack is small enough, it may be removed by replacing the filling. Bonded white fillings and bonded amalgam fillings will hold the tooth together making it less likely to crack. Sometimes the cracked part of the tooth fractures off during the removal of the filling and this can be replaced with a new filling.

Your dentist may first place an orthodontic band around the tooth to keep it together. If the pain settles, the band is replaced with a filling that covers the fractured portion of tooth (or the whole biting surface). Other options include the placement of gold or porcelain fillings or even a crown.

If the crack goes too far vertically, there is a possibility the tooth may need to be removed and replaced with an artificial one. (See bridgework, denture, and implant). The nerve may sometimes be affected so badly that it dies. Root canal treatment will be required if the tooth is to be saved.

Will my tooth become better?

Unlike fractures elsewhere in the body, this crack will never heal. There is a small chance that the crack will get worse even with a crown placed. This may lead to the need for root canal treatment, or even removal of the tooth. However, many cracks can be fixed without root canal or tooth removal.

What are crowns and onlays?

Dental crowns (also sometimes referred to as ‘dental caps’ or ‘tooth caps’) and inlays cover over and encase the tooth on which they are cemented. Dentists use crowns when rebuilding broken or decayed teeth, as a way to strengthen teeth and and as method to improve the cosmetic appearance of a tooth. Crowns and onlays are made in a dental laboratory by a dental technician who uses moulds of your teeth made by your dentist.

The type of crown your dentist recommends will depend on the tooth involved and sometimes on your preference. They include porcelain crowns, porcelain-bonded-to-metal crowns, which combine the appearance of tooth coloured material with the strength of metal, gold alloy crowns and acrylic crowns.

Why are crowns and onlays more expensive than fillings?

A crowns and onlays are more complicated than a filling. Laboratory fees are incurred in its preparation and the materials used are more expensive than normal filling materials. Two or three visits are usually required for the dentist to reduce the size of the existing tooth, make a mould, fit a temporary crown and finally adhere the permanent crown in place.

What is the best way to cope with Dental Phobias?

The best way to overcome your fear is to discuss your concerns with us. Experiences as a child may become distorted by time and reinforced by outdated media presentation of stereotypes. Much has changed, thanks to technology and education, and we are experienced in dealing with patients who are apprehensive about seeking treatment.

Communication is the key. You must feel comfortable expressing your fears and concerns and have a sense that you are being listened to. There are various forms of anaesthesia and relaxation that can be used effectively to change your negative thoughts into a positive experience.

What is a filling?

A filling is a material that is used to restore functional and lasting structure to a tooth that has been disfigured by, for example decay or accidental breakage.

How do I know if I need a filling?

You may not know if you need fillings in your teeth. Many small to medium holes in teeth are asymptomatic, giving no pain. In fact, decay can sometimes eat out two-thirds of the tooth from the inside and you would have no idea it is happening.

Dental radiographs (X-rays), which are taken on a regular basis as part of your check-up, may show early decay that has not yet given any symptoms. You may be able to see a change in the colour on some of your teeth which may indicate early decay. If your teeth are sensitive to hot, cold, or sweet food and drink, you may need fillings.

All persistently sensitive teeth should be checked by your dentist. Toothache that lasts for more than a few minutes at a time should be investigated by your dentist. Teeth that cause severe pain may require fillings, or in some cases will require more extensive treatment such as root canal treatment.

What are fillings made of?

Most modern fillings are made of dental composite (tooth coloured fillings), which consists of a resin matrix with filler particles. The resin is the liquid component that hardens with time by chemical reaction. The filler particles are made from solid substances such as glass or pieces of set resin.

How long do fillings last?

The position, shape, material, and functioning pressure, all influence how long dental fillings will last. Larger fillings that bear a heavy functional load tend to break down more quickly than smaller fillings that bear little force. This is why it is impossible and meaningless to try to state categorically how long fillings should last.

However, when placing a filling, the dentist may have an idea of the expectation of the life of the filling. For example, a very small filling in the groove of a tooth away from biting pressure could be there for decades whereas a very large one in the mouth of a person who grinds their teeth may be lucky to last a few years and really should have a crown or onlay. In a checkup, your dentist is constantly monitoring the state of your fillings, looking for signs of weakness, cracking, decay or discolouration.

Can all teeth be filled with fillings?

Most teeth with small to moderate decay or fractures are easily restored to function with fillings. Where decay is extensive or fractures are large, more complex treatment may be required. Some teeth can be so badly broken down or fractured that they are unable to be saved.

Should baby teeth have fillings?

Yes, if decay is present then baby teeth should be filled to prevent toothaches, to maintain the baby teeth for eating, and to hold the right amount of space for the adult teeth. If the baby teeth are going to be exfoliated (fall out) soon, then it is not always necessary to fill the teeth. This should be discussed with your dentist.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is the ion that comes from the naturally occurring element, fluorine. Fluoride reduces the number of cavities an individual will develop in their life by about half. This is because it makes the enamel of the tooth more resistant to the acid attacks of plaque bacteria. Resistance occurs initially when the fluoride is incorporated into the teeth during their formation and secondly, as fluoridated water washes over the surface of the erupted teeth.

What are the benefits of water fluoridation?

Drinking fluoridated water increases the resistance of teeth to decay, resulting in fewer cavities. This means fewer fillings, fewer extractions, fewer visits to the dentist and lower dental bills – resulting in better smiles, fewer dentures and less pain and suffering. Fluoridation will help to reduce the number of school or working hours or days that are lost due to dental problems or visits to the dentist. Fluoridation will also help in the prevention of aesthetic problems associated with decay, especially in the front teeth, problems with discomfort and problems with self-esteem.

Fluoridation also indirectly reduces orthodontic problems. This benefit applies to all teeth (baby and adult) and to all age groups in our community. All teeth, at all ages, benefit as the fluoridated water has a continuous topical action. Despite the availability of other sources of fluoride (tablets, drops, toothpaste, professional applications), water fluoridation is still shown to be the most appropriate means of reducing tooth decay in the twenty first century. The magnitude of the fluoridation benefits has decreased in recent decades, but they are still in the range of a 20-40% reduction in tooth decay in fluoridated areas.

There is ample evidence that if water fluoridation ceases, the rate of tooth decay increases despite the use of fluoride toothpaste and supplements. The decay rate decreases again when fluoridation is re-introduced. A community that fluoridates its water today will have teeth with approximately half as many cavities in 10 years’ time.

Are there any general health side effects?

No. Drinking optimally fluoridated water is not harmful to human health. Many cities throughout the world have large amounts of natural fluoride in their water supply without water fluoridation. Artificial water fluoridation was introduced over 50 years ago, providing many opportunities to study fluoridation’s side effects.

The only effects of water fluoridation that have been scientifically proven are those that benefit teeth. Numerous studies have shown that consumption of fluoride in community water supplies at the level recommended for optimal dental health has no harmful effect in humans.  For generations, millions of people have lived in areas where fluoride is found naturally in the drinking water in concentrations as high as or higher than those recommended to prevent tooth decay.

Research conducted among these groups confirms the safety of fluoride in the water supply. Fluoride’s safety has been monitored for the past fifty years through over 30,000 studies, and no evidence has ever been found that water fluoridation causes any health side effects.

Who supports fluoridation?

Water fluoridation is supported by the World Health Organisation (World Health Assembly, 1978), the Australian Dental Association, the Australian Medical Association and the National Health Medical and Research Council. 75% of Australia is currently fluoridated. In 1995, enabling legislation was passed in California for water fluoridation, so virtually all major cities in the United States of America are fluoridated.

What is gum disease?

“Gum disease” describes a range of conditions that affect the supporting tissues for the teeth. Infection affecting the surface tissues is called Gingivitis.

This may progress to affect the deeper supporting tissues and is called Periodontitis (previously called pyorrhea). The effects of gingivitis are largely reversible with appropriate care. Once this has progressed to periodontitis there is permanent damage to the ligament and bone that supports and holds the teeth.

Often a space develops between the gum and the tooth called a pocket. The pocket forms a protected environment for more bacteria and the condition progresses. If left untreated periodontitis may cause abscesses and tooth loss.

What causes gum disease?

Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria. Bacteria form a ‘plaque’ which is a sticky, colourless film that forms on your teeth, particularly around the gum line. Other bacteria thrive deep in the gap between the gum and the tooth (the ‘pocket’).

Some people are much more at risk of developing periodontal disease — smoking is one of the major risk factors. Other conditions such as diabetes, stress, pregnancy and various medications can all be contributing factors.

Is bleeding gums okay?

No. Bleeding gums are common but not OK. In a healthy state gums do not bleed. Bleeding is often an indication that the gums are inflamed. The inflammation is generally a response to the bacteria on the surface of the teeth.

The surface inflammation is Gingivitis. The bleeding may also arise from Periodontitis or traumatic cleaning. Bleeding gums are sometimes associated with serious medical conditions. A dental practitioner should check bleeding gums.

What are the warning signs of gum disease?

  • Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth.
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
  • Receding gums.
  • Sensitive teeth or gums.
  • Loose teeth or teeth that have moved.

How is gum disease treated?

Management of gum disease becomes more difficult and less predictable the more advanced the disease. Therefore, the sooner periodontitis is diagnosed and treated the better. Regular dental examinations are important to check for the presence of gum disease. The cause of gum disease is bacteria. To manage it, the bacteria must be reduced to a level the body’s defense mechanisms can handle. Treatment classically involves:

  1. Achieving the best possible home care.
  2. Professional cleaning of the teeth above and below the gum line (into the pockets) to remove the plaque and hard deposits (calculus / tartar).
  3. Regular reviews.
  4. Trying to remove risk factors such as smoking.

Gum disease causes permanent damage to the supporting tissues; therefore the aim of treatment is to stop the progression of the disease through controlling the bacteria. This is an ongoing, lifelong activity. We may also suggest you use a hygienist to assist in your care.

You may be referred to a Periodontist if your dentist considers your condition needs more advanced care. A specialist periodontist has gained additional qualifications and experience to satisfy the requirements of the State Dental Board and may therefore use the title “Periodontist”.

Can babies get tooth decay?

Parents and would-be-parents beware; tooth decay can still be a common problem in infancy and childhood. Over the past few decades, despite the general reduction in dental tooth decay, early childhood tooth decay is still common.

Are baby teeth essential?

The approach that baby teeth are not essential is a fallacy. We would not be born with them otherwise. Baby (milk) teeth are necessary not only for appearance, eating and smiling, but also serve to hold spaces for developing permanent (adult) teeth. In addition, baby teeth play a role in the development of speech.

What are the most common dental decay problems seen in preschool children?

The most common dental decay problem seen in infants and younger children is nursing decay. Dental decay can affect baby teeth extensively. Teeth normally affected are the top front teeth. The back teeth in top and bottom may also be affected. Bottle and breast-fed babies are both susceptible.

Babies left with a bottle as a pacifier and those who are frequently nursed, especially at night, run the danger of bottle or nursing decay due to the prolonged exposure to milk (human milk is no exception) or juice.

Another common decay problem seen in preschool children is due to frequent exposure to sugary, starchy and acidic foods, including all forms of juices, cordials and soft drinks. Snacking generally promotes dental decay, because the mere presence of food in the mouth feed the plaque that produces acid, causing decay.

At what age should I schedule my child’s first visit to the dentist?

Early visits can prevent minor problems from becoming major ones. Your dentist will be able to detect early decay. Teach good habits early, as good habits start young for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. Brush frequently to keep plaque levels low, reduce snacking and begin dental visits early. We suggest at 2-3 years of age, at the same time as siblings’ or parents’ check ups, to start getting used to the sights and sounds of the dental practice.

What is root canal therapy?

Root canal or endodontic treatment is a process whereby inflamed or dead pulp is removed from the inside of the tooth, enabling a tooth that was causing pain to be retained. Once a tooth is fully formed it can function almost as a well as a normal healthy tooth, after it has been root canal treated, and can remain in service for many years.

Do I need root canal therapy?

If you have a damaged tooth, root canal treatment may help to save it. Inside your tooth is soft tissue containing nerves, and blood and lymph vessels, known as the tooth pulp. When the pulp cannot repair itself from disease or injury, it dies. A fracture in a tooth or a deep cavity commonly cause pulp death, as the pulp is exposed to bacteria found in your saliva. When the pulp becomes infected, it is best to remove it before it spreads to the tooth and surrounding tissues. The whole tooth may be lost if the infection is left untreated. Root canal treatment can save your tooth.

What does root canal treatment involve?

Root canal treatment may involve one to three visits to the dentist. A general dentist or an Endodontist (a specialist in pulp problems) will remove the pulp of the tooth. They will then clean and seal the pulp chamber and root canal/s. The steps involved in root canal treatment are as follows:

  1. An opening is made through the crown of the tooth into the chamber where the pulp is found.
  2. The pulp is removed, and the root canal/s are cleaned and shaped into a form that can be filled easily.
  3. Medications to prevent infection may be placed in the pulp chamber.
  4. Your dentist may leave the tooth open in order for it to drain, however often a temporary filling is placed in the crown of the tooth to protect it until your next visit. Antibiotics may be prescribed to help prevent infection.
  5. The temporary filling will be removed, and after cleaning, the pulp chamber and root canal/s will be filled.
  6. Finally, your dentist may place a crown (either porcelain or gold) over your tooth.

Why do I need a mouthguard?

Teeth are at risk of damage when playing sport and can result in long and potentially expensive treatment to restore them to normal function and appearance. Mouthguards also help to reduce the risk of jaw fractures and concussion caused by a collision.

Are there different types of mouthguards?

There are two basic types of mouthguards available –

  1. The custom fitted mouthguard is available from your dentist. This mouthguard is constructed directly from a mould taken of your teeth in the dental surgery and fits tightly and comfortably over your teeth. This type of mouthguard is the type recommended by the dental profession and is the most effective in preventing injuries to the teeth and jaws.
  2. The “do it yourself” mouthguard, available at many pharmacies are usually poorly fitting and uncomfortable to wear. We do not recommend these as they offer little protection to the teeth and patients are encouraged to obtain the custom-fitted guard as a bare minimum.

For which sports is a mouthguard recommended?

Mouthguards should be worn during any sport where there is the chance of a knock to the face. There are three types of sport when we consider the chance of injury:

  • Contact sports where contact is part of the game. These include football, rugby, martial arts and boxing. The mouthguard should be compulsory.
  • Collision sports where contact often happens but it is not expected or allowed. These include basketball, hockey, water polo, lacrosse, netball, baseball, softball, squash, soccer, BMX bike riding, horseriding, skateboarding, in-line skating, trampolining, cricket (wicket keeping or batting without a helmet), water skiing and snow ski racing. A mouthguard is highly recommended.
  • Non-contact sports where contact is a rare occurrence. These include such sports as tennis where a mouthguard is not needed.

Mouthguards should be worn during all competitions as well as during training sessions, as this is when many injuries occur. This should be stressed to children in junior teams.

How do I care for my mouthguard?

After use, mouthguards should be rinsed in cold, soapy water. They can be disinfected occasionally with a mild disinfectant solution or mouth rinse. A mouthguard should be stored clean and dry in a plastic container ready for its next use. As mouthguards can distort under higher temperatures, they should be kept in a cool place, not in the back of a hot car on a sunny day.

How often should I brush?

You should brush your teeth at least twice a day. Remember it is important to have the right brushing technique as poor brushing techniques can cause harm to the teeth and gums.

How long should I brush?

Proper brushing should take two to three minutes.

What technique should I use?

When brushing your teeth it is best to place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth, aiming the bristles of your brush toward the gum line. The join between the teeth and the gum is a nice niche for bacteria and plaque to accumulate, so it is important to get to this area.

Once you have the brush at the correct angle, all you need to do is jiggle the brush gently back and forward, only brushing one or two teeth at a time. Don’t be excessively vigorous but also don’t be too mild.

Remember. Your are trying to penetrate the bristles into the gaps between teeth to remove a very soft plaque. You need to be systematic – brushing all teeth in order, inside and outside – and you really should do it in front of a mirror so you can see what you are doing.

Is brushing alone enough?

No. Good brushing is very important to help prevent dental decay and periodontal disease, however brushing alone is not enough. It is also very important to clean between your teeth. This is why flossing is so important.

How often should I floss?

You should floss every day.

What should I do if brushing or flossing makes my gums bleed?

If your gums bleed or become sore after flossing, do not panic. If you have not been flossing regularly then the gums will be inflamed and will bleed more easily. If the bleeding persists — see your dentist.

How effective is teeth bleaching?

Bleaching does not make the teeth as white as chalk. If it did the teeth would not look natural. Usually the whitening is subtle, but a real difference can usually be noticed between, for instance, upper teeth that have been bleached and lowers that have not. Home bleaching seems to be slightly more effective for younger rather than older people.

How safe is teeth bleaching?

Yes, hydrogen peroxide (the whitening agent) is actually produced in the body in small amounts and the effects have been studied for many years. We know that the whitening process should not be abused, because bleaching teeth well beyond the recommended level can lead to damage of the enamel.

When bleaching is carried out according to your dentist’s instructions, it appears to be a safe, simple procedure. The only minor complications are rare cases of slight gum irritation and heightened cold sensitivity in the enamel. It would also be wise to check first with your dentist to see if all your teeth will be likely to bleach evenly. Bleaching will be unlikely to alter the staining effects of certain types of antibiotic drugs (e.g. tetracycline) that may have been used during childhood.

How long does teeth bleaching last?

This may vary depending upon the circumstances, however teeth can still become dirty and they will continue to age in a normal way with the passage of time. You should keep the trays and obtain new bleach stocks from us to repeat the whitening periodically (usually once a year). The trays will continue to fit your mouth for many years in most cases.

What are “conventional” whitening toothpastes and how do they work?

Conventional toothpastes marketed for whitening contain ingredients that help remove external stains by a gentle abrasive or polishing action, however they will not be able to change the natural tooth colour. Conventional whitening toothpastes use abrasive particles such as modified silica, titanium dioxide, alumina, dicalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate, or similar particulate substances.

Many of these products also contain phosphate compounds (such as pyrophosphates and polyphosphates) to reduce the formation of calculus (“tartar”) and thus keep the tooth surface clean, to give an additional cosmetic benefit, even though this is not a direct whitening action in itself.

Detergents in these toothpastes also help to remove loosely attached surface stains. There is no physical or chemical mechanism by which products based solely on abrasives can influence chromogenic (coloured) organic and inorganic materials (“stains”) within the enamel or dentine of teeth, since their actions are entirely of a surface nature.

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are a set of four teeth that erupt into the back four corners of the mouth, behind the 12 year old molars. This usually occurs between the ages of 17 to 21.

Does everyone have wisdom teeth?

No, some people are naturally missing one or more of their wisdom teeth.

Does everyone need to have his or her wisdom teeth out?

No. When there is adequate room the wisdom teeth can erupt into the mouth in the correct position and function as a valuable asset or they may remain unerupted and cause no problems.

What is impaction?

Your dentist may advise you your wisdom teeth (or third molars) are impacted and that they need to be removed. What this means is that your wisdom teeth will not grow or erupt into a position that allows them to be functional teeth. Impaction may be due to soft tissues (i.e. gums), or hard tissues such as other teeth or bone. Teeth that become impacted are generally more likely to cause problems.

My wisdom teeth are impacted. So what?

The common problems that can arise with impacted teeth are infections of the gum around the teeth, decay and resorption of adjacent functioning teeth, and gum disease around the molar teeth. Rare complications are cysts and tumours that can grow around impacted teeth.

Some people feel that impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to crowding. For those who play contact sport, most fractured jaws occur at the site of impacted teeth, as they can create a point of weakness. Most footballers who have broken their jaws have not had their wisdom teeth removed.

Infections are by far the most common problem, and although they can respond to antibiotics, the only real way to treat it is to remove the source of the problem. A small number of people who do not treat these infections seriously, especially people with other health problems, can have severe, even life threatening complications with wisdom tooth infections.

Who can remove my wisdom teeth?

All dentists are trained in removal of teeth, however sometimes you may need to be referred to a specialist Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon who can remove your wisdom teeth for you.

Can there be problems with extraction of wisdom teeth?

Yes, as with any surgery, post operative pain, swelling, bruising and infection can occur. Other consequences of wisdom tooth removal may include, difficulty in opening the mouth, sore lips, and bleeding. There is a small risk with the extraction of lower wisdom teeth, of nerve damage that may cause numbness of the lip or tongue.

Discuss the above risks and consequences of wisdom teeth surgery with your dentist and/or Oral and Maxilofacial Surgeon before having your wisdom teeth out.