To read our frequently asked questions and answers, click on a question listed that concerns you.

Bad Breath

What causes bad breath?

  • Eating certain foods like onions and garlic and using tobacco can lead to bad breath.
  • If you don't brush and floss your teeth properly, have gum disease or dry mouth, bacteria can build up in your mouth, causing bad breath.
  • Certain medications or medical disorders can cause dry mouth. When there is not enough saliva in your mouth to wash away food particles and bacteria, bad breath can result. Other disorders, such as a sinus infection or postnasal drip, can also cause bad breath.

What is the treatment for bad breath?

  • See your dentist and hygienist regularly to check for problems such as gum disease dry mouth and other dental disorders.
  • If your dentist finds that you build up a lot of plaque from checkup to checkup, he may recommend that you use a special antibacterial toothpaste or mouthrinse.
  • If your bad breath is due to gum disease, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist, a specialist that treats gum disease.
  • If your dentist finds no oral cause for your bad breath, he may refer you to your family physician or to a specialist for treatment.

How can I find a dentist who treats bad breath?

All dentists are taught about the oral causes of bad breath in dental school. You might start by asking your own dentist about your problem and ways to treat it. Or, call your state or local dental society for referrals.

What can I do about bad breath?

  • Good oral hygiene is essential to reducing bad breath. Brush thoroughly twice a day with toothpaste and toothbrush and floss daily to remove plaque and food particles. Brush your tongue, too, for fresh breath.
  • If you wear dentures, remove them each night and clean well before replacing them each morning.
  • And remember to schedule regular dental checkups to detect any problems that may cause bad breath


How do I get cavities?

Cavities occur when the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack your tooth enamel. Plaque is the sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms constantly on your teeth. After you eat, the bacteria in plaque produce acids. Over time these acids can break down your tooth enamel and a cavity may form. That's why proper brushing with Colgate toothpaste and toothbrush, and flossing every day is so important to help prevent cavities from forming.

Does fluoride help prevent cavities?

Yes! Fluoride is a natural mineral that helps safely strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. Fluoride can be found in most toothpaste and in anti-cavity mouth rinses.

In communities where fluoride has been added to the drinking water, the children have 65% fewer cavities! If your water supply does not contain fluoride, your dentist or pediatrician may prescribe a daily fluoride supplement for your children. And if you or your children are especially cavity-prone, you may want to consider dental sealants, a plastic coating applied by your dentist to protect teeth from decay. Ask your dentist or physician about what's best.

Are there certain foods I should avoid to help prevent cavities?

Starchy or sugary foods, especially those that stick to your teeth, are the worst foods for producing plaque acids that cause tooth decay. It's better to eat a well-balanced diet that avoids these foods. But when you do eat sugary foods, eat them with your meal instead of as a snack.

What can I do to help prevent cavities?

Brush at least twice a day with toothpaste and floss daily to remove food and plaque from between teeth and below the gumline. Consider using Fluorigard Anti-Cavity Mouthrinse-this can be especially helpful to individuals with exposed roots due to receding gums. And visit your dentist and hygienist regularly for checkups. Preventive care can help keep minor problems from becoming major ones.


How is a crown made?

First, the tooth is prepared by reducing its size so that the crown can fit over it properly.

Next, an impression of the prepared tooth is made to provide an exact mold for the crown. Your dentist will choose a tooth color that closely matches your own tooth shade. The impression will then be sent to a dental lab that will make your crown.

While waiting for your permanent crown, a temporary cap will be placed over the prepared tooth.

Finally, your dentist will cement your permanent crown into place.

What types of materials are used to make crowns?

Crowns are made from a variety of materials, including alloys of gold or other non-precious metals, porcelain, acrylic or ceramic. Ask your dentist what material is best for your restoration.


Gum Disease

What are the signs of gum disease?

  • Gums that are red, puffy or swollen, and tender
  • Gums that bleed during brushing or flossing
  • Teeth that look longer because your gums have receded
  • Gums that have separated, or pulled away, from your teeth
  • Teeth that have shifted or loosened
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Pus coming from between your teeth and gums
  • Constant bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth

Who can get gum disease?

  • While you can get gum disease at any age, it usually affects adults. After age 35, about three out of four adults have some kind of gum disease.
  • Certain medical conditions or medications can make you more susceptible to gum disease. They include pregnancy, diabetes, epilepsy, and such medications as chemotherapy, birth control pills, antidepressants, and those for heart problems.

How do I know if I have gum disease?

Only your dentist or hygienist can tell you if you have gum disease. That's one reason why it's so important to have regular dental checkups.

What can I do to help prevent receding gums?

As you age, subtle changes happen to your body. These changes can include gums that recede. You know your gums are receding if your teeth look longer than in the past. While you cannot prevent gum recession, you can help prevent many of the conditions associated with it, including sensitive teeth and root cavities. Talk to your dentist and hygienist about which anti-sensitivity products are right for you. And use Colgate toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss daily to fight cavities.

What can I do to help prevent gum disease?

  • Above all, develop good oral hygiene habits. Brush twice a day and floss daily to remove plaque from your teeth and gumline.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups so that your dentist and hygienist can detect early signs of gum disease as well as clean away plaque and tartar.
  • Eat right. Proper nutrition helps you maintain healthy gums and bones and fight infection.
  • Avoid cigarettes and other types of tobacco.
  • Avoid grinding or clenching your teeth. Pressure on the bone and fibers that support your teeth can make existing gum disease worse.

How is gum disease treated?

  • Gingivitis (red, puffy gums) can often be reversed with proper brushing and flossing to remove plaque and debris.
  • In the early stages of periodontitis, your dental professional can clean, or "scale," your teeth to remove plaque below the gumline. To help healing, tooth roots may also be "planed," or smoothed. Your dentist may also suggest an antibacterial prescription mouthrinse.
  • More advanced stages of periodontitis may require surgery to help save the teeth.

Once gum disease is treated, can it return?

Because bacteria cause gum disease, it can recur. However, with regular checkups and proper brushing and flossing, you can greatly reduce your risk of gum disease returning.

Plaque and Tartar

What is the difference between plaque and tartar?

  • Plaque is the sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms on your teeth constantly. Proper brushing with toothpaste and toothbrush and flossing can help remove it.
  • Tartar is an accumulation of hardened plaque and mineral deposits, yellow or brown in color that can only be removed by your dentist or hygienist.

How can I remove plaque?

  • It's easy to prevent plaque buildup with the proper care. Brush thoroughly at least twice a day with toothpaste and toothbrush to remove plaque from the inner, outer and chewing surfaces of your teeth.
  • Floss daily to remove plaque from between teeth and under your gumline where your toothbrush may not reach. And visit your dentist and hygienist regularly for professional cleanings.

How do I know if I have any of the problems caused by plaque?

Only your dentist or hygienist can detect the early stages of tooth decay, gum disease or other diseases when he or she examines you. That's one reason regular dental checkups are so important.

How can I prevent tartar buildup?

  • Once tartar has formed, only your dentist or hygienist can remove it. The process of removing tartar is called a prophylaxis ("prophy" for short). During a prophy, the dentist or hygienist uses a special instrument to clean your teeth above and below the gumline.
  • However, proper brushing with tartar control toothpaste and flossing can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup and also help to make your next prophy a little easier.

Do tartar control toothpastes really work?

Yes, tartar control toothpastes have been proven to prevent tartar from forming above the gumline.

Sensitive Teeth

My teeth are only sensitive sometimes. Is this common?

Yes. Many adults have occasional sensitivity to hot or cold food and beverages. Others suffer from constant pain. Regardless of the frequency of your pain, let your dentist know. Sensitive teeth can usually be treated.

How are sensitive teeth treated?

  • Sensitive teeth can be treated through the use of a brush-on fluoride gel or with an anti-sensitivity toothpaste. Ask your dentist or hygienist.
  • And be sure to brush and floss daily.