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Frequently Asked Questions

To learn more about a topic, select one of the questions below.

Click the question below to review the answer.

How can I choose a dentist?

Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing a dentist:

  • Call the Butte Sierra District Dental Society office.
  • Search the BSDDS members directory on this website to find a dentist close to your home or work. You can also search for a speciality dentist.
  • Ask family, friends, neighbors or co-workers for a recommendation.
  • Ask your family physician or local pharmacist.
  • Ask faculty members of local dental schools.
  • If you are moving, your current dentist might provide you with a recommendation.

What should I look for when choosing a dentist?

You may wish to consider several dentists before making your decision. During your first visit, you should be able to determine if this is the right dentist for you. Consider the following:

  • Is the appointment schedule convenient for you?
  • Is the office easy to get to from your home or job?
  • Does the office appear to be clean, neat and orderly?
  • Was your medical and dental history recorded and placed in a permanent file?
  • Does the dentist explain techniques that will help you prevent dental health problems? Is dental health instruction provided?
  • Are special arrangements made for handling emergencies outside of office hours? (Most dentists make arrangements with a colleague or emergency referral service if they are unable to tend to emergencies.)
  • Is information provided about fees and payment plans before treatment is scheduled?

You and your dentist are partners in maintaining your oral health. Take time to ask questions and take notes if that will help you remember your dentist's advice.

What is the difference between a DDS and a DMD?

The DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are the same degrees. The difference is a matter of semantics. The majority of dental schools award the DDS degree; however, some award a DMD degree. The education and degrees are the same.

Where can I get low-cost dental care or financial assistance for dental work?

Assistance programs vary from state to state, so you may want to contact theButte Sierra District Dental Society to see if there are programs in your area.

Another possible source of lower-cost dental care is a dental school clinic. Generally, dental costs in school clinics are reduced and may include only partial payment for professional services covering the cost of materials and equipment. BSDDS can tell you if there is a dental school clinic in your area.

How often should I replace my toothbrush?

Treat yourself to a new toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles become worn, splayed or frayed. A hard, brittle brush can injure your gums. Children's brushes may need to be replaced more often, as they can wear them out more quickly.

How should I choose oral care products?

Even savvy shoppers can be baffled by the seemingly endless variety of dental care products. Choose products that carry the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance - an important symbol of a dental product's safety and effectiveness. Oral care products that may carry the ADA Seal include toothpaste, manual and electric toothbrushes, floss and other interdental cleaning aids, mouthrinses and oral irrigators.

What does the ADA Seal of Acceptance mean?

The ADA Seal of Acceptance is a symbol that a product has shown that it meets ADA standards of safety and effectiveness. About 350 companies voluntarily submit research data to the ADA showing the safety and efficacy of their dental products. The data they submit undergo stringent review by independent consultants and the ADA before the Seal is awarded.

The ADA reviews all advertising claims for any product bearing the Seal. Only those claims that can be supported by appropriate clinical and/or laboratory studies and scientific data are allowed.

I've noticed that only some dental products have the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Why?

The Seal of Acceptance Program is strictly voluntary. Manufacturers may choose to have products evaluated; some choose not to. The ADA does not comment on why products do not carry the Seal or on the quality of non-Seal products. Data collected in our laboratories indicate that about 30 to 40 percent of consumer products fail to meet the standards required for the ADA Seal of Acceptance when they are first submitted. Manufacturers often make the required adjustments to their products and them resubmit them.

You may want to contact the manufacturer directly for more information on a particular product. A phone number is often available on the product packaging.

What ingredients are in toothpastes?

Toothpaste should contain fluoride to reduce tooth decay in children and adults. There are other ingredients that can be included. Tartar control toothpaste prevents tartar, above the gumline, from forming. The active ingredient of these toothpastes is based on the mechanism of action of a variety of pyrophosphates or zinc citrate. Desensitizing toothpaste can help block the pain of receding gums, which cause sensitivity to temperature extremes. The effective ingredient is potassium nitrate.

Toothpaste that contains triclosan, an antimicrobial, is proven to reduce gingivitis. Baking soda can act as a mild abrasive in high enough concentrations. An advantage of baking soda as an ingredient is that if you like the taste or feel of these toothpastes, you're likely to brush more often and thoroughly. Abrasives help remove stains and plaque and polish the teeth. All ADA-accepted toothpastes contain a mild abrasive that, along with your toothbrush, helps to remove plaque (a sticky film of bacteria). Usually the abrasives are a type of silica.

Other ingredients commonly found in toothpastes help to make brushing a pleasant experience. Flavoring agents such as artificial sweeteners, peppermint, cinnamon or wintergreen improve the taste. Humectants prevent water loss. A binding agent or thickener gives the toothpaste body and keeps it from separating into solid and liquid. Foaming agents may be added to promote cleaning of the teeth.

Can I get a copy of my dental records?

Talk with your dentist about getting a copy of your dental records and check your state law, if necessary. The ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct states:

"A dentist has the ethical obligation on request of either the patient or the patient's new dentist to furnish, either gratuitously or for nominal cost, such dental records or copies or summaries of them, including dental X-rays or copies of them, as will be beneficial for the future treatment of that patient. This obligation exists whether or not the patient's account is paid in full."

How do I file a complaint against my dentist?

Even in the best dentist-patient relationship, a problem may occur. First, discuss any concerns you have with your dentist. Many times this will help clear up the matter. If you are still not pleased, contact the Butte Sierra District Dental Society to register your complaint.

Local dental societies have established a dispute resolution system called peer review to help resolve the occasional disagreement about dental treatment. Peer review provides an impartial and easily accessible means for resolving misunderstandings regarding the appropriateness or quality of care and, in certain instances, about the fees charged for dental treatment.

A peer review committee will attempt to mediate the problem. They may meet to discuss the case and may examine clinical records, talk to the dentist and patient and, when indicated, arrange for a clinical examination.

For further information about peer review, contact the Butte Sierra District Dental Society.

Can I keep my extracted teeth?

Yes. There has been some confusion about whether or not teeth that have been extracted in the dental office can be given back to the patient. The confusion stems from the wording of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) guidelines for handling and disposing of medical waste. It was unclear whether an extracted tooth was considered medical waste.

However, OSHA chief, Joseph Dear, has gone on record as saying "OSHA has not banned the tooth fairy; dentists can give children their extracted teeth