FAQ & Resources


What are cavities and how to they occur?

Cavities are a destruction of the tooth enamel. They occur when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, soda, raisins, cakes or candy are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in cavities. This process is also called "tooth decay."

Why does the Dentist recommend having two cleanings per year?

Lots of patients share concern about bad breath. As a social embarrassment, it's surely near the top of the list. Since mouthwashes won't eliminate the problem, let's look at some possible reasons for the condition.

Certain foods, such as onions, garlic, and spices will cause temporary bad breath. Some medical and systemic problems, such as sinusitis, can also contribute. But most causes are local in nature. Bacteria, plain and simple, are the culprit. Bacteria do their work in the mouth, lungs, sinuses, and stomach. In the oral cavity, bacteria cause gum disease.

This infection is so prevalent today, it's the first dental problem we suspect when it comes to halitosis. With a thorough hygiene program, including 2 cleanings a year, there is a chance to control gum problems and this particularly awkward side effect. Less-than-pristine dentures or bridgework are also a source of odor. Tooth decay can be another culprit along with "dry mouth" syndrome (a lot of older people are prone to reduced saliva flow).

What causes bad breath?

Bad breath can be caused by such things as certain foods, poor oral hygiene, gum disease, a dry mouth (xerostomia), tobacco products or a medical disorder. When bacteria accumulate because of poor oral hygiene or gum disease, or when saliva is lacking, bad breath can result. Saliva is necessary to wash away food particles and bacteria. Certain medications and disorders can lead to a dry mouth. Sometimes a sinus infection, postnasal drip or other respiratory tract infection can cause bad breath. If bad breath is persistent, contact us to determine whether the cause is of dental origin.

What can I do about bad breath?

Regular checkups will allow your dentist to detect any problems such as gum disease, a dry mouth or other disorders that may be the cause. Maintaining good oral hygiene, eliminating gum disease and scheduling regular professional cleanings are essential to reducing bad breath.

Regardless of what may be the cause, good oral hygiene is essential. Brush twice a day and clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners. Brush your tongue, too. If you wear dentures, be sure to remove them at night and clean them thoroughly before replacing them the next morning.

Why did I get a dental abscess?

When the pulp of a tooth becomes infected (often from a deep cavity or a deep crack), the infection can spread throughout the pulp. If root canal treatment is not done, the infection may travel into the tissues near the root tip. This can cause the adjacent bone to erode. The pocket of pus that forms is the abscess. If the abscess increases in size, it can become more painful.

Should I be concerned about contracting AIDS when I go to the dentist?

A recent survey of dental patients showed that patient protection was #1 on their list of concerns about dental care. Some patients have even quit going to the dentist because of their fears.

Fortunately, trips to the dentist have never been safer. The case in Florida where the patient was apparently infected with the AIDS virus by her dentist is the only such case out of tens of millions of dental treatments performed since the introduction of the virus. The Center for Disease Control still does not know the method of infection.

However, even one case is too many. We have responded by adopting "universal (or standard) precautions". These involve sterilizing all instruments in dry-heat ovens or steam autoclaves to kill any bacteria. Disposable items are used whenever possible. The chance of contracting an infection in the dental chair is extremely remote, but the chance of losing one's teeth because of lack of proper dental care is extremely likely.


How can I correct misaligned or stained teeth?

Several modern cosmetic dentistry procedures are now available which can enhance or change the appearance of the smile. Sometimes, simply bonding or whitening the teeth is all the patient needs. In more involved cases, full smile rehabilitation is possible with porcelain veneers. These can correct color and misalignment problems. Occasionally, a combination of orthodontics, straightening, whitening, bonding, and porcelain veneers will be required to produce the cosmetically superior result.

How can I whiten my teeth?

Teeth can be whitened by several methods. Chairside teeth whitening is done in the dental office and usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes. A shield protects the teeth from the oxidizing agent which is “painted” onto the teeth. A special light may be used at five-minute intervals to help activate the agent. Sometimes the teeth may become sensitive following whitening treatments.

With nightguard whitening, a mouthguard is custom-made. The whitening gel is dispensed to the patient by a dentist. The patient places the gel into the mouthguard which is worn up to two hours daily or at night for about two weeks. People with gum recession and certain dental conditions may not be good candidates for this type of whitening. These products are not recommended for habitual tobacco and alcohol users.

How long does whitening last?

You can help your teeth remain white by brushing twice a day, cleaning between the teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners, seeing your dentist for regular professional cleanings along with occasional touch-up treatments.

The surface of your teeth can be stained by tobacco and certain foods and beverages such as coffee, tea and berries and by deposits of calculus or tartar. If you have had your teeth whitened, avoid stain-causing foods for the first several days after the procedure.

Can whitening gels harm my teeth? Will I become more sensitive to hot or cold?

Studies have shown that whitening gels cause no harm to the teeth when used under direct dental supervision. Teeth may feel sensitive for up to 24 hours after the whitening procedure but this almost always dissipates to zero sensitivity after that.

I've heard about laser whitening. Is it safe?

This technique may be safe, but it has not yet been evaluated by the ADA

What criteria would make me a candidate for Cosmetic Dentistry?

Anyone who wants a whiter or straighter smile is a good candidate for cosmetic dentistry. If you have crooked, yellow teeth or are self-conscious of your smile it can be transformed.

How long will my porcelain vineers last?

Porcelain veneers are intended to be long lasting restorations. A reasonable life expectancy would be 10-20 years. They became popular in the 1980s and many patients from that time still have their veneers. In the past fifteen years not only has the technique improved but so has the adhesive bonding process and the porcelain used for veneers. Due to the advancement in this procedure, today's porcelain veneers should last even longer.

I want to whiten my teeth but can't spend a lot of money. Is there any way I can acheive this?

Yes. We recommend Crest White Strips as a safe and cost-effective alternative to in-office teeth whitening.



I have missing teeth. What are my options to fill the empty space?

"Well, you know Doc, it's just a back tooth. No one will see it so I'll just get rid of it. It's not going to make a difference."

The plain truth is that it will make a difference. The loss of just a single tooth can set a course that can destroy an entire mouth. "Well, if that's true, tell me more. I sure don't want to lose the front ones that I smile with." Teeth will drift and tip into a space that is created by missing teeth. Just like two gears of a car that are not properly aligned, pretty soon you've got a whole lot of problems.

"Well, I don't like that. What can I do?" If it sounds like I've heard this conversation a few times, you're right. If I'm going to keep a patient happy, I need to provide options at this point.

One of the options would be an dental implant. This is the replacement of a tooth root with a titanium screw that is surgically placed. It is then followed by the careful construction of an implant crown to replace the missing tooth, to prevent teeth from shifting and thereby causing further tooth loss. If you have any questions about missing teeth and possible dentalimplant treatment, please call our office.



What is TMJ?

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders are a family of problems related to your complex jaw joint. If you have had symptoms like pain or a jaw joint clicking sound, you'll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. Since some types of TMJ problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important. No one treatment can resolve TMJ disorders completely and treatment takes time to be effective.

Trouble with Your Jaw?
TMJ disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles and stressing your TMJ joint. Or, you may have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Whatever the cause, the results may include a misaligned bite, pain, clicking or grating noises when you open your mouth, or trouble opening your mouth wide.

Do You Have a TMJ Disorder?

  • Are you aware of teeth grinding or clenching your teeth?
  • Do you wake up with sore, stiff muscles around your jaws?
  • Do you have frequent headaches or neck aches?
  • Does the pain get worse when you clench your teeth?
  • Does stress make your clenching and pain worse?
  • Does your jaw joint click, pop, grate, catch, or lock when you open your mouth?
  • Is it difficult or painful to open your mouth, eat or yawn?
  • Have you ever injured your neck, head or jaws?
  • Have you had problems (such as arthritis) with other joints?
  • Do you have teeth that no longer touch when you bite?
  • Do your teeth meet differently from time to time?
  • Is it hard to use your front teeth to bite or tear food?
  • Are your teeth sensitive, loose, broken or worn?

The more times you answered "yes," the more likely it is that you have a TMJ disorder. Understanding TMJ disorders will also help you understand how they're treated.

There are various treatment options that Dr. Hirshberg can utilize to improve the harmony and function of your jaw. Once an evaluation confirms a diagnosis of TMJ disorder, Dr. Hirshberg will determine the proper course of treatment. It is important to note that treatment always works best with a team approach of self-care as well as professional care.

What is Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease can go on for years without pain and without detection unless specific examination procedures are performed. Visual oral examination by itself (even by a dentist) will not reliably detect periodontal disease until it has reached an advanced stage.

Early detection and adequate diagnosis require measurement of gum pockets (the crevice between the tooth and gum) with a periodontal probe. Effective prevention and treatment is available, but the damage caused as the disease progresses is irreversible.

Early detection and treatment is critical to prevent tooth loss and disfigurement. Although the procedure is simple, painless and requires only a few minutes, millions of American adults have never had it done. Signs of periodontal disease include bleeding gums, redness of gum tissue, swelling of gums around the teeth, bad breath, receding gums, mobility of teeth.

I have a poor self-image of myself, which results in low self-esteem. What can I do to fix this?

The appearance of the teeth has a dramatic effect on both the person's attractiveness to others and on their own self-image and self-esteem. Studies have shown that a person's appearance will have a strong effect on their social and career success, by influencing how others perceive them.

While the appearance of the teeth is one of the most important contributors to facial beauty, it is also probably the most often neglected when improvements to appearance are sought. A person with low self-esteem connected to their facial appearance, can often be greatly helped by cosmetic dentistry.

Dental make-overs have become more common, less invasive, and more effective in correcting deformities and cosmetic dental problems. The effect of these procedures can be nothing short of dramatic both in terms of appearance and also in terms of correcting, at least partially, personality deficiencies caused by poor self-image.

I have cancer, can there be complications when attending the Dentist?

Each year about 400,000 people with cancer develop treatment-related complications in the mouth ranging from lesions to chronic dry mouth to bone disintegration. If serious, these complications can be life threatening. While many are unavoidable, some can be prevented or minimized.

It is recommended that whenever possible, a pre-therapy dental evaluation with a full set of mouth x-rays be performed. Any decay, gum disease and abscesses should be treated, if time permits, prior to chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

Even patients who have no pain or dental disorders need a thorough cleaning. The goal should be to have the patient's mouth in optimal health prior to beginning chemotherapy.

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, mouth rinses and oral irrigators.

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 toothbrush can injure your gums. Children’s toothbrushes may need to be replaced more often, as they can wear them out more quickly.

What is the proper way to brush my teeth?

Thorough brushing twice a day, and cleaning between the teeth daily with floss or other interdental cleaners, removes dental plaque. Keep these tips in mind when brushing your teeth. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Place the brush on your teeth with the bristles angled toward the gums using gentle circular motion. Remember to clean the inside teeth surfaces where plaque deposits are heavy, and clean the back teeth and your tongue. Replace your brush when the bristles become frayed or worn about every three to four months.

Can I damage my teeth if I brush impoperly?

Yes. Even though teeth are protected by a hard layer of enamel, they can become worn out from improper tooth brushing. Toothbrush abrasion can occur on the crown of the teeth as well as in the softer cementum that covers the tooth roots, which can be exposed by receding gums. These exposed surfaces can become more prone to decay. When you brush, be sure to use gentle, short, circular strokes.

How do I clean between my teeth?

Floss and other interdental cleaners remove plaque from between the teeth and under the gumline, areas where the toothbrush can’t reach. If you haven’t been in the habit, it’s never too late to start.

When flossing, keep in mind these tips. Gently ease the floss between the teeth and gumline, never snap it. Form a "c" against the sides of both teeth and gently rub the floss up and down the tooth, moving it from under the gumline to the top of the tooth. Establish a regular pattern of flossing and remember to floss the backside of the last teeth.

NOTE: If you use interdental cleaners, feel free to consult us on how to use them properly, to avoid injuring your gums.

How do dental X-rays work?

When X-rays pass through your mouth during a dental exam, more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums) before striking the film. This creates an image on the radiograph. Teeth appear lighter because fewer X-rays penetrate to reach the film. Cavities and gum disease appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these X-rays allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

What are oral irrigating devices?

Oral irrigating devices use a stream of water to remove food particles from around the teeth. They are meant to be used as an aid and not to replace regular brushing or cleaning between the teeth with floss or interdental cleaners. Oral irrigators are helpful for people who have braces or bridework.

Will a water filter remove flouride from water?

Depending upon the filtration system that you use at home, journal articles have reported that reverse osmosis and distillation filtration units do remove varying amounts of fluoride from the water. Activated carbon units were shown to remove only trace amounts. Several tests of water filters, however, have shown conflicting answers. Feel free to consult us about your family’s fluoride needs.

Some dental problems are easy to see! Why should you see a Dentist?

One of the easiest problems to spot is a build-up of dental plaque. Plaque is the soft, sticky layer of bacteria, which is constantly forming on the teeth. Usually it is invisible to the naked eye, but when a person is not brushing adequately, it can build up to where it appears to be a thick whitish coating on the teeth at the gum line. If not removed, it can lead to gum disease.

Another potential problem, which is easy to spot, is missing teeth. Many patients assume that if they are still able to eat, there is no problem. But very often, losing just one tooth can lead to the loss of support, and teeth begin to drift into the empty space, causing a change in the bite. It also forces the remaining teeth to carry an additional load, sometimes past their ability to adapt. In most cases, when even one tooth is lost, the remaining teeth suffer and are more likely to be lost as well.