What’s the difference between tooth-colored and silver fillings?

Silver fillings, also known as amalgam, have been around for decades. Made from a metal alloy, this type of filling expands and contracts with the heat and cold to stop decay but has become less common in modern dentistry. Tooth-colored fillings, also known as composites, are cosmetic fillings that look and feel just like your existing tooth structure. This restoration is created with a resin material and fits tightly into a tooth to prevent decay without being detectable.


What should I do to prevent gum disease and tooth decay?

Great teeth and gum care starts at home with daily brushing and flossing. By keeping a daily routine, you will greatly minimize the risk of gingivitis or tooth decay as you age.


How often should radiographs be taken?

How often X-rays (radiographs) should be taken depends on your present oral health, your age, your risk for disease, and any signs and symptoms of oral disease you may be experiencing. For example, children may require X-rays more often than adults. This is because their teeth and jaws are still developing. Also their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than those of adults. Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and then decide whether or not you need radiographs.

If you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend radiographs to determine the present status of your oral health and to help identify changes that may occur later. A new set of X-rays may be needed to help your dentist detect any new cavities, determine the status of your gum health or evaluate the growth and development of your teeth. If a previous dentist has any radiographs of you, your new dentist may ask you for copies of them. Ask both dentists to help you with forwarding your X-rays.


How do dental X-rays work?

As X-rays pass through your mouth they are mostly absorbed by teeth and bone because these tissues, which are called hard tissues, are denser than cheeks and gums, which are called soft tissues.

When X-rays strike the film or a digital sensor, an image called a radiograph is created. Radiographs allow your dentist to see hidden abnormalities, like tooth decay, infections and signs of gum disease, including changes in the bone and ligaments holding teeth in place


How do dental X-rays compare to other sources of radiation?

The amount of radiation that we are exposed to from dental X-rays is very small compared to our daily exposure from things like, cosmic radiation and naturally-occurring radioactive elements (for example, those producing radon).

The table below compares our estimated exposure to radiation from dental X-ray with other various sources. As indicated below, a millisievert (mSv) is a unit of measure that allows for some comparison between radiation sources that expose the entire body (such as natural background radiation) and those that only expose a portion of the body (such as X-rays).


Source Estimated Exposure (mSv)
Man Made

Dental X-rays

Bitewing radiographs
Full-mouth series




Medical X-rays

Lower gastrointestinal tract radiography
Upper gastrointestinal tract radiography
Chest radiograph




Cosmic (Outer Space) Radiation

Average radiation from outer space In Denver, CO (per year)




Earth and Atmospheric Radiation

Average radiation in the U.S. from Natural sources (per year)




Source: Adapted from Frederiksen NL. X-Rays: What is the Risk? Texas Dental Journal. 1995;112(2):68-72.


What are porcelain veneers?

Porcelain veneers are thin pieces of porcelain that are applied directly on top of your natural teeth to create an entirely new smile. In as few as two visits, our team can change or repair the size, shape and color of your teeth with porcelain veneers. Patients often feel and look younger with a straighter, whiter smile.


What is dental bonding?

Dental bonding is an affordable way to fill gaps in your front teeth as well as change a tooth’s color. The results of dental bonding are dramatic and immediate, and the procedure takes only a few hours.


What are crowns?

A crown is a permanent cosmetic replica that covers an entire tooth. It will change the size, shape and color of the teeth in as few as 2 visits.


What if I’m pregnant and need a dental radiograph examination?

A radiograph may be needed for dental treatment that can’t wait until after the baby is born. Because untreated dental infections can pose a risk to the fetus, dental treatment may be necessary to maintain the health of the mother and child. Radiation exposure resulting from dental X-rays is low. However, every precaution is taken to ensure that radiation exposure is As Low As Reasonable Achievable (the ALARA principle). A leaded apron minimizes exposure to the abdomen and should be used when any dental radiograph is taken. Also, a leaded thyroid collar can protect the thyroid from radiation, and should also be used whenever possible. The use of a leaded thyroid collar is recommended for women of childbearing age, pregnant women and children. Dental X-ray exams do not need to be delayed if you are trying to become pregnant or are breast feeding.


What are the benefits of a dental radiograph examination?

Because many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth, an X-ray examination can help reveal:

  • small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing restorations (fillings);
  • infections in the bone;
  • periodontal (gum) disease;
  • abscesses or cysts;
  • developmental abnormalities;
  • some types of tumors.

Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort. Radiographs can help your dentist detect problems in your mouth that otherwise would not be seen.


What is teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening is a bleaching process that lightens dental stains and discolorations.

Tooth whitening is a safe and cost effective way to create a beautiful smile. Safe, effective bleaching gel is applied to the teeth. Hydrogen peroxide, the active ingredient in the gel, breaks down and lets oxygen enter the enamel and dentin to erase stains.

Only tooth color is made lighter – the actual structure remains unchanged.

Professional bleaching is far superior to over-the-counter teeth whitening products. It must be overseen by your dentist and requires a comprehensive exam and proper dental hygiene cleaning before the process can begin.

The effects of whitening can last for a number of years if maintained properly. Beverages such as coffee, tea, cola and wine will reduce the lasting effect. Remember, if it could stain a white shirt, it will stain your smile!


Why are my teeth sensitive?

Some teeth are sensitive because of cracks, fractures, or decay.

Others are because of gum recession, toothbrush abrasion, and gum disease. If the gums recede and the root surface of a tooth is exposed, there is a good chance that the tooth will be more sensitive to cold, air, and even touching or brushing. This recession of the gum line allows the underlying dentin to show through, which gives food and water easier access to your tooth’s sensitive nerve, causing pain.

This can be improved with fluoride, gels, filings or crowns. To manage your discomfort, there are a number of toothpastes, gels and even some dental procedures that can be applied. Speak to us in more detail if you have very sensitive teeth.


Why do I need x-rays?

X-rays allow us to give a more accurate and thorough examination of the teeth, gums, and bone. They are very safe, and contain low doses of radiation. Without them, we cannot give an exact prognosis or treatment plan.


Do I need my wisdom teeth out?

We recommend removal of wisdom teeth for many reasons. However, if there is no problem and they are healthy and functional, they serve as useful teeth. Some of the reasons for extraction are: infection, decay, pain, relation to second molars, orthodontics, or recurrent gum infections. We can remove most third molars, but we will refer to an oral surgeon if I.V. sedation is required, or if there is a great risk for complication.


Do you see children?

We do see kids of all ages. If a child would be better served with a specialist, we will refer them to one. We do recommend that children receive sealants for protection, and that they get fluoride with every cleaning.


Why do I need a deep cleaning or scraping?

When plaque builds up on the teeth and is not cleaned off, it becomes hard. If it is located below the gum line, it cannot be cleaned with normal methods. Our hygienist must get under the gums to remove all of the build-up. This is a deep cleaning. It will take more than one visit and is vital to controlling periodontal disease and saving your teeth.


Do I need a root canal and why?

The nerve of the tooth can become necrotic for many reasons. If decay, infection, or trauma affect the tooth, it can cause the nerve of the tooth to die. The only way to save the tooth is to remove the infected nerve tissue by means of a root canal. They can usually be treated in one to two visits, and should be followed by a crown for strength.


Do I need my silver fillings replaced?

Depending on their condition, some will be suggested for replacement. The fillings will start to leak, and they do wear with time. Replacing them before they break, or get decay again is a wise idea. The newer bonded fillings look better, function well, and in some cases will be stronger than the previous filling.


Will you “knock me out” to do my work?

No, we do not use general anesthesia. However, we do offer nitrous oxide (laughing gas) as needed. We have TVs in the operatories with VCRs for videos. Our staff is very gentle and conscious of your overall comfort.


Picture Perfect Dental offering services including:

Tmj Dentist