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To ask a question, click on any topic below, then scroll to the bottom of the page and fill out the form.  Our resident dentist, Dr. Qin Li, will reply to your question as soon as she can.

Note:  Dr. Li can only reply to general questions about dental practices and procedures and not to questions about your personal dental condition(s), as there are many factors involved in assessing cavities and other dental diseases that cannot be accurately diagnosed without a proper examination.

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This Post Has 44 Comments

The information provided below does not constitute dental advice and is general in nature. It does not take into account your personal dental health and should not be acted on without consultation with a certified dental professional.

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  1. Hello – I am just wondering whether I can still wear a clear retainer at night to keep my teeth straight, if there are gaps between the teeth and tray ? I believe the term is incisal gaps. I have a permanent retainer already/finished treatment a long time ago, but because my permanent retainer has been redone there are now gaps with the plastic retainer. Thanks

    1. Hi Alicia, sorry for the late reply; we didn’t see your comment until now due to a technical glitch.
      We’d ideally like to see an exact fit of the clear retainer to your teeth. Consider taking a new impression of you teeth for a new clear retainer. You may have to do that every time you have some major dental work done.

  2. Hello, i have a swollen bump in my third wisdom tooth ( pericoronitis ) which is feeling extremely itchy right now and i have difficulties in eating.

    I did not have any fever, only some severe headache and the next day i had this pericoronitis symptom

    How do i treat this symptom, and how do i know of it is in serious or mild conditions according to my statement above.

    1. Hi Voez, pericoronitis could potentially become very painful in a very short time, or it could potentially go away on its own after some discomfort. Although you don’t have a fever, the bump and severe headache is definitely a concern. Please visit a dentist as soon as you can. You may need professional treatment such as prescription antimicrobial mouth rinse or extraction.

  3. I got a cavity filled a couple months ago and had to go back multiple time to get it sanded down right because my bite was off and it was causing pain. I also had sensitivity in different area and before I went to the dentist I looked at the sensitive tooth and in the crevasse was a black spot. I ask the dentist to look to see if he could see anything and he said he didn’t see anything but to be safe he did an x ray and said nothing was there. I switched to sensidine tooth paste and the pain went away but the black spot is still there. I guess I’m kind of wondering what the chances of having a cavity there is? and could it be something else?

    1. Hi Mary, the black spot could be just a stain, or a precursor to a cavity which requires monitoring only, or a full cavity which requires treatment. Unfortunately, there’s no way to provide you with a reliable diagnosis without a physical examination of your tooth. Regular checkups with your dentist to monitor the dark spot and all of your other teeth is probably your best option.

  4. I had braces for around 4 years and that caused a lot of cavities in many of my teeth. The cavities have been filled now but now i want to get my teeth whitened. So will those cavities allow me to whiten my teeth? And also is the back side of the teeth whitened or is it just the anterior aspect of teeth that is whitened?

    1. Hi Ted, keep in mind that fillings, root canal treated teeth, crowns, bridges and veneers do not change color with whitening; only your natural teeth do. If your fillings’ shade are a perfect match for your existing tooth color, they may appear to be more yellow compared to your teeth after whitening. Usually, it is more noticeable for the front teeth than the back molars. It is possible to change the fillings to match your teeth after whitening if the difference is very noticeable.

      Whitening is usually done for the anterior aspect of the teeth since that’s the side you normally see. Bleaching the back side of your teeth will only impress your dentist or hygienist, since they are the only ones who usually get to see that side of your teeth. 🙂

  5. I got a PFM crown on my tooth #22, 12 months ago. After this crown I had some growth on my papilla and my tongue touches this upper wall of inside mouth and I get constant slimy feeling. I have got this checked from many dentists, nobody was able to cure this issue. One dentist advised to excise this palatal papilla.

    1. Hi Farooq, unfortunately, it’s not possible to provide you with much insight regarding your crown without an actual physical examination. If the overgrown papilla is your main concern, a visit to a gum specialist (a periodontist) may help.

  6. Hey, So Doc I have a underbite like barley noticeable and I am wondering if it’s a necessary to fix it like I was having to plan jaw surgery but then my orthodontist suggested something else an implant procedure which won’t correct it 100% but a little but my hygienist said I should do the surgery or I’ll have problems later on but my orthodontist said that people go through life without any problems with underbite so what do I do?

    1. Hi Ismail, I understand this is a tough decision to make. I have many older patients with crossbite/underbite that don’t have any issues with their teeth. On the other hand, in some cases teeth are more likely to experience gum recession down the road due to underbite. I have also seen patients with severe underbite going through with the surgery and it being a life changing experience for them.

      The surgery involves the sectioning of the lower jaw bones, re-positioning the jaw bones, and holding them in place with metal plates and screws. Braces are required both before and after the surgery to make sure the teeth are in the correct position after the surgery. The recovery period is long and difficult, and patients are typically on a liquid food diet and pain killers and not able to speak and work for a period of time. There is also a risk of nerve damage to the tongue, cheek, or lips, or damage to the roots of the teeth. For a surgery like this, you really have to look at the potential risks vs the benefits you expect to gain. If you’re still unsure, you can always seek a second opinion (from another orthodontist). Best of luck with your decision!

  7. Hi. I had a wisdom tooth removed yesterday. During the freezing injection, I could feel novacaine spray onto my tongue. Although the freezing in my gums went away within hours, I can still feel all the spots on my tongue that were sprayed are still frozen. Is this normal and/or is there anything I should do at this point?

    1. Hi Glenda, the roots of a wisdom tooth are sometimes located close to the nerve of the tongue. During the injection and/or removal of the wisdom tooth, the nerve may become slightly bruised or damaged. It is a common potential risk associated with wisdom tooth extraction. In most cases, a loss of sensation will diminish over time, but in some rare cases can be permanent. Please contact your dentist or oral surgeon’s office to report the numbness in your tongue if the sensation has not returned.

  8. Dear Dr
    I had a dental filling last week and my dentist said it was far from the root..Two days later my tooth suddenly started to cause severe pain just right after eating ice cream.The pain wouldn’t go away all night and would lesions during day.
    This continued for almost three days till I cut off sugar completely,then the pain is almost gone but with little pressure at night.
    Now I can’t bite on it cause its extremely painful but without touching it its fine.
    I went to my dentist and he checked the tooth (without x ray) saying that there is no crack but maybe there is an inflammation so I should take ibuprofen for three days.
    I want to know whether this is an irreversible pulpits and whether after three days of pain the pulp is already dead.
    I didn’t start ibuprofen yet, but I’m still concerned about whether this is an reversible or irreversible pulpits.
    Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Jihan, I can tell you some common causes of pain after a filling but unfortunately I can’t diagnose your tooth (or pulpitis) without an in-person exam. Sometimes a tooth may be sensitive for a short time after a dental filling is placed; sensitivity toothpaste will help if that’s the case. Sometimes a filling may be higher than it’s supposed to be and cause pain on bite; in those cases a bite adjustment may be necessary. Pulpitis is a less common cause especially since the filling was not deep, but it’s possible. Please discuss your concerns with your dentist or seek a second opinion if it would help alleviate your concerns.

  9. Hi Dr Li, enamel has worn away on front teeth (at the back) due to deep bite. What is best treatment for this? Which are the better options, veneers or crowns and how can I correct bite. Have no pain.


    1. Hi Glenda, crowns are typically used to restore worn teeth. Veneers are typically used to cover only the front surface of the teeth, so they won’t be very useful for your situation. Prior to crown placement there may be a need for root canal treatment, gum surgery (to remove some bone and gum so the crown can be placed in a position to correct the deep bite), or braces (to correct the deep bite). The treatment(s) you need depend on how much the teeth are worn, how severe the deep bite is and the gum condition of those teeth. Please consult a dentist regarding the best treatment option(s) for your situation.

  10. I’ve had several teeth either pulled or sanded down, completely improperly which has left me in an extremely uncomfortable state. What type of dentist should I see and what steps should I take to regrow the enamel on the sanded teeth and put back the teeth that are pulled, making sure they are alive in the process? I’ve been advised of artificial solutions before but per my research they will do even more damage so I will not consider them as an option, nor will I accept an answer that advises me to seek them, only one that will get me my original healthy teeth back. Thank you.

    1. Hi Noah, unfortunately there is currently no commercially available treatment for regrowing enamel or teeth that have been extracted. There is research being done in this area though, so hopefully it’s an option dentists could offer in the future!

  11. Hey, so I just got elastics in my teeth with braces and my orthodontist says that I should take them off when I got to sleep and when I wake up put the new one on but I heard if you wear them 24 hours a day including sleep you won’t wear braces that long so can I do that or is it best to follow my orthodontist instructions?

    1. Hi Ismail, it is always best to follow your orthodontist’s instructions, but you can ask that question at your next followup appointment. It’s also important that you take the elastics off whenever you’re eating and insert new elastics afterward.

  12. Hello Dr. Qin Li,

    I have been having pain and swelling in my back left bottom molars. I went to a dentist already on Wednesday they said there was no sign of infection yet, but I told her that I have a history of gum disease which could hide the infection. My doctor did x-rays and he told me there was debris near the root of my tooth which is causing the pain. I went 48 hours ago but I am still in the same amount of pain, I cannot close my mouth and I cannot eat anything solid. The tooth feels loose now and the swelling has not gone down at all, but also has not increased.
    Should I see a different dentist at this point? The dentist I visited told me to wait a week and if the pain didn’t subside by then to go back in, and 2 weeks she will check if it’s 100% healed. This seems like a long time for a non-invasive procedure to be causing such a huge amount of discomfort.

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my question,

    1. Hi Joe, from your question I am not too clear on what non-invasive procedure was performed that is causing you a huge amount of discomfort. Are you referring to something the dentist did to “remove the debris from near the root of your tooth”? Has the tooth in question ever had a root canal treatment or a deep cleaning to treat your gum disease? My suggestion is to call your dentist and explain the pain and the looseness in your tooth and see if they have any further recommendations or can do something for you for the pain and discomfort.

  13. I have always been told that you should always brush your teeth 3 times a day, so one time after each meal, and brushing more than those three times could damage your teeth and gums.
    But I have also been told by my dentist that if you eat something sweet or acidic, you absolutely have to brush your teeth.

    But what if I eat something sweet/acidic as a snack between meals, should I still brush my teeth after? If so, wouldn’t that be “overbrushing” since I’m brushing after each meal AND snack, so over 3 times a day?

    1. Hi Crystal, the Canadian Dental Associate (CDA)’s recommendation for tooth brushing is: “Ideally, brush after every meal—but at least twice a day including just before bed. Use a toothpaste with fluoride. Use a soft-bristle brush with rounded bristles, small enough to reach your back teeth. Flossing is a must—otherwise more than a third of your tooth surface is not getting cleaned.”

      If you are prone to cavities and gum disease, sometimes the benefit of brushing after eating something sweet outweighs the drawback of brushing more than twice a day. However, you want to ensure you’re using proper technique when you brush since long term aggressive brushing techniques can lead to gum recession and cause damage to your teeth. Your dentist / hygienist will be able to assess your brushing technique and recommend how many times you should brush your teeth daily by examining your overall teeth and gum health.

      Below is the CDA website for your reference:

    1. Hi Andy, patients 18 years of age or older have the right to refuse any treatment that is proposed by a dentist. Conversely, dentists also have the right to refuse treatment under conditions they deem unsafe for the patient.

  14. Hi. I have two sons, ages 10 and 7. My oldest has white spots on some of his adult teeth, specifically his two upper front teeth and first adult molars. My youngest has one hypoplastic molar in his adult molars. As his front adult upper teeth emerge, at least one is already showing white spots. What causes this? I have been extremely conservative about the use of fluoride and antibiotics. Where we live, the water is not fluoridated. How possible is it that both of them have this from a virus or mouth trauma?

    1. Hi Karen, white spots (also known as hypoplasia) on one or two adult teeth is relatively common, although most of the time it’s difficult to identify the exact cause. Both environmental and hereditary factors could be at play. Fluorosis is a common culprit, although it sounds unlikely in your children’s case. The most current recommendation for preschoolers is to use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride and to make sure they spit out the toothpaste and do not swallow it. Hypoplasia can also be caused by local infection from baby tooth decay or trauma to the mouth during the development of permanent teeth (such as a hard bump on a table corner, biting into a fork too hard, rough play with siblings, a sports injury, etc.). Other factors include viral infection while calcification of the teeth is still occurring. Most of the time, it’s really hard to pinpoint a specific event or cause for the white spots. If you’re concerned about them, I would encourage you to make an appointment to see your dentist.

  15. My tongue seems to be continually covered in a fine (not chunky) white film. I scrape it off with a tongue scrape but it comes back the next time I brush. I brush twice or three times per day and use Listerine or hydrogen peroxide mouthwash.

    1. Hi Andrea,
      Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what the white film is without a physical exam. There could be many potential causes such as dry mouth from certain medications, or dehydration. It could also be an accumulation of dead tissue or food debris. Please consult your dentist to rule out any potential candidiasis, which is a fungal infection.

  16. Hi I hope you can help me.
    A year ago I had a tooth removed which left communication with the sinus. Last week I had a sinus lift using bone graft. Within five days the bone graft had fallen out of the hole where the communication had been. Im back to square 1. My question is, what was supposed to be holding the bone graft up stopping gravity just letting it fall out ? Because that’s pretty much just what it done. It just fell down into my mouth. 😕

    1. Hi Tim,

      For the sinus lift and bone graft you had, I am going to assume that you had particulate bone placed in. Particulate bone are loose smaller pieces of bone that can be more easily manipulated and packed into places. They are held in place by the sinus membrane on top, existing bone or gum on the surrounding surfaces, and gum facing the mouth is sutured together to prevent the grafting material from falling into the mouth. Sometimes a membrane maybe placed in between the bone graft material and the gum.

      In some grafting cases, a larger single piece of bone or a block bone is needed if the bone defect is large. A block bone graft is usually held in place with mini screws. I hope this helps.

  17. Hello I found white circle things on the back of my gums below the bottom teeth at side in the inside of my gums was just wondering if that’s normal? I have a dentist appointment in 2 weeks but am really freaking out about it

    1. HI Carla,
      Unfortunately, I cannot tell what the white circles are on the back of your gums without a physical exam. But I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it; it could be something as simple as plaque and tartar buildup, or canker or cold sores if they are on your gum. Definitely have them checked out at your dentist appointment.  If you are really concerned or if it is causing some discomfort, try to see if your dentist has any last minute cancellations at the beginning of the day to squeeze you in for an earlier appointment.

  18. I was at the dentist 2 months ago (no issues), but I just got some mild pain in a tooth.
    Is it possible to get a cavity two months after a cleaning/checkup.

    1. Hi Jay,
      Tooth pain can be from reasons other than a cavity. You could be experiencing mild pain due to gum recession, from sensitivity due to grinding or clenching, an older filling starting to fail, or any number of other possible reasons. Please schedule an appointment with your dentist to have the tooth examined.

    1. Hi Alex, some chewing gums have sugar. Chewing gum with sugar constantly may increase the likelihood of cavities. Sugarless chewing gum is a better alternative for your teeth. The constant chewing motion will often lead to more muscle fatigue and wear and tear of the jaw joint. Prolonged chewing should be avoided in people with TMJ (jaw joint) pain. The human mouth is full of bacteria, rechewed gum is usually laden with bacteria, something you may want to avoid for better oral health and overall health.

  19. Can a single lower incisor extraction during braces treatment change the shape of the jaw and chin? I’ve had braces for about 5.5 months for the treatment of my crossbite and I’m noticing that my jawline has changed. I had a single lower incisor extraction because I had crowding. My face is more narrow and looks V-shaped rather than square (which it used to be like). Is it because of the weight loss or is it because of braces and the extraction that I had? If it is because of braces, then how can I reverse this?

    1. Hi Aimen, unfortunately it’s not possible for me to answer your questions without having examined you before your treatment commenced, so you’ll need to discuss this with your dental provider. Your dentist will have your before-braces pictures and be able to give you a better assessment. The change you perceive may not be as much as you think; as you mentioned, it maybe due to weight loss. Also, if your dentist has to place some bite guard on your teeth temporarily to correct your crossbite, that could also temporarily make your face appear longer.

  20. Will a dentist prescribe antibiotics (eg amoxicillin) if they are not sure if a toothache is an infection or an erupting wisdom tooth? If the dental X-ray showed no cavities or tooth decay in tender tooth, tooth has a large metal amalgam filling and has been examined but no sign of external cavity.

    1. Hi Farrah, dentists will prescribe antibiotics if they diagnose a bacterial infection. Since dentists do not have the luxury of waiting for a bacterial culture test to come back before writing a prescription and since infection in the mouth can spread to the brain and upper respiratory tract and cause a lot of pain and suffering, it is a judgement call in each situation. If a dentist suspects or diagnoses pericoronitis with an erupting wisdom tooth, antibiotics may be prescribed. A tooth with a large filling (i.e. a tooth that had large cavities or fractures in the past) can still abscess even if there is no sign of new cavities and a dentist may also prescribe antibiotics in that situation.

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