What is dentistry?

Dentistry is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of conditions, disorders, and diseases affecting the teeth, gums, mouth, and jaw.

As a general dentist, Dr. Gifford has received the proper education and training needed to work with children and adults. Also, he has been trained to perform root canals (Endodontics), extract teeth (Oral Surgery), diagnose head and neck disease including cancer (Oral Pathology), clean the teeth of patients both with and without the presence of gum disease (Periodontics), and restore teeth with crowns, fixed bridges, and dentures (Prosthodontics).

However, if a particularly challenging situation presents, and Dr. Gifford feels that it is in your best interest to see a dentist with specialized training, he does not hesitate to make referrals to the appropriate specialists. Your good health is his primary concern, and he has developed relationships with some of the best dental specialists in Oregon who share that philosophy.

What is a dentist?

A dentist is someone who has received intensive, specialized training to diagnose, treat, and prevent oral health problems. Upon completion of that training, the dentist earns either a DDS (doctor of dental surgery) degree or a DMD (doctor of dental medicine) degree. These are equivalent degrees. The type of degree awarded depends solely on which dental school the doctor attended.

Dr. Gifford completed eight years of higher education (four years of college and four years of dental school). He was awarded a DMD degree because he attended Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry.

Why is visiting the dentist so important?

Visiting the dentist regularly does more than just help keep your teeth and mouth healthy. It also helps keep the rest of your body healthy. Dental care is important because it:

  • Helps prevent tooth decay.
  • Provides an opportunity to identify early decay, sometimes even before it starts to hurt, so that it can be corrected less expensively and minimize further loss of natural, healthy tooth structure.
  • Protects against periodontal (gum) disease, which can lead to tooth and bone loss.
  • Prevents bad breath - brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist regularly will help reduce the amount of bad-breath causing bacteria in your mouth.
  • Has been shown to be generally beneficial for the heart, good for the mother and baby in pregnancy, and helpful for the overall health of diabetics.
  • Gives you a more attractive smile and increases your self-confidence.
  • Helps keep teeth looking bright, removing early external staining caused by food, drinks, and tobacco.
  • Strengthens your teeth so that you can enjoy healthy, beautiful smiles for the rest of your life!

My teeth feel fine. Do I still need to see a dentist?

Your teeth may feel fine, but it is still very important to see the dentist regularly because problems can, and all too often do, exist without pain.

We want to emphasize again, dental disease is NOT always accompanied by dental pain.

And that really is the sad part. Sometimes, people who do not regularly see the dentist don't even realize they have a problem because it does not hurt yet. And because they have decided not to go to the dentist for check-ups and cleanings, a little problem that could have been treated inexpensively in its early stage progresses into a large expensive problem. If left untreated too long, it becomes a hopeless, untreatable situation where the tooth must be removed.

What should I look for when choosing the right dentist for me?

Choosing a dentist who "clicks" with you and your family is important; you may wish to consider several dentists before making your final decision. During your first visit, you should be able to determine if the dentist is right for you. During your appointment, consider the following:

  • Is the appointment schedule convenient?
  • Is the office easy to get to and close by?
  • Does the office appear to be clean and orderly?
  • Was your medical and dental history recorded and placed in a permanent file?
  • Does the dentist explain techniques for good oral health?
  • Is information about cost presented to you before treatment is scheduled?
  • Is your dentist a member of the ADA (American Dental Association)?

How can I take care of my teeth in between dental checkups?

  • Always remember to brush your teeth at least twice a day, 2 minutes in the morning and 2 minutes at night before going to bed.
  • Be sure that you also floss your teeth at least once per day, preferably at night before going to bed.
  • Make sure to use toothpaste that contains fluoride, and ask your dentist if he recommends a special mouthrinse for you.
  • Avoid foods that contain high amounts of sugar. Sugar increases the ability for plaque bacteria to grow in your mouth, leading to higher plaque bacteria levels and tooth decay. Also avoid tobacco because it will stain your teeth, cause irreversible gum disease, give you bad breath and may eventually lead to oral and/or other types of cancer.
  • Be sure to scrape your tongue. Tongue scraping removes food particles and reduces the amount of total plaque bacteria in your mouth. Tongue scraping also helps keep your breath fresh!
  • Be sure to schedule and keep your routine check-up and cleaning appointments. It is recommended that you visit the dentist at least every six months. If you have gum disease, you may need to have cleanings more frequently, either every 3 months or every 4 months, in order to keep your gum disease from progressing and leading to unnecessary tooth loss.

At what age should I start taking my child to see the dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children first see a dentist when the baby's first tooth begins erupting and no later than one year old. These first visits are very important for the lifelong dental experience of your child.

Dr. Gifford understands that young children can experience fear and anxiety in new surroundings with strangers. He will use these early dental appointment opportunities to gradually condition your child to become comfortable going to the dentist, develop trusting relationships between your child and the dental team, and help your child become comfortable having a dental professional look in and put fingers and instruments gently in the mouth.

The impact of these early positive experiences in the dental office will help your child better cope with later visits when x-rays and cleanings will be necessary. And if your child ever needs a filling, less fear and anxiety will accompany that visit because of the familiarity and positive past experiences your child has had at the dental office.

These early visits are also important for educating parents on the latest strategies for helping your child develop and maintain a healthy set of teeth. Plus, if genetic diseases of the teeth are discovered, Dr. Gifford will educate the parents about what they can expect as the child grows older and what treatment options exist.

How often should I see the dentist?

Children, teens, and adults should all see the dentist for a regular checkup at least once every six months. Patients who are at a greater risk for oral cancer or gum disease may be required to see the dentist more than just twice a year. Dr. Gifford will help determine how often you should visit the dentist for regular checkups.

What is a cavity?

A cavity is a small hole that forms inside the tooth and is caused by tooth decay. Cavities are formed when plaque buildup on the outside of the tooth combines with sugars and starches in the food you eat. This can produce an acid that can eat away the enamel on your tooth. If a cavity is left untreated, it can lead to more serious oral health problems.

To give you the best chance of avoiding cavities, follow Dr. Gifford's Top Tips for Great Oral Hygiene. You may want to try printing this list out and taping it to your bathroom mirror and/or your refrigerator for a month. Doing this may help you commit these guidelines to memory and help you form some good oral hygiene habits.

Dr. Gifford's Top Tips for Great Oral Hygiene:

  • Brush 2 minutes in the a.m.
  • Brush 2 minutes in the p.m.
  • Floss once a day in the p.m.
  • Mouth rinse according to package instructions daily. Spit out, don't swallow the mouth rinse.
  • After cleaning your teeth at night, don't eat/drink anthing before bed.
  • Get your teeth professionally cleaned as directed by your dentist (at least every 6 months) along with a check-up exam.
  • Avoid mid-meal snacks/drinks; water & sugar-free xylitol containing gum and mints are ok between meals and are actually good for your teeth.
  • Minimize refined sugar intake; Maximize vegetable, protein intake.
  • Drink water instead of something else.
  • Don't use tobacco or illegal drugs.
  • Don't abuse alcohol.

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What is a filling?

A filling is a synthetic material, either silver, gold or white in color, that your dentist uses to fill a cavity after all of the tooth decay has been removed. Fillings do not generally hurt because your dentist will numb your mouth with a local anesthetic (typically, Lidocaine). Fillings are made from a variety of different materials including silver-colored amalgam, tooth-colored composites, yellow-colored gold and tooth-colored porcelain ceramics. Each material has different risks and benefits.

If you ever find that you need a filling, you can rest assured that Dr. Gifford offers all of the above filling choices and will help you make an informed decision as to what type is best for you and your teeth. He will spend the time to make sure you understand the functional requirements of your specific tooth problem and the risks and benefits of each material available to you. He will also listen carefully to your desires and expectations. In the end, you are empowered to make the decision that is right for you. Dr. Gifford simply wants to do his best to make sure it is an informed, educated decision.

How often should I brush my teeth?

According to your dentist and the American Dental Association, you should brush your teeth 2 times per day for 2 minutes each time. Brushing helps keep your teeth, gums and mouth clean and healthy by removing bacteria causing plaque. It is also recommended that when you brush your teeth, you use a soft-bristle toothbrush and toothpaste that contains fluoride. You should spend two full minutes at each brushing, being sure that you systematically cover every tooth surface in your mouth. Remember, good brushing technique is about making contact with every surface, not brushing hard. That is why flossing is so important too. Your toothbrush cannot fully get between the teeth. And remember to also brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper. Doing this will help keep your breath smelling fresh as it removes bacteria from the many small crevices found on the tongue surface.

When should I change my toothbrush?

Your dentist recommends that adults and children should change their toothbrush every three months. After brushing, rinse your toothbrush well to keep the bristles clean.

What is gum disease?

Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is mostly caused by plaque and bacteria buildup that is not treated in its early stage. Other causes of periodontal disease include tobacco use, teeth grinding, some medications, and genetics. Gingivitis is the beginning stage of gum disease, and, if detected, is treatable. However, if you have gingivitis and it is left untreated, it may turn into gum disease. Advanced gum disease will lead to tooth and bone loss, and is a permanent condition. Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly along with visiting the dentist every six months will help prevent gingivitis and more severe cases of periodontal disease. Common signs of gum disease:

  • Red, irritated, bleeding, or swollen gums
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Loose teeth, or loss of teeth
  • Extreme tooth sensitivity
  • Receding gum line
  • Abscessed teeth

If I have braces, do I still need dental checkups every six months?

Yes! In fact, it's even more important that patients receiving orthodontic treatment visit their dentist regularly. With braces, food may be caught in places that your toothbrush can't reach. This causes bacteria to build up and can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Your dentist will work closely with your orthodontist to make sure that your teeth stay clean and healthy while wearing braces.

How do I schedule my next checkup?

Simply call our practice! Our front desk staff will be happy to help schedule your next dental checkup at your convenience. If you are a new patient, please let us know, and we will provide you with all the information you need for your first dental visit.