Frequently Asked Questions
I have a number of black fillings, what can I have done to improve this?

The black filling material used in your teeth is amalgam. It has been used as a filling material for over a hundred years; it’s still one of the strongest materials available. However, these fillings can be highly unattractive and have high mercury content. There are a number of other tooth-coloured restorative materials currently available that can be used to replace old amalgams.

What is a filling?

A filling is a synthetic material 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 an anaesthetic. Fillings are made from a variety of different materials, including composites, gold, or ceramic.

What is a cavity?

A cavity is a small hole that forms inside the tooth because of tooth decay. Cavities are formed when plaque build-up on the outside of the tooth combines with sugars and starches in the food you eat. This produces 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. Cavities can be prevented by brushing your teeth at least two times a day and flossing between teeth at least once.

How often should I see the dentist?

Children, teens, and adults should all see the dentist for a regular check-up 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. Your doctor will help determine how often you should visit the dentist for regular check-ups.

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

The Australian Dental Association recommends that children should have their first check-up at 1 year of age. At this time, your child’s baby teeth will be coming through and the dentist can examine the health of their first few teeth. After the first visit, be sure to schedule regular check-ups every six months. We understand that young children are often not very cooperative; therefore it is best if you can bring them along to your appointments so they can be more familiar with the environment. We strongly advise that you check your child’s teeth at home. It is important to detect abnormalities such as white patches, dark spots or holes in their teeth as early as possible. If you notice any of the conditions mentioned above, please make an appointment so we can assess your child’s teeth.

What do I do when I have a toothache?

There are many possible sources that could cause pain within your mouth and areas around it. Firstly, self-diagnosis can mislead us when we assess your pain so please avoid doing so. The pain may be from your teeth, gums, surrounding regions of the mouth or face, e.g. jaw joint. It may range from mild to severe.
Please keep in mind that the severity of your pain may not be an accurate indication of how severe the underlying problem is. Therefore a milder pain from an underlying tooth problem could get worse if left alone, so please organise an appointment so that we can assess the health of your teeth.
If you are experiencing:

severe throbbing pain
marked tenderness to biting or
If you notice a swelling of the face
This could be potentially serious and you have to contact us as soon as possible. Until your appointment time, it is usually safe to take paracetamol (eg. Panadol) or ibuprofen (eg. Nurofen) to help relieve the pain, however make sure you read the instructions carefully.

I have chipped/broken a tooth. What should I do?

First of all, you don’t have to panic. In general, a chipped or broken tooth is not a dental emergency and can be restored. This often is a sign of underlying tooth decay, so please organise an appointment so we can assess your teeth. In the case of severe pain or broken upper front tooth from trauma, you need to visit us immediately because there may be additional problems associated. We will do our best to see you as soon as possible; however there may be a wait depending on our schedule. Until your appointment time, try and keep the tooth as clean as possible and avoid biting hard on that tooth.

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

Even when you think that your teeth are fine, it is still important to see the dentist regularly because problems can develop without you knowing. The appearance of your smile is important, and we can help keep your teeth healthy and your smile looking beautiful. With so many advances in dentistry, you no longer have to settle for stained, chipped, missing, or crooked teeth.

What payment methods are accepted?

We are happy to accept: Cash, Visa, MasterCard, Amex, EFTPOS and cheque. Direct deposit is possible (please discuss this with Dr. Lee).

What health funds are accepted?

We accept all health funds connected with Hicaps, and are the preferred provider for BUPA. To help parents, we are happy to offer a no gap policy for children under the age of 13. For every other circumstances, patients with private health funds are required to pay for the gap.

What are Dental Implants?

Dental Implants are titanium fixtures that are inserted into the jaw bone to replace missing teeth. Implants will strengthen the jaw and prevent other teeth from shifting. This fixture will integrate with the jaw bone as it heals, and serve as the new root for your permanent tooth replacement. After the healing process, a customised crown will be made and attached to the fixture, to mimic the function of your natural teeth. Dental Implants are the best possible restoration to replace a real tooth.

Why do my gums bleed?

The most common cause of bleeding gums is plaque build-up on the teeth, resulting in gum inflammation (gingivitis). Bleeding gums is usually a sign that your oral hygiene technique needs improvement. If your gums are bleeding, try brushing to the gum line of every tooth twice daily and floss once a day. Bleeding gums may also be a result of gum disease (periodontitis). Please book an appointment for a check-up and clean so that we can assess the health of the gums.

Can I just leave the infected tooth if it’s not causing me any pain?

If you ignore an infected or damaged tooth, the infection can spread to other parts of your body. You may want to have the infected tooth extracted if you don’t want to go ahead with the root canal treatment. Although, it is best to keep your natural teeth for as long as possible because if a tooth is missing, neighbouring teeth can drift out of line. Keeping your natural teeth also helps you avoid other treatments, such as implants or bridges.

Why would I need a Root Canal Treatment?

Root canal treatment is needed for two main reasons.


Cavities that are left untreated will eventually lead to pulp infections. The decay destroys the enamel and dentin of the tooth until it reaches the pulp where bacteria infect it. The inflammation caused by this infection reduces the blood supply to the tooth, preventing the pulp from healing. Since antibiotics can’t cure infections inside teeth, the only option to save your tooth would be having a root canal treatment to remove the infected nerves and protect it with a crown.
Damage to the pulp that can’t be cured

A fracture or oral trauma to a tooth can damage the pulp even if there is no apparent damage to the tooth structure. Multiple fillings or other restorative procedures on the tooth can also cause damage to the pulp. For instance, if a tooth is drilled too close to the pulp while the dentist tries to clean up deep decay, it could irritate the nerves and trigger pain. The tooth will then need a root canal to reduce pain and save the tooth. When the pulp is inflamed but not infected, it may heal on its own. Dr. Lee may want to see if this will happen before proceeding with the root canal treatment. If the pulp remains inflamed, it can be painful and may lead to an infection. An infection in the pulp can affect the bone around the tooth. This can cause an abscess to form. The goal of root canal treatment is to save the tooth by removing the infected pulp, treating any infection, and filling the empty root canals with a material called gutta percha.

What is a Root Canal Treatment?

Root canal treatment is the best solution to save an infected tooth, rather than pulling it out. Once the tooth is treated, and restored with a crown, it will often last for the rest of your life. Root canal treatments fall under endodontics, a branch of dentistry that specialises in treating diseases of the tooth’s pulp. Pulp is found in canals inside the root of each tooth and consists of connective tissue, nerves and blood vessels, which nourish the tooth when it first emerges through the gum. Once a tooth matures, the pulp can be removed without destroying the tooth as it is already nourished by the blood supply in the gums.

What are the different types of crowns and bridges?

Crowns are fabricated from various materials including porcelain, gold, and other metals. Gold crowns are strong and resilient and are typically used for molars that are generally oriented towards the back of the patient’s mouth. Porcelain crowns are probably the most widely used material for fabricating crowns and are usually more useful for replacing teeth in the front part of the mouth because they can be made to appear very natural, with their color and texture mimicking that of natural teeth very closely. Some porcelain crowns are reinforced with a metal inside and are known as porcelain fused to metal crowns, and these are used to add onto the strength of the porcelain restoration with support from within. Bridges also come in different forms to accommodate each patient’s individual requirement. Aside from the conventional kids bridges that are in use today, a cantilever bridge is designed to replace missing teeth at the back of the mouth where there can only be one end with abutments because no other teeth are present at the back to latch onto. A Maryland bridge is not used very often nowadays but were used to replace only one tooth at the time and made use of “wings” instead of abutments on either side to attach onto the two adjacent teeth.

Why are crowns more expensive than fillings?

A crown is more complicated than a filling. Laboratory fees are incurred in its preparation and the materials used are more expensive than normal filling materials. Two or three visits are usually required for the dentist to reduce the size of the existing tooth, make a mould, fit a temporary crown and finally adhere the permanent crown in place.

What is a bridge?

A bridge is an appliance permanently fixed in the mouth to replace missing teeth. It uses remaining teeth to support the new artificial tooth or teeth. A conventional fixed bridge consists of crowns that are fixed to the teeth on either side of the missing teeth and false teeth are rigidly attached to these crowns. An enamel bonded bridge uses a metal or porcelain framework, to which the artificial teeth are attached, then resin bonded to supporting teeth.

What is a crown?

Dental crowns (also sometimes referred to as ‘dental caps’ or ‘tooth caps’) cover over and encase the tooth on which they are cemented. Dentists use crowns when rebuilding broken or decayed teeth, as a way to strengthen teeth and and as method to improve the cosmetic appearance of a tooth. Crowns are made in a dental laboratory by a dental technician who uses moulds of your teeth made by your dentist.

I brush my teeth constantly but still have bad breath. What should I do?

Brushing and flossing are definitely the first steps to eliminating bad breath. Brushing and flossing remove bacteria responsible for creating odorous sulfur compounds and the food they feed on. However, bacteria hide not only on and around the teeth but also on the tongue under a layer of mucous. Here they are free to create odours. You may want to consider a tongue scraper. They are extremely effective at removing this protective mucous layer from the back of the tongue. The latest products on the market for bad breath are toothpastes and mouthwashes containing chlorine dioxide. Chlorine dioxide neutralizes odorous sulfur compounds, instead of simply covering up the odour.

Why do I need X-rays?

Radiographic or X-ray examinations provide your dentist with an important diagnostic tool that shows the condition of your teeth, their roots, jaw placement and the overall composition of your facial bones. X-Rays can help your dentist determine the presence or degree of periodontal disease, abscesses and many abnormal growths, such as cysts and tumours. X-rays can also show the exact location of impacted teeth. They can pinpoint the location of cavities and other signs of disease that may not be possible to detect through visual examination (such as changes in the jaw bone structure as a result of systemic disease).

What should I do when a tooth is pushed out of position?

Attempt to reposition the tooth to its normal alignment using very light finger pressure, but do not force the tooth. Bite down to keep the tooth from moving. Your dentist may splint the tooth in place to the two healthy teeth next to the loose tooth.

What happens during the extraction of a wisdom tooth?

There are several factors that will affect how easy it is to remove the wisdom teeth. If the tooth has fully erupted, the removal procedure will be similar to a regular tooth extraction.

If it has not surfaced, Dr Lee will need to perform a surgical extraction to remove the wisdom tooth. Prior to the surgery date, Dr. Lee will discuss the procedure with you and let you know what to expect before, during, and after the extraction. On the day of your extraction, you will be given a local anaesthetic to numb the area.

Once you are completely numb, Dr. Lee will need to open the gum tissue over your tooth and remove any bone covering it. The tooth is then either extracted as a whole or cut into smaller pieces to make it easier to remove. After the tooth is removed, you may need stitches.
Removal of misaligned, partially erupted or unerupted wisdom teeth involve more complex procedures.

When is it necessary for me to have my wisdom teeth extracted?

While it is common to eventually have your wisdom teeth removed, not everyone needs to do so. Unless you experience any of the following scenarios, you do not need your wisdom teeth extracted.

Your wisdom teeth do not fit in your mouth.Most people have 28 teeth before wisdom teeth erupt. Many do not have enough room in their jaw for 32 teeth and this may cause teeth to become misaligned or unable to erupt fully. Removing wisdom teeth can prevent overcrowding in your jaw and further problems.
You experience chronic pain in the gums around your wisdom teethIt is quite common to get infections around your wisdom teeth, especially with partially erupted ones, because food and bacteria get trapped in these areas. Having your wisdom teeth removed can prevent further infection and pain.
Your wisdom teeth do not grow in straightIn most cases, wisdom teeth that are crooked or facing the wrong direction can cause your other teeth to shift and move over time. To prevent the rest of your teeth from moving, it is advisable to have wisdom teeth taken out.
Your wisdom teeth have extensive tooth decay or, they are causing damage to neighbouring teeth.Wisdom teeth can be difficult to keep clean because they are the furthest teeth to reach in your mouth. Flossing and brushing can be challenging and without good oral care, gum disease and tooth decay are inevitable. Removing your wisdom teeth can prevent decay, damage to nearby teeth and deterioration of your overall oral health.

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the final set of molars that most people get, usually around 17 to 25 years of age.

What is periodontal treatment?

In the earlier states of gum disease (mild to moderate periodontitis), most treatments involve improving home care techniques, scaling and root planning. Scaling and root planning aim to remove plaque and calculus from the surface of the teeth adjacent to gum tissue. The periodontal pockets around the teeth are cleaned until all affected root surfaces are smooth. Advanced cases may require surgical treatment.

What does gum disease mean for a diabetic?

Gingivitis is an infection within the gums caused by bacteria found in plaque. A diabetic’s body doesn’t respond as quickly to infection as a non-diabetic. If the infection persists, it can spread to the underlying bone that supports and anchors the teeth. It has been shown that diabetics who keep their condition under control and maintain good oral hygiene have a far better chance of combating infections than those who do not.

What is gum disease?

Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is mostly caused by plaque and bacteria build-up 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. Gingivitis left untreated may turn into gum disease. Advanced gum disease will lead to tooth and bone loss, and is a permanent condition. Brushing your teeth regularly and visiting the dentist every six months will help prevent gingivitis and more severe cases of periodontal disease.

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