Dental FAQ


Staying educated about dental care and deciding what is best for your health can sometimes be confusing. That is why we provide easy resources for you to get the answers you need. Browse through our frequently asked questions to learn more about dental topics and feel free to give us a call at 805-845-3240 for more details or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Heath Montgomery in Santa Barbara, California.

What is moderate IV sedation?

Moderate intravenous (IV) sedation, also known as conscious IV sedation, is basically designed to create an atmosphere of relaxation for a patient who may be too anxious to receive care with local anesthesia alone.

Q: Am I asleep for the procedure?
A: Moderate IV sedation means you are partially awake. You are able to talk, respond and have your protective reflexes in place in order to better serve yourself and us during your treatment. You are placed in a state where you are almost asleep but will respond to requests when asked by the dentist during the procedure. The goal is to achieve a level of amnesia so that although you will be conscious and functional following the procedure, when you wake up at home the next morning, you will remember little to nothing of your visit the previous day.

Q: What does the doctor do for the setup of moderate IV sedation?
A: After following the pre-anesthesia instructions given to you by your dentist, you will sit in the dental chair and several monitors are attached to your person (stickers on your chest, a clip on your finger and cuff on your arm). An IV is placed and taped in your hand or arm. The IV is made of plastic and used to deliver the medication necessary for the procedure. The IV is similar to having your blood drawn. The medication is then administered, you shortly start to relax and the procedure begins. When completed, you will be able to get up and walk out of the chair and be able to talk and function comfortably for the remainder of the day but be sure follow the post-op instructions given to you by the anesthesia provider. The next morning, you should not remember that much of the previous day. A one-week post-op is then needed to follow up treatment and anesthesia given.

Q: Is IV sedation dangerous?
A: IV sedation is considered to be very safe and for anxious patients actually safer than treatment with local anesthesia alone.

Q: Is this the same as general anesthesia (GA)?
A: No, this is considered “twilight” sleep. A GA usually requires that you have a tube placed in your throat to help you maintain your ability to breathe. This procedure is not necessary for moderate sedation and is one of the significant differences between the two. Although we do not provide general anesthetic, it is also very safe and necessary if moderate sedation isn’t enough.

Q: Am I a candidate for moderate IV sedation?
A: You must be screened and approved by a dentist and the anesthesia provider prior to having this done.

If after reading this you have any questions regarding this treatment option, please ask at any time or schedule a consultation to discuss your questions with Dr. Heath Montgomery at our office in Santa Barbara, California, by calling 805-845-3240.

How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?

Dental exams are a key part of keeping your mouth and smile healthy. We recommend that you receive a dental exam every six months, as this will allow our dentist to monitor your oral health and ensure that any developing problems are diagnosed and treated promptly. Dental exams are often performed as part of your regular cleaning appointments. To schedule your dental exam and learn more, call our office today at 805-845-3240 and meet with Dr. Heath Montgomery in Santa Barbara, California. We look forward to helping you care for your smile!

A dental exam consists of our dentist checking your teeth and supporting oral structures for any signs of damaging dental conditions or diseases. During the exam and dental cleaning, our dentist will:

  • Review your medical history
  • Take X-rays of your teeth and supporting bone structure
  • Check for cavities and bone loss
  • Conduct an oral cancer screening
  • Examine the mouth for periodontal disease
  • Clean and polish teeth

We will review our findings with you so that you can understand the current state of your oral health. Our dentist and team may also make recommendations on ways to improve your at-home oral hygiene. If you require any treatment, we will discuss your treatment options with you so you can make a fully informed decision about your care. We are always happy to discuss any concerns that you may have; we want you to feel comfortable and confident in the care you are receiving.

If you experience a dental emergency, pain or injury, we encourage you to call us as soon as possible to make an appointment and receive treatment.

What do I do if I have bad breath?

Bad breath can be uncomfortable to deal with, especially if you do not know the cause. Our dentist can help you determine why bad breath is occurring and give you suggestions on how to combat it. Read below to learn a little bit more about what causes bad breath and give us a call if you have any further questions. Call our dental office at 805-845-3240 to learn more about how to manage bad breath in Santa Barbara, California, and schedule an appointment with Dr. Heath Montgomery.

Halitosis (bad breath) may be caused by any number of factors, including:

  • Morning time
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Cavities
  • Periodontal disease
  • Poorly fitted appliances
  • Dry mouth
  • Tobacco products
  • Medical conditions or illnesses
  • Dehydration, hunger or missed meals
  • Certain foods

You can prevent bad breath by visiting our dentist regularly, staying hydrated, practicing good oral hygiene, using mouth rinses and by not using tobacco products. If your halitosis persists, we recommend that you consult a physician to determine if your bad breath is caused by a medical condition and receive an appropriate treatment.

How often should I brush and floss?

Brushing and flossing are the most important preventive dental habits. They help remove plaque, which is a thin coating of bacteria, saliva and food debris that adheres to the surfaces of teeth over time. If left untreated, plaque turns into a hardened substance called calculus, also known as tartar. Plaque and calculus cause dental decay, which destroys bone and gum tissue, eventually leading to periodontal disease.

That is why daily brushing is so critical for your oral health. We recommend making brushing and flossing a regular part of your routine home care and offer a few tips to help make this habit easier.

Brushing Teeth: Teeth should be brushed twice a day, usually in the morning and at night, with a soft bristled toothbrush and an ADA®-approved, fluoridated toothpaste.

  • Using a circular motion, brush at a 45-degree angle close to the gums. You should feel the brush gently touching your gums.
  • Brush all surfaces of the tooth, including the biting, outer and inner surfaces.
  • Clean the inside of the front teeth by brushing with the tip of the toothbrush.
  • Gently brush your tongue to remove bad breath and eliminate bacteria.

We recommend electric toothbrushes for the best possible results, as they give a more thorough clean.

Flossing: Flossing should be done daily. It helps remove bacteria and plaque from between teeth and under the gums.

  • Using a 12- to 16-inch (30 to 40 cm) length of floss, gently wrap the ends around your middle fingers until you have 2 inches (5 cm) of dental floss left between them.
  • Guide the floss between your teeth, using a gentle back and forth motion.
  • Floss up and down along the side of the tooth using a simple C-shape.

Disposable floss holders are also an excellent way to help keep your mouth healthy.

Rinsing: Washing your mouth out with water after brushing and flossing, as well as after meals, is another simple way to remove unwanted debris and bacteria. Talk to our dentist to see if mouth wash is appropriate for your dental care.

Dr. Heath Montgomery and our team are happy to help. If you have any further questions about brushing and flossing, call our dental office in Santa Barbara, California, at 805-845-3240.

What is periodontal disease?

Many people have periodontal disease and do not even realize it. That is why it is important to have regular check-ups with our dentist so we can catch the disease in the beginning stages and start the correct treatment to extend the longevity of your oral health. Look through our frequently asked questions below to learn more and if you have any additional questions about periodontal disease, feel free to call our office in Santa Barbara, California, at 805-845-3240 and schedule a time to meet with Dr. Heath Montgomery.

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is an oral condition that affects the gums and supporting structures in your mouth. It begins as a bacterial infection of the gums and gradually progresses until it destroys your gums and bone structure. The milder stage of periodontal disease is known as gingivitis, while the more severe form of the disease is known as periodontitis. You should be checked for periodontal disease each time you visit a dentist.

Q: What causes periodontal disease?
A: Periodontal disease is caused by the harmful bacteria trapped in plaque. As plaque hardens into calculus (tartar), the disease becomes more established in your mouth. Gum attachments begin to separate from your teeth and create pockets that harbor these harmful bacteria. If gum disease is allowed to progress without treatment, the condition may become irreversible.

Q: What are the symptoms of periodontal disease?
A: Symptoms of periodontal disease include:

  • Red, swollen or tender gums, or other pain in your mouth
  • Bleeding while brushing, flossing or eating hard foods
  • Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Pus between your gums and teeth
  • Sores in your mouth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • A change in the fit of dentures or other removable appliances

Q: Can I develop periodontal disease without experiencing pain?
A: Yes. In fact, many cases of periodontal disease reach advanced stages of development without the patient feeling any pain or discomfort. For this reason, it is important that you visit the dentist regularly. Your dentist will be able to identify the signs of periodontal disease and recommend an appropriate treatment to halt the disease before it can cause serious damage.

Q: Is periodontal disease treatable?
A: Gum disease is preventable with good oral hygiene and preventive care. If diagnosed in the early stages of development, it can be successfully treated. However, if your gum disease progresses to a more advanced and damaging stage, it may never successfully be removed from your mouth. There is a variety of treatments available to help you effectively manage periodontal disease, and our dentist will work with you to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs. Common treatments include:

  • Non-surgical treatments (scaling and root planing, antibiotic therapy, etc.)
  • Periodontal surgery (soft tissue grafting, gingivectomy, osseous surgery, etc.)
  • Laser dentistry
  • Implant dentistry
  • Improved at-home care (special toothpastes, mouthwashes, prescription trays, etc.)

Q: Who is at risk for developing gum disease?
A: You may have an increased risk of developing periodontal disease if you:

  • Smoke or use other tobacco products
  • Do not brush and floss your teeth regularly
  • Have a family history of gum disease
  • Have a systemic health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, etc.
  • Are currently pregnant

Q: What can I do at home to prevent periodontal disease?
A: The best way to prevent gum disease is to practice good oral hygiene at home. We recommend that you brush your teeth at least twice a day. Ideally, you should brush after each meal and before going to bed at night. You should also floss daily. We recommend that you visit your dentist at least twice each year for routine dental cleanings and exams.

Q: What is the connection between periodontal disease and overall health?
A: Your oral and overall health are very closely connected. If you have periodontal disease, you increase your risk of developing or exacerbating a serious medical condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease or osteoporosis. If you have a pre-existing condition such as those previously listed, it is also more likely that you will develop gum disease. Women who are pregnant are also at risk of developing periodontal disease. Expecting mothers should make sure to visit their dentist regularly during their pregnancy, as gum disease while pregnant can lead to premature and low birth weight babies.

Q; What is gum recession?
A: Gum recession is a condition, usually caused by periodontal disease or overaggressive brushing, where the edge of the gum recedes or draws back from the root of the tooth, exposing more of your tooth structure. This eventually leads to a loss of supporting bone and attachment tissues and can cause you to lose teeth. There are several treatments available to halt gum recession and restore healthy gum tissue to your mouth, including soft tissue grafting.

Q: What are periodontal pockets?
A: Periodontal pockets are spaces between the gums and teeth. Normally, bone and gum tissue fit snugly around the teeth. Gum disease destroys this supporting bone and tissue, leading to the formation of pockets where bacteria can collect and cause further damage.

Q: Why do I have to return so often after my treatment is over?
A: After being treated for periodontal disease, you will require regular periodontal maintenance to help keep your mouth healthy. Our dentist will recommend a schedule of regular visits to clean your mouth and help you prevent gum disease from returning.

Q: Are children at risk for developing gum disease?
A: Periodontal disease is rarely found in children and teenagers. However, children should learn how to properly care for their teeth while young so that they develop the good oral habits that help to prevent gum disease in the future. This includes daily flossing, brushing at least twice a day and visiting the dentist regularly.

Q: How much will my periodontal treatment cost?
A: The cost of your treatment will depend on the type of treatment you receive. During your initial consultation, our dentist will work with you to determine which type of treatment will be most beneficial for you and develop a treatment plan that meets your unique needs. We will then be able to provide you with an estimate of your treatment cost.

Are amalgam (silver) fillings safe?

Amalgam fillings are metal fillings created by using mercury to bind copper, silver, tin and/or zinc to a tooth. This particular kind of filling has been in practice for over 100 years. Recently, there has been some concern over the use of amalgam (silver) fillings and their exposure to mercury fumes.

In reports from the American Dental Association® (ADA), 76% of dentists still use amalgam fillings today. After conducting studies to determine if the mercury in amalgam fillings contributes to health problems or medical disorders, the ADA found that silver fillings are safe for use.

In addition to the ADA, the FDA, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) all agree that the use of amalgam (silver) fillings is a safe and long-lasting dental treatment. The only cases in which amalgam fillings are not used, comments the U.S. Public Health Service, is when a patient has an allergy to a component of the filling. Out of the numerous millions who have amalgam fillings, the ADA has reports of less than 100 cases of allergy.

Despite this, we know that exposure to too much mercury, such as levels found in some types of fish, can be toxic. The ADA maintains that because of the way amalgam fillings are made and the mercury combines with the metals in the filling, the substance becomes inactive and is therefore nonhazardous.

Silver amalgam fillings are not the only type of dental fillings used by dental professionals. Other options include porcelain, gold and composite (or tooth colored) fillings. Our dentist will gladly discuss these options with you so you can make the best decision for your oral health.

If you have any questions, call 805-845-3240 today and schedule an appointment with Dr. Heath Montgomery in Santa Barbara, California.

How can cosmetic dentistry help enhance your smile?

Cosmetic dentistry is a great tool used by our dentist to help improve your smile. But what does this mean and how does it work? Look through our frequently asked questions about cosmetic dentistry in Santa Barbara, California, and give us a call at 805-845-3240 if you have any further questions or want to meet with Dr. Heath Montgomery. Let us get started on your smile journey!

How to replace missing teeth.

If you have missing teeth, you may be wondering what options you have to replace them. At our dental office, Dr. Heath Montgomery offers a variety of restorative treatments, a few of which are listed here. Read more about replacing missing teeth below, or call our office in Santa Barbara, California, at 805-845-3240 to schedule a consultation with our dentist.

Missing teeth have a significant impact on your oral health and function. Missing teeth affect your ability to smile, speak and eat. Your teeth also perform an important role in stimulating your supporting bone to keep it strong and healthy. This ensures that your teeth have a stable foundation. If you lose a tooth, we recommend that you replace it as soon as possible so that you can regain normal oral health and function before your remaining teeth can shift out of place or any other problems can occur.

What should I do if a tooth is knocked out?

There are many situations in which a tooth may be knocked out or broken. Regardless of how it happens, a tooth can be restored if it is quickly treated by a dental professional. If your tooth has been knocked out, here are a list of instructions to help save the tooth:

  • Contact our dental office immediately.
  • Gently lift the tooth by its crown, avoiding the roots, and rinse with saliva or whole milk. This will help prevent the roots from becoming more damaged, infected or dried out.
  • Do NOT use soap to clean the tooth. If water is the only option to clean the tooth, rinse very gently.
  • Get to the dentist quickly. If the tooth is repaired within 30 minutes of being damaged, your tooth will have a higher chance of healing and its roots establishing themselves.
    How to Transport the Tooth

  • Place the tooth back into its socket and carefully bite down. You can use gauze as a barrier to help keep the tooth moist and in place.
  • In the event that the tooth cannot go back into its socket, hold the tooth beneath your gums or lower lip. This will help keep the roots from drying out.
  • You can also place the tooth in a baggy or other container and cover it with milk or your saliva.

Remember, the quicker the tooth is replaced in it socket and a dentist is seen, the more likely the tooth will survive and heal.

    Avoid knocked-out teeth by:

  • Practicing safe driving habits, including wearing a seatbelt.
  • Avoid roughhousing or fights.
  • Wear sports mouth guards when playing high-impact sports.
  • Be careful when eating hard foods such as candies, ice, popcorn kernels, etc.

Contact our dental office at 805-845-3240 for more information and to schedule an appointment with Dr. Heath Montgomery if you have had a tooth knocked out in Santa Barbara, California.

What is a dental sealant?

Dental sealants are an excellent way to seal teeth against dental decay and food debris. Patients of all ages can use sealants, though we recommend discussing treatment with our dentist to determine how needed this treatment may be. Learn more about dental sealants below and how they can help keep your smile healthy. Learn more about dental sealants in Santa Barbara, California, by calling 805-845-3240 today and scheduling a visit with Dr. Heath Montgomery.

A sealant is a preventive dental treatment that our dentist may recommend to protect patients’ teeth from decay. A dental sealant is made of a clear or tooth-colored resin material, which is painted onto the chewing surface of teeth. By blocking out the bacteria and food debris that lead to tooth decay, the sealant prevents decay and cavities. The dental sealant forms a smooth coating over the natural pits and grooves of the tooth surface, which also makes it easier to effectively clean teeth with normal brushing.

Dental sealants are most often recommended for children. They are frequently recommended for the permanent molars as soon as they come in, usually between the ages of 6 and 12 years. We may also recommend dental sealants for adult patients whose teeth are prone to decay or have not been restored or suffered from decay in the past. We can apply dental sealants in just one short, comfortable visit to our practice.

Sealants can be a powerful tool in preventing decay and keeping your smile healthy. To learn more about dental sealants and how our team can keep your smile in good health, we welcome you to call or visit our office today.

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