We ARE taking new patients for cleanings, but our first available appointments may be 6 months out or more! If you are already overdue for a checkup, I encourage you to give us a call and get on the schedule. Your appointment might have to be scheduled months in advance, but if we can find something that works for you, then in a few short months it will be time for your appointment.
If you are having an urgent dental issue, we can generally get you seen within a few days or less.
We accept nearly all PPO plans, and are "in-network" with many (e.g. MetLife, Cigna, Humana, Aetna, Guardian), but not all. To know if we accept your plan, please call or email us with your insurance information handy and we will be happy to assist you in determining your level of coverage. We are experienced in dealing with insurance companies, and can help you maximize your benefits. We also accept cash, check, credit card, and offer extended payment options with CareCredit.
For those patients without insurance, we recommend you consider our Patient Care Plan. For a set fee, you get 12 months of coverage that includes two cleanings, unlimited x-rays and exams as necessary, and 20% off of everything else. We have specifically priced it to be worthwhile for most of our uninsured patients.
Generally, no. Although we do treat some young kids, children have special needs and therefore we recommend parents take their younger children to a pediatric dentist.
Once a child has lost all of their baby teeth (typically around age 12), then tooth-wise, they are an "adult", and we'd be happy to treat them. And any of our existing patients are welcome to bring their children to our office starting around age 6 (when the first adult teeth start coming in).
Keep in mind though that we are not set up for children (i.e. we do not have a play area, we do not have fun toys for kids, etc.). We can certainly do cleanings on them, but if your child needed a filling, we will then have to refer you to a pediatric dentist.
Dr. Rodriguez does not speak Spanish. Although he is of Puerto Rican descent, he grew up in an english-speaking household, and thus never learned Spanish as a child.
Yes, tooth whitening is safe, but it can also irritate the teeth and gums.
People ask us all the time if they should whiten their teeth. We usually tell them, "if you think you should whiten your teeth, than do it". Tooth whitening works. But there are some things you need to know:
Implants are the best way to replace a missing tooth. A dental implant refers to several components, but it is essentially a surgical titanium screw placed where a tooth root used to be. A crown is then put on top of the implant. An implant-supported crown can last a lifetime. And since it is entirely made of metal and ceramic, it cannot get a cavity! Normal brushing and flossing is all that's necessary to maintain an implant.
Implants cannot be used in all situations. It depends on the quality and quantity of the bone in the area. But often those areas can be augmented with a bone graft to create enough bone for an implant. For situations where an implant is not appropriate, more traditional techniques can be used, such as a bridge.
With dental implants, we can replace one missing tooth or several. Implants can also anchor a denture, eliminating any slipping, clicking, and the need for adhesives. They work amazingly well.
Implants are not cheap, but they are extremely cost-effective over your lifetime. A traditional bridge might be half the cost of an implant, but it also may have to be replaced several times in a lifetime, while the implant usually only has to be done once.
Ideally, everyone would brush and floss their teeth after every meal, first thing in the morning, and right before bed. But that is a lot of effort that most people aren't willing to do for their own oral health. At the very least, everyone should brush every morning and evening, and floss (or use another "inter-dental cleaner") at least once a day.
Brushing your teeth:
When you brush, take your time! It should take you at least two minutes. That may not seem like much, but two minutes can feel like an eternity when brushing, and you'd be amazed how much of a difference an extra 30 seconds can make, each and every time you brush, on your long term oral health.
And don't brush too hard either! Perhaps people feel brushing harder will make up for not flossing, but aggressive brushing is an absolute epidemic! We see it all the time… receding gums & sensitive roots, all from brushing too hard. Tooth paste is extremely abrasive, and after years of brushing and thousands of brush strokes, you can really cause some damage. The key is to use soft bristled tooth brushes, and don't push too hard (you only need to remove the soft plaque). Once the plaque hardens into calculus (tartar), no amount of tooth brushing will clean it off. That's what a cleaning with the dental hygienist is for.
Get yourself an electric toothbrush:
Any electric toothbrush, from a $10 Spin-Brush to a $150 Sonicare, will clean better than a manual toothbrush. We tell patients all the time, "It's the 21st century, stop brushing your teeth with centuries old technology, use a power tool!"
Flossing (and other inter-dental cleaners):
Most people think flossing is simply intended to get stuck bits of food out from between your teeth. That is a great use of floss, but that's not really what daily flossing is about. The purpose behind regular flossing is to wipe the sides of the teeth where the toothbrush can't reach. You need to get something in-between your teeth regularly, whether floss, or dental toothpicks, Water-Pik® type things, etc.
If you spend a few moments in the tooth brush aisle at the grocery store, you'll find that there are many different kinds of floss, as well as other disposable tools designed to help you floss. I don't care what you use, just use something!
Sugar-free chewing gum, especially after a meal or snacks, has been proven to keep your mouth healthier. Chewing sugar-free gum, (such as Orbit®, Trident®, etc.) after meals has been proven to reduce the amount of plaque buildup on teeth and increase saliva flow, which reduces the effect of acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth.
Once a day, or more, you should use a mouthwash. I'm not talking about something to just "freshen your breath", but rather something to actually improve the health of your mouth. A fluoride containing mouthwash (like ACT®), used daily, can slow and even reverse some early cavities. Aside from brushing and flossing, using a fluoride-containing mouthwash regularly is one of the best preventative measures you can do for your teeth.
A "crown" or "cap" is the longest-lasting and strongest way to restore a tooth. The simplest way to visualize a crown is to imagine it as a tooth-shaped helmet for your tooth. Crowns are needed when the structure of the tooth needs reinforcement, such as when a large filling needs replacing, or when there's a large cavity, or after root-canal treatment.
Newer ceramics have been perfected in the last decade or two that are stronger than your natural tooth ever was. These next generation crowns look beautiful, are tough as nails, and can last decades!
Every crown is custom-made for that exact tooth, and no two crowns are alike. To make a crown, your tooth is shaped in a very specific way and an impression (traditional or digital) is taken of your tooth and sent to a dental laboratory. The dental lab takes 1-2 weeks to finish your permanent crown. In the meantime, a plastic temporary crown is fitted to the tooth. When the final crown comes back from the lab, the temporary crown is removed and the final crown is permanently cemented on the tooth.
A crown cannot get a cavity, but the tooth underneath it still can! Modern crowns are made entirely of ceramic, which does not decay. But at the edge where the tooth and crown meet, cavities can form. That is why it is essential for your dentist to check and make sure your crown fits and seals on the tooth properly.
But the most important factor that determines how long your crown will last depends upon you... maintaining your crown through brushing and flossing is critical to prevent problems. No special treatment is needed, just brush and floss like normal, and a crown can last 10,15, maybe even 25 years or more. But if you neglect a crown and don't clean around it well, the tooth can start decaying from underneath the crown within months!
It depends on what kind of pain and how bad it is. It is very common for people to have occasional tooth sensitivity, especially to cold water and drinks. As long as it is only occasional, and minor in both severity and duration, then it likely may be nothing to get worried about. But if the sensitivity persists, worsens, or starts being painful, then come in for an evaluation.
There are some symptoms that should get checked out right away:
Gum disease happens, even to the best of us. The key to prevention is keeping everything clean. After every meal, soft plaque builds up around the gum line and between your teeth that is absolutely loaded with bacteria. If you don't remove it by brushing along the gum line and flossing to get the plaque hiding between your teeth, then it starts aggravating the gums almost immediately. Even after a single day, the bacteria in that plaque start invading the space down between your gums and teeth. The bacteria irritate the gums, the gums swell, turn red, and bleed easily. They bleed because your body is trying to use your bacteria-fighting cells in your blood to attack the plaque. But unfortunately they just can't remove enough of the plaque, and it continues to build up.
Eventually, that built-up plaque hardens into calculus, or "tartar". That calculus is composed of billions of dead bacteria, built up over time like a coral reef, sheltering the deeper pockets of living bacteria under the gum line. If you are brushing and flossing like you should, then any calculus build up will be minimal, and the normal dental cleaning that most people are familiar with, done about twice a year, is adequate to clean the areas you may have missed.
But when that calculus builds up and doesn't get cleaned off regularly, then those deeper pockets get infected by the bacteria down between each tooth, which causes a breakdown of the gums. This is Periodontitis, or gum disease, which is essentially a long-term infection of the gums. It doesn't necessarily hurt, and is usually a very slow & stubborn process, taking years to develop for some people, while for others it can develop more quickly. Left unchecked, it will eventually lead to pain, swelling, pus, loosening of teeth and eventual tooth loss.
The fix for Periodontitis is two-part: The first step is removing all the built-up calculus and cleaning out the bacteria from between the teeth and gums. Typically this is done with a procedure called Scaling & Root-Planing (SRP). In simple terms, it is a "deep" cleaning. Often we numb the gums during SRP, so that we can clean everything thoroughly, but comfortably.
The second step is your "home work". You must start doing proper brushing and flossing at home to keep the plaque from accumulating and starting the process all over. If you do not correct your habits which led to the Periodontitis in the first place, it will return! And if the gum disease is severe, or if there are other factors involved, gum surgery is required.
Many people do not understand dental "cleanings" very well, and view them as elective or optional. Often people with gum disease will ask "why can't I get a regular cleaning?" Doing so trivializes the health benefits of what your dental hygienist does. When someone has been diagnosed with Periodontal disease, doing a "regular cleaning" is like giving someone who is having a heart attack an aspirin without taking them to the hospital. Yes, it helps, but they need medical treatment! Scaling & Root-Planing is a medical treatment for an active gum infection. If you have signs of Periodontal Disease, you need SRP.
A cavity (also know as "caries") is an area of tooth that has been softened by the action of bacteria. Cavities typically form in hard-to-reach areas, where plaque accumulates from not brushing and flossing thoroughly. The bacteria in the plaque thrive on the surface of your tooth, fed by the carbohydrates you consume from food and drinks. The waste they produce is acidic, eroding away the calcium in the tooth, eventually to the point that a hole, or cavity, is created.
Cavities can form in the natural pits and grooves in teeth, in-between the teeth, and around the edges of fillings or crowns. The best way to prevent cavities is to brush and floss. But no toothbrush can reach those tight spaces in-between your teeth. That's what floss is for. And when you don't floss regularly, the bacteria continue to build up and can eventually lead to a cavity and/or gum disease between your teeth.
Tooth enamel is made of calcium crystals. But those calcium crystals are weakened and broken down by anything acidic. Cavity-causing bacteria are the main culprits, but even acidic foods and drinks will dissolve a microscopic layer of enamel at each and every sip.
When fluoride combines with the weakened enamel surface of your tooth, a new crystal is formed. That new surface is harder than your original enamel and more resistant to the effects of acidic foods and drinks, thus your tooth is less susceptible to develop a cavity.
As a child (when your adult teeth are forming), ingesting fluoride through drinking water or supplements enables your body to build that fluoride into the structure of the teeth, making your teeth more cavity-resistant, from the inside out. But after your adult teeth are fully-formed your body can no longer build the fluoride into your teeth. So for anyone over the age of 12, fluoride can only be added to the outer surface of your teeth (via drinking water, toothpaste, etc.).
Fluoride is a naturally occurring part of drinking water, and in some places of the country it is found in very high concentrations in well water and reservoirs. Many years ago, dentists and doctors noticed that children in those areas tended to have lower levels of cavities, and eventually they discovered that it was the fluoride that made the difference. But too much fluoride as a child can lead to Fluorosis, which is a permanent, but usually slight, discoloration of the teeth. Although purely cosmetic, it can lead to patchy white or brown spots on the tooth enamel. This is because the fluoride crystal reflects light differently than the normal enamel crystal, leading to the discoloration. Most municipal drinking water supplies (including Atlanta's) are regulated to provide people the benefits of fluoride, but in a concentration low enough to not cause Fluorosis.
Although we do not use silver fillings here (usually referred to as "Amalgam"), they have been around in dentistry for more than two hundred years. They work very well, and can last a very long time (30-40+ years!). They are not used as much today because of the demand for tooth-colored fillings.
Amalgam is a metal alloy composed of silver, tin, copper, zinc, and mercury. It is the presence of the mercury in the amalgam that has caused the most controversy amongst the public, even though amalgam is considered safe by most dental researchers and public-health officials worldwide. Regardless of whether there is scientific evidence to support the claims of mercury toxicity from amalgam or not, we do not use amalgam because we have modern alternatives that look better. In fact, at Inman Park Dentistry we ONLY use metal-free fillings and crowns.
What people dislike most about amalgam is the appearance. Because it is mostly silver, amalgam does tarnish over time and can look dark, even black sometimes. While mild staining is often purely cosmetic, dark staining can sometimes indicate that a cavity is forming around the old filling.
Known as "Composite" or "bonding", tooth-colored fillings are essentially a high-tech plastic. Unlike amalgam, composite is available in many different shades so that it can be matched to your teeth. It is placed and shaped into the tooth while soft, and then hardened in place with a special light. Because composite is glued, or "bonded", directly to the tooth, it can be used in many situations where amalgam cannot.
Composite is an excellent alternative to amalgam, though no material is a perfect replacement for your natural tooth structure. Amalgam fillings do last longer than composite in many situations, but the most important factor in how long a filling can last is how well you take care of it. If you do not brush and floss regularly around a filling, it will eventually develop a cavity around the edges. But if well maintained, a filling can last 20 - 30+ years!
A root canal (endodontic therapy) is the cleaning, disinfecting, and sealing of the space inside of a tooth. Root canals are needed when the pulp ("nerve") inside the tooth dies off or gets infected. Usually that happens because of a cavity that progressed deep into the tooth, or sometimes from trauma to a tooth (like from taking an elbow to the mouth). You may not have any pain from the tooth, but that does not necessarily mean it is okay. With x-rays and other diagnostic tools, we can sometimes discover a dying tooth before it starts bothering you.
Root canals have a false reputation for being painful procedures. It is not the root canal procedure that hurts, but rather the infection that results from a dying tooth that can be incredibly painful. Root canal treatment is what fixes that.
Root canal procedures are effective over 95% of the time. But a root canal procedure does leave the tooth relatively weaker than an otherwise healthy tooth. And so a root-canal treated tooth usually also requires a crown. The crown generally should be done within 6 weeks of the root-canal to minimize the chance of the tooth breaking down or becoming re-infected.
Dentists here in the U.S. graduate with one of two degrees: Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). There is no difference in the education, training, and scope of practice between the two degrees. The difference used to depend upon when the dental school was founded.
Older dental schools gave their graduates a DDS degree, but dental schools founded since around 1970 gave their graduates a DMD degree. The DMD degree was coined to represent a more comprehensive medical approach to modern dentistry versus the older surgical focus. But now many of the older dental schools are also transitioning to awarding the DMD degree.
Regardless of the degree, all dentists go through about eight years of education after high school.