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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make an appointment?

For routine or emergency care during normal business hours please call 401-769-1471. For non-emergency situations after hours, please call the above number and leave your name, phone number and a brief message, and your call will be returned as soon as the office reopens. For patients of record with emergency situations after office hours please call the above number for further instructions. If you are not a patient of record and are in need of emergency care, please contact your local walk-in emergency clinic. We will be happy to see you during regularly scheduled hours.


What is a sealant?

A sealant is a plastic coating that is placed into the pits and grooves on the biting surfaces of the back teeth to prevent decay. This is usually done in children when the teeth have erupted far enough into the mouth so that the biting surface is completely exposed. Sealants are now a routine procedure in the care of children.


How often do I need x-rays?

A complete series of x-rays is usually taken every three to five years. Four bitewing x-rays (two on each side) are taken every 12 to 24 months, depending on the individual needs of the patient, to check for decay in between the back teeth. Individual diagnostic x-rays are taken as needed. Our newly installed digital x-ray system has reduced radiation exposure by half.


What is an amalgam (silver) filling?

Dental amalgam consists of silver, tin, copper, zinc and a small but quite safe amount of mercury. Since amalgam is made of metal, it is a strong filling material and will last many years. Over the past few years much has been written in the press about the safety of amalgam which has been in use for well over 100 years. Many scientific studies have been undertaken and to this date all studies have proven amalgam to be safe. Our office complies with all state and federal regulations in the disposal of amalgam waste. Amalgam is the strongest, most long-lasting and cost-effective filling material available.


What is a composite (tooth colored filling)?

A composite filling is a mixture of resin and filler particles. It is traditionally used on the front teeth and on the sides of the back teeth. Composite can be used on the chewing surfaces and in between on the back teeth; however it is not as strong or as long-lasting as amalgam in these situations. It is a reasonable choice in areas where esthetics is important. Higher co-pays can be expected with composites on back teeth because most insurance companies will only reimburse an amalgam fee.


What is a crown (cap)?

A crown is a covering that is placed over the entire tooth, and is used when teeth have very large fillings, cracks, fractures, or are badly discolored. The tooth is reduced to make room for the crown, and an impression of the reduced tooth is sent to a dental laboratory where the crown is made. It is then cemented onto the tooth. Crowns can be made of all gold, usually reserved for the last tooth in the back to with stand the forces of chewing, porcelain fused to gold for strength and esthetics, or all porcelain. Recent advances in the strength of porcelain make all porcelain crowns a viable option on back teeth in many situations.


What is a bridge?

A fixed (non-removable) bridge replaces one or missing teeth when there are existing natural teeth on both sides. The teeth on either side of the space are shaped for crowns, and the replacement tooth or teeth are attached to them. It is cemented onto the natural teeth as one piece. Bridges can be either all porcelain or porcelain fused to metal, depending on the length.


What is partial denture?

A partial denture is a removable appliance that replaces one or more missing teeth. It should be removed after meals and cleaned and must be removed at night. Partial dentures can be fabricated from all metal, a combination of metal and acrylic or completely from acrylic or a flexible plastic that requires no metal.


What are complete dentures?

A complete denture is a removable appliance that replaces all the teeth in either the upper or lower jaw, or both. They also should be removed and cleaned after meals and removed at night.


What is an implant?

An implant is a metal (titanium alloy) post that is placed into the bone to replace the root of a missing tooth. Dr. Harnick works closely with qualified periodontists and oral surgeons who place the implants. The implant integrates (fuses to the bone) over a three to six month period. Dr. Harnick then takes an impression to have the crown or bridge made. Implants can also be used to make complete dentures more stable. Attachments are placed inside the denture which then snaps onto the implants creating more retention and stability. For full dentures two or more implants are usually necessary.


Where is your dental laboratory work done?

All laboratory work for crowns, bridges, implant crowns, partial and complete dentures is performed in a certified dental laboratory in Rhode Island. Nothing is sent overseas where there have been concerns over cleanliness and use of sub-standard materials in some facilities. Using a local laboratory enables Dr. Harnick to oversee and consult with the laboratory owner in person on any case that requires special attention.


What is periodontal disease (gum disease?)

Periodontal disease is a chronic infection of the gums and bone that support the teeth. Indications of periodontal disease are sore or swollen gums, bleeding gums when brushing your teeth, and teeth that are loose. Measurement of the depth of the gum tissue around all of the teeth is performed at the initial examination and periodically after that to check for the health of the gums and bone. Proper tooth brushing, flossing, and regular professional cleanings can help prevent periodontal disease.


What is a root canal?

A root canal (endodontic treatment) is the removal of the nerve inside the tooth after it becomes infected due to bacteria entering the nerve. The inside of the roots are cleaned and then filled with a rubbery material which prevents future infection. A back tooth that has had a root canal should have a crown to prevent future fracture.


What causes dry mouth?

The most common cause of dry mouth is prescription medication. If another medication cannot be substituted there are many over-the-counter products that can help. There are saliva substitutes, mouthwashes, and tooth pastes that can help lessen the drying effects of these medications.


What are mouth guards and night guards?

Mouth guards are also known as sports guards and are fabricated from a heavy gauge rubber on an accurate impression of the upper teeth and protect them from trauma during sports activities. A night guard is made from a rigid plastic, fits over the upper teeth and is worn at night to control or eliminate grinding of the teeth.



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