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Robert C. Clay, Jr., DDS, Ltd.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Other

How can we help you?

If you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. We know that most people have questions about their dental health, the services we offer, and dental insurance. We get asked questions about these topics, and many others, every single day. We welcome all of your questions, and it is an encouraging sign that you are taking interest in your oral healthcare. We would love the opportunity to help.

So, whether you have a dental question, an insurance question, or heck, if you can’t remember the lyrics to a song, we will do our best to help you get the answers you are looking for. We have a few of the more common questions compiled here, but please feel free to ask us if you have any other questions you need answered.


Are dental amalgams, also known as “silver fillings” safe?  There has been a lot of debate through the years on the safety of amalgams due to their high mercury content within the material.  Mercury is a metal that is naturally formed in the earth. There have been several health related problems associated with high dose or chronic exposure to mercury. However, certain forms of mercury are more dangerous than others.  In fact, elemental and methylmercury are the two main forms that are associated with the dangers.  Other forms of mercury, such as ethylmercury or mercury in its alloy state are thought to be not as problematic.  


While I could present a lot of science behind the findings, I will save you the boredom and say that the following groups have found dental amalgams to be safe based on available scientific studies:  Alzheimer’s Association, International Journal of Dentistry, the Lupus Foundation of America, the Mayo Clinic, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Council Against Health Fraud, The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial  Research, the New England Journal of Medicine, the U.S Food and Drug Administration,  and  ( everyone’s favorite web source to self diagnose) WebMD. You can get more information here from the American Dental Association website by clicking HERE.  


On a side note, one of the most prevalent ways to be exposed to the dangerous mercury is by eating seafood.  Fish filter mercury in the water and it is incorporated into the fish we may eat....and this is in the Methylated form that is dangerous. 


Should we have the old fillings removed anyways?  This is always a debate as well.  Cutting on the fillings produces heat, which results in mercury vapor, which is one of the more toxic forms of mercury. Therefore, some think removing them could be riskier than leaving them, while others worry about long term low level leakage of mercury from the fillings.  Again, science says they are safe to use and removal when needed poses little risk as well. 


Our thoughts: we feel confident that it is a safe material to use for dental restorations and do use it on occasion when we feel it is the best, or sometimes only material that will work.  However, we also feel it is good to limit potential exposures to mercury if there are other safer materials to use.  The removal of mercury fillings has long been linked to the increase in mercury levels in our waterways, so reducing the use of amalgam fillings is still probably a good idea overall.



It is always a good question to ask whether your child should see a pediatric dentist or whether a general dentist, like Dr. Clay would be a good fit.  As with adults, one of our biggest goals is to make every dental experience be as pleasant as possible. When it comes to children, we don’t want to make too broad of a recommendation without knowing the child and their needs.  While some kids are eager to come to the dentist, others are very fearful.  While some kids need little to  no dental work, others may need more extensive or specialty restorative treatments.  We always leave the option up to the parents to decide whether to start with our office, or to start with a pediatric office.  If they choose to come to us first, then we will evaluate the child and their needs, and decide whether it would be best suited for treatment in our office, or if they would benefit by going to a pediatric dentist.   Pediatric dentists have advanced training on treating children and can offer more extensive treatment options as well as various options for sedation when necessary. In the end, we want every experience to be a positive one.



Through the years, one of the questions that I have been asked the most is whether you should brush first or floss first.  I was always happy when people would ask that question because it made me realize that some people actually do floss at home. However, I never really had a good answer for that question. I would always say that if you flossed first, the spaces between the teeth would be cleaner for the fluoride toothpaste to penetrate between the teeth. But then I would say that if you brushed first, you would have the fluoride toothpaste in your mouth from brushing and the floss would pull the fluoride toothpaste between the teeth where a brush can't reach. And then I would sum it up by saying that there are probably benefits either way and it probably doesn’t matter that much which is done first.  I would always say that I was just happy that patients were attempting to floss

However, in May 2018 there was a research article published in the Journal of Periodontology, the publication that focuses on the treatment of gum disease and the tissues around teeth. The focus of this research article was to determine whether there was an advantage to brushing first or flossing first. The research concentrated on the reduction of plaque bacteria, the cause of gum disease and tooth decay, as well as fluoride retention on the tooth surfaces after either brushing first or flossing first. 

What they found was that flossing before you brush resulted in a statistically significant  reduction of plaque bacteria between teeth when compared to flossing after brushing.  So, that meant that flossing first did a better job of cleaning teeth in the research. In addition, flossing first also resulted in a statically significant increase in the amount of fluoride retained on the surfaces between teeth when compared to flossing after brushing. So, again, it is better to floss first because the teeth are left with more fluoride on them to help fight decay.  Here is a link to a summary of the article  https://www.perio.org/consumer/brush-or-floss-first

So now we have an answer based on science. 

It is better to floss BEFORE you brush your teeth.

X-rays are a dentist's most important diagnostic tool. Often, problems start inside your teeth or beneath the gumline. By the time the problem is visible to the naked eye, it can be painful and more difficult to treat. Using x-rays taken on a regular basis, we can catch problems early and treat them quickly and comfortably.

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