Dentistry Questions

Welcoming Patients from Dubuque, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, IA & Galena, IL

Many of our patients have the same initial questions during their dental exam or consultation. In an effort to help answer some of these questions before your meeting with our cosmetic dentists at Exceptional Dentistry, we collected and answered the most frequently asked questions, sorted by procedure and treatment. Click on the sections below to view our answers to frequently asked questions:

We at the Exceptional Dentistry of the Tri-State Region can answer any questions you have prior to your appointment. Call our office today at (563) 556-2711. You may also fill out our contact form to reach us at any time. We serve patients from Dubuque, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, IA & Galena, IL

Dental Bonding

Asking your Iowa dentist questionsWhat is dental bonding? What is the material used in dental bonding?

Dental bonding is a cosmetic dentistry procedure that uses a natural-looking composite resin material to reshape broken, chipped, stained or malformed teeth. Because bonding requires minimal enamel reduction and very little preparation, and offers immediate results, it is a popular choice for both dentists and patients. The composite resin used in dental bonding is comprised of plastic, along with various fillers and modifiers to add strength, durability and perfect color-matching potential. Bonding material is not as translucent as the dental porcelain used for veneers and crowns, but it can be very well-matched to your natural tooth color. A slightly different form of dental bonding is used for white fillings.

What happens during the bonding process?

Very little preparation is necessary. Dr. Ted Murray will first perform a color match so your final result will look natural. Next, the tooth’s surface is roughened, and Dr. Murray applies a conditioning liquid. Both steps help the bonding material adhere to the tooth.

The bonding material is applied incrementally, then molded and smoothed until the desired shape is achieved. A curing light hardens the bonding material in a few seconds. Then Dr. Murray spends a few more minutes buffing and polishing for a perfect match to the rest of your teeth. Overall, bonding for one tooth takes thirty to sixty minutes.

Does the bonding process require anesthesia?

Not usually. There is such a small amount of tooth enamel removed that the tooth’s nerve is not impacted at all.

How long does dental bonding last?

That depends on how much bonding you received and how well you care for your teeth. Generally speaking, bonding material lasts three to ten years. Then the bonding can be touched up or new bonding can be done.

One word of caution: Bonding can chip. Avoid biting your fingernails, chewing on hard objects like pencils or ice, or using your teeth to open cans.

Is there any special maintenance necessary for bonded teeth?

A regimen of excellent at-home brushing and flossing is all that is needed to care for your bonded teeth. Don’t forget to visit Exceptional Dentistry about every six months for regular cleanings and dental checkups.


Instant Orthodontics

What are porcelain veneers? How are porcelain veneers applied?

Porcelain veneers are very thin ceramic shells that create a beautiful, straight, white smile. They are carefully and perfectly matched to your natural teeth, then bonded to the front surfaces of teeth for a secure, long-lasting and comfortable fit. At Exceptional Dentistry, the application of porcelain veneers requires just two dental visits.

During your first visit, our dentists will help you choose your veneer size, shape and color. Next, the surface of each tooth is roughened and very slightly reduced to create space for the veneer and to ensure your veneers will bond securely. Precision impressions of your teeth are taken. The impressions are sent to our dental laboratory, where your veneers will be custom-made.

During your second appointment, the surfaces of your teeth are thoroughly cleaned, and a composite resin cement is used to bond the veneers. At first they are attached lightly so that you and your cosmetic dentist can examine the fit and test your bite. When you are both pleased with them, they are attached permanently.

Are porcelain veneers better than dental bonding?

During dental bonding, a paste-like material is applied to the tooth, then shaped and polished. Dental bonding is opaque and does not offer the translucency or natural light-reflecting qualities of porcelain. The end result achievable with porcelain veneers is cosmetically superior to dental bonding.

However, bonding is done quickly in one visit and in some circumstances is all that is needed. For example, if a small gap needs filling, or a small chip, bonding does an excellent job. It costs less than porcelain veneers, which can be an advantage – but please see our page on Affordable Financing for the assistance we can give for your dental costs.

Are porcelain veneers a good alternative to braces?

Depending on a person’s age and the extent of their dental problem, porcelain veneers may be an excellent alternative to braces. Orthodontics may be preferable in teen or young adult patients who need all their teeth repositioned.

If your dental defects are relatively minor, veneers can give you a gorgeous new smile in just two visits. For most adults, particularly busy professionals, porcelain veneers are preferable, because they enhance your smile without the downtime or embarrassment of a mouthful of metal, and they offer an improvement in whiteness as well.

Will porcelain veneers stain like my natural teeth? Or do porcelain veneers require special care?

No. Dental porcelain is highly stain-resistant. But, if you are careless about caring for your teeth at home, or avoid dental checkups year after year, you will put your beautiful new smile and your oral health at risk. Take excellent care of your porcelain veneers, and they should remain white and bright. Veneers generally require the same good at-home oral care and regular dental checkups that your natural teeth require. Avoid activities that may chip, crack or otherwise damage the veneers, such as chewing on hard objects like ice or the end of a pen, and use your back teeth the chew hard foods.

How long do porcelain veneers last?

Porcelain veneers can last up to fifteen years with proper, regular care. It is important to prevent bacteria and decay from spreading underneath them. Excellent oral hygiene at home, including daily brushing and flossing, and regular dental checkups, are the best ways to keep your porcelain veneers clean and in perfect condition.



What is Invisalign®?

Invisalign® is a series of invisible, custom-made aligners that slowly reposition teeth without the use of conventional metal braces. Each pair of aligners is used for two weeks, with each new pair incrementally realigning teeth to their optimal position. You remove the aligners to eat and drink, and to brush and floss your teeth regularly. We recommend visiting our office about every six weeks for a progress check, where you will receive the next few pairs of aligners in your series.

How does Invisalign® work? And is Invisalign® right for me?

The secret to Invisalign® success is wearing the aligners faithfully. 3-D computer imaging is used to create your treatment plan, taking into account the current position of your teeth and the best final position for your bite and smile.

The aligners are created specifically to fit your teeth and gradually move them to better positions. Every two weeks you discard the current pair of aligners and begin with a new pair, and over time, your teeth are straightened beautifully. Because the aligners are clear and removable, there is no embarrassment over metal braces and you can remove them to eat, drink, brush and floss normally.

Anyone who wants a straighter smile may be a good candidate for Invisalign®. In some cases, we may recommend other cosmetic dentistry procedures, orthodontics, or neuromuscular dentistry treatments to correct bite issues. Only a comprehensive evaluation by an experienced cosmetic dentist can determine if Invisalign® is right for you.

What dental problems can Invisalign® solve?

Invisalign® is a very effective solution for crowded teeth, widely spaced teeth or a misaligned bite. If you would like straighter teeth and do not want to wear braces, you can likely benefit from the treatment.

If you are suffering from the painful symptoms of TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), neuromuscular dentist Dr. Ted Murray may use Invisalign® as part of your treatment to correct your bite and restore your jaw joints to their correct positions.

Can Invisalign® correct the shifting that occurs after braces are removed?

Invisalign® has proven useful to people who previously wore braces and have experienced teeth shifting. Most people who have worn braces are not anxious to go back to wearing them again. They can be uncomfortable, and particularly for adults, can lower self-esteem. During your consultation with one of our dentists, this question will be fully addressed.


Laser Gum Recontouring Questions

What is laser gum recontouring?

Laser gum recontouring is a cosmetic dentistry procedure that uses a soft-tissue diode laser to gently remove excessive gum tissue and sculpt a more harmonious, attractive smile.

What causes a gummy smile? And is a gummy smile unhealthy?

A gummy smile may be caused by excessive gum tissue covering the teeth or hyperactivity of the muscle that controls lip movement. It may also stem from a misaligned bite, or an abnormality in tooth eruption or jaw development.  If your gummy smile is accompanied by other issues, such as a misaligned bite, this would be a dental health concern. In which case, along with using the diode laser to quickly and gently sculpt away excess gum tissue, other dental specialties, such as neuromuscular dentistry, may be required to fully correct the condition.

What is the laser gum recontouring process like? Does laser gum recontouring hurt?

The process begins with a local anesthetic to numb the mouth. When the gums are numbed first and the diode laser is used, the recontouring process is virtually painless. The diode laser is very precise in how deeply and extensively it affects the gums. Our dentists will direct the laser only where necessary. The laser’s heat vaporizes tissue instantly, although you will not feel any burning sensation. As it removes excess gum tissue it also seals the remaining tissue, preventing any bleeding and reducing any chance of infection. In one dental visit, your gum line is dramatically improved for a more naturally beautiful smile.This is in sharp contrast to the previous method of reducing excessive gum tissue, which required a scalpel as well as a longer and more uncomfortable recovery period.

What is the recovery time for laser gum recontouring?

Recovery from laser gum recontouring is far easier than it once was thanks to the advanced diode laser. Most people experience some swelling or soreness of the gums for several days and may stick to soft foods for that short time. Discomfort is usually minimal and does not interfere with regular activities.


Porcelain Inlays and Onlays

What are porcelain inlays and onlays? What are porcelain inlays and onlays made from?

Porcelain inlays and onlays are custom-made porcelain fillings. Old-fashioned metal fillings look unsightly and gradually weaken a tooth. In fact, research shows metal fillings contribute to tooth fractures. Inlays and onlays are permanently bonded to the tooth for added strength and a virtually undetectable restoration.

Today's dental inlays and onlays are created from specially formulated, highly durable dental porcelain. Our dentists will use a shade of porcelain to match your natural tooth color, texture, and luminescence. Dental porcelain reacts to light in the same way that tooth enamel does – partly absorbing it and partly reflecting it. This gives it the same pearly look as teeth have, making it invisible as a dental restoration. If you have new cavities or old metal fillings that need to be replaced, inlays and onlays are a durable, natural looking alternative that preserve remaining tooth structure.

What are the benefits of porcelain inlays and onlays?

Unlike metal fillings, which can cause further damage to the tooth’s structure over time, inlays and onlays strengthen and improve tooth structure. Being bonded to the tooth, they become a part of that tooth and provide a stable, long-lasting, attractive solution for correcting tooth decay.

Why are metal fillings dangerous?

Old-fashioned metal fillings are not bonded to the tooth like inlays and onlays. Metal fillings stay in the tooth only because they are tightly packed into the cavity, putting outward pressure on the tooth’s periphery. Also, when hot or cold foods are consumed, they expand and contract in response to temperature changes. This repeatedly changes the pressure on the tooth, weakening surrounding tooth structure and eventually breaking it.

Porcelain fillings do not disturb healthy tooth structure, and because they are bonded to the tooth, they will not weaken or crack it over time.

How long does the procedure take?

Placing your inlays and onlays requires two brief, comfortable office visits. During your first visit, the old filling and decay are removed. Our dentists will then take a precise impression of the tooth and send it to the dental laboratory along with other relevant data and photographs. Your inlay or onlay is custom-crafted for a perfect fit. While waiting for the restoration to return from the lab, a temporary restoration is placed on the tooth. During your second visit, the inlay or onlay is bonded securely and permanently to the tooth.


Smile Makeovers

What is a smile makeover?

When multiple cosmetic dentistry procedures are used together for customized results, this is known as a smile makeover. Exceptional Dentistry offers many excellent cosmetic dentistry procedures to give you the brighter, straighter smile you have always wanted. The combined procedures commonly recommended for a smile makeover can whiten, brighten and straighten teeth and correct dental issues to restore your smile’s natural beauty. 

Who is a good candidate for a smile makeover? What cosmetic dental issues can be corrected with a smile makeover?

Any individual unhappy with the appearance of their smile is a good candidate for a smile makeover. Your smile makeover is highly individualized for your unique needs and goals. Some smile makeovers consist of several short procedures. Others may require more time-consuming procedures. In some cases involving certain dental health issues, such as cavities or periodontal disease, these issues must be corrected first, before cosmetic procedures can begin.

A smile makeover is the perfect option when several dental issues are threatening the health and beauty of your smile. Teeth that are crooked, gapped, crowded, stained or chipped can benefit from the latest smile makeover techniques. Missing teeth can be replaced and teeth that are stained or discolored can be whitened and brightened. In just a few short visits, you can look terrific and feel ready to take on the world with your beautiful new smile.

Why should I consider a smile makeover at Exceptional Dentistry?

Great service and great results! If you are unhappy with your smile, the professional team at Exceptional Dentistry offer their expertise and high-quality procedures to restore your self-confidence and the natural beauty of your smile. Performing multiple procedures as part of a total smile makeover is a time- and money-saving way to achieve the smile of your dreams. Before you begin, we will thoroughly discuss the overall plan to help you achieve a dazzling smile. You will know exactly what procedures and treatments will be used and what you can expect in your final result.

What cosmetic dentistry procedures may be used in a smile makeover?

The procedures that will work best to achieve your goals are unique to your dental issues. After a thorough examination, our dentists will explain your proposed treatment plan.

In general, procedures that may be used include:

Tooth whitening — a popular and relatively inexpensive option offering dramatic results

  • White fillings — essential to replace unsightly metal fillings that ruin a beautiful smile
  • Invisalign® or porcelain veneers — to straighten teeth
  • Dental implants — to replace missing teeth and serve as anchors for bridges or partials
  • Porcelain inlays or onlays and porcelain crowns — to provide new surfaces for damaged or decayed teeth
  • Laser gum recontouring – to reduce excessive gum tissue, commonly called a "gummy"smile


Teeth Whitening

Why do teeth become stained and dull?

Pigmented foods and drinks, especially berries, red wine, black tea, and coffee will gradually stain your teeth. Lifestyle choices, such as smoking, poor at-home oral care or avoiding regular dental visits affect the health and appearance of our teeth. Aging also plays a role as the enamel slowly thins out, revealing the yellow dentin layer beneath it. Some people simply have teeth that are slightly more yellow.

What is the Zoom!2 Whitening System?

The ZOOM!2 Teeth Whitening System is a highly effective in-office tooth whitening system. First, a peroxide bleaching gel is applied to the teeth. The gel is activated by a mercury metal halide light to enhance the whitening effect. Teeth are whitened in about one hour. Zoom!2 whitening is ideal for anyone seeking immediate and dramatic tooth whitening results. It is a very safe whitening treatment and one of the most popular methods for quickly and effectively whitening teeth. The whitening gel used is a more highly concentrated form of the peroxide used in many store-bought whitening systems.

For your safety, your oral tissues will be protected during the procedure using a dental dam, a rubber device that creates a barrier between the whitening gel and your gums. The dental dam ensures the whitening gel is applied only to your teeth and will not come in contact with your gums, and it prevents accidental swallowing of any gel.

What results can I expect? Will my teeth stay white forever after the Zoom!2 procedure?

You can expect the Zoom!2 Whitening System to whiten your teeth six to eight shades. For individuals who cannot achieve a satisfactory level of whiteness with Zoom!2 whitening, due to deep stains or other dental issues, porcelain veneers are an effective alternative.

Food, drink, lifestyle, genetics, medications and aging all play a part in dulling the natural beauty and whiteness of our teeth. At Exceptional Dentistry, we provide custom-fitted whitening trays for convenient, at-home use. You can freshen the whiteness level of your smile whenever you wish using these whitening trays along with a special prescription bleaching gel. Occasionally, you may wish to repeat the Zoom!2 whitening procedure in our office to reinforce a bright smile.

Does tooth whitening hurt?

The Zoom!2 whitening treatment is typically painless. Some individuals experience varying degrees of tooth sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks for several hours or days following the treatment. This side effect is known as thermal sensitivity, and may be reduced with the application of a fluoride treatment after the whitening procedure. For patients with oral sensitivity, we recommend brushing your teeth with non-abrasive toothpaste designed especially for sensitive teeth for several weeks prior to and after the procedure to reduce any post-treatment sensitivity.


TMJ and Neuromuscular Treatment

What is TMJ?

TMJ and TMD both stand for temporomandibular joint disorder, a painful misalignment of the jaw joints. Found on both sides of your jaw, this joint is like a hinge that allows your mouth to open and close. TMJ sufferers report a variety of symptoms ranging from head and neck pain and teeth grinding or clenching to popping sounds in the jaw area. A Neuromuscular dentist can evaluate your condition and establish the most relaxed position for your jaw. When used in combination with computerized diagnostic technology, painful TMJ symptoms can be reduced or eliminated.

What causes TMJ?

Malocclusion, or a misaligned bite, is most often the cause of TMJ. In malocclusion, the upper and lower teeth do not fit together properly. This throws the bite out of alignment and places undue stress on the jaw joints. Constant jaw clenching or teeth grinding can also put extreme stress on the jaw joints. Since this habit often occurs during sleep, you may not know you are stressing your jaw joints, but may notice your jaw feels sore. Even improper chewing may put excessive stress on the jaw joint, resulting in clicking or popping sounds, chronic headaches, sinus problems and hearing loss. TMJ dysfunction may also be caused by an impact to the side of the head.

Is TMJ difficult to diagnose?

It is not difficult to diagnose if you have the proper training. Many dental professionals have not received training in neuromuscular dentistry. Neuromuscular dentists like Dr. Ted Murray understand the varied symptoms and causes of TMJ. Dr. Murray has received in-depth training from the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies (LVI), the premier school for neuromuscular dentistry. Our office has also invested in the appropriate technology to diagnose and treat TMJ.

Why is a neuromuscular dentist my best choice to treat TMJ symptoms? Will neuromuscular dentistry bring permanent pain relief?

When you are in pain, all you want is to make the pain go away. The goal of neuromuscular dentistry is to identify the cause of your symptoms and devise a treatment plan to bring permanent relief. At Exceptional Dentistry, we work with you to determine if TMJ is causing your symptoms, and if Dr. Murray diagnoses TMJ, you are halfway there. Effective treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis.

A highly trained neuromuscular dentist has special expertise in treating neuromuscular issues; treatment is different for each person. We will determine whether a customized oral appliance is a good option for you, or certain specific dental work, and we will coordinate the best treatment elements to alleviate your pain for the long term. Dr. Murray can recognize the signs and symptoms of TMJ and diagnose the root cause of your problems. Once you have the accurate diagnosis, treatment methods will be targeted to the specific cause(s) of your misaligned jaw joints and you will become pain-free.


White Fillings

What are white fillings?

White fillings, also called composite fillings or tooth-colored fillings, are made from a mercury-free composite resin material that is matched to your natural tooth color.

Why are white fillings better than metal?

Metal amalgam fillings expand and contract when hot and cold foods are eaten. Over time, this will cause the tooth to crack. A cracked tooth may require a root canal if decay sets in and reaches the tooth root, or it may have to be extracted.

White filling material is resistant to temperature changes. The flexible composite is bonded to the tooth instead of being tightly crammed into the cavity. This makes the tooth stronger and prevents further damage that might lead to expensive and time-consuming dental procedures. Results are natural looking and match the color of surrounding teeth to avoid an unattractive "metal"smile.

What is the white fillings procedure?

The decayed portion of your tooth is removed. A mild acid solution is used to etch the tooth so the composite material will bond well to the surfaces. Our dentists will help you choose a shade of white composite to match your tooth enamel very closely and then insert it in small increments until the cavity is entirely filled.

A curing light is used to harden each layer. The dentist will then have you bite down on the new filling to make sure that your teeth meet comfortably. The final step is to do any fine-tuning necessary and then polish the filling.

How long do white fillings last?

White fillings are highly durable and can last seven to ten years with good at-home oral care and regular dental checkups. If your filling is accidentally damaged, repairing it is simple.

Do white fillings require special care?

No special care is required to keep your white fillings looking great and functioning well. Regular daily flossing and brushing at home with a soft-bristled toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste will keep your white fillings in good shape.

See our dentists regularly for dental checkups and cleanings. Avoid activities that may damage your fillings, such as chewing on ice.


Porcelain Veneers

What are porcelain veneers? How are veneers created?

Porcelain veneers are thin, delicate dental restorations placed over the front surface of your teeth. They look just like the front surface of your natural teeth. Veneers conceal just about every type of cosmetic dental problem. Veneers are fabricated in a lab, using a mold of your teeth or a digital scan of your teeth and mouth.

Porcelain veneers have various brands and manufacturers. Like all products, brands vary by price and quality. At Exceptional Dentistry, we use only the most advanced, high-quality products and equipment. Dr. Murray is personally committed to providing you with porcelain veneers that will be durable, beautiful and long-lasting.

What problems can veneers correct?

These restorations conceal just about every type of cosmetic flaw, including:

  • Gaps between teeth
  • Stained teeth
  • Chipped teeth
  • Certain cases of crooked teeth
  • Malformed teeth
  • Teeth that are too small
  • Worn teeth

The only way to know if they will work for you is to visit our experienced dentists for a one-on-one consultation.

What’s the difference between bonding or plastic veneers and porcelain veneers?

Tooth bonding refers to a process, not a product. During tooth bonding, a malleable resin is applied to the tooth, shaped and modified, and then hardened. Porcelain veneers are a solid, pre-made restoration. Both things can conceal tooth flaws, although veneers tend to be the most versatile, most durable, most attractive and longest-lasting option.

How quickly can veneers give me a beautiful smile? How many porcelain veneers are needed to improve my smile?

It depends. In just about all cases, at least two veneers are used for symmetry. It varies based on the location of the cosmetic flaws and what will make your smile look natural and attractive. Porcelain veneers are sometimes referred to as "instant orthodontics," because of their ability to create a straight, beautiful smile instantly. As soon as the veneers are placed, your smile results are finalized. You'll need to come to a couple appointments before the veneers are placed – your consultation and planning appointment, plus an appointment to prepare the teeth. The veneers are created at the lab and then sent to our dentist, at which point they can be placed on your teeth.

How are teeth prepared for veneers? How are veneers attached to teeth? And will my teeth be sensitive following veneer placement?

A very superficial layer of enamel is essentially roughened to create an adhesive surface for the veneers. Then, our dentists affix the veneers to the enamel using a durable, strong bonding material. You may experience some sensitivity after placement. An over-the-counter pain reliever should be more than adequate to address any sensitivity.

Can veneers help fix my crooked teeth more quickly than braces?

Yes, veneers are an instant treatment while braces can take several months to a few years. But not everyone is a good candidate for veneers. If your teeth and bite would be better served with orthodontics, our dentists will let you know. We have your best interest in mind, and we want to make sure you have a healthy, beautiful, functional bite for life.

How should I care for my new veneers? How long will veneers typically last?

Care for your veneers just as you do with your natural teeth. Brush twice a day, and floss daily. Visit the dentist for routine cleanings and exams. You can eat everything you eat normally. But even for natural tooth enamel, certain things should be avoided – chewing on ice, chewing on hard candies, etc. These things could damage both your teeth and your veneers.

Research has shown that veneers can last a decade or longer. You may experience a shorter timeline than this, if your veneers are chipped or broken somehow. Some people need to replace their veneers at some point, if not because of damage, because of eventual discoloration. But porcelain veneers are highly resistant to breaking and staining, and should last for many years.


Next Steps: Schedule Your Consultation

We hope you found these questions helpful. We also know you may still have other questions not covered here. If you are interested in pursuing your dental goals, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with our experienced dentists. To arrange your appointment, please call us at (563) 556-2711. We are proud to serve patients from across the region, including Dubuque, Davenport and Cedar Rapids, IA, as well as Galena, IL, and all of the surrounding areas.