New Patient Information

Already scheduled your appointment? Click here to download the New Patient Packet. Please bring these forms on your first visit. New patients are always welcome, and we invite you to call or click here to schedule a time to meet us. If you have recent x-rays from your previous dentist, it would be great if we could have a copy. (They might have you sign a release form.) If you need help finding us, see our transportation directions.

To address any concerns you may have we have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions below. If you don’t see your concern addressed, or if you need clarification, please feel free to call us.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • General Dentistry
  • Children
  • Insurance
  • Office Policy
  • Dental Emergency
  • Misc.

Are x-rays really needed?

We do need to take x-rays because a visual examination does not show us the condition of the roots, the areas between the teeth where they touch each other, or the bone around your teeth. X-rays show us the health of the whole tooth. Without them, we cannot say conclusively that these areas are healthy.

We are very conservative when taking x-rays; we take only x-rays as needed to evaluate your teeth properly. We also use digital x-rays, which emit less radiation than traditional film x-rays did. Digital x-rays are also clearer and easier to read than film. It also allows us to easily share your x-rays with our colleagues if we ever need to refer you to a specialist.

What is nitrous oxide? Is it safe?

Nitrous oxide and oxygen blend together to have a calming effect on the patient. Also known as laughing gas, it allows the patient to relax and respond easier to treatment. Nitrous oxide is a form of conscious sedation: the patient remains awake and aware and responds to stimuli. Once the patient stops inhaling nitrous oxide and begins breathing normal air, the nitrous oxide is quickly expelled from the patient’s system and the effects of the gas dissipate. This is an option that we offer to patients, particularly those who are nervous about dentistry.

Are silver feelings safe?

Amalgam (silver) fillings are a safe material to fill teeth. The amalgam material consists of a mix of metals, including a tiny amount of mercury. When mixed with the other metals, the mercury is not harmful to you any longer. Amalgam fillings are favored for back teeth (molars) because of their strength. Molars do a lot of work chewing. Amalgam fillings are strong enough that they last a long time despite the amount of work. If you wish to avoid amalgam fillings we do have other options available, including composite material (white fillings) and CEREC porcelain restorations.

Why not use white fillings all the time?

Composite material is excellent for bonding the front teeth. However they do not contain any metal, and therefore are not ideal for filling molars. Your molars do a lot of work chewing your food, and when composite fillings are placed in back teeth they tend to wear down more quickly than amalgam fillings do. They still last quite some time, but amalgams tend to last longer without need for replacement. Some insurance companies have stipulations saying they will not cover white composites on back teeth, or cover them at a severely reduced fee.

What is CEREC?

CEREC ("Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics") is a state-of-the-art CAD/CAM ("computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing") system that our office uses to create porcelain restorations. This includes all-ceramic crowns, veneers, bridges, inlays, onlays, and partial crowns for front and back teeth. The best part is everything is digital, and it's all done in one visit. There are no impressions, no temporary teeth, and no waiting for the lab work to come back. This system also allows us to prepare the tooth more conservatively than lab-fabricated crowns, so the patient retains more of the natural tooth structure.

Your time is valuable and CEREC allows us to complete your treatment in one visit, meaning more time doing what you love and less time in our chair!

Do you offer braces?

Yes. Dr. Richard Bankhead and Dr. Stuart MacDonald are certified providers of Invisalign Invisible Braces. Dr. MacDonald is also a certified provider of 6 Month Smile. Some insurances have an allowance for adult orthodontics, but some do not. The front desk will contact the insurance company for you and review your benefits with you. We recommend a consultation because not every patient is a candidate. If a patient needs traditional braces we can refer him or her to a local orthodontist.

I have spaces due to missing teeth. How can I fix them?

We have several treatment options available to help you. Possibilities include a bridge, a partial denture, or a dental implant. Your dentist can explain the procedures and discuss the best course of action. The front desk will help you navigate the financial aspects of the treatment. Give us a call and we can schedule you for a consultation with the doctor.

I have spaces due to missing teeth. How can I fix them?

We have several treatment options available to help you. Possibilities include a bridge, a partial denture, or a dental implant. Your dentist can explain the procedures and discuss the best course of action. The front desk will help you navigate the financial aspects of the treatment. Give us a call and we can schedule you for a consultation with the doctor.

Why are sealants recommended for my child’s teeth?

Sealants are a resin material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the permanent back teeth (premolars and molars). This resin bonds with the pits and fissures (depressions and grooves) of the chewing surface of the teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting the tooth’s enamel from acids and plaque.

Why is fluoride so important for my child’s teeth?

Fluoride is an element that occurs naturally and is very important for your teeth as well as your child's. When ingested (in drinking water, for instance) or applied directly to the teeth, fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. A process called remineralization can reverse the beginnings of decay, and makes the tooth more resistant to decay by strengthening the tooth’s surface. This also benefits the root surface of the tooth. As you can see, fluoride is a very important factor in keeping permanent teeth healthy.

Why do you fix cavities on my child’s baby tooth? Isn’t the tooth just going to fall out?

On average, many primary or “baby” teeth don’t fall out until the child is 12 or 13 years old. It’s important to keep the baby teeth healthy until they are naturally ready to fall out. Sometimes we may decide to “watch” a cavity on a baby tooth because we expect the tooth will fall out on its own before the cavity starts causing problems. However we will recommend treatment when it is a tooth your child will need for several years. We treat cavities in baby teeth when your child is at risk of pain, infection, or problems with the spacing of his/her teeth. (When a tooth falls out prematurely, the neighboring teeth can drift into the space left behind and the adult teeth will have limited space available when it’s time for them to come in.) The enamel of baby teeth is thinner than the enamel of adult teeth; cavities can spread very quickly as they work their way toward the nerve and blood vessel of a baby tooth. As the cavity grows, the tooth can become sensitive, and then severely painful, just as in an adult tooth with an untreated cavity. And, as with adult teeth, untreated cavities in baby teeth can cause infection, and in extreme cases, hospitalization.

What insurances do you accept?

We are a participating provider for most Delta Dental and Blue Cross Blue Shield plans. If you have a different plan than Delta or Blue Cross, you can still visit us if your insurance plan allows you to go out of network. Check with your human resources department or your insurance provider to see what type of plan you have.

I have dental insurance, but I’m not sure what it covers.

Our staff is very experienced with insurance policies. Each insurance policy has different coverage levels and stipulations, so there is no easy answer. We will help determine what your individual policy covers. We will also review financial options available for work that is not covered by the insurance plan.

What is the “usual and customary fee” the insurance mentions? Also, why do I still get charged when my insurance pays 100%?

Every insurance company decides on a fee for each dental procedure. Basically the way dental insurance works is the insurance covers a percentage of each procedure, up to the designated (allowed) fee. The insurance typically does not survey dentists before designating what “usual and customary” should mean. When a dentist makes a quote, the fee is based on a variety of factors, including the time it takes to perform a procedure, the materials used, and if any lab work is necessary.

The patient is responsible for the difference between what the dental practice charges and what the insurance company paid (this difference is the patient’s co-payment). When an insurance says it will pay a procedure at 100%, it means 100% of the insurance company’s usual and customary fee. If they pay 100% of their fee, and there is still a balance left over, the patient is responsible for that co-payment. If the practice does not charge the patient for the co-payment, it is considered insurance fraud, and we could lose our license to practice dentistry.

If you ever have any questions regarding billing, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

My friend and I have the same insurance company. Why do they pay more for his treatment than for mine?

One insurance company will provide insurance to many businesses. Employers may choose what level of dental insurance the company subscribes to. Therefore, in this example, your friend’s employer picked better coverage than your employer chose. Most human resources departments will give you a booklet that breaks down what and how much is covered. It’s important to familiarize yourself with your insurance plan.

We act as a liaison between you and the insurance company; we do our best to help you but we cannot guarantee that the information we receive is completely reliable. The insurance company itself does not guarantee the information it gives us until it actually processes the claim.

How can I know for sure how much the insurance will pay?

We can submit a pre-treatment estimate to the insurance company. The pre-treatment estimate tells the insurance what procedures the patient needs, and the insurance sends to us, in writing, a guarantee of what they will pay and what the patient will owe. This is not a contract with us to do the procedure. There is no penalty if the patient decides not to have that procedure performed. Pre-treatment estimates typically take one month to be processed by the insurance company.

How can I pay my co-payment?

We accept cash, checks, and all four major credit cards. We also work the financing company Care Credit, which offers payment plans for up to 24 months interest free. Speak to the front desk about your proposed treatment plan and they can advise you on the option that best suits your finances.

Do you have payment plans?

We work with the financing company Care Credit. Care Credit offers interest-free payment plans for up to 24 months. Applying is quick and easy, just answer a few short questions over their secure website. Care Credit works with dental practices, but not exclusively; they can be used for medical, vision, and veterinary services as well.

Does the practice refer patients to specialists?

We are a general dentistry practice and we do the bulk of the work that our patients need. We serve patients of all ages, from children to the elderly. Many oral surgery procedures are done in-office, including wisdom teeth and dental implants. We offer cosmetic procedures such as bonding, whitening, and veneers, and also offer short-term orthodontic treatment. Dr. Childs, our periodontist, works three days a week in our office, so patients who need special gum care do not have to travel to a different location. There are cases when we might refer a patient out to a specialist’s practice. In those cases we will refer you to a trusted colleague who specializes in the given issue.

Do you take walk-ins?

We encourage our patients to call and schedule their appointments. We want to make sure the doctor is able to see you. If a patient walks in, the doctor might be in the middle of a procedure and unable to see the walk-in immediately. If you have an emergency (tooth ache, broken tooth, etc) please call the office. We can often give you an appointment for the same day. Calling ahead guarantees that you will be seen at a time that works well for both you and the doctor, with minimal waiting time.

What is the cancellation policy?

We understand that scheduling conflicts do come up on occasion. When you need to reschedule with us, we ask that you give us at least 24 hour notice. We will happily reschedule the appointment for a time that is more convenient for you.

How late can I be to my appointment?

Before scheduling any appointment with us, the front desk will ask you about the best day and time for you to visit us. This way we can make sure to find a time that is convenient for both you and the clinician. Our clinicians, especially our dental hygienists, work on very tight schedules. If one patient is late, the clinician is late for every patient afterwards. If you fear you are running late, please call us and let us know. We will do our best to accommodate you.

What happens if I miss a dental appointment?

We request patients give us 24 hour notice when cancelling so that we can maintain an efficient schedule. No one likes to wait at the doctor’s office; when a patient is late it causes all the patients afterward to be seen late. There are three circumstances when we charge for missed appointments:

  1. A patient is more than 20 minutes late to an appointment without a valid reason.
  2. A patient calls to cancel within 24 hours of the scheduled appointment time.
  3. A patient does not call to cancel and fails to keep a scheduled appointment.

Of course, there are emergency situations and a patient misses an appointment. We are understanding of the circumstances and do not charge patients if they have a valid reason for missing an appointment.

Why does your Medical History ask a lot of questions that aren't related to my mouth?

You'd be surprised at how interconnected the human body is. You might have had a surgical procedure and need to take antibiotics before coming in to see us. Or you might be on a medication that has known drug interactions. We need to know if you have certain conditions or allergies, as well as all medications you take, so that we can provide you with the best possible care. We try not to overload you with paperwork, but we do need this information in writing.

What happens if I have a dental emergency?

Please call us right away. We have evening appointments three nights a week, and we have office hours every Saturday. We will do our best to see you as soon as possible. If you need us after hours, please call and leave a message on our voice mail. We always have a doctor on call to check the messages. Please be sure to leave your phone number so we can call you back.

Going to the emergency room is another option for dealing with dental emergencies. If you feel you need treatment immediately, please seek medical attention at the nearest hospital.

What should I do if my tooth is knocked out?

Please call us immediately to schedule an appointment with the dentist. To give the tooth the best chance of surviving the trauma, it is important to see your dentist within an hour of the accident. Handle the tooth by the top (crown), do not touch the pointed bottom (root). Touching the root of the tooth can damage cells that are necessary to reattach the tooth to the bone. Gently rinse the tooth in water to remove any dirt. Do not scrub the tooth! Place the clean tooth in your mouth; hold it between your cheek and gum to keep it moist. It is very important not to let the tooth dry out. If it is not possible to store the tooth in the mouth, wrap it in clean gauze and immerse it in milk or saline solution (the solution used for contact lenses).

If a baby tooth is knocked out, the tooth should not be replanted. The patient should be seen as soon as possible to make sure the tooth was knocked out completely and there are no remaining pieces.

What should I do if my tooth is pushed out of position?

Please call us immediately to schedule an appointment with the dentist. In the meantime, attempt to reposition the tooth to its normal alignment using very light finger pressure. Do not force it into position.

How should I handle a chipped or fractured tooth?

There are different types of tooth fractures. Minor fractures (chipped teeth, for example) may be fixed by smoothing the tooth or through a simple restorative procedure. Moderate fractures involve damage to the enamel, tissue, and/or pulp of the tooth. This type of fracture may need a more extensive procedure to fix. Severe fractures usually mean that a tooth has been traumatized to the point where it cannot be saved. If you fracture a tooth, rinse with warm water and use an ice pack to reduce swelling. Take ibuprofen, not aspirin, for pain. Call us to schedule an appointment as this is a temporary measure until your dentist can see you to fix the tooth.

If you wear dentures and a tooth breaks or chips, wear your spare dentures until you can see your dentist. If you do not have a spare set and cannot see us soon, use super glue to glue the tooth or piece of tooth back into place. This is a temporary solution and will not solve the problem. You should still come in to see us even if you successfully glue the tooth into place. Only use super glue with dentures! Never try to glue a natural tooth or a part of a natural tooth back into place!

What should I do if the tissue in my mouth is injured?

Injuries to the inside of the mouth include tears, cuts, puncture wounds, and lacerations to the cheek, lips, or tongue. The wound should be cleaned immediately with warm water, and an emergency appointment should be scheduled with an oral surgeon as soon as possible. If you are unable to visit the oral surgeon, go to the hospital. You can reduce the bleeding of a tongue laceration by pulling the tongue forward and using gauze to put pressure on the wound.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It is a federal mandate. HIPAA basically says that we cannot and will not share your information with anyone without your prior written consent. You can download a copy of our Notice of Privacy Practices in our New Patient Packet.

I’m really scared of the dentist.

Dental anxiety is an issue that a lot of people contend with. This is partially due to how dentistry used to be performed. We hear a lot of horror stories from adults who were traumatized by their childhood dentist. Dentistry is not performed that way anymore. With the technologies we have available to us, coupled with local anesthetic and nitrous oxide (if you choose), dental visits are very often a lot easier and a lot less painful than they used to be. We have received several nice compliments on Yelp from people who had the same concerns. Also, take a look at our Facebook page, look through our photo galleries. Patients have found it helpful to “meet” the people who will be treating them before they actually come in to visit us. We will do everything in our power to make your visit a comfortable, calm experience.

Are you really on Facebook?

Yes! We see the people who visit us as friends and neighbors. We set up a Facebook page so that we can keep in contact with people throughout the year, not just every six months. We use our page to show the fun side of dentistry. We offer special discounts and contests to our “fans.” We never use our patients’ information for evil and under no circumstances would ever give your information to any person or company.

What's with the flamingo?

We have had neon flamingos living in our office windows for years. We have one in each office. People have come to recognize them as a local landmark. It certainly makes us easy to find! The reason we like flamingos is twofold.

First, the flamingo has an unusual jaw. Its upper jaw is movable and its lower jaw is stationary (opposite or upside-down to ours). The second reason is we happened to see a vintage flamingo in Cape Cod, and we thought it’d look great in our office window. And the rest is history!

I'm afraid I have bad breath.

Bad breath happens to all of us from time to time. Many factors can affect your breath, including eating certain foods, using tobacco, having a bad cavity or or gum disease, as well as certain medical issues. Regular dental visits and good home care habits help prevent bad breath. If your bad breath persists, let your dentist know. We can help determine the cause and offer possible solutions for you.

How will I know what all those medical terms mean?

When we discuss a treatment plan for you, we will make sure you have full understanding of your options before we schedule any treatment. Any questions about the terms we use, the advantages or disadvantages or proposed treatment, and any other concerns you may have will be fully examined and explained before moving forward. We are here to work with you to achieve your ideal smile.

How do you sterilize your patient rooms?

There are two valid ways to sterilize our equipment. Some offices wipe every surface to sterilize them. Other offices will use blue barrier tape or plastic bags to cover certain surfaces (such as the handles on the overhead lights). Either way disinfects the room at a medical level. We might clean our rooms a little differently than your previous dentist; it's really up to the individual dentist’s discretion if the room gets wiped or taped. We do follow universal precautions and guidelines to ensure all our rooms are properly sterilized.