What is this yellow build-up?

I have been noticing a yellow build-up on my lower teeth. It is very difficult to remove. When I do try to remove it it seems like I don’t have much tooth left. Can you tell me what is happening? Is there anything I can do to avoid this?

Tara from Texas

Dear Tara,

From what you have described, it sounds like it may have been some time since you have been into the dentist for a teeth cleaning. The yellow build-up is calculus or tarter. Your saliva naturally contains minerals. What is happening is that the minerals gradually stick to your teeth and build up. The substance that builds up is called calculus and it is called tarter when it has built up enough that you can see it.

This is such a gradual process that many get used to seeing it. When it is cleaned off it may even feel strange. Some have described that it feels like there are actually gaps between their teeth or even that part of their tooth is gone.

This condition can be very damaging to your gums. It can lead to gum disease and if left untreated, it can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth. The teeth will become loose and can fall out. Once you get to the point where the teeth are loose it may be too late to save them. This is one of the many reasons we highly recommend that you have your teeth cleaned twice a year, every six months. Routine services can help prevent gum disease. If you are prone to gum disease, it may be advantageous to have your teeth cleaned more frequently.

If you are anxious about getting your teeth cleaned, there are many gentle dentistry techniques. Sedation dentistry is also an option, if you are overly nervous or scared of the dentist. Regular cleanings and preventive care will save keep your teeth and gums healthy, saving you money on expensive procedures in the future.

How much will the Snap-On Smile cost?


I have been learning more about the Snap-On Smile method that temporary can makeover a smile. Can you tell me how much this will cost? I really don’t want to go to the trouble of going in for an appointment just to find out I can’t afford it. Do you know if they have monthly payment options? If I can make it work into my budget, I have five teeth in the front and four in the back on either side that I would like to improve the appearance of. It would be really nice to know what kind of costs to expect before I go in.



It is difficult to give a cost estimate on any kind of dental procedure without an examination. That is why as a general rule of thumb dentists hesitate to provide fee quotes over the phone or on the web. Often times, they will do their best to give you an estimate and then after they conduct an in-office exam they find several unforeseen issues. Unfortunately this makes the patient upset since the actual price is higher than what was quoted over the phone.

What might be helpful is a general ballpark price. Many dentists are just starting to offer the Snap-On Smile since they are becoming quite popular. I would say that dentist’s costs could range anywhere from $800 to $1600 for an entire arch of teeth. The cost would be less for only the front six, running between $500 to $1000.  The laboratory, Den-Mat Corporation, has their own fees and so does the dentist. So the estimates are based on these two services combined.

Most dentists will fall somewhere in that range depending on their experience and comfort level. For example, if they are particularly sensitive to your comfort and adjusting them multiple times, the cost will be on the higher end. If they are trying to keep costs down to be as efficient as possible, then it will be closer to the lower end of the spectrum. Another thing to consider is where you are located in the country.

I still recommend going in for a consultation and evaluation so you can make an educated decision based on a specific quote. Hope this information was useful. The Snap-On Smile is significantly cheaper than many other cosmetic dentistry services.

My tooth is infected and I don’t have insurance

Hello. I’m in a tough spot. I am missing some back teeth and now a bad infection has developed. It’s so bad that my cheek has swelled and it looks like there is a golf ball in my mouth. I have no money and I don’t have dental insurance. Actually, I am unemployed so I was wondering if you could tell me if there was anything I could do to treat the infection.  Thank you for your help.
– Ellen


Sorry to hear you’re in pain. Before telling you what to do, let’s start with what you should NOT do. It is important that you do not take antibiotics in an attempt to get rid of the infection, unless you decide to have the tooth treated. This is because it sounds like the infection is inside a tooth and antibiotics will not get inside your tooth to fight it. Basically, if you take antibiotics on your own you will not be able to get rid of the infection. You may attack it, but it won’t go away. What happens is that you are inadvertently helping the bacteria that survive to become resistant to the antibiotic. When the infection comes back, there may be NOTHING that will be able to treat the infection. This scenario presents a very serious situation.

Don’t mess around with tooth infection. Infections can become extremely dangerous if they spread to other areas of your body. For example, if it spreads to your throat, it could swell shut and you would risk choking. You need to go in right away and get this taken care of. A root canal is a good option and if you really can’t afford this, consider a tooth extraction. It all depends on the exact position of the tooth and its condition, but it may be recommended to take antibiotics for a few days before it is removed. It is important that you complete the dosage, because if you don’t follow through the infection WILL come back. When this happens, at some level the infection is always more resistant to antibiotics.

There are many communities with special programs for individuals that don’t have money and can’t afford basic dental care in an emergency situation. Your local dental society is a good resource to check. Otherwise, you could just start calling local dentists. You’d be surprised how many dentists will accept whatever payment you can afford when faced with a dental emergency.

Don’t put it off any longer. Even if you think you’re starting to feel better, the infection could get worse. Please get it checked out.