FAQ’s for Fetner & Hartigan

At Fetner and Hartigan, we love it when patients have researched the Internet and come in with great questions. We welcome these questions because we know: the more you understand WHY recommended treatments will help you, the more likely you are to follow through with the therapy you need.

We also want you to be knowledgeable about options so you can be proactive about your oral health. With all the technological developments in periodontics, things can get very complicated, so our office is dedicated to shepherding you through this maze using human terms and compassion.

How long have you been practicing?

Fetner & Hartigan is truly a family practice. It was started in 1988 by Alan and Mary. Our son Michael joined our practice in 2013. All of us were educated at the University of Florida College of Dentistry (Go Gators!).

Alan finished his residency in 1985, Mary in 1989, and Michael in 2013. Mary and Alan practiced general dentistry and also taught at the University of Florida for five years before specialty training. Michael has worked in general dentistry, as well.

All of us are board-certified diplomates of the American Board of Periodontology. In 2017, our son Alex joined our practice. He completed his periodontal residency at the University of Florida.

Why should I consider Fetner & Hartigan for my treatment?

It boils down to three things: knowledge, expertise, and passion.

KNOWLEDGE: After our residencies, we have continued to add to our knowledge base relentlessly. All doctors are board certified with the American Board of Periodontology.

All of us attend and teach multiple continuing education courses yearly, and we devour our professional journals each month. We have all conducted scientific research and are published in juried journals. All of us also teach at the University of Florida, Florida State College at Jacksonville, and for numerous study clubs and invited presentations.

We are often asked to evaluate new products or techniques for dental product companies, which keeps us on the cutting edge of our profession.

EXPERTISE: Knowledge alone is not enough. Though we are constantly trying to absorb advances in our profession, 30 years of practice has allowed us to learn what really works best.

You want to know who we think are our best teachers? It is our patients! They have taught us which techniques work best, which medications prevent discomfort, and even how best to hold our instruments to make our procedures more comfortable for them.

Another unique advantage we have at Fetner & Hartigan as that we have dinner together every night, so we can share our cases and confer and learn and grow from each other's experience. Michael has been hearing the stories since he was a kid, so that’s a big advantage for him! Mary’s dad, Dr. Joseph Hartigan, is a retired dentist who has shared his knowledge and experiences with us as well.

At Fetner & Hartigan, you will be getting the shared experience of three generations of dentists!

PASSION: We are very lucky people, because we look forward every day to coming to the office and working with our wonderful family of staff members to give our patients the best experience possible. We pretty much live and breathe periodontics; so much so that we believe our nightly dinner table discussions of interesting cases is one reason three of our four children became dentists!

Our staff is just as passionate and you will feel this from the first time you visit. Our biggest passion? Giving you, our patient, the best possible experience from the start of your treatment to your last.

Who is a periodontist?

Periodontics is one of the nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. It focuses on the study and treatment of the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth and jaw.

Who is a board-certified periodontist?

A Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology has gone above and beyond the usual training and made a lifelong commitment to staying on the cutting edge of the profession. To be boarded, the periodontist must tackle a rigorous series of written and oral exams.

He or she also commits to ongoing testing and extra continuing education to keep the certification. All the doctors at Fetner & Hartigan are board certified and strive to remain at the top of ther profession.

Do not be fooled by the confusing mishmash of “diplomates” out there. Only nine boards are recognized by the American Dental Association, and periodontics is one of them. There is no ADA-recognized specialty or board for implants. Periodontists have very extensive training in implantology and a third year was added to the residency for this complex subject.

What causes periodontal disease?

Plaque, a sticky, colorless mass of bacteria and debris on your teeth, is the culprit, but other factors can speed up bone loss, such as smoking, your overall health, your stress level, your bite, hormones, and so on. If you have diabetes or an immune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, or are on certain medications, you are particularly at risk.

The number-one risk factor for periodontal disease is smoking. More than 50% of the people with periodontal disease would not have it if they had never smoked.

My mouth doesn’t hurt, so how can I tell if I have gum disease?

You can’t, until it is in the terminal stages. Like high blood pressure, periodontal disease is often symptomless. Most people do not have any signs such as loose or drifting teeth, abscesses, and pain until the very end stages of the disease.

Even at this point, a periodontist may still be able to help you keep your teeth for many years. A correct diagnosis using measurements in your mouth and radiographs (X-rays) is essential.

We also have sophisticated laboratory tests such as DNA probes and salivary analysis, if necessary. Periodontal disease is the number-one reason for tooth loss in adults, so early detection and treatment are essential.

Periodontal disease, if left untreated, can contribute to other health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. If you’re pregnant, periodontal disease is also linked to premature birth or low birth weight. Your smile’s health affects the overall health of your body.

Is periodontal disease treatable?

Gum disease is both preventable and treatable. Today’s periodontal treatments provide you with a variety of options that are gentle, safe, and effective. If you have been diagnosed with gingivitis or gum disease, we can help you determine what treatment best meets your needs. Periodontal treatments include:

  • Non-surgical treatment
  • Periodontal surgery
  • Periodontal therapy
  • Dental implants
  • At-home care (special toothpaste, mouthwash, toothbrushes, and prescription treatment trays)

Am I at risk of having periodontal disease?

You may be at risk of having periodontal disease if you smoke or use tobacco products, do not brush your teeth and floss regularly, or have health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or osteoporosis. If several of your family members have had gum disease, it can, in some cases, be genetic.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of gum disease, schedule an appointment with your dentist, who can help determine if treatment is necessary.

Does periodontal treatment hurt?

Through a combination of better technology, medication, and our years of experience, we can assure you that you will be comfortable throughout your treatments. “The Wand” has revolutionized the administration of local anesthesia. We treat a lot of children and they do very well, and so will you!

Newer techniques in surgery such as LANAP and other laser procedures have made periodontal surgery as comfortable as getting a cleaning. We offer nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), conscious sedation, TVs in the ceiling, and even I.V. sedation for our really nervous and special needs patients.

Most importantly, we have learned much from our patients over the years and use techniques, technology, and medication to keep you comfortable throughout your treatment and post-operative period. The door is never shut at Fetner & Hartigan; we make ourselves available 24/7 should you ever need us.

How much work will I miss for the treatments?

Through our experience we have learned to minimize “downtime” in the recovery phase. Even the most involved procedures such as sinus grafts can be done with local anesthetic and you can return to work the next day. Implants and periodontal surgery can often be done using minimally invasive techniques, so some people have these procedures done on their lunch hour and return to work!

Will my insurance cover my treatment?

Most procedures are covered by your insurance, and our office team is expert in helping you navigate the insurance maze. We never want cost to come between you and needed therapy, so we offer multiple flexible payment methods. We are also sensitive to your particular needs and will discuss all treatment options so you can make decisions that work best for you.

I was only referred for a localized problem; why do I have to have a complete exam?

Part of our commitment to excellence includes being very thorough. A complete periodontal exam and head and neck exam for cancer is done on every patient we see, even kids, because the health of your whole mouth is essential to the success of your treatment.

Studies show that even one infected periodontal pocket can jeopardize a new implant in another part of your mouth. We frequently find hidden problems that would have gone unnoticed. Even a single pocket can act as a reservoir for periodontal pathogens. Being thorough is the only way we can be sure you are healthy.

My GP just probed my whole mouth; why do you do that again?

One reason we reprobe is to enter your measurements into our Florida Probe® database. Fetner & Hartigan’s FP® database is the largest in the world! This allows us to compare your numbers year after year to monitor all your periodontal parameters closely.

A copy is sent to your GP as well. Another reason is there can be some variation in probes and probing techniques and our probing instruments and all operators at Fetner & Hartigan are calibrated to give reproducible numbers.

Why do you need more X-rays when my GP took a panoramic and insurance won’t pay for your full series?

The question really is, why isn’t your insurance company paying for necessary “X-rays”? To make a periodontal diagnosis, we must have a detailed 18-20 film “full series.”

A panoramic is a good image for screening and problems in the jaws, but it gives very little detail of the teeth. Properly oriented, calibrated, and exposed radiographs are essential in making a periodontal diagnosis. We will send your dentist a copy of any X-rays we take because he or she will need them to look for cavities as well.

We are very careful never to take even a single X-ray unless it is essential for your treatment. We have been using digital X-rays since 2006. This is better for you because it exposes you to 90% less radiation, and it is better for the environment because we no long need toxic chemicals and lead as in film X-rays.

fetner and hartigan periodontalwhat sets us apart?
A heart for serving our community
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A heart for continued education
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A heart for the environment
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