Frequently Asked Questions

Are those Dr. Merlino's teeth?

Why yes, yes they are!

What are 'Usual and Customary' charges?

These are terms used to describe the amounts the insurance companies make up as charges for a specific procedure.  These rarely reflect true numbers.  Unfortunately, these numbers make it seem like the doctor is charging more than they should. Fortunately for our patients, Dr. Merlino had an independent study done on what the most common charges are for specific procedures in the area.  Her charges were much lower than the 40th percentile (as low as the study showed.)  Therefore, as a patient of Dr. Merlino, you can be sure that you will not be taken advantage of financially.  The study is available upon request.

What are 'Services not covered by insurance'?

Each policy is different.  Some procedures may or may not be covered.  Some may be covered at a lower percentage than others. To be sure of your coverage, feel free to request a copy of your policy's benefit schedule from  your insurance carrier.  For larger procedures such as crowns, partials, dentures, root canals, deep cleaning, etc., we will try to find out for you just what your insurance will pay.  This may mean a phone call or sending a pre-determination.  At times, we may need you to call or check with your employer or insurance company.  If we find that a procedure is not covered and that you will be responsible for the whole amount, we promise to work with you so you will be able to have the necessary work done.  No matter what type of insurance you have, you are responsible for the whole amount.  If a procedure is done and your insurance does not pay us, you are responsible and will be asked to pay for the work done.  We try not to let this be a surprise but sometimes insurance companies surprise us. They have changed their policies and have stopped paying for things that they have covered in the past. Some policies do not cover white (composite) fillings in back teeth.  As a patient you are responsible for knowing your coverage.  If you have a copy of your policy's benefit schedule please bring it in to the office, fax it, or email it.  It MAY help to reduce the guesswork.

Is an HMO the same as Insurance?

An HMO is not insurance and we do not take any HMOs.  Many of the state assistance programs fall into this category.  If in doubt, call your insurance company directly.  If they tell you that you MUST see a doctor on their list, then it is probably an HMO.  Insurance usually gives you the freedom to go to any dentist you choose.

Are Discount Programs the same as Insurance?

A discount program is not insurance.  You must go to a dentist on their list.  These are the types you see advertised on a telephone pole.

Is Dental Insurance worth the premiums?

The real determining factor is your mouth!  If you are cavity prone or like to chew ice, popcorn, or hard candy, then it is probably worth it.  If you are blessed with good dental genes and take care of your teeth well, and you rarely need a filling, then it depends on what your monthly payment is.  Two cleanings and exams annually and x-rays every few years will be around $200 per year.  If your dental insurance costs you more than $20 per month per person, then you may want to reconsider carrying insurance.

I am paying out-of-pocket for a large procedure.

Do I have to pay for it all at once?

For existing patients, we are willing to make financial arrangements to allow for patients to get dental work completed and make payments. For new patients, payment for service and copays is expected at the time of service.  Payment plans are typically planned and agreed upon prior to treatment.

Dental Issues

What is a root canal?

Tidbits for Tots.

Your child's first dental visit should be at 2½ to 3 years old.  Your child should take a fluoride pill or drops if you do not have fluoride in your drinking water; check with your municipality.  Most bottled water does not contain fluoride.  You should brush your child's teeth until they are able to do a good job, usually around 6 to 8 years old.  Have them use the child flossers; it is easier for them.  When they brush on their own, once a week brush them yourself so you can have a better look in the child's mouth, checking for any problems.  Pop and sweets should be considered a treat, not an everyday necessity.  Visit your dentist every 6 months.

Good Habits for Great Teeth!

Good drinks: water, milk

Okay drinks: juice, hi-C, lemonade
Bad drinks: pop, gatorade


Try not to drink pop every day.  It is better to drink pop with a meal.  Diet pop is worse for your teeth than regular pop.  Juice boxes are better with a meal.  Water is the best in-between meals drink.  It quenches your thirst and is good for your body!

Good snacks: raw fruits and veggies
Okay snacks: cereals, chips, chocolate
Bad snacks: Anything sugary and sticky, like gummy bears.


If you can't brush after a meal or snack, rinse your mouth with water and chew sugarless gum.  Brush after breakfast and before school.  Brush and floss before bed, then rinse with a fluoride rinse (ACT or Phos-flur.)  Please call with any questions!

Teeth Whitening

Before whitening, brush and floss your teeth.  Smile in the mirror, and take a note of which teeth you can see.  Put a drop of whitening gel into the mold in the spaces that fit the teeth you can see when smiling.  Push the tray onto your teeth until it fits firmly.  The gel should cover your teeth, but not push out of the tray.  If there is excess gel, wipe it away and be sure to use less next time.  Temporary whitening of your gums may occur due to excess gel.

          NiteWhite: Wear all night as you sleep. You can also wear the trays for about two hours once a day if you'd rather not sleep with them.

          DayWhite: Wear for one hour two times a day; once in the morning and once in the evening. Be sure to use new gel every time you whiten.

          When you take the trays out, rinse them in warm water.  (Be careful; hot water may distort the trays.)  Use the trays for two to three weeks for best results.  This time may be longer or shorter depending on the original color of your teeth.  Contact the office for more whitening gel if it is needed.  Your teeth may be more sensitive during this time.  If your teeth become too sensitive, you may need to wear the trays for shorter lengths of time.  Consider using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth when you brush throughout the weeks you're whitening your teeth.  Please don't hesitate to contact the office with any questions or concerns that you may have.

Air Abrasion - Drilless Dentistry!

What is air abrasion? It is a painless, quiet way to remove decay in small cavities or resurface older, discolored composite fillings. It does not work well for large cavities or removing previous fillings. Our unit blows a high concentration of powder through a tiny nozzle onto the small area we want to clean. Because the only thing that touches your tooth is the powder, no friction is created and therefore, no pain is felt. In most cases, there is no need for anesthesia. Once the decay and stain is removed, we fill in your tooth with a white, composite filling. We have also found that using air abrasion in placing sealants increases their retention.

TMJ & Jaw Pain

We use our mouths for many activities: talking, yawning, eating, and laughing. When we are not engaged in these, we need to allow our jaw muscles and joints to relax sufficiently. These steps will help you learn how to relax these muscles and joints, and reduce the jaw pain that you are experiencing.

A root canal is the removal of an infection and the infected nerve from the inside of your tooth.  That space is then sterilized and filled so that no further infection can get in.

          Will it hurt?

You may already be experiencing pain, which is most likely due to an infection in your tooth.  In some cases the dentist may prescribe antibiotics which, if taken as prescribed, should reduce your pain as the infection is taken away.  Your tooth will be numbed while we work on it so you should not feel anything during the procedure.  You can expect some discomfort for a day or so after the procedure; remember, your tooth is attached to other nerves.  Because of this, we may prescribe very strong pain medication with most root canals.  These should be taken only when needed, and can help you sleep.  Please don’t take it when you need to drive or work, and don’t combine medication with alcohol.  You may take ibuprofen alone or in combination with Tylenol instead.  After a few days, your tooth will begin to feel a lot better. 

          What happens after the root canal?

After we are sure that all of the infection has been removed, we fill your tooth with a permanent filling.  If a large portion of your tooth has broken or has been destroyed by the infection or cavity, we may fit a crown to your tooth to protect it from further damage. 

          Do root canals always work?

Unfortunately, no.  A root canal is a therapy, not a cure.  Our office has a very high success rate.  In some cases, the infection may not clear up and we may need to send you to a specialist.