If you cringe at the appearance of your less than pearly whites when you look in the mirror, you are not alone. A frequently requested cosmetic procedure, teeth whitening is a very successful and relatively inexpensive way to enhance your smile. We can determine which whitening treatment will work best for you after performing a basic oral examination in our office. When will it work and when won't it? Here's some background:
Teeth most commonly become stained or discolored due to surface (extrinsic) changes, the most common of which are dietary and smoking. Foods including red wine, coffee, and tea can cause extrinsic staining. Teeth can also commonly become discolored or stained due to intrinsic (internal) reasons, such as changes in the structure of enamel or dentin or by incorporation of chromogenic (color generating) material into tooth tissue during formation or after eruption.
- Toothpastes that claim to whiten teeth are only effective in removing plaque and other surface stains. Although most of these products contain mild abrasives that remove the plaque, they aren't capable of changing the underlying color of stained teeth.
- Tooth polishing by your dentist or dental hygienist is effective in removing superficial staining, but will not change tooth color.
- Teeth whitening systems work by bleaching, generally with the use of hydrogen peroxide. Using bleaching gels in custom made trays or whitening strips can be done at home, but is slow and the changes are gradual. We can perform quicker and more effective “power bleaching” in our dental office when precautions can be taken to ensure safety due to the higher concentrations of bleaching gels used. Teeth with intrinsic (internal) staining may need internal bleaching to whiten them and this can only be done in the dental office.
- Teeth whitening results fade over time, but optimally last from six months to two years. Taking care of your newly whitened teeth by avoiding the foods, beverages, and habits that cause staining will help them remain whiter for longer.
- If you have had previous cosmetic dentistry performed, including the placement of composite restorations, porcelain veneers, or crowns, teeth whitening may not be for you. Bleaching agents have little to no effect at all on the materials used to create these restorative products.
If you would like to discuss whitening your teeth with us, call today to make an appointment. To learn more about the various teeth whitening procedures, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teeth Whitening: Brighter, Lighter, WhiterÃ¢Â€Â¦”
Tooth decay (dental caries) is one of the world’s most common infectious diseases. Left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. The best treatment strategy, of course, is to prevent it from occurring in the first place with a long-term approach that begins in early childhood and continues throughout our lifetime.
Here are some basic components for just such a prevention strategy.
Know your risk. We each don’t share the same level of risk for tooth decay, so it’s important to come to terms with any factors that raise your personal risk for the disease — your dental history, inadequate oral hygiene, absence of fluoride use, and lifestyle habits like smoking. Coming to terms with these and other factors — and altering those you can change — can lower your risk.
Reduce acid-producing bacteria in your mouth. Tooth decay usually arises from elevated acidic levels in the mouth caused by certain strains of oral bacteria. You can reduce these bacteria by removing plaque, a thin film of food particles that collect on tooth surfaces, with daily oral hygiene and regular cleanings in our office. In some cases, we may also recommend antibacterial mouthrinses like chlorhexidine to further lower the bacterial population.
Apply protective measures to teeth. Fluoride, a naturally occurring chemical, has been proven effective in strengthening tooth enamel and reducing tooth decay. In addition to fluoride found in many oral hygiene products and public water systems, children can also benefit from a direct application of fluoride to the enamel surface just after the teeth have erupted in the mouth. Many clinical studies have shown 99% cavity free results in over a thousand teeth receiving a fluoride application with sealants.
Control your diet. Bacteria ferment leftover sugars and other carbohydrates in the mouth; this creates acid, which can soften tooth enamel and lead to decay. You can limit this effect by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing your consumption of refined sugar. You should also limit between meal snacking — constant snacking prevents saliva, the mouth’s natural acid neutralizer, from effectively restoring the mouth’s pH balance.
A prevention strategy for tooth decay will help you avoid unnecessary pain and problems — physically and financially. You’ll also reap the rewards that come from a lifetime of good dental health.
If you would like more information on preventing tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay.”
“We all scream for ice cream,” the saying goes. But what if eating ice cream — or any very cold or hot food — literally makes you want to scream because your teeth hurt so much?
What causes sensitivity in teeth?
Understanding the anatomy of a tooth helps explain what happens when a tooth becomes sensitive to heat and cold. A tooth is composed of three types of tissue: a hard outer shell of enamel, the body of the tooth composed of the dentin, and an interior tissue of the pulp.
Enamel: The enamel forms the outside of the crown, the part of the tooth you normally see. Made of densely packed crystals of calcium, it is resistant to wear. It is not living tissue, and does not contain nerves, but it is capable of transmitting temperature like hot and cold.
Dentin: Inside the tooth's crown and root is a living tissue called dentin, which is a porous structure similar to bone. It is composed of microscopic tubules containing living cells, which are encased in a hard substance made of calcium crystals.
Pulp: The living dentin transmits sensation through to the pulp, which is in the center of the tooth and contains the tooth's blood vessels and nerves.
A tooth's enamel normally protects the dentin from exposure to extremes of temperature and pressure. If you wear away the enamel and expose the dentin, it will pass sensation through to the nerves in the pulp more directly. The result can range from a twinge to an excruciating pain.
Sensitivity can be caused by:
- Overzealous tooth brushing resulting in enamel wear and consequently dentin exposure and wear.
- Enamel and dentin erosion by acids in the foods and beverages you eat and drink.
- Tooth decay — the most common cause of sensitivity. Decay destroys enamel and dentin inflaming and infecting the living tissues of the pulp, which become increasingly painful.
What can you do to make your teeth less sensitive?
- Use a soft bristle tooth brush, and brush the affected teeth gently to remove all bacterial plaque. We can advise you on safe and effective brushing techniques.
- Use toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride strengthens tooth surfaces and makes them more resistant to sensitivity and decay.
- Ask us about professionally applied fluoride varnishes or filling materials that can cover and replace sensitive or lost tooth structure.
Of course, if the problem is caused by tooth decay, make an appointment with us to remove the decay and place a filling in the sensitive teeth.
Bacteria are bad… right? They can cause diseases like pneumonia, strep throat, and tooth decay. They are the reason we wash our hands with soap (or antibacterial gels) and cook (or refrigerate) our food. Yet it turns out that bacteria are also necessary to keep our bodies healthy — and new research is showing just how important these tiny microorganisms are to our well-being. Here are five facts you should know about bacteria.
The bacteria in our bodies outnumber our cells by a factor of 10 to 1. An estimated 100 trillion bacteria live inside the average human — but because they’re so small, they make up only 1-3 percent of our body mass.
The collection of bacteria we harbor is called our “microbiome.” Like the groundbreaking study of human DNA called the Human Genome Project, recent research is leading to a “map” of our bacterial makeup. This revolutionary study is called — you guessed it — the Human Microbiome Project.
No two people have exactly the same microbiome. But in general, the bacteria that live in a particular spot on the body (the mouth, for example) play the same roles in different individuals. Research has also shown that a healthy microbiome looks very different from a diseased microbiome.
In terms of bacteria, the mouth is one of the best-understood areas of the body. It has long been known that tooth decay can result when “bad” oral bacteria begin to outnumber their “good” counterparts. Now we are gaining a better understanding of how certain lifestyle factors — like cigarette smoking — may influence the bacterial balance in the mouth.
Understanding the microbiome may lead to new treatments for disease. Researchers hope that one day, certain serious diseases could be controlled by bacterial “transplants” that re-balance an individual’s microbiome. Maintaining a healthy microbiome could also help prevent many diseases.
So by all means, don’t stop brushing your teeth or washing your hands — this helps control bacteria that could harm you — but do remember that not all bacteria are harmful. One day, an infusion of bacteria might just cure your illness.
You may be considering dental implants for a lot of reasons: durability, functionality and imperviousness to decay. But perhaps the winning reason is how they will make you look — their life-like quality can restore a smile marred by missing or disfigured teeth. Achieving that result, though, requires your dental team to determine beforehand the state of your bone and gums, and treat any conditions that would interfere with the final result.
The first area to look at is the amount of bone available to support the implant. An adequate amount is necessary not only to stabilize the implant, but to also ensure proper placement needed to achieve the best “smile” result. Your specialist, then, will take steps to protect available bone during procedures, or even aid in building up the bone structure by inserting grafting materials that encourage new bone growth.
The degree of bone volume in adjacent natural teeth is also important because it can greatly affect the health of the papillae. This is the triangular-shaped gum tissue that occurs between each tooth that gives normal teeth their arched appearance. Insufficient bone in these areas could cause the papillae not to regenerate properly around the implant site, which creates unsightly dark spaces in the gum tissue known as “black hole disease.”
We must next consider the quality and health of your gum tissue. Patients whose gum tissue tends to be thin face difficulties during cosmetic surgical procedures; their thinner tissues are also more prone for objects behind them to be visible, including metal or other crown materials.
Our aim is an implant crown emerging from the surrounding gum tissue just as a natural tooth would. To achieve this requires knowing first what we have to work with regarding your bone and gums, and to address any issues that are problematic. One aid in this process is to affix a temporary “prototype” crown on the implant to wear while the permanent crown is manufactured. This allows you to “test-drive” the new look, and make adjustments in the final product regarding color and materials.
Accounting for all these factors — and then making adjustments along the way — will help ensure the final crown meets your expectations for function and appearance.
If you would like more information on the fabrication of implant crowns, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Matching Teeth & Implants.”
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