Since the time of the ancient Egyptians, people have used mixtures of various substances in pursuit of a single goal: cleaning their teeth effectively. Today, even with a glut of toothpaste tubes on the supermarket shelf, most people seem to have a particular favorite. But have you ever thought about what's in your toothpaste, and how it works? Here are five facts you might not know.
1) Most toothpastes have a very similar set of active ingredients.
Once upon a time, a toothpaste might have contained crushed bones and oyster shells, pumice, or bark. Now, thankfully, they're a little different: today's toothpaste ingredients generally include abrasives, detergents and fluoride compounds, as well as inert substances like preservatives and binders. Toothpastes formulated to address special needs, like sensitive teeth or tartar prevention, have additional active ingredients.
2) Abrasives make the mechanical action of brushing more effective
These substances help remove stains and surface deposits from teeth. But don't even think about breaking out the sandpaper! Modern toothpastes use far gentler cleaning and polishing agents, like hydrated silica or alumina, calcium carbonate or dicalcium phosphate. These compounds are specially formulated to be effective without damaging tooth enamel.
3) Detergents help break up and wash away stains
The most common detergent in toothpaste (which is also found in many shampoos) is sodium lauryl sulfate, a substance that can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil. Like the abrasives used in toothpaste, these detergents are far milder than the ones you use in the washing machine. Yet they're effective at loosening the stains clinging to your teeth, which would otherwise be hard to dissolve.
4) Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay
This has been conclusively demonstrated since it was first introduced into toothpaste formulations in 1914. Fluoride — whether it's in the form of sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate (MFP) — helps strengthen tooth enamel and make it more resistant to acid attack, which precipitates tooth decay. In fact, it's arguably the most important ingredient, and no toothpaste can receive the American Dental Association's Seal of Approval without it.
5) Look for toothpaste with the ADA seal
This means that the particular brand of toothpaste has proven effective as a cleaning agent and a preventative against tooth decay. Plus, if the package says it has other benefits, then research has verified that it does what it says. Oh, and one other thing — toothpaste doesn't work if you don't use it — so don't forget to brush regularly!
If you have questions about toothpastes or oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Toothpaste — What's In It?”
Imagine this: your active, adventurous child — or adolescent — loves high-risk contact sports like hockey or football, and while playing breaks a front tooth. After an emergency trip to our office, we recommend bonding as a good choice for this repair.
“What is bonding?” you ask. Here's what you need to know. In a bonding procedure, a composite resin restoration material is attached (bonded) to the broken tooth, and it looks as good as new.
Composite resin restorations are tooth-colored filling materials composed of a special plastic-based matrix for strength, with glass filler for aesthetics and translucence. The combination looks just like a natural tooth. The composite resin material is physically bonded to the remaining healthy tooth structure. First the natural tooth enamel or dentin must be etched so that the composite resin can attach and actually join to the tooth. In the end it will function as one and look exactly like a tooth.
Composites can be placed directly on the teeth in our office, quite easily, and they are relatively inexpensive. They look natural and can be matched to your child's natural tooth. They require little to no tooth reduction. Bonded composite resin restorations are the best choice for children and teenagers because their teeth and jaws are still growing and developing. What's more, they are still active in their sports and could need further restorations.
Composite resin restorations may need to be replaced with more permanent restorations after your child is fully grown. The bonded resin restorations may wear over time, and may stain and dull somewhat with age. When your child has completed growth, more permanent restorations such as porcelain veneers or crowns may be necessary.
By the way, a custom-made mouthguard might have prevented injury in the first place and certainly should be considered in the future.
If your child has chipped or damaged a tooth, contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about bonding and a protective mouthguard. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Repairing Chipped Teeth.”
Have you been avoiding seeing a dentist because you are afraid that the visit might be unpleasant or painful? Are you unhappy with the appearance of your teeth and the health of your mouth, even envious of others who are able to visit their dentist without hesitation?
If you've answered yes to these questions, you are not alone. Many people experience some anxiety about visiting their dentist. Some fears are based on past negative experiences, indirectly influenced by family members or friends, or even by images seen in the movies. Regardless of the origin of your fear, we will work with you to turn negative perceptions or experiences into positive ones. The most important thing to remember is that allowing dental problems to remain untreated can have bad consequences, including toothache, infection, poor appearance and even general health complications.
We will listen to you and even encourage you to express your feelings. Tell us the details of your fear and anxiety. You won't be judged but, instead, we want to understand exactly what troubles you, so that together we help you overcome what is preventing you from getting the care you want and need.
You will be in control at all times and we will never rush you. First we'll spend the time necessary to get you comfortable, before we even do any dentistry. After all, attempting to rush through a procedure may only incite more anxiety, and that is the last thing we want to do! We want you to leave our office with the feeling that you can more comfortably see us again building on your last positive experience.
If you would like to talk to us about what's bothering you and begin working together towards a solution, please call us today to schedule a consultation. To learn more about how patients and dentists can work together to eradicate dental fear, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Overcoming Dental Fear & Anxiety.”
If your teeth are not as bright as they used to be, or as white as you'd like them to be, then whitening or bleaching them may be the solution. Surface stains from coffee, tea, red wine or tobacco may be the most likely culprits. Internal staining can also be the result of root canal treatments, large fillings, too much of a good thing, like fluoride — or just plain aging. In some cases taking an antibiotic (tetracycline) during tooth development can cause permanent staining. In most cases bleaching stained or yellow teeth can really make a difference, helping to make them brighter and whiter.
The active ingredient in whitening products is hydrogen peroxide, which is also the breakdown product in carbamide peroxide. If a good regular dental cleaning doesn't remove your stains, then these products can bleach stains that are either superficial (on the surface) or deeper within the tooth structure. “In office” professional tooth whitening speeds the process along with the use of specialized lights or lasers, so that your teeth will whiten after only one or two office visits. Professional whitening or bleaching, which uses up to 35% peroxide solutions, may cause transient tooth sensitivity, but this will fade away quickly within a few days. Gum protection is also necessary to prevent irritation.
The effects of bleaching usually last six months to a year, at which time all that may be necessary is a minor touch up or refresher. And your whiter, brighter teeth will last longer if you avoid the habits that caused them — like avoiding smoking and foods that cause staining.
Whitening products for home use are an alternative to professional whitening systems that we apply in the office. Products for home use have a lower concentration of the active bleaching ingredients. We can make you custom fitted “trays” that exactly fit your teeth, and provide you with home strength whiteners, so that you can whiten at your own pace and stop at the brightening level of your choice.
And finally there are over-the-counter (OTC), whitening products, at even lower strengths for safety, but they are slower to work.
If whitening doesn't give you the smile you want, and deserve, then you may need to consider veneers or crowns to improve your smile.
Make an appointment to have a consultation with us about your personal cosmetic needs. We will review all the risks, benefits and alternatives to bleaching. You can learn more about teeth whitening by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teeth Whitening: Bleaching is an effective method with minimal side effects.”
Our office can design a customized smile for you. We will want to know what you really want changed and we will listen to your ideas, look at pictures of the kind of smile you had when you were younger, and even create computerized pictures of what you think you'd like to look like. And then, with all the modern techniques at our disposal, we'll put together a blueprint, a plan to give you the smile you want.
We will start with a smile analysis to determine your facial balance, which indicates how all of the elements of your smile currently relate to each other. These elements include much more than just the teeth, such as the shape of your face, skin color, eye color, lip form, and smile dimensions to name a few.
A detailed periodontal evaluation, which includes bone and gum tissues — the supporting structures of the teeth — will determine whether the foundations of your teeth and bite are healthy. Similar to the way you would ensure that the foundation of a house is intact before you renovate, we will make sure that your periodontal tissues are healthy and sound before we begin a smile makeover.
Modern restorative dental techniques include teeth whitening, enamel reshaping, gum contouring, porcelain veneers and crowns, or a combination of several of these procedures. In some cases, orthodontic treatment (braces) or clear aligners may be necessary to ensure that the teeth are in the best position for both the aesthetics and function of your new smile.
We will inform you of all the possible paths that can lead to the final desired outcome, and will discuss all the benefits, alternatives, and risks together with the time it will take and the finances involved. Bottom line — we'll find a way to get you what you want and need, a new smile, with improved function as well as appearance. We'll also provide instruction on all that you need to know and do to keep your new smile healthy and to maintain your investment for years into the future.
So, if you have been unhappy with your smile and would like to revamp it, call our office to learn about how a smile redesign could help boost your self-image. To find out more about the details involved in a smile makeover and to view some before and after photos, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Beautiful Smiles By Design.”
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