Posts for: April, 2013
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.”
Dry mouth is a condition that many of us have experienced at some point in life. However, for some people it is a problem that can wreak havoc on their lives. This is why we have put together this list of questions we are most frequently asked about dry mouth.
What is dry mouth?
The medical term for dry mouth is “xerostomia” (“xero” – dry; “stomia” – mouth) and it affects millions of people in the US alone. It is caused by an insufficient flow of saliva, the liquid produced by the salivary glands. These glands are located in the inside cheeks of the mouth by the back top molars and in the floor (under the tongue) of the mouth. When functioning properly, they produce two to four pints of liquid every 24 hours.
Can drugs contribute to dry mouth?
Yes, both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can cause dry mouth. This is one reason we so often find it in senior citizens, as they are typically on more medications than younger, healthier people.
What about diseases...can they cause dry mouth?
Certain systemic (general body) and autoimmune (“auto” – self; “immune” – resistance system) diseases, in which the body reacts against its own tissue, can cause dry mouth. Other diseases that can be the culprit include: diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cystic fibrosis, and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Radiation and chemotherapy used to treat head and neck cancers can inflame, damage or destroy the salivary glands—thus causing dry mouth.
Are there any remedies for dry mouth?
Yes! If medication is the primary cause of your dry mouth, there may be other, similar drugs that can be substituted that do not produce the same side effect. If you feel this describes your situation, discuss your concerns with the prescribing physician. Another option is taking an OTC or prescription saliva stimulant to temporarily relieve the dryness. Or, you can suck on a candy made with xylitol, a natural sugar substitute, four to five times a day. Xylitol has been shown to help stimulate the production of saliva with the added benefit of reducing the odds of getting cavities.
Don't ignore tooth pain hoping it goes away. No matter how mild or fleeting it may be, it's a sign that something's wrong. Healthy teeth shouldn't cause discomfort because the parts containing the nerves — the interior pulp and the dentin around it — are shielded by dental enamel and gums.
Here are some common reasons that teeth ache:
- Gum Recession. Over time, gums can recede. Improper or excessive brushing can affect them, especially if you are genetically predisposed by having thin gums. When gums retreat, dentin can, or eventually will, be exposed. Besides its susceptibility to sensation, dentin is also more vulnerable to erosion and decay than enamel.
- Tooth Erosion/Decay. When acid-producing oral bacteria get the upper hand, they can eat through the tooth's protective enamel to the dentin. You may start feeling sensitivity as the decay gets deeper and closer to the pulp (nerves). Only removal of the decay and filling the cavity can stop the process.
- Old/Loose/Lost Filling. Fillings seal off areas of past decay. If they don't fit right or are dislodged altogether, air or food particles can slip inside and irritate exposed nerve endings. A crevice to hide in makes it prime real estate again for bacteria, too.
- Cracked Tooth. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching can have a similar impact on teeth that a miner's pick has on rock. At first thin lines in your enamel can develop, then cracks develop that may expose the dentin, and finally the tooth might fracture, exposing the pulp. The earlier this process is caught, the better.
- Pulp Tissue Infection/Inflammation. This can be caused by deep decay or trauma and suggests your tooth may be in its death throes. Sometimes the pulp infection travels into the surrounding periodontal (peri – around; odont – tooth) tissues and causes an abscess to develop. This absolutely requires immediate attention.
- Residual Sensitivity from Dental Work. Removal of decay before placing a filling can cause tooth sensitivity. It can take 1-4 weeks or so to improve.
- Sinus Pain. Congestion can cause “referred” pain in the upper teeth. When the congestion subsides, the pain should, too.
As you can see, it's risky to discount tooth pain and “wait ‘til it goes away.” Our office can help you determine the origin of your pain and the best course of action to resolve it. When in doubt, it's always better to err on the side of caution!
If you would like more information about tooth pain and ways to prevent or treat it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!” and “Sensitive Teeth.”
- What is a mouthguard? A mouthguard or mouth protector is a protective appliance that covers the teeth and gums to prevent or reduce injury to the teeth, gums, jaws, and lips during sports or other activities prone to injuries.
- Who should use a mouthguard? Children, adolescents or even adults who participate in contact or injury prone sports should use a mouthguard.
- What do you mean by contact sports? Mouthguards are used most commonly in sports such as boxing, football, hockey and lacrosse. The American Dental Association recommends protection for 27 different sports, including basketball, soccer, water polo, rugby and more. The governing bodies of football, boxing, ice hockey, men's lacrosse and women's field hockey require mouth protection. It's a good idea to use a mouthguard during any activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth.
- What does the mouthguard protect against? A mouthguard protects against breaking or dislodging teeth or injuring jaws, gums, lips, or tongue, all injuries that can happen when you engage in contact or injury prone sports.
- What are my choices for mouthguards? The best choice is a custom-made mouthguard fitted and made by a dentist. Stock mouthguards that are one size fits all can be bought off-the-shelf in stores, but there is no guarantee of fit or protection. A third type is a “boil and bite” guard, in which the guard material is heated and then shaped by biting down on the softened material. This offers some attempt at fitting that is better than off-the-shelf, but not as good as a mouthguard that is designed specifically for you.
- Why is it better to get a mouthguard from our office than to buy one at a store? Studies have shown that store-bought stock or boil-and-bite mouthguards do not offer the same protection as a custom-made mouthguard. In our office we will make a mold of your mouth and design your mouthguard to fit your individual characteristics. It will be comfortable and easy to clean and will not restrict your speech or breathing. It will be made of resilient and tear-resistant materials, properly adapted for maximum protection, comfort and injury protection.
Wearing a properly fitted and properly used mouthguard prevents injuries to teeth, jaws, gums, lips, or tongue when you or your child participates in contact sports. Make an appointment with us to discuss your custom fitted mouthguard. To learn more read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Mouthguards.”