Posts for: February, 2014
Tooth whitening procedures and products have become increasingly popular over the last two decades. There are two main sources of application: professional procedures performed in a dentist’s office; and over-the-counter products for performing whitening applications at home. While there are pros and cons to both approaches, neither type poses a significant health risk — that is, if you match the correct product to the type of staining you have, and it’s applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Although whitening treatments may differ in formula and strength, almost all use hydrogen peroxide as the bleaching agent, usually contained in carbamide peroxide which splits into hydrogen peroxide and urea upon activation. After many studies, there’s a strong consensus that hydrogen peroxide used at the levels found in whitening products doesn’t cause any harm to the body, including as a precursor to cancer.
But as the 16th Century Swiss physician Paracelsus once noted, “All substances are poisons… The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.” This is true of the chemicals that make up whitening products — they’re safe unless they’re overused. Going beyond their directions for use could lead to tooth enamel damage.
Further caution is also in order for teenagers using whitening products. Although they may have their permanent teeth (although younger teens may still have some primary teeth), the enamel layer is still developing and can be more vulnerable to damage from whitening chemicals than for adults.
The best approach for both a professional or home whitening procedure is to first seek consultation from our office. If nothing else, you should at least undergo a dental examination to identify the true cause of your teeth’s staining or discoloration. If the discoloration originates within the tooth, home applications and many professional treatments will not help if they bleach the outer surface only. We can also advise you on the proper application and dosage for a chosen product.
Using the right whitening product and in an appropriate manner will reduce the risk of injury to your teeth and overall health. And, the end result can be a brighter, more vibrant smile.
If you would like more information on tooth whitening, 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 Whitening Safety Tips.”
For decades, dental amalgam — the common “silver” fillings found in the mouths of millions — was the best option for restoring teeth after the removal of decay. This time-tested material is still going strong, but in recent years it's had serious competition from newer restoration techniques that use tooth-colored substances to make fillings. If you've heard of these new materials and want to know more, you can start with the following five facts.
1) Filling materials must match the properties of natural teeth.
When properly cared for, teeth are strong, resilient, and superbly functional. A good filling material should mimic the strength and durability of natural teeth under biting forces. It should also last a long time in the mouth, be relatively easy to place, and be economical in cost. In the past, amalgam fillings were the best choice to do the job. But that was then.
2) Tooth-colored filling materials offer similar benefits, plus aesthetic appeal.
Composite resins and dental porcelains are tough, durable materials that have been found to hold up well under years of use. Unlike traditional silver fillings, however, they match the appearance of natural teeth quite closely. This means that even a restoration in the front of the mouth may be virtually undetectable. And who wouldn't like that?
3) Tooth-colored resins may allow more conservative treatment in decay removal.
In order to keep them securely in place, amalgam (silver) fillings may require “undercutting,” which removes more of the tooth structure. The process involved in bonding tooth-colored restorations, however, generally requires removal of less tooth material. This means a stronger base for rebuilding the tooth's structure.
4) Different treatment methods are used for different degrees of tooth restoration.
Small cavities can be treated by direct “chairside” techniques, which are very similar to the methods used for traditional amalgam (silver) fillings: in one brief visit, it's all done. When a greater volume of tooth structure must be replaced, we may be able to create a larger tooth-colored filling in a longer visit. Or, we might need to have a special restoration made to match your teeth; then, you can come back to have it securely bonded for a natural and long-lasting result.
5) Both amalgam and tooth-colored fillings are safe and effective.
Each has advantages and disadvantages in particular cases. But as the technology of tooth-colored filling systems evolves, some dental researchers have heralded the beginning of the “post-amalgam era.” Are tooth-colored fillings right for your individual situation? We're the ones to ask.
If you would like more information about tooth-colored fillings, 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 “The Natural Beauty of Tooth-Colored Fillings.”
You've taken good care of your teeth all your life, with brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist. But chances are that someday (or maybe even now) you may be told that you need a restoration on one or more of your teeth. Oftentimes, that means a crown.
But what exactly is a crown, and why is it used? We're glad you asked!
In the course of time, natural teeth may need to be restored for a variety of reasons. As we age, our teeth may eventually become chipped or discolored. They can become weak and prone to cracking, or actually break due to tooth decay or trauma. Treating tooth decay may require a filling so large that there isn't much tooth surface left. Or, getting a dental implant (which replaces the roots of the tooth) means that you will need a replacement for the visible part of the tooth as well.
A crown (sometimes called a cap) is a common type of dental restoration. It's a way of replacing the tooth structure, in part or in full. A crown can cover the whole visible portion of the tooth, right down to the gum line. Since it's custom-made just for you, it is designed to fit in and function just like the rest of your teeth. And because it's composed of an extremely hard substance (gold, porcelain, ceramic, or some combination of these materials) it's made to last for a long time.
If a dental examination shows that you need a crown, here's how the process works: First, any decay is removed from the affected tooth, and it is prepared for restoration. Then, a 3-D replica of the tooth (and adjacent teeth) is made. This model is used to create a crown that matches your natural teeth. If you're getting a tooth-colored crown, the exact shade of the adjacent teeth will be duplicated as closely as possible.
After the crown has been fabricated, the tooth is made ready to receive the restoration. The crown is adjusted to mesh perfectly with the prepared tooth, and to function with the whole bite. Then, it is cemented or bonded into place. When it's all done, it can be hard to tell that you had any dental work done at all.
If you're thinking that it's a challenge to make an “artificial” tooth fit in with your natural teeth, you're right — but we do it all the time! Creating a superb-looking restoration is a blend of science and art. It takes a careful eye to match tooth colors and to adjust biting surfaces and spacing for a perfect fit. But when experienced dental professionals and patients work together, the results can make us both proud of the achievement.
If you would like more information about 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 articles “Porcelain Crowns & Veneers” and “Gold or Porcelain Crowns.”
Did you know that you probably do at least one thing during the course of an average day that puts your healthy smile at risk? These are some of the more common offenders:
Coffee, Soda, and Sports Drink Consumption
If you really can’t give them up, try to consume these beverages with restraint. Their high acidity and/or sugar content can erode protective tooth enamel, making your pearly whites more prone to staining and decay. Even natural fruit juices should be consumed in moderation as they tend to be high in sugar and sometimes acidity (e.g. orange juice). Your best bet? Water, of course. It won’t damage your teeth and thanks to fluoridation may even help remineralize and fortify your enamel.
Brushing Immediately After Eating
If you were told to brush after every meal, forget it. Acids in foods and beverages can soften your enamel, and brushing may actually accelerate erosion. Wait at least an hour to brush, which is the time it generally takes for your oral pH to normalize and your tooth enamel to reharden. However, it is advisable after eating to floss and rinse out your mouth with plain water or a mineralized dental wash to help wash away food particles.
Jaw Clenching, Tooth Grinding, Pencil Chewing
These and similar “parafunctional” behaviors — outside the uses for which teeth are designed — can cause undue tooth wear and exert stresses that can cause chips and fractures. They can affect other parts of the oral system, too, potentially resulting in jaw joint pain and muscle spasms, headaches and other head and neck ailments.
It’s hard to cut out all high-sugar/high-acid foods and beverages, so where complete elimination isn’t possible, focus on moderation and try to consume them only during mealtime. Jaw clenching and other parafunctional behaviors are often subconscious and may be harder to control; in such cases an unobtrusive device like a clear occlusal (bite) guard can alleviate the problem.
If you would like more information about tooth damage and prevention 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 Decay” and “Stress & Tooth Habits.”