Posts for: September, 2011
Whitening your teeth is an easy way for most people to achieve a brighter, more appealing smile. And for older adults, it can also contribute to a more youthful appearance. We are often asked how our tooth whitening products and services stack up when compared to the many over-the-counter (OTC) products available at discount and drug stores. The following are some key facts to understand about teeth whitening so that you can receive the results you want.
What is the real difference between professional products and ones I can buy over-the-counter?
Whether you purchase over-the-counter whitening strips, toothpaste, mouthrinses, or “paint on” tooth whitening products, you are basically receiving the same product, but with a lower concentration of carbamide peroxide, the chemical responsible for teeth whitening. And while some of the products may contain a slightly higher concentration of this solution, they all are under strict governmental guidelines for ensuring you experience little to no side-effects as long as you follow the instructions. However, with our bleaching products and services, you are under the care of a trained professional and thus can receive much higher concentrations without compromising your health or the health of your teeth. This fact means that under our care you can achieve more dramatic results faster.
How long will the results last?
Bleaching is not a permanent solution; thus, your results will diminish over a six-month to one year period of time. However, it doesn't take much to touch up or maintain your white smile in a single visit, or with custom-made whitening trays that we can provide for home use. You can also keep your brighter smile a little longer by avoiding food that stains your teeth. And when drinking coffee, tea, cola, wine and other drinks like these, sip them using a straw so that they are less likely to discolor your teeth.
Is bleaching safe for my teeth?
We pride ourselves on providing and promoting optimal oral healthcare and thus would never offer any products or services that are unsafe. Additionally, there are numerous studies supporting the overall safety of whitening your teeth. We are careful to avoid sensitivity, which is an occasional side effect of intensive bleaching, and we suggest protecting the teeth with fluoride.
Want to learn more?
Tooth pain occurs when a trauma or infection triggers a reaction from the nerves inside a tooth's pulp chamber. The severity of the pain and its duration can vary depending on the underlying cause, which can include anything from a loose filling to an abscess. Ignoring symptoms not only results in unnecessary physical and emotional pain, but can also lead to more expensive dental treatment as problems become more complex. Make an appointment with our office today if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Sharp pain when biting down on food — This type of pain could be indicative of a cracked tooth, loose filling, or tooth decay that is affecting one or more of your teeth. We can remove decay and replace a loose filling, but if your tooth is cracked, we will have to determine the location and depth of the crack before formulating a treatment plan. In some cases, root canal treatment or even extraction may be necessary.
- Pain that lingers after eating hot or cold foods or liquids — Mild and short-term sensitivity (lasting only seconds or a minute) to hot and cold foods resulting from gum recession can often be soothed by using a fluoride toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. However, an inflamed tooth pulp or one that is dying due to severe decay could cause sensitivity that lingers for a long time after exposure. In this case, root canal treatment may be necessary to remove dying pulp tissue in order to save the tooth.
- Constant severe pain and pressure, swelling of the gums, and sensitivity to touch — Infections and/or abscesses can spread from the tooth pulp into the surrounding periodontal tissues and bone causing this type of pain. Root canal treatment will most likely be required.
- Dull ache and pressure on one or both sides of the face in the upper teeth region — The sinuses and upper back teeth share the same nerves, so, oftentimes, referred pain from sinus congestion or infection can feel like a toothache. A thorough examination can determine whether or not the pain is dentally related.
If you are experiencing tooth pain, call our office immediately so that we can begin to provide you with some relief. To read about other symptoms of tooth pain and possible treatment options, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!”
When you have your teeth bleached in a dental office, the results almost seem like magic. Let's push aside the magician's cape and see what is really happening in professionally-applied, in-office tooth whitening.
How do teeth become discolored?
A tooth's enamel covering is mostly composed of mineral crystals. At a microscopic level, you can see a framework or matrix of organic (living) matter interspersed between the crystals of enamel creating a very irregular surface capable of retaining stains. Chromagenic (color generating) organic compounds can become part of this organic matrix resulting in tooth staining. They can be bleached without affecting the mineral structure of the tooth's enamel.
As people get older and their teeth wear, the enamel loses its youthful translucency and the underlying layer, called dentin, thickens and becomes more yellow. Such changes to the actual tooth structure are called intrinsic staining. Other causes of intrinsic discoloration are exposure to high levels of fluoride or tetracycline antibiotic administration during childhood, tooth decay, or root canal problems, among others. Discoloration can also be caused by external staining from certain foods, drinks, or tobacco products. Such surface stains are called extrinsic staining.
Behind the Magic
Materials used for tooth bleaching are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. Peroxides are commonly used as bleach, and you may have seen them used as hair bleaches, for example. Hydrogen peroxide is a strong oxidizing agent that attacks the organic molecules responsible for tooth discoloration, bleaching them until they lose their color. Carbamide peroxide also contains urea, which is a compound that permits the peroxide to remain in contact with the teeth for longer amounts of time without harming them.
Often called power bleaching, the in-office technique uses a high concentration of peroxide solution (35-45% hydrogen peroxide), placed directly on the teeth in the form of a gel. A heat or light source may enhance the peroxide release. The gel is applied with trays custom fitted to your mouth, and specific barriers are applied to protect sensitive gum tissue from the solution. Results show teeth becoming up to ten shades lighter in about an hour.
In-office bleaching under the supervision of my staff and me is recommended if you have severely stained teeth, and particularly if you are about to have veneers or crowns made. It's a way to rediscover the pearly translucency of your youthful smile.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) calls fluoridation of drinking water one of the ten most important public health measures of the 20th century, along with such measures as vaccination and motor-vehicle safety.
A fluoride concentration of about one milligram per liter (1 mg/L), or 1 part per million (1ppm), in the water supply is associated with substantially fewer cavities. This concentration of fluoride (equivalent to a grain of salt in a gallon of water) has been found to have no negative health effects.
The connection between fluoride and oral health was confirmed in the first half of the 20th century, and by 1955 the first clinically proven fluoride toothpaste was launched. Fluoride-containing toothpastes are common today, along with other fluoride-containing products.
Protective Effects of Fluoride
Ongoing studies have shown that fluoride has both a systemic (through the body) effect and a local effect at the tooth surfaces. Tooth decay takes place as part of a kind of active war between de-mineralization and re-mineralization, in which acids produced by bacteria in plaque (a biofilm in your mouth) soften and dissolve the minerals (de-mineralization) in the tooth's surface. At the same time, the saliva bathing the tooth acts to re-harden the tooth's surface by adding minerals back (re-mineralization). If fluoride is present in the biofilm and in the saliva, it protects against de-mineralization.
The fluoride you drink in your water is deposited in your bones. Bone is an active living substance that is constantly broken down and rebuilt as a normal body process. As this happens the fluoride is released into the blood, from which it can enter the saliva and act on the tooth surface. The fluoride in toothpastes and products like rinses is delivered directly to the tooth surface. Fluorides can also be eaten in foods with high fluoride content such as teas, dry infant cereals and processed chicken, fish and seafood products.
Problems with Over-use
Eating or swallowing too much fluoride can contribute to a discoloration of teeth called dental fluorosis, which varies in appearance from small white striations to stained pitting and severe brown mottling of the enamel. To avoid this effect, monitor children's tooth brushing to make sure they use only a small amount of fluoride toothpaste and do not swallow it.
Adding fluoride to water has been controversial because some people believe that it may cause other harmful effects. However, most health experts believe that fluoridated water carries no significant health risks and significantly contributes to public health by preventing tooth decay.