If you're looking to improve the appearance of your smile, tooth whitening treatments — whether done at home or in our office — are a popular option. Here are the answers to some questions that many people ask before they begin the process.
Q: Are commonly used tooth-whitening methods safe?
A: Yes — provided they are used as directed. A large body of research has shown that using the correct concentration of peroxide — the bleach that whitens teeth — for the proper amount of time is not known to cause any major health problems. However, there have been cases where poor-quality bleaching solutions and/or excessive usage have caused deterioration of tooth enamel and extreme gum sensitivity. Always follow our office's recommendation.
Q: Does this mean I have to have in-office treatments to whiten my teeth?
A: No. But you should come in for a thorough dental examination, with x-rays, before you begin whitening treatments. Why? Because if there is trouble with the underlying tooth structure, then whitening the tooth is like painting over rusty metal: It hides the symptom, but doesn't fix the problem. Abscesses and root-canal problems are just two of the underlying causes of tooth discoloration that should be treated before teeth are whitened.
Q: What are some different methods for whitening teeth, and how long do they take?
A: The fastest is in-office whitening treatments, using a strong bleaching solution and appropriate gum protection. Next comes the cost-effective method of at-home bleaching with custom-made flexible plastic trays (sometimes called nightguard vital bleaching.) If you're not in a hurry, over-the-counter (OTC) products can do the same thing — given enough time. One study comparing different whitening treatments found that a six-shade improvement in whitening was accomplished by three in-office treatments. A week was needed for custom-tray bleach applications, or 16 daily applications of OTC products, to achieve comparable results.
Q: Can any tooth be made bright white?
A: No. Every tooth has a maximum level of whiteness, beyond which it can't get any lighter. Furthermore, fillings, crowns and other dental restorations can't be lightened with bleach — another reason to talk to our office; we can help you achieve the best possible look for your particular smile.
Q: How long will my white teeth last?
A: It depends. No whitening method is permanent, but the typical result lasts for up to two years. To preserve that bright smile, you can take some positive steps: Avoid tobacco and beverages that stain, like red wine, tea and coffee; keep up with regular cleanings in our office; and, practice good oral hygiene at home. You can also have a touch-up treatment once or twice a year.
If you need more information about tooth whitening, or you're ready to start the process, 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 “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”
If you were recently in an accident or received a hard hit while playing sports and you have been feeling jaw pain ever since, you may be suffering from a serious injury. It is important that you make an appointment with us immediately, so that we can conduct a proper examination, make a diagnosis and prescribe a suitable treatment. Even if the pain is lessening, you should still make an appointment.
Without seeing you, we have no way of definitively diagnosing the cause of your pain. However, here are a few possibilities:
- You displaced a tooth or teeth.
- You indirectly traumatized or injured the jaw joint (TMJ — temporomandibular joint). This trauma will cause swelling in the joint space, and the ball of the jaw joint will not fully seat into the joint space. If this is the issue, it is likely that your back teeth on the affected side will not be able to touch. Over time, the swelling should subside, allowing the teeth to fit together normally.
- You may have a minor fracture of your lower jaw. The most common is a “sub-condylar” fracture (just below the head of the joint), which will persist in symptoms that are more severe than simply bruising and swelling.
- You may have dislocated the joint, which means the condyle or joint head has been moved out of the joint space.
All of the above injuries can also cause muscle spasms, meaning that the inflammation from the injury results in the muscles on both sides of the jaw locking it in position to stop further movement and damage.
The most critical step is for you to make an appointment with our office, so we can conduct a physical examination, using x-rays to reveal the extent of your injury. We'll also be able to see whether the injury is to the soft tissue or bone.
Treatment may involve a variety of things, including anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medications. If your teeth have been damaged, we'll recommend a way to fix this issue. If you have dislocated your jaw, we may be able to place it back through gentle manipulation. If you have fractured your jaw, we'll need to reposition the broken parts and splint them to keep them still, so that they can heal.
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that nearly half of Americans older than 30 had some signs of periodontal disease. That's more than 64 million people.
How much do you know about this potentially serious disease? Take our quiz and find out.
True or False: Gum Disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth
TRUE. Of the hundreds of types of bacteria that occur naturally in the mouth, only a small percentage are harmful. But when oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) is lacking, these can build up in a dental plaque, or biofilm. This often causes inflammation of the gums, the first step in the progression of gum disease.
True or False: Gum disease is more prevalent among younger people
FALSE. Gum disease is most often a chronic disease, meaning that it progresses over time. Statistics show that as we age, our chances of developing gum disease increase, as does the disease's severity. In fact, according to the study mentioned above, about 70% of adults 65 and over have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis, or gum disease.
True or False: Bleeding of the gums shows that you're brushing too hard
FALSE. You might be brushing too hard — but any bleeding of the gum tissue is abnormal. Gum sensitivity, redness and bleeding are typically the early warning signs of gum disease. Another is bad breath, which may be caused by the same harmful bacteria. If you notice these symptoms, it's time for a checkup.
True or False: Smokers are more likely to develop gum disease
TRUE. Not only are smokers more likely to develop gum disease, but in its later stages they typically show more rapid bone loss. Smoking also prevents the warning signs of gum disease - bleeding and swelling of the gum tissues - from becoming apparent. Other risk factors for developing the disease include diabetes and pregnancy (due to hormonal changes). Genetics is also thought to play a role in who gets the disease — so if you have a family history of gum disease, you should be extra vigilant.
True or False: The effects of gum disease are limited to the mouth
FALSE. Numerous studies suggest that there is a relationship between periodontal health and overall health. Severe gum disease, a chronic inflammatory disease, is thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke. It may also lead to complications in pregnancy, and problems of blood-sugar control in diabetics.
So if you have any risk factors for gum disease, or if you notice possible symptoms, don't ignore it: let us have a look. We can quickly evaluate your condition and recommend the appropriate treatments if necessary. With proper management, and your help in prevention, we can control gum disease.
If you have concerns about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”
You're probably aware of some of the adverse side effects of treatment for cancer. Unfortunately, one of these side effects is the health of your mouth. In fact, more than one third of people treated for cancer develop oral side effects.
Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, attack cancer cells, but normal cells are also affected. Chemotherapy can affect the lining tissues of the mouth and the salivary glands, and radiation treatment can affect all tissues in its path, which will put you at higher risk for dental diseases, such as tooth decay and gum disease. You may also develop painful mouth sores as well as dry mouth.
The best approach to take when it comes to protecting yourself from these potential side effects is prevention. Here are a few steps you can take to defend yourself:
- Get a Comprehensive Dental Examination. While in the planning stages for your cancer treatment, you should schedule an appointment with our office for a complete dental exam. We will ensure that you oral health is optimal before you undergo treatment. We will also provide detailed instructions on how to care for your teeth during treatment and how to recognize the problem signs. Some solutions we may recommend are a fluoride treatment or antibacterial rinse.
- Keep up with your Oral Hygiene Routine. While cancer treatment may cause you to feel fatigued, it will be more important than ever for you to take good care of your teeth. Remember to brush twice daily with a soft brush and fluoride toothpaste. You should also floss once a day to clean between your teeth.
- Keep your Mouth Moist. Dry mouth is a common side effect of radiation and chemotherapy, and along with dry mouth comes a higher risk for tooth decay. We may recommend salivary stimulating medications to fight against this condition. You should also avoid mouth rinses with alcohol, which tend to further dry out your mouth. Make sure to drink plenty of water and consider chewing gum with xylitol, which promotes salivation and actively prevents tooth decay.
- Remain Alert. Throughout treatment, you should continue to look for signs of oral discomfort in the teeth, jaws and lining of your mouth. Notify both your oncologist and our office if you experience any side effects involving your mouth.
If you would like more information about oral health and cancer treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”
Throughout your child's lifetime, you will experience many important milestones together, some more pleasant than others. Teething is one of those notable milestones, and unfortunately, this “rite of passage” may cause your baby to feel uncomfortable at times.
Teething describes the tooth eruption process by which baby teeth emerge through the gums and into the mouth. It usually begins when your baby is between six and nine months, but may start as early as three months or as late as twelve months. Most children will have all 20 baby teeth by agree three, with the lower front teeth erupting first, followed by the two upper front teeth and then the molars.
Every baby will experience teething differently, but the following symptoms are very common:
- Biting and gnawing
- Gum swelling
- Chin rash
- Disrupted sleeping patterns
- Ear rubbing
- Decreased appetite
Many babies make it through the teething phase without much discomfort, but sometimes the pain can be substantial. If your baby is lucky enough to experience no discomfort, he or she will likely demonstrate some of the classic symptoms of teething, such as swollen gums and drooling. You may also notice that he or she will bite or chew anything and will wake up frequently during the night. These symptoms occur most often the week the teeth actually break through the gums, beginning four days before the eruption and lasting about three days after.
Here are a few suggestions to help reduce your baby's discomfort during teething:
- Teething rings: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that parents use a clean, chilled, rubber teething ring or cold wet washcloth.
- Chilled pacifiers: Be careful not to freeze teething rings or pacifiers, as ice can burn if left in place too long.
- Gum massage: Massaging inflamed gums with your clean finger may be helpful to reduce the pressure.
- Over-the-counter medicine: If pain continues, you can give your baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but check with a pediatrician or pharmacist for the correct dosage. The medicine should be swallowed and not massaged into the sore areas, as this, too, can burn.
Other unpleasant side-effects of teething include diarrhea, rashes and fever. Though many have reported these symptoms to be normal, if your infant has fever or diarrhea during teething or continues to experience pain, you should schedule an appointment with our office. We'll examine your baby to ensure that the discomfort is related to teething and not something more serious.
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.