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.
At some point in every person's life, they will experience bleeding gums or gingivitis, a mild inflammation of the gingiva (gums), which is the first stage of periodontal (gum) disease. For example, when was the last time you were brushing or flossing your teeth and noticed that your gums were bleeding or that when you spit and rinsed there was some blood? When this occurs, it is a sign that you have gum disease, as healthy gum tissues do not bleed. And no, it is highly unlikely that your bleeding is from brushing too hard. You would have to use extreme force to make healthy gum tissues bleed. However, this is exactly how most people discount or ignore this warning sign.
If this sounds like you or another member of your family, here's what you can expect when you see us for treatment. Depending on the severity of your periodontal disease, all of these treatment options may not be necessary.
Behavior change: We will collect a thorough medical history to obtain facts about your oral hygiene, eating and other personal habits such as alcohol and tobacco use to determine their impact on your periodontal disease. Proper brushing and flossing techniques are necessary for everyone, whether you have early or late stage gum disease; however, you must commit to a good daily oral health routine if you want to achieve success and thus keep you mouth and teeth healthy.
Calculus (tartar) removal: Cleaning is not just your responsibility. We'll clean and polish your teeth to remove calculus (tartar), the calcified deposits of bacterial products that become glued to the teeth and roots that you canÃ¢Â€Â™t remove. In fact, routine visits to see us for a thorough cleaning will help ensure that all the unhealthy calculus (tartar) is removed from your teeth.
Evaluation: Usually after three or four weeks, we will want to see you to evaluate your progress and to see the response of your gingival tissues to the treatment thus far. And depending on the severity of your gum disease, we may need another follow-up exam to decide the best maintenance and monitoring regimen necessary to keep your mouth healthy.
Occlusal or Bite Therapy: This treatment, if necessary, usually occurs once your gum tissues have been stabilized and the inflammation and infection have been controlled. It is during this phase that we will address loose teeth or teeth that have shifted or drifted in position.
Surgical Therapy: For more severe cases of gum disease, you may need periodontal plastic surgery to repair and regenerate gum and bone tissue and their attachment to the teeth. It may also be necessary to replace missing teeth with dental implants.
If you are ready to talk to us about the current state of your mouth (or the mouth of another member of your family), contact us today to schedule an appointment. The first step towards achieving optimal oral health could start with this simple call. Or, you can learn more by reading, “Understanding Gum Disease.”
Periodontal (gum) disease, though it may be invisible to everyone but your dentist, can have a powerful effect on your entire body. Not only is it dangerous to your teeth and jaws, but it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, cause preterm births in pregnant women, and affect blood sugar control in diabetics.
Diabetics are our subject for today. Symptoms of diabetes include abnormally high levels of glucose (a form of sugar) in the blood, leading to frequent urination, excessive thirst, blurred vision, unexplained weight loss, and loss of energy. The disease can also cause severe complications in various parts of the body.
Normally, glucose, your body's main energy source, is kept under control by a hormone called insulin, which is made by an organ called the pancreas. In type 1 diabetes, a person's pancreas does not produce enough insulin to deal with all the glucose in his or her blood. In type 2 diabetes — a condition related to increased age, physical inactivity, overweight, and heredity — the pancreas may produce enough insulin, but the body is not able to use it effectively. This condition is called insulin resistance.
People with type 1 diabetes need insulin to survive. Type 2 may be treated with exercise, diet, medications, and insulin supplements.
Serious complications of diabetes range from kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage to infections that do not heal, gangrene and amputation of limbs.
Diabetes and periodontal disease seem to have reciprocal effects on each other. Diabetics are more likely to have periodontal disease than non-diabetics; and those with periodontal disease are likely to face worsening blood sugar control over time.
Periodontal disease (from “peri”, meaning around and “odont”, meaning tooth), is caused by dental plaque — a film of bacteria that settles on your teeth and gums every day. It's what you remove with daily brushing and flossing. Any bacteria that remain cause inflammation, which can lead in the worst cases to loss of bone and eventual loss of teeth.
The close relationship of diabetes and periodontal disease probably results from changes in the function of immune cells responsible for healing. Inflammation is a part of normal wound healing — but chronic or prolonged inflammation can destroy the tissues it was meant to heal. This may be a major factor in the destructive complications of diabetes.
Many of these complications begin in the blood vessels. Like the eyes and the kidneys, gum tissues are rich in blood vessels. Gum tissues are also under constant attack from bacteria. If you are a diabetic, effective plaque control, along with regular professional dental cleaning, can have positive effects not only on periodontal disease, but also on control of your blood glucose level.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about periodontal disease and its connections with diabetes. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Diabetes & Periodontal Disease.”
The third molars, called “wisdom teeth” because they usually become visible when a person is 17 to 25 — supposedly the time we achieve wisdom, may have adverse effects on adjacent teeth. Most adults have four wisdom teeth, although some people have more; and some, none at all. The wisest thing to do about wisdom teeth may be to have them removed if they are poorly positioned.
What is an impacted wisdom tooth?
If a wisdom tooth is pushing against gums, other soft tissues, or adjacent teeth at an awkward angle, it is referred to as “impacted.” Usually this occurs when there is not have enough room in the jaws for these last molars to fit next to their adjacent teeth. They can disrupt the gum tissue attachment of their neighboring teeth and the surrounding bone leading to periodontal disease and, ultimately, their loss.
In many cases, impacted teeth are painless, and those who have them have no warning of the problem. Thus it is important to have routine dental exams during the time when the third molars are coming in.
When should wisdom teeth be removed?
It is better to remove wisdom teeth early rather than waiting until periodontal (gum) disease has set in. As individuals age, keeping their wisdom teeth may lead to more serious problems. Periodontal defects tend to get worse in the presence of retained third molars. Furthermore, there is a higher incidence of postoperative symptoms in people over 25.
What are the pros and cons?
Removing impacted third molars can have a negative influence on the periodontal tissues of adjacent second molars. A number of techniques, such as scaling, root planing, and bacterial plaque control, can be used to minimize periodontal problems and promote healthy healing.
Surgical removal of wisdom teeth will involve some mild to moderate post-operative discomfort. Use of aspirin or ibuprofen for a few days after surgery will provide pain relief and control most swelling and symptoms. Antibiotics may be prescribed to ensure infection-free healing. It is important to keep the socket area clean by washing and rinsing with saline or antibacterial rinses. Careful surgery will promote good healing with minimal periodontal consequences to adjacent second molar teeth.
To decide whether your wisdom teeth should be removed, you will need an evaluation to assess the clinical health of the wisdom teeth, the neighboring teeth, and other vital structures. X-ray and digital imaging techniques play an important role in determining the exact position of the wisdom teeth in the jaw. A full assessment and consultation will include all the risks, benefits, likely consequences, and alternative treatment options. This will provide you with the wisdom you need to determine what is best for your wisdom teeth.
To learn more about wisdom teeth, read “To Be or Not to Be: What are the consequences of an impacted wisdom tooth?” Or contact us today to discuss your questions or to schedule an appointment.
Designing a better smile sometimes requires a change in the size, shape, or color of your teeth. Porcelain laminate veneers (thin layers of dental ceramic material) enhance your appearance by replacing the natural enamel on the outside of your teeth. A veneer is physically bonded to the surface of a tooth, in essence, becoming part of it.
Traditionally, a small amount of the natural tooth enamel is drilled away to allow room for the veneer. But today, in some circumstances, it is possible to use an approach where enamel reduction or preparation is not necessary because the veneers can be bonded directly onto the tooth's natural surface. These are called “Prepless” or “No-prep” veneers, and are used to create aesthetically pleasing and natural looking restorations. An advantage of the prepless procedure is that the process is reversible so that you can give your new smile a “test drive.”
You may be a good subject for Prepless veneers if:
- Your smile is narrow because the teeth in the sides of your smile are positioned inward and do not show from a frontal view.
- There is spacing between your teeth, and the teeth appear too small.
- You have a fairly common genetic condition in which one or both of the teeth directly next to the two upper front teeth are very small and peg-shaped.
- There is an imbalance between the size of your lips and teeth (large lips and small teeth), which are not in proportion to show off your best smile.
Prepless veneers are probably not for you if:
- Your teeth are not aligned properly in your bite.
- Your teeth are very crowded, resulting in poor facial profile.
- Your teeth are already relatively large or positioned forward.
In these cases you may need to have some form of orthodontic treatment to move your teeth into better position. Sometimes veneers can be used to create an illusion of proper tooth alignment, but some amount of tooth reduction may be required.
We can assess whether prepless veneers are right for you. There is no substitute for an expert dentist's talent and expertise with the various cosmetic techniques available today. These skills combined with a thorough diagnostic evaluation, and a clear understanding of your goals, are the keys to providing you with a successful and beautiful smile.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about cosmetic dentistry. You can also learn more about prepless veneers by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Porcelain Veneers Without the Drill.”
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