Clothing and hair styles may come and go, but a dazzling smile is always in fashion! If you're considering options for perking up your appearance, brightening your pearly whites is a quick and affordable way to achieve eye-catching results.
You have several choices when it comes to teeth whitening. But to get the safest, most appropriate, and most satisfying results, you should start with a proper dental examination. A professional assessment of your oral health can determine the cause of your tooth discoloration and may reveal the need for a particular treatment before, or in addition to brightening the color of your teeth.
When we talk about teeth whitening, we generally are referring to “bleaching,” which actually returns your teeth to their natural tooth color. A thorough cleaning — generally part of a routine checkup — often can remove surface discoloration/staining (such as coffee, tea, tobacco or red wine).
There are basically three approaches for external bleaching/whitening of your teeth. They vary based on the strength of the bleaching solution, method of application, duration of treatment, and cost considerations.
Professional In-Office Whitening. This approach involves the carefully controlled application by a dental professional of a powerful and fast-acting concentration of hydrogen peroxide gel. Professional whitening can achieve the most significant color change in the shortest amount of time, but it is pricier than the other options.
Professionally Dispensed Take-Home Whitening Kits. These include a lower-strength peroxide gel applied via flexible plastic bleaching trays custom made by our office specifically for your teeth. The tailored fit of the trays helps ensure an even and thorough coating. A more affordable option than the in-office procedure, it also requires more time to achieve similar results.
Over-the-Counter Products. These feature the lowest-concentration bleaching gel, which is applied to the teeth using one-size-fits-all trays or strips, or a paint-on applicator. While they are the least expensive option, they take the longest to achieve maximum results and may not reach all teeth.
If you have questions about teeth whitening, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Teeth Whitening” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”
It's 3:00 PM, your child has just come back from the school playground — and she's complaining of a toothache that's making her miserable. She can't seem to say if there was a particular injury or a blow, but the more she talks about it, the worse it gets. You're the parent... what are you going to do now?
If you've ever been through this type of situation, you know that a calm demeanor and a little TLC can go a long way. But how do you know whether you're facing a dental emergency, or a routine booboo? Here are a few general rules that may help.
First, relax: Without a fever and facial swelling, a child's toothache isn't usually an emergency. But any tooth pain that keeps a child up at night or lasts into the next day should be evaluated by a dentist. Even if it's nothing but a small cavity (the most common cause of toothache) you don't want to let it go untreated. That could allow it to turn from a small discomfort into a major problem — like a painful abscess.
There are some things you can do at home to try and get a handle on what's causing the pain. Encourage the child to show you exactly where the pain is located, and to tell you when and how it started. Then, examine the area closely. Look for obvious brown spots, or even tiny cavities (holes) on biting surfaces or between teeth, which might indicate decay. Also check the gums surrounding the tooth, to see if there are sores or swelling.
You may find evidence of a traumatic injury, like a cut or bruise — or, if only swelling is apparent, it may mean an abscess has formed. If nothing looks amiss, try gently flossing on either side of the hurting tooth. This may dislodge a particle of food that's causing pain and pressure.
If the pain persists, you can try giving an appropriate dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, or applying an ice pack on the outside of the jaw — one minute on and one minute off. But even if you can make the immediate pain go away, don't neglect the situation that caused it. Unless you're absolutely sure you know why the toothache occurred, you should bring the child in for an examination. It will put your mind at rest — and maybe prevent a bigger problem down the road.
If a glance in the mirror reveals stained or discolored teeth that are detracting from your self-confidence, it's time to do something about it. The first step is to make an appointment for an office visit to find out how we can help you.
External (extrinsic) stains that form on the surfaces of teeth are usually caused by beverages such as red wine, tea, coffee as well as unhealthy habits like tobacco use. Extrinsic stains generally come in shades of browns, black or grays, but may even be orange or green from color producing bacteria.
Internal (intrinsic) stains are part of the structure of the tooth and cannot be removed by polishing. Among their causes are excessive fluoride levels or tetracycline antibiotics given in childhood and during tooth formation. Teeth do become more yellow and discolored as we age. Discoloration of individual teeth may be indicative of tooth decay, or teeth that have had root canal treatment and have literally lost their vitality tend to darken over time. Internal discoloration comes in a variety of shades and hues from yellows, grays, browns, and even some reds or pink.
Five Ways to lighten, whiten and brighten stained or discolored teeth
- Change your habits. Reduce or stop consuming or using foods, drinks or tobacco if they are staining your teeth.
- Improve your daily oral hygiene. Make sure to brush your teeth well, twice a day. Change to a toothpaste that contains a mild abrasive. Some toothpastes also contain tooth whiteners.
- Visit our office for a professional cleaning and polish. Routine scaling and polishing will remove most superficial external stain and discoloration. Sometimes ultrasonic cleaning (by high frequency vibration) and polishing with slightly abrasive pastes may just do the trick.
- Treatment for internal stain and discoloration. Brown colored decaying teeth need to have the decay removed and the teeth restored. Stained old and leaking fillings may also need to be replaced.
- Tooth whitening by bleaching. Bleaching or tooth whitening is a safe and effective way to brighten stained teeth. Internal tooth bleaching can whiten even discolored root canal treated teeth. Ask us for more information about this technique.
If your mirror tells you that your smile needs attention, there's no time like the present to get started. Get back your bright, white smile and your self-confidence as well.
When dentists talk to patients, they often use specialized vocabulary referring to various dental conditions. Do you understand what they mean when they use these words — or are you wondering what they are talking about?
Here's your chance to test your knowledge of ten words that have a particular meaning in the context of dentistry. If you already know them, congratulations! If you don't, here's your chance to learn what these words mean in the dental world.
In dentistry, enamel is the hard outer coating of your teeth. It is the hardest substance produced by living animals. It is a non-living, mineralized, and composed of a crystalline form of calcium and phosphate.
The dentin is the layer of a tooth that is just beneath the enamel. It is living tissue similar to bone tissue.
When dentists speak of pulp, we mean the tissues in the central chamber of a tooth (the root canal) that nourish the dentin layer and contain the nerves of the tooth.
Many people exert excess pressure on their teeth by clenching or grinding them. This is called bruxism, a habit that can be very damaging to teeth.
By this we mean how the upper and lower teeth are aligned, and how they fit together. This can also be referred to as your bite.
This term refers to tooth decay. Dental caries and periodontal disease (see below) are two of the most common diseases known to man. Today, these diseases are not only treatable, but they are also largely preventable.
A term for gum disease, this term comes from “peri,” meaning around and “odont,” meaning tooth. It is used to describe a process of inflammation and infection leading to the progressive loss of attachment between the fibers that connect the bone and gum tissues to the teeth. This can lead to loss of teeth and of the bone itself.
When you consume acidic foods or drinks, the acids in your mouth react directly with minerals in the outer enamel of your teeth, causing chemical erosion. This is not the same as tooth decay, which is caused by acids released by bacterial film that forms on your teeth (see below).
A dental implant is a permanent replacement for a missing tooth. It replaces the root portion of the tooth and is most often composed of a titanium alloy. The titanium root fuses with the jaw bone, making the implant very stable. A crown is attached to the implant and can be crafted to match your natural teeth.
Dental plaque is the whitish film of bacteria (a biofilm) that collects on your teeth. Your goal in daily brushing and flossing is to remove plaque.
Some of the most popular smile enhancers on the market today are both over-the-counter (OTC) and professional teeth whitening products. And while studies indicate that bleaching can successfully achieve noticeable increases in whitening of stained teeth, there are some facts you need to know about these products and the results that they can deliver.
- Nearly all bleaching products contain the same basic ingredient, carbamide peroxide or its breakdown product, hydrogen peroxide. However, the products our office uses to professionally whiten your teeth are much stronger without compromising the health and safety of your teeth, gums, and mouth.
- OTC bleaches typically contain no more that 10% carbamide peroxide while professional bleaches can contain between 15% and 35%. And to make professional bleaching even more effective, we may use them in combination with specialized lights or lasers.
- Bleaching is NOT a permanent solution and thus results will diminish over time. The “fade rate” begins to occur 6 to 12 months after treatment.
- While you can't avoid the fading process, you can extend your bleaching results by avoiding foods and drinks that stain your teeth, such as red wine, red (tomato-based) sauces, coffee, tea, sodas/colas, and blueberries to name a few.
- Another method for extending your results is to use a straw when drinking beverages that can stain your teeth so that the liquid does not come in contact with your teeth.
- If you have visible crowns and/or veneers mixed with your natural front teeth, it may be quite difficult for you to bleach your natural teeth so that they perfectly match your veneers or crowns. Remember, tooth whitening is not effective on crowns, veneers, bridgework, or any type of artificial tooth.
- One of the most common side effects of whitening teeth is tooth sensitivity and irritation of the gum tissues. They both are usually temporary and often occur when you start bleaching; however, they generally subside after a few days.
Overall, bleaching your teeth is an effective way to brighten your smile with minimal side effects. If it is something you are interested in pursuing, talk it over with us first — even if you plan to use OTC products — so that you have a clear understanding about your specific options and projected outcomes. Or, learn more by reading the Dear Doctor article, “Teeth Whitening: Brighter, Lighter, Whiter....”
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