Your toothbrush serves the invaluable purpose of minimizing bacterial buildup (plaque) that can irritate gums and lead to periodontal disease, infection of the bone and tissues supporting your teeth. Brushing also helps dislodge food particles that certain oral bacteria would otherwise feed on, producing acids in the process that can eat through protective tooth enamel and the vulnerable dentin below. Given its importance to your oral health, you can maximize your toothbrush’s effectiveness by using and storing it properly, and replacing it (or the brush head if you have a powered model) regularly.
Using and Storing Your Brush
All that’s needed to dislodge plaque from oral surfaces is a relaxed grip and a gentle jiggling motion. Too much pressure can wear away tooth enamel, cause gum tissue to recede, and shorten the life of your brush head.
When you’re done using your brush:
- Thoroughly rinse it to remove any remaining tooth paste, food particles, etc.
- If you’re super-vigilant, you also can disinfect your brush by soaking it in mouthwash, brush-sanitizing rinse, or a half water/half hydrogen peroxide solution, or dipping it in boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds.
- Air dry in an upright position and do not routinely cover your toothbrush or store it in a closed container. A dark, moist environment is more conducive to the growth of microorganisms.
Replacing and Recycling Your Toothbrush
Even with the best of care, toothbrush bristles become frayed and worn and their cleaning effectiveness diminishes after 3 or 4 months, according to the American Dental Association, though it could be sooner depending on factors unique to each patient. Besides checking the bristles regularly, a good way of keeping track is to write the date you start using your toothbrush in permanent pen on a big-enough spot on the handle (or doing it on masking tape applied to the base of a power brush).
Once your brush has passed its useful life for oral hygiene, you can still get plenty of mileage out of it. You’ll find plenty of ideas on the internet for cleaning grout between tiles and grime-filled spots around taps and toilet lid hinges; removing mud from boot treads; scrubbing off corrosion from around car battery terminals and more!
If you would like more information about oral hygiene, 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 “Toothbrush Lifespan” and “Manual vs Powered Toothbrushes.”
Your otherwise beautiful smile has one noticeable flaw — one or more of your teeth are deeply discolored or stained. More than likely this staining is deep within the teeth, what we refer to as intrinsic staining. There are a number of reasons this can occur — from fillings or use of antibiotics, for example — and our first approach should be to attempt a whitening technique.
However, if that doesn't produce the desired result, porcelain laminate veneers are another option you might consider. Veneers are made of dental porcelain, a bio-compatible material that can be shaped and colored to closely match neighboring teeth. After a minimal amount of tooth reduction (removal of some of the enamel from the tooth surface) to prepare for the laminate, the veneers are then permanently bonded to the tooth surface and cover the discolored natural tooth. Besides changing the appearance of discolored or stained teeth, veneers can also be used to correct other imperfections such as chipped or misshapen teeth.
Patients, however, have a common question: how long will the veneers last? With proper care, veneers can last anywhere from seven years to more than twenty years. It's possible, though, to damage them — for example, you can break them if you bite down on something that goes beyond the porcelain's tolerance range, such as cracking nut shells with your teeth (not a good idea even for natural teeth!). You should also keep in mind that veneers are composed of inert, non-living material and are attached and surrounded by living gum tissue that can change over time. This process may eventually alter your appearance to the point that the veneer may need to be removed and reapplied to improve the look of your smile.
If a veneer is damaged, all is not necessarily lost. It may be possible to re-bond a loosened veneer or repair a chipped area. The worst case is replacement of the veneer altogether. Chances are, though, this will only happen after the veneer has already served you — and your smile — for many years.
If you would like more information on porcelain laminate veneers, 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 “Porcelain Veneers.”
Our smiles are our “calling cards” for first impressions. When our front teeth are missing, chipped or otherwise damaged, it will certainly make an impression — and not a positive one.
The good news is many aesthetic problems with front teeth can be remedied with the use of composite resins. This cost-effective treatment choice not only minimizes a negative appearance, but can actually create a positive smile transformation.
Composite resins are tooth-colored materials made up of two or more polymer substances. We call materials like these biomimetic, meaning something non-living that’s fashioned to appear or “mimic” something living. Composite resins are made of substances that aren’t teeth, but fashioned to look and function like teeth.
Composite resin restorations are bonded to the outside of the tooth with dental adhesive, with little to no preparation of the enamel surface of the tooth. They’re best suited for teeth with minor to moderate damage from decay or trauma, but where the majority of the structure is still viable and intact.
These restorations require skill and an artistic eye to achieve the most life-like result. One of the most important considerations is tooth color. The natural color of your teeth is actually a combination of color from the inner core of the tooth, the dentin, and the outer enamel layer. Much of the color comes from the dentin as it shows through the translucence of the enamel. The intensity and hue also changes along the length of the tooth — there are subtle zones of color that run vertically along the length of the crown (the visible portion of the tooth). Our aim is to replicate this variety of color in the restoration and affix it in such a way that it blends with the natural color of surrounding teeth.
Composite resins aren’t the best option for all situations; depending on the tooth’s condition and location, a porcelain veneer may be the better choice. After a thorough dental examination, we can make the best recommendation for your situation. If conditions are right, a composite resin restoration could transform your smile and your life.
If you would like more information on front teeth repair options, 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 “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth With Composite Resin.”
It is sometimes hard to believe all of the features and characteristics that we inherit from our parents. Whether you're tall, short, blue-eyed or blonde, you can usually attribute some of these features to your mother and father. Of course, the downside of genetics is that diseases and disorders are also linked to genes.
Well, you can add gum tissue to that list as well! Genetics actually determines whether you have what we call “thin” or “thick” gum tissue. How does this work? Well, the type of gum tissue you have relies heavily on the shape of your tooth, which indeed is genetically-coded. If you have a triangular tooth shape, you'll likely have thin gums. If you have a squarer tooth shape, you'll usually have thick gums.
So, what can you expect from each tissue type?
If you have a thin gum tissue type, you are more likely to have gum recession. Watch out for the following signs of gum recession:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold, even without the presence of dental decay
- If you have crowns on your teeth, you may see a dark gray line at the gum line from the metal casting beneath the crown
- Small dark triangular spaces between teeth
On the other hand, if you have a thicker tissue type, your gums are more vulnerable to dental disease through a condition called “pocketing.” This happens when bacterial plaque causes your tissue to become inflamed, lose its attachment to the teeth and develop a pocket. Pocketing can result in bone loss, and, in worst-case scenarios, tooth loss.
It's important to note that while we use these terms to categorize different tissue types for treatment decisions, your tissue may also fall somewhere in between the two varieties.
So, how can you prevent gum disease? Daily oral hygiene is the best way to ensure proper care of your gums, no matter what type you have. Be sure to brush twice daily (use a soft toothbrush) and floss regularly at night. Floss gently until you hear a squeak, but watch out for your gum line. And of course, continue to visit us two times a year, so that we can assess whether you are in danger of developing gum disease.
If you would like more information about genetics and gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Genetics and Gum Tissue Types.”
When you or a family member takes a traumatic hit to the mouth, what should you do? Besides immediate first aid, your next action will depend on the extent of damage to any teeth. What you do and when you do it may even determine whether an injured tooth is eventually saved or lost.
If a tooth has been completely knocked out, you have about five minutes to replace the tooth in the socket to give it the best chance of reattachment and long-term survival. While we can certainly perform this action in our office, getting to us within five minutes may not be possible. Fortunately, any person can perform this action on site (see the article linked below for basic instructions on replantation). If for some that's not possible, you should control bleeding at the tooth site with direct pressure, place the recovered tooth in milk or the patient's saliva, and see us as soon as possible.
If, however, the injured tooth has been obviously knocked out of line but not completely detached from its socket, you have a small cushion of time to seek dental treatment — but not much. For this degree of injury, you should see us within six hours of the incident. We will be able to determine the exact nature of the injury, and treat the condition by moving the teeth back into proper position and splinting them.
You have up to twelve hours for broken or chipped teeth still in their normal position. Try to locate and save any broken-off fragments — it may be possible to re-bond them to the teeth. Although it may not be as urgent as other situations, you should still seek treatment as soon as possible. A broken tooth could leave the inner pulp exposed — a situation that left untreated could lead to eventual tooth loss.
Traumatic injuries to the mouth can have serious consequences for your long-term dental health. With our consultation and treatment efforts, we can help you save an injured tooth.
If you would like more information on caring for dental injuries, 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 Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries.”
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