Do those over the counter whitening products such as strips, toothpaste, and mouthwash really work?
With all of the whitening products advertised lately, we’re surprised nobody is selling morning coffee with whiteners. Do any of these over the counter products they work? The short answer is: sort of. Toothpastes contain abrasive particles that help scrub stains from teeth. Whitening gels like that found on strips contain formulas that whiten teeth from the inside. They are less concentrated than those prescribed by your dentist. Your results will vary depending on the color of your teeth, types of stain, and overall oral health. It won’t hurt you to try these products, and some people get pretty good results. But don’t expect a dramatic difference. If you’re looking for significant color changes in your teeth and a more long-lasting result, your best bet is to see your dentist, who has access to new whitening technologies.
I have old silver fillings in my back teeth. Besides being ugly, are they bad for my health?
Possibly. Old silver fillings tend to leak over time and may weaken the tooth up to 80%. Space between your tooth and the filling may develop, allowing bacteria to enter and decay the tooth. Cracks can occur in thinned areas of enamel around the amalgam, providing another entryway for bacteria. Traditionally, dentists recommended a crown or ‘cap’ to fix the tooth. However, for a crown to fit your tooth, your tooth has to be ground down a lot. Fortunately, we now have more conservative options called inlays and onlays. Only the silver filling and decayed tooth structure are removed and they’re replaced with a tooth-colored inlay or onlay, which is bonded to your tooth and prevents leaking and cracking. You keep the healthy tooth structure, and as an added benefit, the inlay or onlay restores your tooth’s natural beauty. Nobody except you and your dentist will ever know you had a filling!
I saw a makeover show on TV where the participants got incredible new smiles from a cosmetic dentist. What exactly did the dentist do?
Dentists use a variety of techniques to create a new smile, but the two most often used are bonding and/or porcelain veneers. Bonding is where a tooth-colored composite material is placed on the tooth to correct chips, stains, spaces, and other cosmetic problems. Bonding is a conservative treatment that can be done quickly and can have dramatic results. For more serious cosmetic issues or to build a longer lasting brilliant smile, dentists use porcelain veneers, which is most likely what you’ve seen on makeover TV shows. Veneers are very thin layers of porcelain that are permanently attached to the tooth structure after the tooth has been carefully prepared for fit. Veneers can be expensive but the results are absolutely stunning, as you saw on TV. When done correctly and carefully by a trained cosmetic dentist, the new smile does not look fake, it looks like you were born with beautiful teeth.
I have always had sensitive teeth. The sensitivity is generalized, and it’s not constant, but it bothers me when I drink something cold. What is the best treatment for this kind of sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is a common problem. The reason and appropriate treatment depend on several factors. The causes for sensitivity can range from having cavities or cracks in teeth, worn teeth, sinus infections, gum recession, notching of teeth along the gumline, or other issues. Gum recession is a problem that can be caused by gum disease, aggressive tooth brushing, excessive force being applied to the teeth, or normal aging. As the gums recede, the root is exposed, and the tooth may become sensitive. In these cases, treatment can be as simple as using a toothpaste for sensitivity, regular fluoride rinses, or having your dentist apply a desensitizing agent to the root surfaces. Tooth notching can be caused by forces on the teeth, either from poor alignment, clenching or grinding, or a combination. The notches along the gumline can usually be filled in with a tooth-colored filling material, and your dentist has additional options to help prevent recurrence. Tooth sensitivity will not go away by itself, and because of the potential seriousness of the underlying causes, you should see your dentist if you have sensitivity problems.
I’ve heard there is a link between unhealthy teeth and gums and heart disease. Is this true?
You heard right. Studies implicate gum disease as a risk factor for developing heart disease. These studies show the bacterial infections of gum disease are associated with bacterial infection of the blood, inflammation, and a strong immune response, all of which are significant risk factors for the development of heart disease. Also, the most common strain of bacteria in dental plaque can cause blood clots that induces heart attacks when they escape into the bloodstream. Beyond heart disease, gum disease in pregnant women is considered a risk factor for low birth-weight babies. Proper brushing and yes, of course, flossing, combined with routine visits to your dentist help to reduce your risk of gum disease. Ask your dentist and hygienist if you are at risk for gum disease and what you can do to eliminate it.
I had braces in the past, but I’m beginning to notice my lower teeth are getting crooked again. Why are my teeth moving? Should I straighten them out again?
Many adults begin to notice their teeth, especially the lower front teeth, getting crooked. Whether or not you had braces in the past, you will likely notice crowding of your teeth as you get older. Crowded teeth are harder for you to clean properly. This can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. And studies now show a link between an unhealthy mouth and heart disease. Fortunately there are simple ways to straighten your teeth. One such solution is Invisalign, or invisible braces. Invisalign uses a series of clear trays that fit snugly over your teeth and move them to an ideal position. Each tray is worn for about two weeks before moving to the next tray. If you have minor crowding, it will take fewer trays to correct. Some cases take only ten trays, or 20 weeks, to correct fully. Major crowding cases take longer; however, Invisalign is often faster than traditional braces. You may also be able to whiten your teeth as you straighten them. Ask your dentist about your options for straightening your teeth and creating a beautiful and healthy smile. You might have a chance to improve your looks and your overall health!
What is Invisalign?
Invisalign is essentially invisible braces. Invisalign straightens your teeth using a series of thin, clear trays. Each tray is worn for around two weeks before changing to the next tray in the series. Treatment usually takes between six months and one year. Since the trays are practically invisible, most people won’t notice you’re straightening your teeth – unless you tell them. You can have the smile you’ve always wanted without the hassle of braces.
I recently had a tooth removed. Do I need to replace it, and if so, what should I do?
Yes, you need to replace it. Replacing that missing tooth is important to prevent neighboring teeth from shifting. Shifted teeth create areas that are difficult to keep clean and that can lead to gum problems and tooth decay. Also, shifted teeth no longer fit together properly, which causes excessive wear, headaches, and many other problems. Ideally, missing teeth are replaced by dental implants or bridges. Dental implants replace the root of the tooth. Implants are made of a bio-compatible titanium alloy and are placed in the jaw bone, where they fuse to the bone. A crown is later placed on the implant. Implants typically last a long time, they won’t decay, and they are the best restorations in cases where the neighboring teeth are healthy and properly aligned. A bridge may be your best option if the neighboring teeth are unhealthy. Also, in some cases a bridge will offer better aesthetics. Replacing a tooth with a bridge involves reshaping the neighboring teeth to which the bridge will attach. It usually takes two to four weeks to have a bridge fabricated. The cost of a three-tooth bridge will probably come close to the combined cost of the implant placement and implant crown. Obviously, many considerations are taken into account with each patient. Ask your dentist what they would do if they were in your situation. That will help you with your own decision.
I am terrified of going to the dentist, but I have a LOT of work that needs to be done. Aside from ‘knocking me out’ is there anything that can be done for me?
You are not alone in feeling this way. Millions of Americans feel tremendous anxiety concerning dental treatment. Fear, coupled with embarrassment and shame, has kept nearly half of all Americans from seeking necessary treatment for years, even decades. Fortunately, dental phobia doesn’t have to keep you away from the dentist any longer. Amenities like noise-canceling headphones, laughing gas, ceiling TVs, and more conservative, gentle procedures will help take the edge off. For some fearful patients, an anti-anxiety pill is just what the doctor ordered. Most patients snooze through the appointment and feel no discomfort. Years of dental neglect are erased in just one appointment. Once-fearful and embarrassed patients chew without pain and smile with confidence for the first time in years! These benefits are often life-changing for people who have procrastinated getting their mouths healthy or enhancing their smiles.