Are over-the-counter tooth whiteners safe and effective?
The over-the-counter whiteners that I am familiar with all seem to be safe for our use. Should you decide to try one of them for a child or adolescent, please be sure to confirm that there are no minimum age limitations for its use. Studies to date do not seem to indicate any damage to the teeth or gums, and these products have been actively used by the profession for over 20 years.
As to the question of their effectiveness, that is not as easy to answer. Over the years, many of my patients have tried various store bought products and they seem to have very mixed results. Sometimes the patients are pleased with the results, and sometimes they are not. The main trends that I see are as follows:
The younger the patient, the more likely they are to help, with a good cut off area being the late twenties to early thirties.
The type of product that requires you to fashion your own boil and bite tray does not seem to work that well because most of the gel just squishes out.
The over-the-counter products usually have a lower concentration of the active ingredients that actually whiten your teeth.
If the over-the-counter product does not work that well for you, you can still use one at a dental office.
Do you recommend sealants?
Absolutely! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Sealants are good way to help prevent tooth decay, and they are normally about ¼ the fee of a filling! They are not a 100% guarantee of remaining cavity free, but every study that I have read shows them to be in the 90% effective range in preventing decay on the chewing surfaces of our teeth.
How often should I get my teeth cleaned?
Brushing and flossing our teeth a few times a day does not stop plaque and tartar from forming, but it does slow it down significantly for most of people. The majority of us will do well if we get our teeth cleaned every six months. For some us who tend to build up tartar more, or have numerous fillings and crowns, or who have a history of periodontal disease, it is much wiser to have them cleaned every three months in most cases, or every four months for others. We can help you determine what might be best for you. I have even had patients who started out with having their teeth cleaned every three months, and after a period of consistent recall visits, have been able to stretch their visits out to every 4-5 months. Whatever the case may be for you, it is well worth it to be consistent and make whatever effort is needed to get your teeth cleaned on a regular basis. This ounce of prevention is very much worth a pound, or two, of cure!
Is there a connection between periodontal disease and heart disease?
Yes. The American Heart Association has come forward with the announcement that there is a direct link between periodontal disease and some heart conditions. They strongly endorse staying in good periodontal health, especially if there is any history, or family history of heart disease.
There are also studies being done that indicate strongly that there is a link between periodontal health and diabetes, and also with prematurely born infants.
What cosmetic procedures are available in dentistry today?
Cosmetic services have truly evolved over the last 20 years, and there are many effective procedures available to help treat your cosmetic needs. A list of the services available would include the following: Tooth Whitening, Composite/Tooth –Colored Fillings, Porcelain Veneers, Porcelain Crowns, Dental Implants, and even various types of Orthodontics.
These procedures can be used by themselves, or in combinations, to treat many cosmetic concerns such as discolored or stained teeth, worn or chipped teeth, unwanted or uneven spacing of teeth, teeth that are too small or too large, slight tooth crowding, and teeth that are not shaped correctly.
If you have any concerns about cosmetic dentistry, or particular concerns about your smile, please free to ask us. We will answer all of your questions that we can, and do our best to give you the information and help that you desire. We believe that a healthy, beautiful smile is adds to our overall good health and well being.
What type of toothbrush is best?
I’m tempted to say, “anything that you will actually use”, but that would not be quite true! If you use a manual brush, we strongly recommend a soft bristle toothbrush. I know many think that it can’t get their teeth as clean as the old faithful hard or medium bristle brushes, but all studies that I have read indicate that the soft brushes can clean just as well as any other. You might have to spend 15-20 seconds longer brushing, but they do great! If you use it properly, a soft bristle brush will clean both your teeth and gums very effectively. If used improperly, they will do far less damage than a medium or hard bristle brush. So…I encourage a soft brush for people, and a medium or hard brush for car battery cables or cleaning around tile grout!!
If you use an electric brush, there are three that I prefer. The Oral-B Braun is a wonderful single rotating head toothbrush and is great for most people. The Sonicare is also a good brush and much improved over earlier models. If you have a history of periodontal disease, or many crowns, bridges, or some implants, you should consider a brush called the Rotadent. Any of these brushes are good if used properly.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are marvelous way to restore areas of missing teeth, whether it is one tooth, a few teeth, or all of your teeth. Implants allow us to give you the most natural functioning restoration possible today. Implants are like little screws placed into the bone that function as the root portion of the missing tooth/teeth. Once the implant is secure and the bone is healed, we can build crowns, or bridges, or dentures on top of the implants and replace the top part of the missing tooth/teeth. The final result is firm and very natural in its chewing power. Even dentures can reach up to 85% of the chewing power and stability of natural teeth. It’s really a wonderful thing to be able to offer people!
What causes bad breath, and what can I do about it?
Bad breath can have many causes, and an individual my have one or more things working against them as it pertains to their breath. The more common causes of bad breath include the following:
Poor Oral Hygiene: food particles left in the mouth promote bacterial growth, which increases odor in the mouth.
Periodontal (gum) Disease: Food debris and colonies of bacteria residing under the gumline for a period of time cause bone loss and swelling in the gums, which traps more food debris and bacteria underneath the gums, etc. This condition is a direct cause of bad breath.
Tobacco Products: Tobacco dries the mouth, which causes bad breath.
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia): Dry mouth has many causes such as mouth breathing, side effects of many medications, and salivary gland problems. A dry mouth is a common cause of bad breath.
Dehydration, Hunger, and Missed Meals: These conditions lead to a decreased saliva flow, which leads to dry mouth, which leads to bad breath.
Dental Decay and Improperly Fitting Dental Appliances: The bacteria and trapped food debris in cavities and underneath poorly fitting dental appliances can cause bad breath.
Certain Medical Conditions and Illnesses: Conditions such as diabetes, liver and kidney problems, bronchitis, and pneumonia are among several conditions that affect the body in such a way that they can cause bad breath.
Dieting: Chemicals called keytones are released in the breath as the body burns fat.
What can I do?
One of the most important things that you can do is to practice good oral hygiene at home by brushing, flossing, and brushing your tongue. You will benefit most by brushing 3 times a day, and flossing at least once a day. The daily use of a fluoride gel on your teeth and gums is also very helpful. These efforts will slow down the bacterial growth and remove food debris.
It is also critical for to visit your dentist and have your teeth cleaned twice a year. For those who have periodontal disease, build up plaque faster than others, or who have dry mouth for any of the reasons mentioned above, it would be helpful to have your teeth cleaned 3-4 times per year. It is a small investment for the good it can do.
The use of sugarless mints or gum on a regular basis will also stimulate saliva flow and help keep your mouth moist, which will cut down on breath odors. If you have health or medication concerns causing your bad breath, this will be a very important help to your oral hygiene efforts.
You will also benefit from drinking water frequently, using mouthwashes that kill bacteria such as Listerine, and from stopping the use of tobacco products.
I have found that most people need to practice a combination of these tactics in order to keep their breath fresher. I know it can be discouraging, but with consistent effort you can do much to improve your breath, or even do away with bad breath altogether.