Posts for: December, 2013
Australian heartthrob Hugh Jackman has won international recognition for his work on stage, screen and television, including his long-running portrayal of Wolverine in the X-Men film series, and his Academy-Award-nominated starring role in Les Miserables. Oh, and did we mention he was named the “sexiest man alive” by People magazine in 2008? So when Jackman once said “I have shocking teeth”… what did he mean?
“[My dentist] looked at my teeth and went, ‘Oh, my God, you've got gray teeth,’” the actor stated. The proposed cure: tooth whitening. But what if the action hero's teeth were brightened too much — would his look still convey his trademark rugged charm? To see how that issue was resolved, let's look a little closer at various methods of tooth whitening.
All Whitening Isn't the Same
Everyone has seen the kind of over-the-counter tooth whitening strips advertised in magazines and sold in drug stores. Most dentists agree that, given enough time, they can work in many cases. But there may be problems, too.
One is that unless you know what's actually causing the darkening, you can't be sure if there is an underlying issue that needs treatment — a root-canal problem, for example. Bleaching a diseased tooth is like painting over a rusty car: it camouflages the problem, but doesn't fix it. That's one reason why, before any whitening treatment is attempted, it's important to have a complete dental examination, with x-rays.
Another is that without professional supervision, it's more difficult to control the degree of whitening you will end up with. For safety reasons, over-the-counter whitening products have the least concentrated bleaching agent, and will probably require weeks of use to produce noticeable results. The next step up — a custom-designed, at-home bleaching kit from our office — will likely produce results twice as fast.
The Professional Advantage
At-home bleaching done under our supervision uses stronger whitening agents with a flexible plastic tray that's custom-made to fit your teeth. It's a cost-effective way to achieve several shades of whitening in a relatively short time. Plus, with the advantage of our experience and guidance, you can get excellent results safely and efficiently.
If you want the fastest and most controllable whitening, however, in-office whitening treatments are the best way to go. According to one study, using the most concentrated whiteners in a safe clinical setting produced a six-shade improvement in just three office visits! This would have required a week or more of at-home bleaching, or upwards of 16 daily applications of the over-the-counter whitening products!
In-office whitening also offers the greatest degree of control over the outcome. That's why it was the method Hugh Jackman chose for his treatments. By adjusting the concentration of the bleaching solution and the treatment time, Jackman's dentist made sure his teeth were pleasingly light — but still looked completely natural. And in our office, we can do the same for you.
So whether you're looking for a dazzlingly bright smile or a more subtle enhancement, the best way to start is to call our office for a consultation. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered” and “Teeth Whitening.”
There are dozens of brands of mouthwashes and rinses on drugstore shelves that American consumers buy each year for clean breath and oral health. But the question is do they really work?
To properly answer that, you should first know that mouth rinses fall into two general categories: cosmetic and therapeutic. A cosmetic rinse can give you a temporary “clean” feeling in the mouth (usually masking bad breath with a more pleasant smell) but in the long run doesn't contribute to better oral health. On the other hand, therapeutic rinses do enhance oral health; they contain one or more ingredients that can help prevent the development of tooth decay and/or inhibit bacterial growth.
Although some therapeutic rinses are prescribed by dentists, many are available over-the-counter (OTC). Decay-fighting rinses usually contain sodium fluoride, which has been amply demonstrated to strengthen the surface of teeth and thus inhibit tooth decay and the likelihood of new cavity development — but only when used in combination with good hygiene practices. Anti-bacterial rinses contain ingredients such as triclosan, zinc or essential oils like menthol that reduce the level of bacteria in plaque (when also coupled with good oral hygiene). This also helps reduce the growth of decay.
For some patients a prescription rinse may be in order, especially during recuperation from oral surgery or where normal plaque control is difficult. The most common rinse contains chlorhexidine, a chemical that prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth. The effectiveness of chlorhexidine, especially in helping to control gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and preventing tooth decay, is well-documented after many years of research and use. While it may cause teeth staining in some patients, the staining can be alleviated by ultrasonic scaling or polishing.
So then, should you incorporate a mouth rinse into your daily hygiene regimen, and if so, what kind? That will depend on your own individual oral health needs, which we can advise you on. Knowing what your own needs are and the different kinds of mouth rinses and what they are designed to do, you can make an informed choice.
If you would like more information on the use of mouthwashes or rinses, 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 “Mouthrinses.”
Because its symptoms can be easy to overlook, gum disease is sometimes called a “silent” malady. But don't underestimate this problem! Untreated periodontal disease can progress into a serious condition, possibly leading to tooth loss and even systemic (whole-body) health issues. With proper preventive measures and appropriate treatment, however, the disease can be controlled.
The root cause of periodontal disease — actually, a group of related diseases, all of which affect the tissues surrounding the teeth — is the buildup of bacterial plaque (also referred to as biofilm) around the gums. While hundreds of types of bacteria live in the mouth, only a comparatively few are thought to be harmful. But when oral hygiene (namely, brushing and flossing) is inadequate, the environment in the mouth becomes favorable to those harmful types.
The disease often begins with inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. It symptoms include bad breath, bleeding gums, and soreness, redness, or tenderness of the gum tissue. However, in some people these early warning signs are ignored, or masked by the effects of harmful habits like smoking.
Gum disease is chronic; that means, if left alone, it will worsen over time. Periodontitis, as it progresses, causes damage to the ligament that helps hold the tooth in place, as well as bone loss. This may become increasingly severe, and ultimately result in the loss of the tooth. Severe periodontitis is also associated with whole-body (systemic) inflammation, which has been linked to an increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases, like stroke and heart attack.
But there's no reason to allow gum disease to progress to this stage! Prevention — that is, regular daily brushing and flossing as well as regular dental cleanings — is a primary means of keeping this problem at bay. Plus, every time you have a regular dental checkup, your gums are examined for early signs of trouble. Of course, if you notice the symptoms of gum disease, you should come in for a check-up as soon as you can.
There are a number of effective treatments for gum disease. One of the most conservative, routine ways are those regular dental cleanings we referred to earlier, usually called scaling and root planning. Using hand-held and ultrasonic instruments, the buildup of plaque (tartar) is carefully removed, sometimes under local anesthesia. A follow-up evaluation may show that this treatment, carried out on a regular schedule, is all that's needed. Or, it may be time for a more comprehensive therapy.
If you have concerns about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”
While hygiene and regular dental care go a long way to reduce your risk of oral disease and disorders, you’re still subject to your heredity. Everything from tooth alignment to the shape of your jaws is determined by your genes.
So is the biological structure of your gum tissue. Aside from minute variations, gum tissue structure falls into two broad categories — “thin” or “thick,” which refer to the actual thickness of the tissue and the underlying bone. The tooth’s appearance is the best indicator of which type you may have: those with more triangular-shaped tooth (often called scalloped) have thin gum tissue; a person with a squarer appearance (flat) has thick gum tissue. People of Asian descent tend to have thin/scalloped tissue while those with European or African heritage tend to have thick/flat tissues.
Thick gum tissue isn’t superior to thin, or vice-versa. In fact, each type is susceptible to certain types of diseases or adverse conditions.
Thin tissues are more susceptible to the occurrence of receding gums. Caused mainly by periodontal disease and toothbrush abrasion, the gum tissue recedes and exposes more of the unprotected tooth surface that should be below the gum line. This increases the risk of decay and tooth loss. Patients with thick tissue, on the other hand, have a higher risk of developing a condition known as “pocketing.” As the thicker gum tissue becomes inflamed from dental plaque, it loses its attachment to the teeth and forms a small pocket. The end result is possible bone and tooth loss.
There’s not much you can do about which type of gum tissue you have, for which you can thank (or blame!) your ancestors. But there’s something you can do to reduce your risk of periodontal disease. First and foremost, you should practice good daily hygiene, brushing with a soft-bristled tooth brush and gentle flossing. It’s also important to maintain regular cleanings and checkups in our office; not only will this ensure complete plaque and tartar removal, but gives us a better chance to detect either receding gums or pocketing early. Earlier detection can mean better treatment outcomes — and a saved smile.
If you would like more information on genetic types of periodontal tissues, 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 “Genetics & Gum Tissue Types.”