Posts for: January, 2014
Since the time of the ancient Egyptians, people have used mixtures of various substances in pursuit of a single goal: cleaning their teeth effectively. Today, even with a glut of toothpaste tubes on the supermarket shelf, most people seem to have a particular favorite. But have you ever thought about what's in your toothpaste, and how it works? Here are five facts you might not know.
1) Most toothpastes have a very similar set of active ingredients.
Once upon a time, a toothpaste might have contained crushed bones and oyster shells, pumice, or bark. Now, thankfully, they're a little different: today's toothpaste ingredients generally include abrasives, detergents and fluoride compounds, as well as inert substances like preservatives and binders. Toothpastes formulated to address special needs, like sensitive teeth or tartar prevention, have additional active ingredients.
2) Abrasives make the mechanical action of brushing more effective
These substances help remove stains and surface deposits from teeth. But don't even think about breaking out the sandpaper! Modern toothpastes use far gentler cleaning and polishing agents, like hydrated silica or alumina, calcium carbonate or dicalcium phosphate. These compounds are specially formulated to be effective without damaging tooth enamel.
3) Detergents help break up and wash away stains
The most common detergent in toothpaste (which is also found in many shampoos) is sodium lauryl sulfate, a substance that can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil. Like the abrasives used in toothpaste, these detergents are far milder than the ones you use in the washing machine. Yet they're effective at loosening the stains clinging to your teeth, which would otherwise be hard to dissolve.
4) Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay
This has been conclusively demonstrated since it was first introduced into toothpaste formulations in 1914. Fluoride — whether it's in the form of sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate (MFP) — helps strengthen tooth enamel and make it more resistant to acid attack, which precipitates tooth decay. In fact, it's arguably the most important ingredient, and no toothpaste can receive the American Dental Association's Seal of Approval without it.
5) Look for toothpaste with the ADA seal
This means that the particular brand of toothpaste has proven effective as a cleaning agent and a preventative against tooth decay. Plus, if the package says it has other benefits, then research has verified that it does what it says. Oh, and one other thing — toothpaste doesn't work if you don't use it — so don't forget to brush regularly!
If you have questions about toothpastes or oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Toothpaste — What's In It?”
One day, while looking at old pictures of himself, 34-year-old American Idol finalist Elliott Yamin noticed something peculiar. “I [had] figured out how to kind of smile without displaying all my teeth,” he told an interviewer with People magazine. The reason: Yamin (like many other people) was unhappy with the way his teeth looked. And others noticed it too: “[They] wrote things in magazines, called me Snaggletooth and things like that,” he said.
Yamin's situation came to the attention of dentists from across the country, several of whom offered to fix his crossbite and other problems. One of them even provided the singer with computer-generated renderings of how he'd look after a total “smile makeover” — and that was enough to convince him. Finally, after receiving a set of porcelain veneers and other dental work — all provided free of charge by the concerned dentist — Yamin has the smile he always dreamed of.
You don't have to be an American Idol finalist to appreciate the benefit of having a super smile — and it's never too late to get started! As Yamin found out, a “smile analysis” is the first step, and it's a critical part of the process. This is the time when you and your dentist get to know each other, and begin talking about what kind of a look you want to achieve, and what you should realistically expect.
But it can be tough to express in words exactly what your idea of a perfect smile looks like. Are the teeth completely regular in alignment and “Hollywood white?” A little bit asymmetrical and more natural-looking — or something in between? And exactly how would that look on you? Fortunately, we have a variety of ways to help you make those decisions.
One is computer-generated images, like the ones that persuaded Yamin. Convenient and relatively easy to produce, they're a great way to preview possible changes before a single tooth is touched. However, some people may find it hard to picture their new smile from different angles and in different lights. If you'd like a better representation, it's possible to produce a 3-D model of the proposed work before it's done. This can let you truly visualize your new smile in a realistic way.
If you need even more evidence before deciding, there's still more that can be done. Your teeth can be built up to their new contours with composite resin, a tooth-colored restoration material that can change tooth shape and size with relative ease. A related procedure, the “provisional restoration,” gives you a complete preview of the final work. When you're satisfied, the “temporary” materials are replaced with more permanent ones, like long-lasting porcelain veneers. Whichever method you choose, you'll be on your way to a better looking smile.
If you would like more information about a smile makeover, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Great Expectations — Perceptions in Smile Design” and “Smile Design Enhanced with Porcelain Veneers.”
A substantial amount of research has recently pointed up the connection between oral health and systemic (whole-body) health. But recently, one study went a step further: It seems to show that having certain dental-health issues in middle age — for example, tooth loss and gum disease — could signal a deterioration in cognitive function.
Study author Gary Slade, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, summed it up: “We were interested to see if people with poor dental health had relatively poorer cognitive function, which is a technical term for how well people do with memory and with managing words and numbers,” he said in an interview with U.S. News and World Report. “What we found was that for every extra tooth that a person had lost or had removed, cognitive function went down a bit. The same was true [for] patients with severe gum disease.”
Does this mean that losing teeth is a little like losing brain cells? Not really, because it isn’t clear which condition occurred first… or even if one caused the other. For example, it could be that a poor diet is responsible for both poor dental health and a decline in cognitive ability; on the other hand, there could be a genetic link between both conditions. Or, it could simply mean that people with cognitive difficulties don’t take good care of their teeth.
Still, the association is intriguing — especially because it echoes some previous studies, which indicate that systemic inflammation could be a major cause of both problems. What’s the oral-systemic connection? No one is exactly sure yet, but research suggests a relationship between periodontal disease and other diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The common link may be bacteria: The same microorganisms that cause problems in the mouth might be able to spread through the body, producing a low-grade inflammation — one that’s waiting for the right conditions to burst into fire.
So, should you rush out and grab everything off the drugstore’s oral health products shelf? Well, we wouldn’t necessarily go that far… but here’s a more sensible suggestion: Take good care of your teeth and gums. Both tooth decay and periodontal disease can cause a number of problems with your health — yet both can be treated effectively… and they’re largely preventable!
If you haven’t visited our office in a while, why not come in for an exam? When you do, ask us what’s the best way to keep your smile looking great and feeling clean and healthy. Our goal is to help you maintain proper oral hygiene — for life. If you would like more information about oral health and systemic diseases, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”
You may be suffering from an uncomfortable cracking of the skin at the corners of the mouth. This condition is known as perleche (or angular cheilitis). From the French word “lecher” (“to lick”), it derives its name from the tendency of sufferers to lick the affected areas.
There are a number of causes for perleche. It’s found most often in children who drool during sleep, or in teenagers or young adults wearing braces. Older adults develop perleche due to the wrinkling of skin caused by aging; and anyone can develop the condition from environmental factors like cold, dry weather. Conditions from within the mouth may also be a cause: inadequate saliva flow; inflammation caused by dentures; or tooth loss that diminishes facial support and puts pressure on the skin at the corners of the mouth. Systemic conditions such as anemia, diabetes or cancer can dry out oral tissues and membranes, which may lead to perleche.
Our first priority is to treat any underlying infection. Cracked mouth corners are easily infected, most commonly from yeast called candida albicans. The infection may range from minor discomfort localized in the affected area to painful infections that involve the entire mouth and possibly the throat. Any of these can be treated with an oral or topical anti-fungal medication, including anti-fungal ointments applied directly to the corners of the mouth until the infection clears up. Chlorhexidine mouth rinses can also be used to treat minor yeast infections.
As for healing the cracked skin, a steroid ointment for control of inflammation combined with a zinc oxide paste or ointment will serve as an antifungal barrier while the tissues heal. If the condition is related to missing teeth or dentures, we can take steps to replace those teeth or ensure the dentures are fitting properly. Good oral health also goes a long way in preventing further reoccurrence of perleche, as well as dermatological techniques to remove deep wrinkles due to aging.
If you would like more information on perleche and other mouth sore issues, 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 “Cracked Corners of the Mouth.”