Posts for: February, 2013
Humans naturally react with pleasure to a beautiful smile. Starting with our mother's joy at seeing our first smile, we have learned throughout our lives that a smile is an invitation to a positive interaction. But are some smiles more beautiful than others? What is it that makes a smile beautiful?
As with art and music, people's perceptions of beauty differ with their backgrounds and culture. Most people respond well to an appearance of healthy teeth and gums. Some feel that teeth must be very white and bright, while others look for even alignment and proportionally sized teeth. With today's dentistry, all of these factors can be changed and enhanced.
Let's look at the components of a smile, starting with the teeth. Evenly sized, white teeth are generally considered to be the basis of an attractive smile. Chipped or discolored front teeth can be repaired by bonding tooth-colored composite resin restorations. Thin porcelain veneers can be applied to teeth that are too small, misshapen or discolored. Tooth colored fillings can be used to repair damaged or decayed back teeth, or porcelain crowns may be used to replace the top part of a tooth that has been seriously damaged. If teeth are missing because of trauma or loss due to decay, today they can be replaced by dental implants, topped with crowns that are colored and shaped exactly like the natural teeth.
Of course, if your teeth emerge from inflamed, infected gums, your smile needs improvement. Healthy teeth and gums result from good dental hygiene habits and regular professional dental cleanings and checkups. Teeth can be whitened and brightened both through home methods and in the dental office. Ask us about the options available for tooth whitening.
Another factor that goes into a smile is the relation of the upper to the lower jaw, or the bite. A poor bite is called a malocclusion. Orthodontic treatment, with the use of traditional braces or clear aligners, can move the teeth into a better bite position so that they look and function better.
Repairing parts of your smile that make you feel self conscious will help your smile in more ways than one. If you feel good about yourself, you look better. We get the process started, and you do the rest.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about cosmetic dentistry. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cosmetic Dentistry: A time for change.”
Teeth whitening is a great way to improve your smile. For best results and to ensure your safety, teeth should be bleached under professional supervision. We can help you choose the whitening method that's right for you, and monitor the effects of your treatment. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about this relatively inexpensive cosmetic procedure:
Is teeth whitening safe?
A lot of research has been done on teeth whitening, so we know that specific bleaching formulas, from a reputable source, are safe if used as directed and after a proper dental examination. You should be aware that tooth sensitivity is a common side effect of bleaching, but brushing with a desensitizing toothpaste containing potassium nitrate for two weeks prior to bleaching can reduce sensitivity. Using potassium nitrate during the bleaching process can also help.
Is it effective?
Professional bleaching is very effective. Peroxide goes through tooth enamel (the outermost layer) and the dentin (middle layer) to the pulp (the innermost layer) in 5 to 15 minutes. The bleach actually changes the color of the enamel and dentin, and removes stains.
How is teeth whitening done?
Basically there are three options: in-office whitening (done by a dentist), at-home bleaching with custom-made flexible plastic trays (with prescription bleach), and over-the-counter (OTC) products. Not all OTC products are equal, and the results will take longer to achieve than with professionally supervised procedures.
How long does it take?
That depends on what method you choose and, in the case of at-home whitening, how conscientious you are about following through with your course of treatment. One study found that a six-shade change required either: three in-office applications of 38% hydrogen peroxide; one week of 10% carbamide peroxide used at home nightly in a custom-made tray; or 16 daily application of 5.3% hydrogen peroxide on a whitening strip.
Will it last?
It really depends on the individual. No bleaching method can whiten teeth permanently, though some people's teeth remain white for over 10 years with no touch-up treatment. More typical results vary from six months to two years. Keeping up with your regular oral hygiene routine at home and your professional cleanings at the dentist's office will help maintain the results; so will avoiding tobacco and beverages that stain, such as red wine, tea and coffee. You can also consider a bleaching touch-up once or twice a year at home or here at the dental office.
I want to go for it! What's the first step?
Step one is a pre-bleaching dental examination to determine the cause of your tooth discoloration. We want to make sure that your discoloration is not the result of an oral health-related problem. For example bleaching will mask but not resolve issues such as abscessed teeth, decay, and root canal problems. We want your teeth not only to be beautiful, but healthy, too!
If you are interested in learning more about teeth whitening, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. For more information on teeth whitening, please see the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered” and “Tooth Whitening Safety Tips.”
When you have your teeth bleached in a dental office, the results almost seem like magic. Let's push aside the magician's cape and see what is really happening in professionally-applied, in-office tooth whitening.
How do teeth become discolored?
A tooth's enamel covering is mostly composed of mineral crystals. At a microscopic level, you can see a framework or matrix of organic (living) matter interspersed between the crystals of enamel creating a very irregular surface capable of retaining stains. Chromagenic (color generating) organic compounds can become part of this organic matrix resulting in tooth staining. They can be bleached without affecting the mineral structure of the tooth's enamel.
As people get older and their teeth wear, the enamel loses its youthful translucency and the underlying layer, called dentin, thickens and becomes more yellow. Such changes to the actual tooth structure are called intrinsic staining. Other causes of intrinsic discoloration are exposure to high levels of fluoride or tetracycline antibiotic administration during childhood, tooth decay, or root canal problems, among others. Discoloration can also be caused by external staining from certain foods, drinks, or tobacco products. Such surface stains are called extrinsic staining.
Behind the Magic
Materials used for tooth bleaching are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. Peroxides are commonly used as bleach, and you may have seen them used as hair bleaches, for example. Hydrogen peroxide is a strong oxidizing agent that attacks the organic molecules responsible for tooth discoloration, bleaching them until they lose their color. Carbamide peroxide also contains urea, which is a compound that permits the peroxide to remain in contact with the teeth for longer amounts of time without harming them.
Often called power bleaching, the in-office technique uses a high concentration of peroxide solution (35-45% hydrogen peroxide), placed directly on the teeth in the form of a gel. A heat or light source may enhance the peroxide release. The gel is applied with trays custom fitted to your mouth, and specific barriers are applied to protect sensitive gum tissue from the solution. Results show teeth becoming up to ten shades lighter in about an hour.
In-office bleaching under the supervision of my staff and me is recommended if you have severely stained teeth, and particularly if you are about to have veneers or crowns made. It's a way to rediscover the pearly translucency of your youthful smile.
If you engage in frequent air travel, you have probably experienced pain in your ears and sinuses related to pressure changes. The pain is caused by “barotraumas” (from baro meaning pressure — also the root of the word “barometer” — and trauma meaning injury) and is also called a “squeeze.” Divers also sometimes experience this discomfort or pain.
The cause of barotraumas is air pressure (or water pressure, in the case of divers) on the outside of your body that is not equal to the pressure inside your body. Normally when pressure outside your body changes, your organs such as your blood, bones, and muscles transmit the changes equally from outside to inside. Some structures in your body, such as your middle ear spaces and your sinus cavities (spaces in the facial bones of the skull), don't transmit the pressure as well because they are filled with air and have rigid walls. The maxillary (upper jaw) sinuses are pyramid-shaped spaces in the bone located below your eyes, on either side of your nose.
You have probably tried to stop such pain in your ears by yawning, chewing, or moving your jaw back and forth. These maneuvers, called “clearing,” allow air to move from the back of your throat into your ear canals so that the pressure can equalize. Similarly, your sinuses have small openings near their lower borders, so that you can clear pressure changes within them. If you have a head cold or flu and the membranes lining your sinuses are swollen and inflamed, they may close off the openings and make it difficult to clear these spaces. This can sometimes lead to intense pain.
Because the lower walls of these sinuses are adjacent to your upper back teeth, these teeth share the same nerves as the maxillary sinuses. This sharing sometimes causes pain felt in your back teeth to be perceived as pain in the sinuses, or vice versa. Pain felt a distance from its actual stimulus because of shared nerves is called “referred pain.”
Be sure to make an appointment with us if you experience pain in any of your teeth. Any defect in a filling or tooth can allow air to enter the tooth. It could be referred pain from your sinuses, or the result of pressure changes on trapped air within a filling or a tooth. Such pain, called barodontalgia (from baro meaning pressure, don't meaning tooth, and algia meaning pain) is an early sign of injury in a tooth.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth and sinus pain. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Pressure Changes Can Cause Tooth & Sinus Pain.”