Posts for: April, 2013
Once an exclusive procedure reserved for movie stars and millionaires, teeth whitening has become increasingly popular among all sectors of the population — including teens. While long-standing research has proven the process to be safe and effective, there are a few things everyone should know in order to make the experience as pleasant and successful as possible.
Teens, perhaps even more than others, can benefit from the confidence that comes with a healthy smile. And, because sensitivity of the gums is rarely a problem in younger people, their whitening treatments are less likely to cause discomfort. However, it's important for teens (and everyone else) to get treatments under the watchful eye of a dentist. Why?
For one thing, immature adult teeth are relatively vulnerable to the whitening process. And for young and old alike, a discolored tooth may be a symptom of an underlying dental problem, like an abscess or a root canal infection. These problems must be treated before the whitening process is begun. Also, teeth can't always be lightened to the same degree, and existing or planned dental work may have an impact on the whitening procedure. So it's best to come in and see us before you begin any tooth whitening treatment.
There are generally three methods used in tooth-whitening: in-office treatments with concentrated bleach application, at-home treatments with custom-made trays and appropriate dentist-supplied bleach, and over-the-counter (OTC) products. All use a type of peroxide to lighten the teeth, and all are safe when used as directed, under a dentist's supervision.
So what's the difference? Time! One study showed as few as three in-office visits were needed to lighten tooth color by six shades — a change that required 16 days with OTC products. Many opt for the cost-effective middle ground of custom-tray bleaching, which can achieve the same whitening in one week.
But what's especially important for a teen is that a dentist becomes involved in his or her treatment. In some cases, over-enthusiastic young people have used OTC bleach excessively, causing severe damage to the enamel layer of their teeth.
If you would like more information about teeth whitening for teens, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about these issues by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Whitening Safety Tips” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”
Did you ever think a dentist might suggest that you have a bone graft performed as part of a standard tooth replacement procedure? Believe it or not, it's now a routine treatment — and it's not as complicated as you may think. Welcome to 21st Century dentistry!
If you're thinking about getting a tooth implant — an attractive, strong and long-lasting option for tooth replacement — here are four things you should know about bone grafting.
A bone graft may be needed prior to placing a dental implant.
One major reason why dental implants work so well as replacements for natural teeth is that they actually become fused to the underlying bone. This system offers superior durability, and a host of other advantages. Unfortunately, when a tooth is lost, the surrounding bone often begins to disappear (resorb) as well. In that case, it may be necessary to rebuild some of the bone structure before an implant can be placed effectively.
Bone regeneration for tooth implants is a routine procedure.
When it's needed, bone grafting has become a standard practice in periodontal and oral surgery. It is often performed prior to (or, occasionally, at the same time as) placing a dental implant. The grafting procedure itself can be done in the office, using local anesthesia (numbing shots, like those used for a filling) or conscious sedation (“twilight sleep”) to relieve anxiety.
The process may use a variety of high-tech materials.
The small amount of bone grafting material you need may come from a variety of sources, including human, animal or synthetic materials. Before it is used, all grafting material is processed to make it completely safe. In addition to the grafting material itself, special “guided bone regeneration” membranes and other biologically active substances may be used to promote and enhance healing.
Bone regeneration lets your body rebuild itself.
Your body uses most bone grafting materials as a scaffold or frame, over which it is able to grow its own new bone tissue. In time, the natural process of bone regeneration replaces the graft material with new bone. As we now know, maintaining sufficient bone tissue around the teeth is a crucial part of keeping up your oral health. That's why today when a tooth is going to be extracted (removed), often a bone graft will be placed at the time of extraction to preserve as much bone as possible.
Are you considering dental implants for tooth replacement, and wondering whether you may need bone grafting? Come in and talk to us! With our up-to-date training and clinical experience, we can answer your questions, and present the treatment options that are best in your individual situation.
If you would like more information about bone grafting, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Can Dentists Rebuild Bone?”
When it comes to childhood injuries — cuts and scrapes, growing pains, even wounded pride — it's often a parent's job to try and make things better. But sometimes it's hard to know whether the hurt indicates a serious problem, or if it's a situation that will resolve itself as soon as the sun comes up. If pain is being caused by a toothache, here are some general rules that can help you figure out what's the best thing to do.
1. Unless it's accompanied by fever and swelling, a child's toothache isn't generally an emergency.
The first thing to do is calm down (both you and the child) — and talk! Find out exactly where the pain comes from, and when and why it might have started. (Your child may have forgotten to tell you about that fall in the gym...) Sometimes, a little sleuthing will give you a clue about what's causing the pain.
2. Tooth decay, a bacteria-induced infection, is the most common cause of toothaches.
Check the teeth for brown spots or tiny holes (cavities) which might indicate decay — especially on the biting surfaces and in the areas between teeth. Next, look at the gums around the hurt tooth. If they show cuts or bruises, that's a sign of trauma. If you see only swelling, it may indicate the formation of an abscess.
3. If nothing looks obviously wrong, try gently flossing both sides of the tooth.
This may dislodge a bit of trapped food or candy, and relieve the pressure and soreness. But if that doesn't help, remember that some conditions — like nerve damage inside the tooth, for example — may have no apparent symptoms except pain.
4. Treat pain with an appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Base the dose on your child's age and weight, according to the medication's instructions. You can also apply an ice pack (one minute on, one minute off) to the outside of the jaw. But NEVER rub aspirin (or any painkiller) directly on a child's gums: It can cause burns and severe discomfort.
5. Pain that keeps a child awake at night, or persists into the next day, needs professional evaluation as soon as possible.
Otherwise, unless the pain resolves quickly and you're sure you know exactly what caused the toothache, it's best to bring your child in for an examination as soon as it's practical. You'll feel better having a dental professional, backed with years of experience and training, taking care of your child's health — and you just might prevent a future problem.
Your son has fallen and hit his face against a hard surface. Not only is he in pain but now there is also a chip missing from his front tooth. He is worried that his smile will never be the same. What should you do?
Answer: If you can find that missing chip, sometimes we can bond the fragment back on to the tooth. The tooth should be evaluated and repaired as soon as possible, although in the absence of other signs and symptoms of injury, and if your child is not in acute pain, it can probably wait up to 12 hours.
If the fragment can't be found, then the tooth can be restored with tooth-colored filling materials, which are also physically bonded to the natural tooth. Done well, these “composite resin” fillings can last for years and look perfectly natural. They may eventually need to be replaced with something more permanent.
If the chipped tooth is a child's primary (baby) tooth rather than a permanent (adult) tooth, the treatment will be similar.
However, a blow to a tooth can cause damage to the pulp — the living tissue within the tooth, which can become infected and die. If the damage to a primary tooth is too extensive it may be better to remove it to avoid damage to an underlying and developing permanent tooth. A place-holding appliance called a space maintainer may be used. If it is a permanent tooth it may need root canal treatment.
If a tooth is not chipped but is loosened or tender to the touch, it may require temporary stabilization, called splinting, until it has healed. Sometimes no treatment is required. If there has been a fracture to the tooth's root (the part below the gum line) it may heal by itself, or it may require further treatment especially if it is a permanent tooth, depending on the individual situation.
It is important to evaluate teeth that have been hit or damaged as a result of injury to ensure that they remain healthy and functional. We will keep track of the tooth or teeth, with observation, x-rays when necessary and monitoring over time to make sure no permanent damage has been done.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about repairing a chipped tooth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Field-Side Guide to Dental Injuries.”