Posts for: May, 2011
What causes stains on teeth?
Staining can occur on the outside surfaces of teeth and is caused by foods such as red wine, coffee, and tea, as well as by tobacco use. They can also be developmental, affecting the structure of the teeth due to excessive fluoride levels or from tetracycline antibiotics given during childhood to name a few. Changes in a tooth's enamel or dentin during tooth formation, or as teeth age, can also cause discoloration.
What is going on inside a tooth's structure that makes it look stained?
Most of a tooth's covering (95 percent) is composed of highly mineralized enamel. The crystals of enamel are contained in a framework, or matrix, of organic matter. Dentists believe that various organic compounds that get into this matrix can cause staining.
How do whiteners work?
Tooth whiteners or bleaches expose the teeth to a peroxide compound. This creates reactive oxygen that breaks down highly colored organic compounds within the tooth's sub-surface matrix, making the tooth look whiter, but without changing its internal structure.
What professional in-office whitening techniques are available?
During treatment, a high concentration of peroxide solution in the form of a gel is applied directly on the teeth, often with activation by a heat or light source. These systems use custom tailored trays fitted to an individual's mouth. Silicone barriers or protective gels are used to keep the peroxide gel away from the gums or sensitive membranes in the mouth.
How are professional home whiteners different?
Home whiteners involve a less concentrated solution of peroxide in a gel form. It is delivered to the tooth surface by a bleaching tray that is custom-made in your dentist's office. Over-the-counter whiteners such as whitening strips or paint-on formulas can also be used, but they take longer and they're not as effective — the more diluted solutions are used for safety.
Can toothpastes really whiten teeth?
Mild abrasives in toothpastes clean surface stains but cannot change the underlying tooth color or remove significant staining.
How long do the results last?
Usually, the results last from six months to two years, but effects will diminish over time. You can make them last longer by avoiding the foods and habits that cause staining.
Are teeth whiteners safe to use?
Teeth whitening products are safe if used according to our recommendations or the product manufacturer's directions. Peroxide products may be toxic if used in excess of recommended intervals and amounts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), community water fluoridation has been a safe and healthy way to prevent tooth decay effectively for over 65 years now. In fact, the CDC has recognized water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
It all began back in the 1930's when it was discovered that fluoride had oral health benefits. However, community water fluoridation did not begin until January 25, 1945, when Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first city to add fluoride to its municipal water system. Before it was officially rolled out in other cities, Grand Rapids was compared to other cities or “controlled groups” that had not added fluoride to their water so that scientific research could assess the relationship between tooth decay and fluoride. Well, you can guess the results — it was proven that fluoride helped reduce tooth decay when added to ordinary tap water. On November 29, 1951, the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC) declared water fluoridation safe, effective, and beneficial based upon the results of their findings and the fact that there was a dramatic decline in tooth decay in the children of Grand Rapids.
Ever since, fluoride has continued to play a critical role as a simple, safe, effective way to provide improved oral health by helping reduce tooth decay in the United States. This reality is still being demonstrated with each new generation benefiting from better oral health than the previous generation.
As for identifying when the time is right to introduce fluoride to your children's oral health program, ask us. Most children get the right amount of fluoride to help prevent cavities if they drink water that contains fluoride. And if by chance you live in an area where your tap water is not fluoridated, brush your children's teeth with no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day and ask your dentist about fluoride supplements and treatment.
Learn more on this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article, “Fluoride And Fluoridation In Dentistry.”
Many youngsters look forward to finding a surprise under their pillow after a visit from the “tooth fairy.” This fable may comfort children who wonder why their first teeth come out. Parents need to know that losing baby teeth, also called primary or deciduous teeth, is completely normal, but at the right time and the right “space.”
A child's first set of teeth must be lost to create room for the adult or permanent teeth that have been forming beneath them. The buds of the permanent teeth grow within a child's jawbone just under the baby teeth. The tops, or crowns, grow first, followed by the roots. Then as the roots develop, the permanent teeth push the baby teeth above them up through the gum tissues. As this happens, the roots of the baby teeth are resorbed, or melted away.
With their roots gone, eventually the baby teeth become so loose that they can be easily removed or fall out on their own, making room for the adult teeth to appear. Sometimes, when a baby tooth is so loose, it can be wiggled out. It leaves a little bleeding gum tissue that heals easily. This is also normal.
Besides making sure the tooth fairy comes, parents need to be sure that their children are evaluated to determine whether baby teeth are being lost in the right sequence so they will act as guides for the adult teeth. If teeth are lost prematurely because of decay or trauma, it is important that space is maintained for the adult teeth when they come in.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss whether your child's baby teeth are being lost in the right sequence and the adult teeth are coming in correctly. To read more about losing baby teeth, see the article “Losing a Baby Tooth: Understanding an important process in your child's development.”
Tongue and other piercings are a current fad or trend, but can often lead to unforeseen problems.
Piercing the tongue and installing a metal ornament called a tongue bolt commonly leads to chipped teeth, sensitivity, and pain. More frequently, it can cause problems with the gums, such as recession, inflammation, infection, bone loss, and even nerve damage.
In one case reported by the American Medical Association, a teenager suffered 20 to 30 daily electrical shocks in many areas of her face after having her tongue pierced and installing a tongue bolt. A neurologist found that the bolt irritated the nerves to her tongue, causing the symptoms. After the bolt was removed, the shocks and symptoms ceased and her tongue healed.
Having the bolts placed may be painful. The tongue is rich in nerves and blood vessels and a lot of bleeding can occur, which can be difficult to stop. Think about how painful it is when you bite your tongue or lip accidentally. And tongue and lip bolts are not generally placed by health professionals or under sterile conditions.
If you are considering getting an oral piercing, make an appointment with us to discuss all the possible ramifications before you make the decision to go ahead. If you already have an oral piercing, be sure to come in for frequent checkups.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about oral piercings. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article on “Body Piercings and Teeth: The dangers of tongue and lip piercing.”
The eruption of your child's first permanent teeth is a milestone in his or her development. As parents, you want to help your child preserve and protect their new permanent teeth so that they can last a lifetime. Dental sealants are one easy, simple, and inexpensive way to protect them from decay.
How do cavities develop?
The back teeth (premolars and molars) are formed with deep grooves on their biting surfaces that we call “pits and fissures.” These crevices are too deep for toothbrush bristles to reach. Bacteria can therefore grow and thrive inside them. The acid produced by these bacteria begins to dissolve the tooth enamel, starting the decay process.
Are new teeth more vulnerable?
Yes, the enamel surface of newly erupted teeth is more permeable and less resistant to tooth decay. As the enamel matures, it becomes more resistant.
How can you prevent decay in these new teeth?
Good oral hygiene habits, nutrition (including low sugar consumption), together with fluoride, sealants, and regular dental visits strengthen the teeth and can dramatically reduce tooth decay.
How does fluoride protect these teeth?
Fluoride makes the enamel surface harder and more impermeable and, therefore, less susceptible to acid attack and decay. Fluoride adds some protection to the deep pits and fissures of the teeth but they are still at high risk because of their shape and they often need further protection.
What are sealants and how do they work?
Sealants are protective coatings placed in the tiny pits and fissures to seal them from the bacteria and acids that promote decay. They actually “seal” the pits and fissures to prevent decay and can be used in the treatment of very early decay by arresting it. Greater use of sealants could reduce the need for subsequent treatment and prolong the time until treatment may become necessary.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about dental sealants for your children. You can learn more about them by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sealants for Children.”