Posts for: February, 2013
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.
You may have seen Kathy Ireland on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but did you know that she is now a business mogul?
Through it all, Ireland has kept her model good looks, and that includes a bright, glowing smile. In a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine she said that keeping her smile has required ongoing maintenance and more.
It seems that Ireland is a bit of a daredevil. She described a moment of fun with her children when she tried to stand in their wagon and “wagon surf” across her driveway. It ended badly when she crashed into her parked car and suffered a broken nose, split forehead and several broken teeth. “I learned that my love of adventure exceeds my coordination,” she commented.
Ireland was born in Glendale, California in 1963. She demonstrated her drive to succeed early in life, starting at age 4 when she and her sister sold painted rocks from their wagon. Later she had a paper route. She began modeling at 17, with the goal of earning enough to pay for college or to start a business. In her successful modeling career she graced the covers of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar and Sports Illustrated. Her first cover for Sports Illustrated, the publication's 25th Anniversary Swimsuit Edition, was the magazine's best-selling swimsuit issue to date.
In 1993 she founded her marketing and design firm, kathy ireland Worldwide. Now a billion-dollar industry, the firm sells fashions such as wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses, as well as a wide range of items for home and family.
She has also written a number of books teaching others how to be successful — based on her own experience — as well as three children's books.
Discussing her oral health, Ireland says that she required serious professional assistance on more than one occasion. When she was a child she knocked out a tooth and later knocked it loose again. As an adolescent she wore braces for about three years. After the driveway incident she needed numerous veneers and dental implants to replace a lost tooth and restore her smile.
Her maintenance routine includes regular flossing and brushing, and she has her teeth cleaned every six months. She keeps up on her reading about the latest in research on dental health, and encourages her three children to floss and brush their teeth, to limit eating sweets and to do what they can to avoid injuries to their mouths and teeth.
Everyone agrees that education is an important part of personal growth. However, one area of study that often slips through the cracks centers on oral healthcare basics. And whether or not we all do it as often as we should, most people know they should brush and floss their teeth daily. But other than that, do you feel you are knowledgeable and thus have a healthy dental IQ?
We have developed a quick and easy oral health IQ test to help you self-assess your expertise. The answers are listed at the bottom of this article.
- What has been the largest, single factor influencing the decline in tooth decay over the past 40 years in America?
- Fluoridated water
- Fluoridated toothpaste
- Your dentists can help treat which of the following problem(s)?
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Snoring and sleep apnea
- Headaches, Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), or Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
- All of the above
- The most important aspect of brushing your teeth is...?
- The brand of toothpaste you use
- Your brushing technique and frequency
- The brand of your toothbrush
- Using an electric toothbrush
- At a minimum, how often should you have a thorough dental evaluation?
- Every six months
- Once a year
- Every five years
- Only if you are experiencing pain
- At a minimum, how often should you have your teeth professionally cleaned?
- Every six months
- Once a year
- Every five years
- It depends on your age and oral health
Want to learn more?
1) a = fluoridated water, 2) d = all of the above, 3) b = your brushing technique and frequency, 4) b = once a year, 5) d = It depends on your age and oral health
More than 2,000 years ago, an ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, often called the father of Western medicine, devised a mouth rinse of herbs and wine to sweeten bad breath. This problem has been around a long time, and it is still a major problem for many people. According to some studies it is one of the three main reasons people seek dental treatment.
Here are some facts you may not know about bad breath:
- Bad breath is sometimes called halitosis, which comes from the Latin halitus (exhalation) and the Greek osis (a condition or disease-causing process).
- Chronic bad breath is usually caused by certain types of oral bacteria. These particular bacteria are present in about 25% of the population.
- Bad breath has spawned a major industry in the United States. Americans spend nearly three billion dollars a year on gum, mints, and mouth rinses to sweeten their breath. About 60% of women and 50% of men say they use breath freshening products.
- Diseases in the oral cavity such as tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease can often cause bad breath. If either of these diseases are your cause for bad breath, treatment would be necessary to eliminate this problem.
- The tongue is the most common location for bad breath. Bacteria are relatively sheltered on the back of the tongue, where they live on remnants of food, dead skin cells and post-nasal drip. These bacteria can generate volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that are also found in decaying animal or vegetable matter. VSCs are known by an unpleasant rotten egg smell.
- Bad breath can also be caused by dry mouth (xerostomia). This condition affects millions of people and can result from smoking, alcohol or coffee drinking, and it is sometimes a side effect of medications. Another cause may be mouth breathing.
- Halitosis can also originate in other parts of the mouth besides the tongue. These include inter-dental (between teeth) and sub-gingival (under the gums) areas.
- When people are starving (and sometimes when they are dieting to lose weight), their bodies begin burning their fats causing their breath to develop the smell of ketones — which smell like acetone, similar to nail polish remover. If people are not eating or drinking the coating on their tongue increases as well, making VSCs more prominent.
At our office, we want to fight bad breath or halitosis by making sure our patients understand how to clean their teeth, gums, the back of the tongue, and dentures.