The down economy’s done little to darken the tooth-bleaching market. Americans spend $1.4 billion a year on at-home kits to brighten stained and yellowed chompers and request whitening more than any other procedure in the dentist’s office. (Then again, who’s begging for a root canal?) But, like anything that combines the potential of looking better (a twinkly white smile) with possible risks (sticking chemicals in your mouth), this one has attracted its share of controversy.
Before you run out for a lunchtime tooth-lightening session or apply your umpteenth — or your first — set of whitening strips to your bicuspids at home, here are four things you should know about chemical spiff-ups for your smile:
1. Give it a rest. There’s a reason some products should be used only four times a year: worries about overuse. If lightening becomes as regular as a monthly haircut in your grooming routine, you may damage tooth enamel and take your teeth to the point of ghostly translucence. That’s not pretty.
2. It’s not always ouchless. The most common side effects of tooth-whitening, whether it’s DIY in your bathroom or a professional job, are sensitive teeth and irritated gums. From 10% to 65% of people who give tooth bleaching a try have some pain, experts say. Usually, it’s short lived, but to avoid it in the first place, try using a toothpaste that reduces sensitivity for several days before your procedure (and for a few days or weeks afterward). Taking an ordinary painkiller (like ibuprofen) before a bleaching session helps, too.
3. Think twice about bleaching at the mall. One recent CBS-TV investigation of “whiten while you shop” kiosks and storefronts in malls found that while employees may wear lab coats, they usually aren’t dental-care professionals. And they aren’t equipped to evaluate dental problems — so underlying dental issues, like cavities, could be made worse by bleaching. One place used bleaching agents that were dentist-office strength, which can be two to three times stronger than the carbamide peroxide gel found in some home whitening kits approved by the American Dental Association.
4. Ask your dentist what’s possible. Bleaching can make your pearly whites several shades whiter — especially if coffee, tea, tobacco, or plain old aging are to blame for that gray-yellow grin. But the results are less reliable if your teeth were stained by the use of the antibiotic tetracycline or by too much fluoride in childhood. Also, if you have tooth-colored fillings or crowns, bleaching can cause a color mismatch. Talk to your dentist about whether a possible variation in “whites” in your mouth will be noticeable.
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy allows you to add years to your life.
CHICAGO–March 9, 1999–University of Chicago internist and anesthesiologist Dr. Michael Roizen is making headlines with his RealAge program, which he designed to provide people with a scientifically valid age reduction plan.
You may have read about it, seen him on “Oprah” or “20/20″ or even bought his book. And maybe you were surprised that flossing your teeth ranks right up there with taking your vitamins, quitting smoking and reducing stress as one of the top five things you can do to reduce your “RealAge.” In fact, keeping your teeth and gums healthy allows you to add 6.4 years to your life, according to Roizen’s plan.
“It makes sense,” says Dr. Robert Schoor, president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). “Periodontal (gum) disease is a bacterial infection of the gums, and that bacteria can travel into the bloodstream and other parts of the body, putting a person’s health at risk.”
Recent research has found that periodontal infection may contribute to the development of heart disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases and premature, underweight births.
If you want to keep your teeth and gums healthy, and take care of the rest of your body at the same time, it’s not quite as simple as regular flossing. The AAP offers 10 suggestions to help you ensure good oral health:
- Use the right equipment. A soft-bristled toothbrush allows you to reach every surface of each tooth. If the bristles on your toothbrush are bent or frayed, buy a new one. Ask your dentist or periodontist to help you decide which among the wide variety of oral care products on the market may be most helpful for you.
- Choose a toothpaste with fluoride. In conjunction with brushing and flossing, fluoride products can reduce tooth decay by as much as 40 percent.
- Brush properly. To clean the outside surfaces of all your teeth, position the brush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet. Gently move the brush in a circular motion several times using short, gentle strokes. To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle back-and-forth strokes over each tooth and its surrounding gum tissue. To clean the biting surfaces of your teeth, use short, gentle strokes. Spend at least two-and-a-half minutes brushing. This may not sound like much, but keep in mind it is about the same amount of time as one song or five commercials if you brush with the radio or TV on.
- Floss properly. Gently insert floss between the teeth, using a back-and-forth motion. Do not force the floss or snap it into place. Guide the floss to the gumline. Curve the floss into a C-shape against one tooth. Slide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel slight resistance. Using both hands, move the floss up and down on the side of one tooth. Remember that there are two tooth surfaces that need to be cleaned in each space, so repeat this technique on each side.
- Find out if your teeth are free of plaque. Use a disclosing tablet or solution, available at your local drugstore. Chew the tablet until it dissolves. Swish vigorously and empty your mouth. Rinse with water. Then look in a mirror. The stains will indicate where plaque is still present.
- Stop using tobacco products. In addition to other serious illness linked with smoking, tobacco users are at increased risk for periodontal disease.
- Watch for signs of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is often silent, meaning you may not have symptoms until its very advanced stages. However, people with periodontal disease may experience:
- Bleeding gums during brushing
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Loose or separating teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- A change in the fit of your dentures
- Be aware of habits such as teeth grinding, which can put excess force on the supporting tissues of the teeth and speed up the rate at which these tissues are destroyed. You may need to have a dental professional fit you with a mouth guard to wear while sleeping if you grind your teeth at night.
- Tell your dental professional about any medications you are taking, as some drugs such as oral contraceptives, antidepressants and certain heart medicines can affect oral health.
- See your dentist and periodontist regularly. Regular professional cleanings will remove tartar in places that your toothbrush and floss have missed. Regular periodontal appointments are an important part of your oral hygiene program to prevent gum disease and keep your teeth for a lifetime.
Americans get a look at the future of implant dentistry.
CHICAGO – February 13, 2004 – Appearing on a recent episode of reality TV, periodontist and member of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), Jeff Ganeles, DMD, showed how immediate loading dental implants transformed a patient’s smile in just a few visits. This event gave Americans a look at the future of implant dentistry, making the thought of dentures primitive and traditional dental implants routine technology.
“Today, patients’ expectations are much higher because of advances in technology and medicine,” explains Ganeles. “They want treatment methods that not only eliminate disease but also replace defective parts and make them feel whole again. Removable solutions such as dentures and partials used to be generally accepted, but increasingly my patients insist on more instantly gratifying, permanent options such as immediate loading dental implants.”
A dental implant, which looks like a small post or cylinder, is an artificial tooth root placed into the jaw to hold a replacement tooth, bridge, or denture in place. Using traditional dental implant methods and procedures, it typically takes two to six months for the bone and implant to bond together to form anchors (osseointegration). During this time, patients can wear a removable temporary tooth replacement option over the implant sites.
Improved technology affords some patients the luxury of immediate loading dental implants, whereby a periodontist places the implant immediately following tooth extraction and attaches a temporary fixed tooth replacement. “Although more research needs to be conducted, I have observed no complications during the healing period, and found that immediate loading implants can have notable advantages such as prevention of jawbone deterioration, reduced number of surgical procedures, reduction of treatment time, and better patient acceptance,” states Ganeles.
“We’ve come a long way with tooth replacement technology,” notes Michael P. Rethman, DDS, MS, and president of the AAP. “Today, the optimal solution for most patients is dental implants, and in some cases immediately loading implants.”
This is good news for patients who experience sadness, depression and embarrassment with tooth loss because they have lost the comfort and confidence of a natural smile. “Many also find that dentures, bridges and other dental appliances come with problems of their own,” Ganeles comments. “I’ve been told by my patients that getting implants changed their lives, making them look and feel younger and healthier.”
Consequently, it’s not just the “maturing” population that is electing implants to repair their smiles and restore their facial structure. In an online poll of periodontists, thirty-one percent report that half or more of the implants they place are for baby boomers – people ages 35 to 54, while forty-three percent state that more than half of the implants they place are for individuals between the ages 55 to 79. According to the poll, the top reasons for tooth loss leading to implant placement were periodontal diseases, tooth decay and accidents, violence or injuries.
Dental implants are intimately connected with the gum tissues and underlying bone in the mouth. Since periodontists are the experts who specialize in precisely these areas, they are ideal members of the dental implant team. Periodontists not only have experience working with other dental professionals: they also have special knowledge, training, innovation, and facilities that patients need to attain the natural looking and feeling smiles the want.