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Your oral health is more important than you might realize. Get the facts about how the health of your mouth, teeth and gums can affect your general health.

Did you know that your oral health offers clues about your overall health — or that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body? Protect yourself by learning more about the connection between your oral health and overall health.

What’s the connection between oral health and overall health?
Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

In addition, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.

Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease — might play a role in some diseases. In addition, certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.

What conditions may be linked to oral health?

Your oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:

  • Endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
  • Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.

Certain conditions also might affect your oral health, including:

  • Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection — putting the gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, and that regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
  • HIV/AIDS. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
  • Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis — which causes bones to become weak and brittle — might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.

Other conditions that might be linked to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, head and neck cancers, and Sjogren’s syndrome — an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth.

Because of these potential links, tell your dentist if you’re taking any medications or have had any changes in your overall health — especially if you’ve had any recent illnesses or you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.

How can I protect my oral health?

To protect your oral health, practice good oral hygiene every day. For example:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily.
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit between-meal snacks.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if bristles are frayed.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
  • Avoid tobacco use.

Also, contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.

Content courtesy: The Mayo Clinic

drymouth

The technical term for dry mouth is xerostomia (ZEER-oh-STOH-mee-ah)

What do I need to know about dry mouth?

Everyone has a dry mouth once in a while—if they are nervous, upset or under stress. But if you have a dry mouth all or most of the time, it can be uncomfortable and can lead to serious health problems.

Dry mouth…

• can cause difficulties in tasting, chewing, swallowing, and speaking
• can increase your chance of developing dental decay and other infections in the mouth
• can be a sign of certain diseases and conditions
• can be caused by certain medications or medical treatments

Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging. So if you think you have dry mouth, see your dentist or physician—there are things you can do to get relief.

What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth is the condition of not having enough saliva, or spit, to keep your mouth wet.

Symptoms include:

• a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
• trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting, or speaking
• a burning feeling in the mouth
• a dry feeling in the throat
• cracked lips
• a dry, tough tongue
• mouth sores
• an infection in the mouth

Some people feel they have a dry mouth even if their salivary glands are working correctly. People with certain disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease or those who have suffered a stroke, may not be able to feel wetness in their mouth and may think their mouth is dry even though it is not.

Why is saliva so important?

Saliva does more than keep the mouth wet.

• It helps digest food
• It protects teeth from decay
• It prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth
• It makes it possible for you to chew and swallow Without enough saliva you can develop tooth decay or other infections in the mouth. You also might not get the nutrients you need if you
cannot chew and swallow certain foods.

What causes dry mouth?

People get dry mouth when the glands in the mouth that make saliva are not working properly. Because of this, there might not be enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. There are several reasons why these glands (called salivary glands) might not work right.

• Side effects of some medicines. More than 400 medicines can cause the salivary glands to make less saliva. Medicines for high blood pressure and depression often cause dry mouth.
• Disease. Some diseases affect the salivary glands. Sjögren’s Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease can all cause dry mouth.
• Radiation therapy. The salivary glands can be damaged if they are exposed to radiation during cancer treatment.
• Chemotherapy. Drugs used to treat cancer can make saliva thicker, causing the mouth to feel dry.
• Nerve Damage. Injury to the head or neck can damage the nerves that tell salivary glands to make saliva.

What can be done about dry mouth?

Dry mouth treatment will depend on what is causing the problem. If you think you have dry mouth, see your dentist or physician. He or she can try to determine what is causing your dry mouth.

• If your dry mouth is caused by medicine, your physician might change your medicine or adjust the dosage.
• If your salivary glands are not working right but can still produce some saliva, your physician or dentist might give you a medicine that helps the glands work better.
• Your physician or dentist might suggest that you use artificial saliva to keep your mouth wet.

What can I do?

• Sip water or sugarless drinks often.
• Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and some sodas. Caffeine can dry out the mouth.
• Sip water or a sugarless drink during meals. This will make chewing and swallowing easier. It may also improve the taste of food.
• Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow; citrus, cinnamon or mint-flavored candies are good choices.
• Don’t use tobacco or alcohol. They dry out the mouth.
• Be aware that spicy or salty foods may cause pain in a dry mouth.
• Use a humidifier at night.

Tips for keeping your teeth healthy

Remember, if you have dry mouth, you need to be extra careful to keep your teeth healthy. Make sure you:

• Gently brush your teeth at least twice a day.
• Floss your teeth every day.
• Use toothpaste with fluoride in it. Most toothpastes sold at grocery and drug stores have fluoride in them.
• Avoid sticky, sugary foods. If you do eat them, brush immediately afterwards.
• Visit your dentist for a check-up at least twice a year. Your dentist might give you a special fluoride solution that you can rinse with to help keep your teeth healthy.

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Ask your dental hygienist.

The recent surgeon general’s report on oral health confirms the importance of oral health to total health.

babyPremature, Low-Birthweight Babies

Studies have found that expectant mothers with periodontal (gum) disease are seven times more likely to deliver premature, low-birthweight babies than women who don’t have the disease.

cancerHeart disease

Cardiovascular disease affects 57 million people in the 5.3. And kills almost a million people each year. Recent studies have shown that a patient with periodontal (gum) disease is twice as likely to develop heart disease as one without the condition.

Untitled-4Oral cancer

Cancer is more common than Leukemia; Skin Melanoma; Hodgkin’s disease; and Cancers of the brain, liver, bone, thyroid gland, stomach, ovaries, and cervix; and is typically caused by long-term use of tobacco products and alcohol. One of the most important parts of a regular oral health exam is a thorough oral cancer screening.

diabetesDiabetes

Periodontal disease is one of the major complications of diabetes. In fact, approximately 95 percent of Americans who suffer from diabetes also have periodontal disease.

October of this year will be national dental hygiene month – a great time to visit your registered dental hygienist for a thorough mouth exam and to learn more about how oral conditions affect your overall health.

Content courtesy adha.org

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People used to think that as you got older you naturally lost your teeth. We now know that’s not true. By following easy steps for keeping your teeth and gums –healthy plus seeing your dentist
regularly—you can have your teeth for a lifetime!

Plaque: What is it?

Plaque is made up of invisible masses of harmful germs that live in the mouth and stick to the teeth.

  • Some types of plaque cause tooth decay.
  • Other types of plaque cause gum disease.

Red, puffy or bleeding gums can be the first signs of gum disease. If gum disease is not treated, the tissues holding the teeth in place are destroyed and the teeth are eventually lost.

Dental plaque is difficult to see unless it’s stained, You can stain plaque by chewing red “disclosing tablets,” found at grocery stores and drug stores, or by using a cotton swab to smear green food coloring on your teeth. The red or green color left on the teeth will show you where there is still plaque—and where you have to brush again to remove it.

Stain and examine your teeth regularly to make sure you are removing all plaque. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist if your plaque removal techniques are o.k.

Step 1 – Floss

Floss Use floss to remove germs and food particles between teeth. Rinse.

floss-steps

Step 2 – Brush Teeth

howtobrush

Use any tooth brushing method that is comfortable, but do not scrub hard back and forth. Small circular motions and short back and forth motions work well. Rinse. To prevent decay, it’s what’s on the toothbrush that counts. Use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is what protects teeth from decay. Brush the tongue for a fresh feeling! Rinse again. Remember: Food residues, especially sweets, provide nutrients for the germs that cause tooth decay, as well as those that cause gum disease. That’s why it is important to remove all food residues, as well as plaque, from teeth. Remove plaque at least once a day—twice a day is better. If you brush and floss once daily, do it before going to bed.

Another way of removing plaque between teeth is to use a dental pick— or a thin plastic, metal, or wooden stick. These picks can be purchased at drug stores and grocery stores.

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Each member of your dental health care team plays an important role.

Dentist

As the leader of your oral health team, your dentist brings years of specialized education to understanding your oral health. Only dentists can examine your teeth, gums and mouth, and recognize any problems that could affect your overall health.

They have the training and skills to:

  • examine and diagnose your oral condition;
  • recommend and carry out treatment;
  • look for signs of oral cancer—and often be the first to spot them;
  • help you understand oral health care and its importance, helping you to keep your teeth healthy and comfortable for your entire lifetime;
  • inform you about postoperative care options; and
  • perform emergency or required procedures—and help you determine a long-term treatment plan that meets your needs and circumstances.

Dental Therapist

In some jurisdictions, dental therapists work with dentists to provide community-based preventive oral health programs. They also perform basic dental treatment and preventive services as well as providing patient assistance and referrals.

Dental Hygienist

The dental hygienist is registered and trained to clean your teeth and to help you develop a home-care routine tailored to your needs.

Regulations vary from province to province, but a dental hygienist’s work often includes:

  • taking x-rays;
  • taking dental impressions; and
  • cleaning, polishing and applying fluoride to your teeth.

In some jurisdictions, the dental hygienist may also be allowed to perform a basic exam.

Dental Assistant

This is the team member who prepares you for treatment, sterilizes instruments, assists your dentist and helps keep your mouth dry during procedures. In some jurisdictions, a dental assistant may also take x-rays and dental impressions, and polish and apply fluoride to your teeth.

Receptionists and Business Staff

Receptionists maintain the dental team’s schedules and allow the office to run smoothly. The receptionist is usually your first point of contact and may often provide you with general information about your appointment and billing.

To meet learn more about your Westway Dental health care team, click here.

Content courtesy cda-adc.ca

Oral_Health_small

Most of us realize that diet and exercise play an important part in keeping us healthy. But did you know that a healthy mouth is also an important part of a healthy body?

Poor oral health can affect a person’s quality of life. Oral pain, missing teeth or oral infections can influence the way a person speaks, eats and socializes. These oral health problems can reduce a person’s quality of life by affecting their physical, mental and social well-being.

Oral disease, like any other disease, needs to be treated. A chronic infection, including one in the mouth, is a serious problem that should not be ignored. Yet bleeding or tender gums are often overlooked.

Research has shown there is an association between oral disease and other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, respiratory illness in older adults, as well as pre-term and low-birth-weight babies. Although researchers are just beginning to understand this relationship, evidence shows that oral disease can aggravate other health problems and that keeping a healthy mouth is an important part of leading a healthy life.

5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth

Oral Heath Good for Life title image

1. Keep your mouth clean

  • Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Wait at least 20–30 minutes after eating before brushing your teeth.
  • Floss every day.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Limit foods and beverages containing sugar or carbohydrates.
  • Ideal snack foods: cheese, nuts, vegetables, and non-acidic fruits.
  • Look for oral care products with the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) Seal.

2. Check your mouth regularly

Look for signs of gum disease:

  • Red, shiny, puffy, sore or sensitive gums
  • Bleeding when you brush or floss
  • Bad breath that won’t go away
Look for signs of oral cancer:

  • Bleeding or open sores that don’t heal
  • White or red patches
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Small lumps and thickening on the sides or bottom of your tongue, the floor or roof of your mouth, the inside of your cheeks, or on your gums

3. Eat well

  • Good nutrition helps build strong teeth and gums.
  • Munch on mouthhealthy snacks like cheeses, nuts, vegetables, and non-acidic fruits.

4. See your dentist regularly

  • 48% of Canadians who haven’t seen a dentist in the past year have gum disease. Regular dental exams and professional cleanings are the best way to prevent and detect problems before they get worse.

5. Don’t smoke or chew tobacco

  • Smoking and chewing tobacco can cause oral cancer, heart disease, gum disease, and a variety of other cancers.

Find a Dentist

Don’t wait for a toothache or a dental emergency to look for a dentist. Ask for recommendations from friends, family, neighbours, or co-workers. If you’re moving, ask if your current dentist can refer you to a dentist in your new area.

Content courtesy: cda-adc.ca

diabetes1

Diabetes can cause serious problems in your mouth. However you can do something about it.

If you have diabetes, make sure you take care of your mouth. People with diabetes are at risk for mouth infections, especially periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease can damage the gum and bone that hold your teeth in place and may lead to painful chewing problems. Some people with serious gum disease lose their teeth. Periodontal disease may also make it hard to control your blood glucose (blood sugar).

Other problems diabetes can cause are dry mouth and a fungal infection called thrush. Dry mouth happens when you do not have enough saliva—the fluid that keeps your mouth wet. Diabetes may also cause the glucose level in your saliva to increase. Together, these problems may lead to thrush, which causes painful white patches in your mouth.
If your diabetes is not under control, you are more likely to develop problems in your mouth. The good news is you can keep your teeth and gums healthy. By controlling your blood glucose, brushing and flossing every day, and visiting a dentist regularly, you can help prevent serious problems in your mouth.
Take steps to keep your mouth healthy. Call your dentist when you notice a problem.

If you have diabetes, follow these steps:

  • Control your blood glucose.
  • Brush and floss every day.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Be sure to tell your dentist that you have diabetes.
  • Tell your dentist if your dentures (false teeth) do not fit right, or if your gums are sore.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking makes gum disease worse. Your physician or dentist can help you quit.
  • Take time to check your mouth regularly for any problems. Sometimes people notice that their gums bleed when they brush and floss. Others notice dryness, soreness, white patches, or a bad taste in the mouth. All of these are reasons to visit your dentist.
  • Remember, good blood glucose control can help prevent mouth problems.

Content courtesy: www.nidcr.nih.gov

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Do not brush until 30 minutes after eating if your food was acidic: brushing too soon actually accelerates any acidic erosion.

As Alisa Hrustic points out on womenshealthmag.com, most of us know that coffee, red wine and soy sauce are among the consumables that, over time, can make your teeth less than sparkling white. But she asks cosmetic dentists Nancy Rosen of New York and Karoush Maddahi of Beverly Hills about other “sneaky teeth-stainers.” Some of their answers:

Lemonade: The acidity can erode tooth enamel, revealing the next layer, the dentin, which has a yellow colour.

White wine: It can be trouble when combined with certain foods — say a glass of followed by pasta with tomato sauce. “It’s almost like opening up the pores of the teeth for the stain to actually be sucked in,” says Rosen.

Green juice and smoothies: “Anything that really stains your clothes, that’s really difficult to get out, stains your teeth as well,” says Maddahi. Those super-nutritious smoothies are often packed with bright berries and vegetables that have teeth-tainting qualities. Suggestion: Drink through a straw.

Pools: Speaking of things that are both good and bad for you, the pool you’re swimming laps in can actually stain your teeth. “A lot of times you keep your mouth open or let water into the mouth, and those chemicals that treat the pool can actually cause a brown stain in the mouth,” says Rosen. You have to spend at least six hours on pool time a week for this to happen, but that’s not hard to do in the summer.

One general piece of anti-staining advice is to brush after eating. But Maddahi warns you should not brush until 30 minutes after eating if your food was acidic: brushing too soon actually accelerates any acidic erosion.

Content courtesy thestar.ca

Teeth-Whitening (1)

Are you looking for a quick, non-invasive way to enhance your smile? Teeth whitening might be the answer.

Universally valued by men and women alike, teeth whitening (or bleaching) treatments are available to satisfy every budget, time frame and temperament. Whether in the form of one-hour bleaching sessions at your dentist’s office, or home-use bleaching kits purchased at your local drugstore, teeth whitening solutions abound.

The long and the short of it is that teeth whitening works. Virtually everyone who opts for a teeth whitening solution sees moderate to substantial improvement in the brightness and whiteness of their smile. That said, whitening is not a permanent solution to discoloration and requires maintenance or “touch-ups” for a prolonged effect.

Bleaching vs. Whitening: What’s the Difference?

According to the FDA, the term “bleaching” is permitted to be used only when the teeth can be whitened beyond their natural color. This applies strictly to products that contain bleach – typically hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.

The term “whitening,” on the other hand, refers to restoring a tooth’s surface color by removing dirt and debris. So any product that cleans (like a toothpaste) is technically considered a whitener. Of course, the term whitening sounds better than bleaching, so it is more frequently used – even when describing products that contain bleach.

Why Teeth Whitening? Examining Enamel

Most of us start out with sparkling white teeth, thanks to their porcelain-like enamel surface. Composed of microscopic crystalline rods, tooth enamel is designed to protect the teeth from the effects of chewing, gnashing, trauma and acid attacks caused by sugar. But over the years enamel is worn down, becoming more transparent and permitting the yellow color of dentin – the tooth’s core material – to show through.

During routine chewing, dentin remains intact while millions of micro-cracks occur in the enamel. It is these cracks, as well as the spaces between the crystalline enamel rods, that gradually fill up with stains and debris. As a result, the teeth eventually develop a dull, lackluster appearance.

Teeth whitening removes the stains and debris, leaving the enamel cracks open and exposed. Some of the cracks are quickly re-mineralized by saliva, while others are filled up again with organic debris.

Tooth Discoloration: The Two Types of Tooth Stains

There are two categories of staining as it relates to the teeth: extrinsic staining and intrinsic staining.

Extrinsic stains are those that appear on the surface of the teeth as a result of exposure to dark-colored beverages, foods and tobacco, and routine wear and tear. Superficial extrinsic stains are minor and can be removed with brushing and prophylactic dental cleaning. Stubborn extrinsic stains can be removed with more involved efforts, like teeth bleaching. Persistent extrinsic stains can penetrate into the dentin and become ingrained if they are not dealt with early.

Intrinsic stains are those that form on the interior of teeth. Intrinsic stains result from trauma, aging, exposure to minerals (like tetracycline) during tooth formation and/or excessive ingestion of fluoride. In the past, it was thought that intrinsic stains were too resistant to be corrected by bleaching. Today, cosmetic dentistry experts believe that even deep-set intrinsic stains can be removed with supervised take-home teeth whitening that is maintained over a matter of months or even a year. If all else fails, there are alternative cosmetic solutions to treat intrinsic staining, such as dental veneers.

Teeth Whitening vs Dental Veneers

Whitening and veneers are two popular smile makeover treatment options. Weigh their pros and cons with your needs.

What Causes Tooth Staining?

Age: There is a direct correlation between tooth color and age. Over the years, teeth darken as a result of wear and tear and stain accumulation. Teenagers will likely experience immediate, dramatic results from whitening. In the twenties, as the teeth begin to show a yellow cast, teeth-whitening may require a little more effort. By the forties, the yellow gives way to brown and more maintenance may be called for. By the fifties, the teeth have absorbed a host of stubborn stains which can prove difficult (but not impossible) to remove.

Starting color: We are all equipped with an inborn tooth color that ranges from yellow-brownish to greenish-grey, and intensifies over time. Yellow-brown is generally more responsive to bleaching than green-grey.

Translucency and thinness: These are also genetic traits that become more pronounced with age. While all teeth show some translucency, those that are opaque and thick have an advantage: they appear lighter in color, show more sparkle and are responsive to bleaching. Teeth that are thinner and more transparent – most notably the front teeth – have less of the pigment that is necessary for bleaching. According to cosmetic dentists, transparency is the only condition that cannot be corrected by any form of teeth whitening.

Eating habits: The habitual consumption of red wine, coffee, tea, cola, carrots, oranges and other deeply-colored beverages and foods causes considerable staining over the years. In addition, acidic foods such as citrus fruits and vinegar contribute to enamel erosion. As a result, the surface becomes more transparent and more of the yellow-colored dentin shows through.

Smoking habits: Nicotine leaves brownish deposits which slowly soak into the tooth structure and cause intrinsic discoloration.

Drugs / chemicals: Tetracycline usage during tooth formation produces dark grey or brown ribbon stains which are very difficult to remove. Excessive consumption of fluoride causes fluorosis and associated areas of white mottling.

Grinding: Most frequently caused by stress, teeth grinding (gnashing, bruxing, etc.) can add to micro-cracking in the teeth and can cause the biting edges to darken.

Trauma: Falls and other injuries can produce sizable cracks in the teeth, which collect large amounts of stains and debris.

Teeth Whitening Options

Three major teeth whitening options are available today. All three rely on varying concentrations of peroxide and varying application times.

In-Office Whitening

Significant color change in a short period of time is the major benefit of in-office whitening. This protocol involves the carefully controlled use of a relatively high-concentration peroxide gel, applied to the teeth by the dentist or trained technician after the gums have been protected with a paint-on rubber dam. Generally, the peroxide remains on the teeth for several 15 to 20 minute intervals that add up to an hour (at most). Those with particularly stubborn staining may be advised to return for one or more additional bleaching sessions, or may be asked to continue with a home-use whitening system.

In-office teeth whitening cost: $650 per visit (on average) nationwide.

Professionally Dispensed Take-Home Whitening Kits

Many dentists are of the opinion that professionally dispensed take-home whitening kits can produce the best results over the long haul. Take-home kits incorporate an easy-to-use lower-concentration peroxide gel that remains on the teeth for an hour or longer (sometimes overnight). The lower the peroxide percentage, the longer it may safely remain on the teeth. The gel is applied to the teeth using custom-made bleaching trays that resemble mouth guards.

Take-home teeth whitening kit cost: $100 to $400.

Over-the-Counter Teeth Whitening

The cheapest and most convenient of the teeth whitening options, over-the-counter bleaching involves the use of a store-bought whitening kit, featuring a bleaching gel with a concentration lower than that of the professionally dispensed take-home whiteners. The gel is applied to the teeth via one-size-fits-all trays, whitening strips or paint-on applicators. In many cases this may only whiten a few of the front teeth unlike custom trays that can whiten the entire smile.

Over-the-counter teeth whitening cost: $20 to $100.

Hydrogen Peroxide vs. Carbamide Peroxide

The bleach preference for in-office whitening, where time is limited, is powerful and fast-acting hydrogen peroxide. When used in teeth bleaching, hydrogen peroxide concentrations range from approximately nine percent to 40 percent.

By contrast, the bleach of preference for at-home teeth whitening is slower acting carbamide peroxide, which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide. Carbamide peroxide has about a third of the strength of hydrogen peroxide. This means that a 15 percent solution of carbamide peroxide is the rough equivalent of a five percent solution of hydrogen peroxide.

How White Can You Go? A Matter of Esthetics

Teeth whitening results are subjective, varying considerably from person to person. Many are immediately delighted with their outcome, while others may be disappointed. Before you embark on any whitening treatment, ask your dentist for a realistic idea of the results you are likely to achieve and how long it should take to achieve them. Expectations play a major role in teeth whitening.

Teeth Whitening Shade Guides

In the dental office, before-and-after tooth color is typically measured with shade guides. These are hand-held displays of wide ranges of tooth colors. (Dentists also use them in choosing crown and other restoration shades.)

The standard-setter among them has long been the Vitapan Classic Shade Guide. This shade guide standard incorporates 16 shades, systematically arranged from light to dark into four color groups, and provides a universal tooth-color terminology.

While whitening can occasionally lighten tooth color by nine or more shades, most of those who bleach their teeth are likely to see a change of two to seven shades.

Teeth Whitening Risks

Teeth whitening treatments are considered to be safe when procedures are followed as directed. However, there are certain risks associated with bleaching that you should be aware of:

  • Sensitivity: Bleaching can cause a temporary increase in sensitivity to temperature, pressure and touch. This is likeliest to occur during in-office whitening, where higher-concentration bleach is used. Some individuals experience spontaneous shooting pains (“zingers”) down the middle of their front teeth.Individuals at greatest risk for whitening sensitivity are those with gum recession, significant cracks in their teeth or leakage resulting from faulty restorations. It has also been reported that redheads, including those with no other risk factors, are at particular risk for tooth sensitivity and zingers.Whitening sensitivity lasts no longer than a day or two, but in some cases may persist up to a month. Some dentists recommend a toothpaste containing potassium nitrate for sensitive teeth.
  • Gum irritation: Over half of those who use peroxide whiteners experience some degree of gum irritation resulting from the bleach concentration or from contact with the whitening trays. Such irritation typically lasts up to several days, dissipating after bleaching has stopped or the peroxide concentration lowered.
  • Technicolor teeth: Restorations such as bonding, dental crowns or porcelain veneers are not affected by bleach and therefore maintain their default color while the surrounding teeth are whitened. This results in what is frequently called “technicolor teeth.”

Maintaining Your Teeth Whitening Results

To extend the longevity of newly whitened teeth, dentists are likely to recommend:

  • At-home follow-up or maintenance whitening – implemented immediately or performed as infrequently as once a year.
  • Avoiding dark-colored foods and beverages for at least a week after whitening.
  • Whenever possible, sipping dark-colored beverages with a straw.
  • Practicing excellent oral hygiene – brushing and flossing after meals and at bedtime.

Caveats

In addition to the aforementioned risk factors, a number of caveats should be considered before undergoing teeth whitening:

  • No amount of bleaching will yield “unnaturally” white teeth.
  • Whitening results are not fully seen until approximately two weeks after bleaching. This is an important consideration if you are about to have ceramic restorations and want to be sure the color matches that of your newly bleached teeth.
  • If cosmetic bonding, porcelain veneers or other restorations are part of your treatment plan, they should not be placed until a minimum of two weeks following bleaching to ensure proper adhesive bonding, function and shade matching.
  • To avoid the technicolor effect, tooth-colored restorations will likely need replacement after bleaching.
  • Recessed gums often reveal their yellowish root surfaces at the gum line. That yellow color has proven difficult to bleach.
  • Pregnant or nursing women are advised to avoid teeth whitening. The potential impact of swallowed bleach on the fetus or baby is not yet known.

Content courtesy yourdentistryguide.com

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