Grand Oaks Dental Blog
Posts for: February, 2018
What does it take to win a gold medal in figure skating at the Winter Olympics? Years and years of practice…a great routine…and a fantastic smile. When Tara Lipinski won the women’s figure skating competition at the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan, she became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event in Winter Olympics history—and the whole world saw her winning smile.
“I love to smile, and I think it’s important—especially when you’re on-air,” she recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “I am that person who’s always smiling.”
Tara’s still skating, but these days you’re more likely to see her smile on TV: as a commentator for the 2018 Winter Olympics, for example. And like many other athletes and celebrities in the public eye—and countless regular folks too—Tara felt that, at a certain point, her smile needed a little brightening to look its best.
“A few years ago, I decided to have teeth whitening. I just thought, why not have a brighter smile? I went in-office and it was totally easy,” she said.
In-office teeth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures. In just one visit, it’s possible to lighten teeth by up to ten shades, for a difference you can see right away. Here in our office, we can safely apply concentrated bleaching solutions for quick results. These solutions aren’t appropriate for home use. Before your teeth are whitened, we will perform a complete examination to make sure underlying dental problems aren’t dimming your smile.
It’s also possible to do teeth whitening at home—it just takes a bit longer. We can provide custom-made trays that fit over your teeth, and give you whitening solutions that are safe to use at home. The difference is that the same amount of whitening may take weeks instead of hours, but the results should also make you smile. Some people start with treatments in the dental office for a dramatic improvement, and then move to take-home trays to keep their smiles looking bright.
That’s exactly what Tara did after her in-office treatments. She said the at-home kits are “a good way to—every couple of months—get a little bit of a whiter smile.”
So if your smile isn’t as bright as you’d like, contact our office or schedule a consultation to find out more about teeth whitening. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered” and “Tooth Whitening Safety Tips.”
If you’re over age 30 there’s a fifty percent chance you have periodontal (gum) disease—and you may not even know it. Without treatment this often “silent” bacterial infection could cause you to lose gum coverage, supporting bone volume or eventually your teeth.
That’s not to say there can’t be noticeable symptoms like swollen, red, bleeding or painful gums. But the surest way to know if you have gum disease, as well as how advanced it is, is to have us examine your gums with manual probing below the gum line.
Using a long metal device called a periodontal probe, we can detect if you’ve developed periodontal pockets. These are gaps created when the diseased gum’s attachment to teeth has weakened and begun to pull away. The increased void may become inflamed (swollen) and filled with infection.
During an exam we insert the probe, which has markings indicating depths in millimeters, into the naturally occurring space between tooth and gums called the sulcus. Normally, the sulcus extends only about 1-3 mm deep, so being able to probe deeper is a sign of a periodontal pocket. How deep we can probe can also tell us about the extent of the infection: if we can probe to 5 mm, you may have early to mild gum disease; 5-7 mm indicates moderate gum disease; and anything deeper is a sign of advanced disease.
Knowing periodontal pocket depth helps guide our treatment strategy. Our main goal is to remove bacterial plaque, a thin film of food particles that collects on teeth and is the main cause and continuing fuel for the infection. In mild to moderate cases this may only require the use of hand instruments called scalers to manually remove plaque from tooth surfaces.
If, however, our periodontal probing indicates deeper, advanced gum disease, we may need to include surgical procedures to access these infected areas through the gum tissue. By knowing the depth and extent of any periodontal pockets, we can determine whether or not to use these more invasive techniques.
Like many other health conditions, discovering gum disease early could help you avoid these more advanced procedures and limit the damage caused by the infection. Besides daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque and regular dental checkups, keep watch for signs of swollen or bleeding gums and contact us for an appointment as soon as possible. And be aware that if you smoke, your gums will not likely bleed or swell—that could make diagnosis more difficult.
If you would like more information on treating gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Understanding Periodontal Pockets.”
Along with the gums, your teeth’s roots help stabilize them. Without them your teeth couldn’t handle the normal biting forces you encounter every day. That’s why a rare condition called root resorption must be treated promptly: this gradual breakdown and dissolving of root structure could eventually cause you to lose your tooth.
Resorption is normal in primary (“baby”) teeth giving way for permanent teeth or sometimes during orthodontic treatment. But the form of resorption we’re referring to in permanent teeth isn’t normal, and is highly destructive.
The condition begins in most cases outside the tooth and works its way in, usually at the gum line around the cervical or “neck-like” region of the tooth (hence the term external cervical resorption or ECR). ECR produces pink spots on the teeth in its early stages: these are spots of weakened enamel filled with pink-colored cells that cause the actual damage. The cells create cavity-like areas that can continue to enlarge.
We don’t fully understand what causes ECR, but there seems to be links with excessive force during orthodontics, tooth trauma (especially to the gum ligaments), tooth grinding habits or internal bleaching procedures. However, most people with these problems don’t develop ECR, so the exact mechanism remains a bit of a mystery.
The good news, though, is that we can treat ECR effectively, provided we discover it before it inflicts too much damage. That’s why regular dental visits are important, coupled with your own observation of anything out of the ordinary and immediate dental follow-up.
If the affected area is relatively small, we may be able to remove the cells causing the damage and repair the area with a tooth-colored filling. If it appears the pulp (the tooth’s innermost layer) is involved, we may need to perform a root canal treatment to remove infected tissue and fill the empty space with a special filling. You may also need other procedures to reduce the chances of gum recession around the affected tooth.
Proactive dental care is your best insurance against losing a tooth to root resorption. So keep an eye on your teeth and see your dentist regularly to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
If you would like more information on the signs and treatments for root resorption, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Root Resorption: An Unusual Phenomenon.”