Posts for: December, 2013
You hardly notice the moist environment of your mouth — unless it becomes uncomfortably dry. Some instances of dry mouth are quite normal — when you first wake in the morning after reduced saliva flow during sleep, when you're stressed, or when you're dehydrated and need fluids. But some are not normal — millions of people, in fact, suffer from a chronic inadequacy of saliva production and flow.
Chronic dry mouth (or xerostomia) can have a greater effect on your oral health than discomfort. Saliva performs a number of tasks for the body: its enzymes help break down food before digestion; its antimicrobial properties help reduce harmful bacteria and its buffering ability helps neutralize acid, both of which reduce the risk of tooth decay.
There are a number of causes for chronic dry mouth. One of the most common arises as a side effect of over 500 medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. The major contributors to dry mouth fall into three main types: antihistamines, used to treat allergies; diuretics, prescribed to cardiac patients to drain excess fluid; and antidepressants. Diseases like Diabetes, Parkinson's disease, or AIDS can also cause dry mouth. Some treatments can too — persons undergoing head or neck radiation or chemotherapy may experience dry mouth.
If you've noticed dry mouth over several days, it's a good idea to visit us for an exam. Our first step is to try to determine the extent and cause of the condition. Depending on what we find, we can then recommend a treatment path that includes some changes in habit and prescribed medications. For example, if lack of hydration is contributing to dry mouth, we would recommend drinking an adequate amount of water, as well as cutting back on caffeinated or acidic beverages. We might also prescribe medication to stimulate saliva flow. Consuming foods that contain xylitol, a natural sugar substitute, may also do the same.
It's also important that you maintain a good oral hygiene regimen and regular dental checkups and cleanings. Good oral hygiene and the proper treatment for chronic dry mouth will greatly reduce your risk of tooth decay and other diseases.
If you would like more information on the causes and treatment of dry mouth, 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 “Dry Mouth.”
Before she began hosting the long-running TV competition Top Chef, Padma Lakshmi was a well-known model and successful cookbook author. (Appropriately, she is said to have been “discovered” by a modeling agent while sitting in a café in Madrid.) Yet the Indian-born beauty's striking look — at once exotic and familiar — doesn't come from any cookie-cutter mold.
So when Lakshmi had cosmetic work done on her teeth, early in her career, her dentist didn't use a cookie-cutter approach either: Instead, her smile was carefully designed, using small amounts of bonding material to brighten her teeth and to bring their shape and spacing into harmony with her facial features.
Dentistry by Design
What exactly is smile design — and what could it do for you? Essentially, it's the process of evaluating your smile in concert with the appearance of your entire face, and visualizing the changes — some dramatic and some subtle — that will make it really shine. Some aspects we consider include the face's shape, the proportion or “balance” of facial features, the complexion, eye and lip color and form, and the overall dimensions of the smile.
Based on dental aesthetics and clinical experience, we will probably have a number of suggestions to make on how you can improve your smile. Your input will also be very important; while some individuals prefer perfectly even teeth and a sparkling “Hollywood white” smile, others are looking for a result that's more in keeping with a “natural” look: slight irregularities in tooth shape, spacing, and even color.
There's no right or wrong answer here: Having a “perfect” smile means what's perfect for you, so it's very important for dentists and patients to communicate openly during the smile design process. But sometimes, words alone just aren't enough to convey the subtle dimensions of beauty.
The Trial Smile
Fortunately, it's now possible to preview your “perfect” smile using a number of different techniques. Advances in computer imaging make this the first step in previewing your new smile — you can see the changes before a single tooth is touched! Still, many people find that having a more concrete picture is helpful. The next step is to make a 3-D mock-up the proposed dental work on an actual model of your mouth. That way, you can see a physical representation of the final results — and even turn it around and hold it in your hands.
There's still one more way to really experience the difference cosmetic treatments can make without committing to a permanent change: the provisional restoration. Here, tooth-colored bonding material and other techniques are used to actually create the new smile — temporarily. This gives you time to “live with it,” and see if the proposed changes work for you. If everything goes well with the provisional work, the permanent restoration is guaranteed to please.
So if you want holiday treats, get out the cookie cutter — but if you're looking for a smile that's uniquely yours, and one that enhances your own individual appearance… call our office and ask about a smile design consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Great Expectations — Perceptions in Smile Design” and “Beautiful Smiles by Design.”
Since the time of the ancient Egyptians, people have used mixtures of various substances in pursuit of a single goal: cleaning their teeth effectively. Today, even with a glut of toothpaste tubes on the supermarket shelf, most people seem to have a particular favorite. But have you ever thought about what's in your toothpaste, and how it works? Here are five facts you might not know.
1) Most toothpastes have a very similar set of active ingredients.
Once upon a time, a toothpaste might have contained crushed bones and oyster shells, pumice, or bark. Now, thankfully, they're a little different: today's toothpaste ingredients generally include abrasives, detergents and fluoride compounds, as well as inert substances like preservatives and binders. Toothpastes formulated to address special needs, like sensitive teeth or tartar prevention, have additional active ingredients.
2) Abrasives make the mechanical action of brushing more effective
These substances help remove stains and surface deposits from teeth. But don't even think about breaking out the sandpaper! Modern toothpastes use far gentler cleaning and polishing agents, like hydrated silica or alumina, calcium carbonate or dicalcium phosphate. These compounds are specially formulated to be effective without damaging tooth enamel.
3) Detergents help break up and wash away stains
The most common detergent in toothpaste (which is also found in many shampoos) is sodium lauryl sulfate, a substance that can be derived from coconut or palm kernel oil. Like the abrasives used in toothpaste, these detergents are far milder than the ones you use in the washing machine. Yet they're effective at loosening the stains clinging to your teeth, which would otherwise be hard to dissolve.
4) Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay
This has been conclusively demonstrated since it was first introduced into toothpaste formulations in 1914. Fluoride — whether it's in the form of sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate (MFP) — helps strengthen tooth enamel and make it more resistant to acid attack, which precipitates tooth decay. In fact, it's arguably the most important ingredient, and no toothpaste can receive the American Dental Association's Seal of Approval without it.
5) Look for toothpaste with the ADA seal
This means that the particular brand of toothpaste has proven effective as a cleaning agent and a preventative against tooth decay. Plus, if the package says it has other benefits, then research has verified that it does what it says. Oh, and one other thing — toothpaste doesn't work if you don't use it — so don't forget to brush regularly!
If you have questions about toothpastes or oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Toothpaste — What's In It?”