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Over the Counter Whitening Products

This week we will talk about whitening products that are widely available over the counter in many drug stores.  These products deliver peroxide (usually hydrogen or carbamide peroxide) to the teeth with a strip or moldable plastic that contains it.  These products are indeed effective for some patients, especially if the teeth are not heavily stained. I always encourage patients whose teeth are not heavily stained to try these products, and I would recommend Crest Whitestrips as a good product to try.  Unlike whitening toothpastes, which as we discussed, work by virtue of their abrasiveness, whitening strips that contain peroxide allow the material to penetrate the tooth and remove stains from within the tooth.

There are some minor side effects that need to be considered.  Whitening your teeth with these products can cause a temporary sensitivity, especially to cold. I have been whitening my teeth for years and I always have sensitive teeth during the whitening treatment. The good news is that it is never permanent and the sensitivity is gone in a few days.  One can also irritate the gums if too much peroxide material comes in contact with the gums.  This is also a temporary condition that heals itself in a few days.

The limitation of these products is that the concentration of peroxide tends to be too low for most patients to see a significant result.  Also, the strips can be awkward to wear for the recommended treatment time, tending to be unstable the longer they remain in the mouth and they can move around.  It is inevitable that one ends up ingesting a bit of the whitening material due to the lack of seal between the teeth and the tray or strip.  As a result, better options do exist.  We will discuss these options in the next blog.

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Whitening Toothpastes

Tooth whitening has become extremely popular over the last few years and with the number of whitening products that are available in the market, it can all be quite confusing. It is difficult to know what works and what does not.  Over the next few blogs, we will cover the different whitening options that are available both over the counter and professionally.

This week we will consider whitening toothpastes. The number of whitening toothpastes that are available has increased dramatically over the last few years. Some whitening toothpastes have a peroxide component that the manufacturers may claim has a tooth whitening effect. In reality, the peroxide concentration is too low and it does not have enough time in contact with the teeth to have any real effect.  The main mechanism of action of whitening toothpaste is its abrasiveness.  Whitening toothpastes tend to be more abrasive and thus mechanically polish off the stains.  The drawback is that they can be abrasive to the enamel as well.  In combination with a hard bristled toothbrush and an aggressive brushing technique, this can lead to wearing away of the enamel.  Tooth enamel once gone is gone for good!

Whitening toothpastes used once in a while to polish away surfaces stains will likely do no harm.  However, I find that they are just too abrasive to be used on a regular basis and thus I would not use them myself nor would I recommend them for our patients.  Any claim made as to whitening the teeth beyond removal of surface staining is unlikely, as the whitening product does not have enough time to penetrate the enamel.

If you have more questions on whitening toothpastes, please do not hesitate to ask us when you are in for your next appointment!

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Simple Tips for Cavity Prevention

There are many simple things that one can do to prevent cavities:

Fluoride:  Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps prevent cavities. Fluoride can even reverse the earliest stages of tooth damage — by helping the teeth repair themselves. Due to its benefits for cavity prevention, fluoride is now added to many public water supplies. It’s also a common ingredient in toothpaste and mouth rinses.

Practice daily home care: A highly fluoridated toothpaste (PreviDent) may be commended for you if you are very prone to dental decay.  Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush that fits your mouth comfortably. Consider using an electric or battery-operated toothbrush, especially if you have arthritis or other problems that make it difficult to brush effectively. Floss; gently pull the floss from the gum line to the top of the tooth to scrape off plaque. Rub the floss against all sides of the tooth. If it’s hard to manipulate the floss, use a floss holder or an interdental cleaner — such as a dental pick or stick designed to clean between the teeth.

Minimize sugar and acid:  Minimize sweets over periods of the day. It may not be quantity but frequency of the sugar intake that causes decay. Beware of sugar content in foods – e.g chips, milk, pasta sauce and fruit juice. Try using sugar substitutes in coffee and tea.

Dental checkups: Keep your regular dental checkups, at least every 6 months.  Have appropriate radiographs (x-rays) taken for early detection, removal of decay and to receive professional fluoride treatments

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What is a cavity?

This a frequent question that we get asked. Most people are aware that a cavity is a “hole” in the tooth.

What is not commonly understood is that it is in fact an infectious process.  A cavity, also called tooth decay or caries, is a bacterial infection of the tooth that results in the destruction of tooth structure by acid.  This acid is produced by the bacteria in our mouths when we ingest sugars, which are used by the bacteria as a food source.  A small cavity may cause no pain but a large cavity can result in tooth pain as well as fracture of the tooth as a result of the decayed and softened tooth structure.  Any kind of acidity in the mouth can contribute to cavities as well , whether it is from our diet (acidic foods such as fruit juices, soft drinks etc.) or from stomach acids (acid reflux).

Here are some reasons you may be at risk:

• Frequent snacking
• Sipping sugary drinks (coffee or tea with sugar, soda pop )
• Eating or drinking a high amount of fruit juices or fruit (especially citrus fruit)
• Exposed root surfaces
• Teeth that trap food
• Dry mouth from medications

Our next post will cover simple recommendations to prevent cavities.

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Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to our blog!  It is our hope that this forum will allow us to better communicate with our patients.  Here you will find the answers to common dental questions. Over the next few months, we will address dental problems that specifically affect our patients at Soho Dental. We may have recommendations for you regarding specific products or techniques to help you with your home care. We hope you will find this forum informative and useful.  If you have any suggestions for content please let us know when you are next in for your dental visit.

To your dental health!

Dr Haji

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