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. And speaking of that sealā?¦
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?”
It's no surprise that plenty of teenagers go in for an orthodontic evaluation and come out wearing braces. But sometimes, an observant orthodontist may notice that an adult's smile could use a little bit of improvement, too. Even an adult like — Tom Cruise?
That's exactly what happened to the star of Top Gun, Rain Man and the Mission Impossible franchise. Cruise, then 39, was taking one of his children for orthodontic work when it was pointed out that the leading man's teeth were also out of alignment. So he opted for braces too.
“Yes, Tom Cruise has braces,” said his publicist when the star appeared, sporting his new orthodontic appliances. “To him, it's no big deal.” Cruise chose to get the relatively inconspicuous ceramic type, with only a thin wire visible in front of his teeth. He wore them for about a year and a half, having them temporarily removed when it was time to make a movie.
Ceramic braces are a popular choice among adult orthodontic patients, many of whom find that less noticeable orthodontic appliances fit in better with their personal or professional lifestyle. Clear aligners also provide a virtually invisible option. We can help you decide which appliance would best meet your needs. But the first step is a thorough evaluation of your periodontal health.
Is it Risky Business to get braces as an older adult? Not usually — but if you do show signs of periodontal disease, which is more prevalent in adults than teens, it's important to bring it under control before beginning your orthodontic treatment. There are also a few medical conditions, such as heart-valve disease, severe uncontrolled diabetes, and leukemia, which might preclude treatment.
For most people, however, orthodontics offers a great way to improve your appearance and boost your self-confidence — even if you're not a movie star. It is estimated that three-quarters of adults have some form of orthodontic problem; and studies have shown that orthodontic treatment can enhance an adult's career opportunities and social life.
So, if you're looking for a better smile at any age, don't hesitate to contact us or schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment options. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Orthodontics For The Older Adult.”
If you wince while eating certain foods and beverages, you're not alone — one in three Americans suffer from the pain of tooth sensitivity. Fortunately, there are ways to treat it and reduce the pain.
Dentinal hypersensitivity occurs when dentin loses its protective cover. Dentin, a living tissue within a tooth, is composed of tiny tubules that act as conduits for transmitting sensations from the surface of the tooth to the nerves in the inner pulp. These tubules are protected by cementum, a hard, outer layer that covers the tooth root. But when the root becomes exposed, the cementum is easily stripped from the root. The tubules become more sensitive to sensations of temperature or pressure.
Receding gums are the main culprit for root exposure. This condition can result from periodontal disease, which arises mainly from poor oral hygiene. At the other end of the spectrum, over-aggressive brushing can lead to receding gums. Brushing may also contribute to another source of dentinal hypersensitivity: enamel erosion. The minerals in enamel begin to soften and erode as the acidic level of the mouth rises. Saliva neutralizes the acid and can restore a neutral balance in about thirty minutes to an hour after eating. If you brush before this process completes, you could brush away some of the softened enamel.
To properly treat tooth sensitivity, our first step is to find the cause. If it stems from improper or premature brushing, we can counsel you on proper technique. If periodontal disease is a factor, we would first treat the disease and then work with you on a proper oral hygiene regimen to reduce bacterial plaque, the main cause of the infection.
There are treatments as well to reduce nerve sensitivity and thereby ease the pain. Toothpastes and other mouth products with fluoride help reduce sensitivity, as well as products containing potassium nitrate or potassium citrate. We can also apply a varnish containing a concentrated dose of fluoride directly to tooth surfaces. Another approach is to block the tubules using bonding agents or sealants; this will reduce their capacity to receive and transmit sensations.
If you would like more information on the causes and treatment of tooth sensitivity, 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 “Treatment of Tooth Sensitivity.”
For some kids, having a cavity or two is just part of growing up. Not for Giuliana Rancic. When she was a child, the TV personality didn't have a single cavity — and she still doesn't. But for her husband Bill, co-star of the Style Network reality show Giuliana and Bill, it was a different story. A cavity-prone kid, he was never certain what a visit to the dentist might hold in store. “I can still remember the anticipation,” he recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “I always hoped I would get out of the checkups without a cavity!”
Why do some people get more cavities than others? There are a number of factors at work, but to understand it better, let's look at how tooth decay occurs.
How Cavities Form
Cavities — also called dental caries — are small pits or holes in the teeth that are caused by tooth decay. Tooth decay itself is a chronic disease that can flare up when plaque isn't kept under control. A thin, bacteria-laden film, plaque sticks to tooth surfaces both above and below the gum line, and can build up in the absence of effective oral hygiene.
Of course, everyone has bacteria in their mouth, both “good” and “bad” (pathogenic) types. But when the bad guys outnumber the good, trouble can start. When you consume sweets, plaque bacteria process the sugars and release acid as a byproduct. The acid eats into tooth surfaces, causing decay — and cavities that need filling. Left untreated, decay can work its way into the tooth's pulp, resulting in infection and pain. Eventually, treatment might involve a root canal — or, in the worst case, extraction.
What can you do if you seem to be prone to cavities? One effective way to fight tooth decay is by maintaining good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice daily, for at least two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush and a dab of fluoride toothpaste to clean all around your teeth. Most importantly, floss above and below the gum line, every day. And just as important, don't forget to have regular dental checkups every six months.
A Healthy Balance
Another cavity-fighting strategy is eating a balanced diet. Avoid soda, sugary “energy” drinks and sweet treats — but if you choose to consume sugar, have it with meals instead of between meals. This will give your saliva, which has natural cavity-fighting properties, a chance to work.
“It's all about maintaining a healthy balance,” Giuliana told Dear Doctor. And Bill agrees: “I love nuts and fruit for a healthy snack,” he said, adding that he's meticulous about brushing and flossing. And when the couple smiles, you can see how those healthy habits pay off.
If you would like more information on preventing tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay” and “Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk.”
Have you heard of palatal expanders? If your child needs orthodontic work, then you ought to hear about them! These small appliances offer plenty of advantages to kids whose smiles, due to a variety of problems, may need some help. Here are five things you should know:
1. Palatal expanders are small orthodontic appliances that fit inside the mouth.
Custom-fabricated for each child, these devices are placed near the roof of the mouth, in between the two rows of upper teeth. They consist of two small metal brackets with a tensioning system that can be adjusted by a tiny key. Not everyone needs one, but they can really benefit kids with certain orthodontic conditions.
2. Palatal expanders take advantage of a child's natural growth processes.
That's part of the reason they work so well. Since the bones of a child's upper jaw don't fuse together until sometime after puberty, it's relatively easy to move them apart before that time. The palatal expander applies gentle pressure to gradually move the left and right halves of the upper jaw apart, over a period of a few months. Then it's left on several weeks longer, allowing new bone to fill in and stabilize the expansion.
3. Palatal expanders are helpful in treating a variety of orthodontic problems.
Crowding — that is, not having enough space in the jaw to accommodate all of the teeth — is one major issue. A related issue is impacted teeth: These are teeth that are blocked from coming in (erupting) by other teeth or jaw structures. A third issue is crossbite: That's when the back top teeth come down to bite inside, rather than outside, the bottom teeth. Gaining additional space in the upper jaw can help relieve all of these problems.
4. Palatal expanders can eliminate the need for tooth extraction.
Once upon a time, extraction was the only way to solve these problems. However it's an invasive (and potentially complex) procedure. A palatal expander can often provide the same — or better — results, via a noninvasive method.
5. Palatal expanders typically shorten overall orthodontic treatment time.
They're generally worn for a total of three to six months, but they can considerably shorten a child's overall orthodontic treatment time. Plus, they're invisible — a big plus to image-conscious teens. Could they benefit your child?
If you have questions about palatal expanders, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Palatal Expanders” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”
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