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Archive for July, 2014

July 17, 2014

White Fillings vs. Silver

If you have to get a filling, you and your dentist have lots of materials to choose from. Before your appointment, get up to speed on your options.

Fillings That Look Like Your Teeth

Composite fillings are the most widely-used dental filling material. They’re made of glass or quartz in resin.

Advantages: Your dentist can closely match the color of a composite filling to the color of your surrounding natural teeth.

Disadvantages: Just like your own teeth, composite fillings can stain or discolor over time.

Your dentist may consider a composite filling if the cavity is small to medium-sized, or if the affected tooth gets a lot of chewing action. These may also be a good choice for people who are afraid of dental work, since a composite can be bonded in place, which means less drilling.

Fillings That Release Fluoride

The newer options for dental fillings include glass ionomers, made of acrylic acids and fine-glass powders.

Advantages: Glass ionomer fillings can be colored to blend in with surrounding natural teeth. Plus, they can be designed to release small amounts of fluoride, which helps prevent decay.

Disadvantages: These fillings can fracture, so they aren’t appropriate for chewing surfaces.

Because of their fragile nature, dentists may suggest this type of filling for cavities near the gum line or to fill between teeth.

Crowns That Look Like Your Teeth

When you need a crown, inlay, or veneer, the go-to is typically porcelain, ceramic, or another glass-like material.

Advantages: The color closely matches natural teeth. The components are  durable and very hard.

Disadvantages: Porcelain restorations require several dentist visits and can cost more than some other filling options.

Dentists choose porcelain for veneers because it can be formed into thin shells that fit over enamel, the outer surface of your teeth.

Affordable, Long-lasting Fillings

Dentists have used amalgam to fill cavities for more than a century. These fillings are alloys that combine silver, tin, copper, and mercury.

Advantages: They’re are durable and long-lasting. Plus, amalgam is one of the least expensive materials.

Disadvantages: Amalgam is silver-colored, so fillings will show. Cavities filled with amalgam are often temporarily sensitive to hot or cold.

Your dentist may opt for amalgam if your cavity is in a back molar, because it stands up well to chewing. Some people may have concerns about the safety of mercury in amalgam, but the American Dental Association considers this material safe.

Affordable Crowns, Fixed Bridges, and Partials

“Silver” fillings are actually made of base metal alloys that look like silver. They are typically used for crowns, fixed bridges, and partial dentures.

Advantages: Silver fillings are strong and resistant to fracture and wear. They are also relatively inexpensive.

Disadvantages: Cavities filled with silver may be sensitive to heat or cold. Metal alloys don’t match natural teeth.

Gold Crowns Resistant to Tarnishing

Gold fillings are indeed made of gold, combined with other metals. They are typically used for inlays, crowns, and fixed bridges.

Advantages: Gold fillings are strong and highly resistant to corrosion and tarnishing.

Disadvantages: The metallic color doesn’t match natural teeth, so gold is most often used for back teeth or cavities that don’t show.

July 16, 2014

Tooth Enamel: What Helps, What Hurts

The outer surface of teeth, called enamel, should last a lifetime. “Enamel is the hardest substance in the body,” says dentist Leslie Seldin, DDS, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association.

Some wear and tear of tooth enamel is normal. But Seldin says there’s plenty you can do to keep your enamel strong. Start with these eight steps.

1. Limit Sugary Soft Drinks and Foods

Sugar leads to acids in the mouth, which soften and eventually wear away at enamel. Chewy candies that stick on your teeth are very damaging. Soft drinks may have extra acids. Artificially sweetened soft drinks are a smarter choice than sugary soft drinks. But sugarless sweeteners are also acidic and may erode enamel over time. The best choice when you’re thirsty? A glass of water.

2. Help Yourself to Foods That Protect Enamel

Calcium in foods counteracts acids in your mouth, and also helps keep bones and teeth strong. Milk, cheese, and other dairy products all help protect and strengthen enamel, says Pamela L. Quinones, RDH. She’s a past president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy to help keep fat and calories to a minimum. If you don’t eat dairy, look for fortified foods. Choose citrus juice with added calcium to buffer the natural acids.

3. Avoid Over-Brushing

Brushing too fast and hard can wear down enamel. Hold a soft-bristle brush at about a 45-degree angle to your gums and move it back and forth in short, gentle strokes, about the distance of one tooth, Seldin says. Wait for up to an hour after eating sweets or citrus fruits. Acidic foods temporarily soften enamel and may make it easier to damage. Give your enamel time to re-harden before cleaning.

4. Use Fluoride to Make You Stronger

The American Dental Association (ADA) calls fluoride “nature’s cavity fighter” because it strengthens enamel and helps repair the early stages of tooth decay. Fluoride also makes your teeth more resistant to acids that come from foods and from bacteria in your mouth. The ADA recommends fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth appears and throughout life. Other fluoride dental products, like rinses, also help prevent cavities and strengthen your teeth’s enamel.

5. Treat Heartburn and Eating Disorders

With severe heartburn, stomach acids may escape up into the esophagus. If those acids reach your mouth, they can erode enamel. The eating disorder bulimia, in which people vomit food after they eat, is another threat. If you have symptoms of heartburn or bulimia, talk to your doctor about treatment.

6. Beware of Chlorinated Pools

When swimming pools aren’t chlorinated properly, the water may become too acidic. Tooth enamel exposed to pool water can begin to erode. In a CDC study, 15% of frequent swimmers showed signs of enamel erosion, compared to only 3% of people who didn’t swim. Check with the recreation center or gym where you swim to make sure the pool’s pH is checked regularly. While swimming, keep your mouth closed to avoid exposing your teeth to chlorinated water.

July 17, 2014

The Truth about Enamel Shaping

Is the surface of one of your teeth a little uneven? Do you have a small chip? Does a rough spot on the inside of a tooth irritate your tongue? If so, a quick, inexpensive procedure called enamel shaping may be a great solution.

Enamel is the outer covering of the tooth. It’s a tough shell that protects the softer part of the tooth inside.

“Enamel shaping is used when a tooth needs very fine adjustments — when the surface is a little rough, for instance, or one tooth is a little squarer than a matching tooth,” says Kellee Kattleman Stanton, DDS. She’s a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.

How Enamel Shaping Is Done

To reshape enamel, dentists use the same kind of tools used to polish teeth during a routine cleaning. The goal is to remove a very small amount of the surface to create a smoother look. This is typically done without an anesthetic.

The opposite of enamel reshaping is bonding. This is when a small amount of tooth-colored resin material is added to fill holes or small gaps in teeth. After bonding, dentists use a polishing tool to smooth out the surface.

Together, these procedures are simple ways to improve your smile.