THE TRUTH ABOUT SOME COMMON DENTAL MYTHS

The profession of dentistry has experienced an amazing evolution over its lifetime. References to tooth decay can be found in various ancient texts. At one time, a local barber would provide haircuts and pull troublesome teeth in the same shop. Dentistry evolved from these humble beginnings to what we know today: a structured medical discipline where patients benefit from evidenced-based care. Oddly enough, though, several oral health myths and misconceptions have failed to fade away....

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SIMPLE STEPS TO MAINTAIN YOUR ORAL HEALTH

On the list of common reasons people avoid the dentist, cost is usually near the top. It is a fact — some dental treatments are expensive. However, you have some control in working to avoid pricey dental procedures. Two of the best ways to avoid needing expensive dental treatments are to visit a dentist regularly for an exam and cleaning and following proper dental hygiene advice every day.

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COMMON SLEEP DISORDER WREAKS HAVOC ON THE BODY

The National Sleep Foundation estimates over 18 million adults in the United States, or about one in every 15 people, suffer from sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that interrupts breathing, resulting in disruptive sleep. Individuals suffering from obstructive sleep apnea will experience a repetitive (partial or complete) airway collapse throughout their sleep, which prevents air from reaching the lungs.

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WHAT TO CONSIDER IF YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT WHITENING YOUR TEETH

People often ask if do-it-yourself, at-home options or over-the-counter products are as useful as in-office treatments dentists can provide. Studies have shown results are about the same, so these can be a viable option for some. The difference is the time it takes to achieve those results. With in- office whitening, the time commitment to achieve results is significantly reduced, but patients will pay more for the convenience of the treatment.


Individuals can roughly expect to complete five days of in-home treatment to achieve the same results as one hour of in-office whitening. The strength of ingredients in do-it-yourself options can vary greatly. Additionally, if you use an at-home kit, be sure to follow directions carefully to avoid potential side effects such as increased tooth sensitivity or bleached/burned gums. Also, keep in mind overuse of at-home whiteners can damage tooth enamel (the protective outer layer on teeth) and gums, so follow instructions! If you choose an at-home option, look for products that carry the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance; these items meet the ADA’s criteria for safety and efficacy.


Whether you choose in-office or at-home treatment, not all stains can be removed. Darkness caused by tooth decay, long-term use of a particular

medicine or trauma (“internal” stains) can not be removed during a whitening process. Whitening can be used to address “external” stains such as those obtained from eating and drinking.


Some people will be more sensitive to the whitening process than others. There are various strategies for dealing with sensitivity from whitening. Some people find using desensitizing toothpaste helps them, while others may take a two- or three-day break between at-home treatments. Alternatively, if you go the DIY route, you may look for a product with lower strength. Talk with your dental care provider for suggestions.


Certain groups of people should avoid whitening their teeth. These include people who have gum disease, pregnant or breastfeeding women and adolescents who still have primary or baby teeth. Additionally, the Academy of General Dentistry recommends teenagers wait until they are least 14 years old to allow the pulp of their teeth to fully form and thus reduce possible sensitivity that could occur during the whitening process. Depending on the type of treatment being used, individuals undergoing orthodontic care may also want to wait until their treatment is over before starting any whitening process.


Whichever whitening option you choose, remember results will not last forever. Your lifestyle choices, including your oral hygiene routine and what you eat and drink, will continue to impact the appearance of your teeth. You may elect to whiten again in a few months or years. You can also consider changing your habits to try to keep your teeth whiter longer.


Whether you decide on an in-office or an at-home treatment, both can help whiten your smile. Be sure to keep in mind the sequencing of any dental work you may be planning, speak with your dental provider about your goals before you start whitening and follow instructions no matter which route you choose.

DR. MOHAMED BAZINA


Dr. Robert Taylor is an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. His clinical interests include surgery, endodontics, clinical teaching, and curriculum development. Dr. Taylor sees patients at the UK Dentistry Faculty Practice Clinic, located in the Dental Science Building at 800 Rose Street, Lexington. More information about UK Dentistry is available at  www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu/dentistry.

Over time, teeth can take on stains from consuming everything from coffee and tea to foods with tomato-based sauces and even some medicine. This darkens teeth’s natural color. Whitening your teeth can be one of the simplest and most effective aesthetic procedures in dentistry to make you happier with your smile. Before starting any whitening treatment, there are a few items to consider.


Timing is critical when incorporating teeth whitening into a treatment plan. If you are having treatment performed, such as restorative dentistry, which may include fillings or veneers made of porcelain or ceramic, this work should take place after whitening because these materials won’t change color during any whitening process. Also, keep in mind that if you whiten before having restorative dental work done, your dentist may want to allow your teeth time after whitening to remineralize to better ensure restoration longevity.


It’s a good idea to have your teeth cleaned right before starting any whitening treatment. Removing any tartar or other sediments, which may block whitening products from reaching some areas, can be beneficial to your results. During your cleaning, your dentist can speak to realistic expectations for your teeth should you pursue whitening. Following your cleaning, it will be essential to maintain good oral hygiene practices to avoid future unwanted build-up on teeth.