Posts for: March, 2015
After months of treatment we’ve removed your braces and your new smile emerges. Upon closer view, however, you notice a number of chalky white spots on your teeth.
These pale areas are white spot lesions (WSLs), the result of mineral breakdown from the long-term contact of acid with the enamel surface. The underlying cause is built-up bacterial plaque due to inadequate oral hygiene, and as such WSLs are the beginning stages of tooth decay.
While anyone can develop WSLs, brace wearers are highly susceptible because of the extra care required to clean around orthodontic hardware. Poor dietary habits such as frequent snacking on sugary or acidic foods and beverages also increase the risk of WSLs.
To reduce the risk of developing this condition, brace wearers must give extra attention and effort to daily oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing. The extra effort required in brushing can be aided by specialized toothbrushes designed to clean around brackets and wires, along with prescription-level fluoride toothpastes for added enamel strength. Floss threaders or a water flosser, a device that uses pulsating water under high pressure, may help you maneuver around hardware to remove plaque between teeth. It's also important to maintain a healthy mouth environment by limiting intake of sugary or acidic snacks and beverages, avoiding tobacco or excessive alcohol or caffeine, and drinking plenty of water to keep your mouth from drying out.
If you’ve already developed lesions, it’s important to stop the decay process before it causes more damage. One way is to assist your body’s natural mechanism for re-mineralizing tooth enamel with fluoride pastes or gels or re-mineralizing agents, or undergoing micro-abrasion to repair a tooth’s surface.
To improve a tooth’s appearance a procedure known as “caries infiltration” involves injecting a liquid tooth-colored resin into the lesion, which is then hardened with a curing light. The spot becomes less noticeable and appears more like normal enamel. For extensive defects, conventional bonding with composite resins or porcelain veneers can be used to cosmetically cover the tooth.
Getting ahead of the problem with effective oral hygiene and good dietary and lifestyle practices will keep WSLs at bay while you undergo orthodontic treatment. If they do develop, however, there are ways to minimize their effect and restore the look of your teeth.
On his way to the top of the urban contemporary charts, the musician, actor and entrepreneur known as 50 Cent (born Curtis James Jackson III) earned his street credibility the hard way; his rise from youthful poverty to present-day stardom is chronicled in many of his rhymes. So when it came time for the rapper to have cosmetic work performed on his teeth, he insisted on doing it in his own way.
“I told [the dentist] to leave [my front teeth] a little bigger than the other ones, because I need to still see me when I look in the mirror,” he told his co-host on the New York radio station Power 105.1. “Don't give me no whole ’noter guy — I like me!”
We understand how 50 Cent feels — in fact, we think it's a perfectly reasonable request.
Cosmetic dentistry has come a long way in recent years, as we strive to meet the increasing expectations of our patients. We realize that different people have different perceptions of what makes a smile attractive — and that in dental aesthetics, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. That's why, before we begin cosmetic work, we want to hear what you like and don't like about your smile as it is now. In addition, we can also perform what is called a “smile analysis.”
This procedure doesn't cause any discomfort — but it's a crucial part of cosmetic enhancement. In doing the analysis, we look at the various parts of an individual's smile: the spacing, size and alignment of the teeth; the health and position of the gum line; the relationship of the upper and lower jaws; and the relative shape and size of the face. All of these features combine to make a person's smile unique. By looking at them closely, we can help determine the best way for you to improve your smile.
But how can you tell if the cosmetic changes you're contemplating will end up being just right for you? Fortunately, with today's technology, it's easier than ever. Computer imaging offers a chance to visualize the final outcome before we start working on your teeth; it's even possible to offer previews of different treatment options. If you want to go a bit further, we may be able to show you a full-scale model of your new smile.
In some situations, we can even perform a provisional restoration — that is, a trial version of the new smile, made with less permanent materials. If the “temporary” smile looks, feels, and functions just right, then the permanent one will too. If not, it's still possible to make changes that will make it work even better.
Whether you're thinking about having teeth whitening, cosmetic bonding, porcelain veneers, or dental implants to improve your smile, you probably have a picture in your mind of how the end result should look. Will your teeth be perfectly even and “Hollywood white” — or more “natural,” with slight variations in size, spacing and color allowed? Either way, we can help you get the smile you've always wanted.
If you would like more information about smile makeovers and options in cosmetic dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cosmetic Dentistry.”