Recently, I was asked to participate in an Internet chat session for ShopRite® supermarket. It was an open forum where people could ask whatever dental questions they wanted. The chat was very productive, and I thought I would share some of the great questions and my answers with you.
Q: Hey, do those whitening toothpastes really work?
A: Over the counter whitening toothpastes have only been shown to whiten teeth two shades. In contrast, a dentist-supervised tooth whitening system can whiten teeth 12 to 15 shades.
Q: What’s up with these multiple varieties of toothpastes anyway? You’ve got your “tartar control,” your extra whitening, your mint flavor gel, etc. How do I know which toothpaste to buy these days? Help!
A: That's a good question. The type of toothpaste you use should be based on the condition of your teeth and gums. Your dentist is the best person to suggest what toothpaste you need based on the condition of your mouth. I would point out, however, that the frequency of brushing teeth, flossing and regular visits to the dentist play a much greater role in improving oral health than which brand of toothpaste you are using.
Q: I’ve heard that you aren’t supposed to have your teeth cleaned while pregnant. Is this true? Why?
A: No, that is not true. In fact, hormonal changes during pregnancy can make the gums more susceptible to irritation and inflammation. You should have your teeth professionally cleaned at least twice during pregnancy. It is recommended that routine check up X-rays be avoided during pregnancy. If a tooth is infected, however, dental X-rays can safely be taken without any danger to the unborn child.
Q: I use mouthwash and it actually hurts my gums when gargling. Is this normal?
A: Yes, some people do experience discomfort when using mouthwash at full strength. I recommend that you dilute the mouthwash with water by at least 50 percent (half mouthwash, half water). That should solve the problem. I would also recommend that you visit the dentist to evaluate your teeth and gums.
Q: Is it safe for small children under the age of 8 to use mouthwash?
A: I would not recommend the routine use of mouthwash unless directed by your dentist. If a mouthwash is recommended, its use should be supervised with small children.
Q: What are some alternatives to braces? Also, if my dentist tells me I need them, should I get a second opinion?
A: If your dentist believes that you need dental braces, you should go to an orthodontist for his or her opinion. If the teeth need to be straightened, there are some alternatives to braces that your orthodontist can offer. One recent development is that the orthodontist, working with a high-tech lab, can make a series of customized mouth guards (clear acrylic) that can move the teeth and straighten them in some cases. If you are looking for a cosmetic alternative to braces, porcelain veneers can also make teeth appear straight without the use of braces. Good luck!
Q: I’m quite a chain smoker and I’m getting my wisdom teeth removed this weekend. My dentist warned me not to smoke for a while after the procedure, but I know I will. Is it really that bad? Will a few cigarettes cause problems?
A: Yes, smoking after dental extractions can increase the rate of complications. Some of the complications that can occur from smoking after oral surgery include increased bleeding and increased likelihood of a painful infection of the extraction socket (dry socket). If you must smoke and know that you cannot stop for 24 hours, my only suggestion would be to take very light drags of the cigarette and direct the smoke away from the areas where the teeth have been removed. However, it is best to stop smoking for at least 24 hours after the procedure.
Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.