Posts for: January, 2014
Refined sugar — most commonly consumed as table sugar or high fructose corn syrup — has developed a reputation as Public Health Enemy #1 among many consumers. These consumers are seeking ways to cut back or even eliminate refined sugar from their diets.
But that may be easier said than done because of our innate “sweet tooth” — the basic human desire for the taste of sweetness in our food. It's been demonstrated to have a biological basis, tapping into the “feel good” reward centers of our brain. For many of us, this desire is a craving that begs to be satisfied.
Artificial sweeteners are now used by many consumers to satisfy this desire apart from refined sugar. The question is, are they safe for your health and well-being? And when it comes to your teeth, do they hinder or promote good oral health?
As to the first question, all the major types of artificial sweeteners (saccharine, aspartame, sucrolose, acesulfame K and rebaudioside A) have undergone rigorous test trials and research for many years. The result, amid wide scientific agreement, is that they indeed are safe if consumed in acceptable levels, and all are FDA-approved.
In recent years different kinds of sweeteners called sugar alcohols (like Xylitol) have been approved as safe and are growing in popularity. The biggest difference between these and the traditional artificial sweetener is a low presence of calories while artificial sweeteners contain none.
So how do these two categories affect dental health? Of greatest significance is that, unlike refined sugar, these sweeteners do not feed the growth of decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. In fact, there is some evidence that sugar alcohols may actually reduce bacteria levels.
While there are still some concerns that artificial sweeteners may contribute to overeating or metabolic problems, there are no current official guidelines against their use. And when used moderately, there is evidence that Xylitol may even be an effective weapon in the fight against tooth decay.
If you would like more information on artificial sweeteners and how they may affect your oral health, 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 “Artificial Sweeteners.”
Australian heartthrob Hugh Jackman has won international recognition for his work on stage, screen and television, including his long-running portrayal of Wolverine in the X-Men film series, and his Academy-Award-nominated starring role in Les Miserables. Oh, and did we mention he was named the “sexiest man alive” by People magazine in 2008? So when Jackman once said “I have shocking teeth”… what did he mean?
“[My dentist] looked at my teeth and went, ‘Oh, my God, you've got gray teeth,’” the actor stated. The proposed cure: tooth whitening. But what if the action hero's teeth were brightened too much — would his look still convey his trademark rugged charm? To see how that issue was resolved, let's look a little closer at various methods of tooth whitening.
All Whitening Isn't the Same
Everyone has seen the kind of over-the-counter tooth whitening strips advertised in magazines and sold in drug stores. Most dentists agree that, given enough time, they can work in many cases. But there may be problems, too.
One is that unless you know what's actually causing the darkening, you can't be sure if there is an underlying issue that needs treatment — a root-canal problem, for example. Bleaching a diseased tooth is like painting over a rusty car: it camouflages the problem, but doesn't fix it. That's one reason why, before any whitening treatment is attempted, it's important to have a complete dental examination, with x-rays.
Another is that without professional supervision, it's more difficult to control the degree of whitening you will end up with. For safety reasons, over-the-counter whitening products have the least concentrated bleaching agent, and will probably require weeks of use to produce noticeable results. The next step up — a custom-designed, at-home bleaching kit from our office — will likely produce results twice as fast.
The Professional Advantage
At-home bleaching done under our supervision uses stronger whitening agents with a flexible plastic tray that's custom-made to fit your teeth. It's a cost-effective way to achieve several shades of whitening in a relatively short time. Plus, with the advantage of our experience and guidance, you can get excellent results safely and efficiently.
If you want the fastest and most controllable whitening, however, in-office whitening treatments are the best way to go. According to one study, using the most concentrated whiteners in a safe clinical setting produced a six-shade improvement in just three office visits! This would have required a week or more of at-home bleaching, or upwards of 16 daily applications of the over-the-counter whitening products!
In-office whitening also offers the greatest degree of control over the outcome. That's why it was the method Hugh Jackman chose for his treatments. By adjusting the concentration of the bleaching solution and the treatment time, Jackman's dentist made sure his teeth were pleasingly light — but still looked completely natural. And in our office, we can do the same for you.
So whether you're looking for a dazzlingly bright smile or a more subtle enhancement, the best way to start is to call our office for a consultation. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered” and “Teeth Whitening.”