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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tooth Discoloration: Causes and Treatments

Tooth discoloration can be the cause of great embarrassment and can make people feel self conscious about smiling. It is important to remember that no one’s teeth are naturally perfectly white and it’s normal for our teeth to become duller as we age. The normal aging process means that as the outer enamel wears away, the natural colour of the dentin underneath can result in teeth appearing discoloured. Nevertheless, important lifestyle factors also play a large part in tooth discolouration and it is important to recognise these.


In addition to the normal aging process, there are two main causes of tooth discoloration:

  • Extrinsic: This occurs when the outer layer of the enamel becomes stained because of the consumption of certain substances. Consumables that can cause tooth discoloration include:
    • Food and drink such as coffee, tea, wine, cola, tobacco and certain fruits and vegetables e.g. apples and potatoes
    • Smoking or chewing tobacco
    • Poor dental hygiene that results in the accumulation of stain-causing particles
  • Intrinsic: This happens when the internal structure of the tooth, the dentin, darkens or develops a yellow hue. This can be caused by a number of things:
    • Exposure to too much fluoride during childhood
    • Chipped teeth which can cause discoloration due to nerve or enamel damage
    • Medication such as tetracycline and doxycycline antibiotics, some antihistamines, antipsychotics and antihypertensives
    • Several diseases such can affect the colour of the enamel or dentin. In addition, treatment such as chemotherapy can also cause discoloration

How can I prevent tooth discoloration?

Having a good dental hygiene routine can prevent extrinsic tooth discoloration. This includes brushing your teeth after every meal. Dentists also recommend rinsing your mouth with water immediately after consuming foods or drinks that could stain your teeth, such as coffee, wine or cola. Seeing a dental hygienist every six months for a professional clean will also assist in the removal of extrinsic stains.

How can I treat tooth discoloration?

Treatment options for tooth discoloration vary depending on the cause. Ensuring that you regularly brush and floss your teeth is the first step. Avoiding foods and drinks that cause stains is highly recommended. In addition, tooth discoloration can also be treated through the use of over-the-counter whitening products. These products contain a weak bleach formula that is applied to a mouthpiece that sticks to your teeth. Whitening toothpastes can assist in the removal of light stains but do not change the overall colour of your teeth. For a stronger treatment, it is recommended that you visit your dentist who will apply a strong light-activated bleaching agent to your teeth in a professional way. This method results in your teeth becoming significantly whiter in 30 – 45 minutes.

Oral Care and Pregnancy

Even though expectant mothers have so many new things to think about, it is very important that they don’t forget to look after their dental health. Dental care is especially important during pregnancy due to the impact of hormonal changes.

Pregnancy and Gingivitis

Hormonal changes can not only make some pre-existing dental conditions worse, but can also increase the likelihood of the development of gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and, if left untreated, periodontitis (gum disease). It is estimated that as many as 40 % of women will develop gingivitis during their pregnancy.

The reason that gingivitis is so common in pregnant women is because of the rise in progesterone levels, which makes gum tissue more sensitive as well as the mouth becoming a favourable environment for the growth of bacteria that cause gingivitis. Pregnant women will most commonly see a change in their gum health between the second and eighth week of pregnancy. To assist in the prevention of gingivitis, it is important that pregnant women practice good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing daily as well as using an antimicrobial mouthwash. It is also important that expectant mothers inform their dentist so that he/she can look for the first signs of gum disease.

Morning Sickness and Oral Hygiene

Morning sickness is a common and unpleasant aspect of pregnancy that can have an impact upon oral health. Due to the increased acid in the mouth due to vomiting, dental erosion can occur. Rinsing with mouthwash is recommended immediately after vomiting and teeth should only be brushed once this has occurred to prevent further enamel damage. Changing to a bland-tasting toothpaste during pregnancy can be helpful if morning sickness is problematic. Dentists and dental hygienists can give recommendations.

Dental Treatment to Avoid During Pregnancy

As a precautionary measure, dental treatments during the first trimester and second half of the last trimester should be avoided as much as possible as these are crucial times in the baby’s development. It is recommended that dental x-rays are avoided during the entire pregnancy. If x-rays are a necessity because of a dental emergency, dentists will exercise extreme caution when performing them, as the radiation from x-rays can be harmful to the unborn baby. Fortunately, advances in medical technology mean that x-rays are much safer now than in the past.

Safe Dental Treatment During Pregnancy

Preventative dental examinations and cleans are not only safe during pregnancy but are recommended. These consultations are an important measure in the prevention of oral health issues that can develop during pregnancy.


How to Deal With Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

We all deal with stress in different ways. Commonly, stress can manifest itself in a condition known as Bruxism, which is the grinding, gnashing or clenching of your teeth both either during the day or while you sleep (sleep Bruxism). While most people grind or clench their teeth on occasion, repeatedly doing so is harmful and can result in teeth becoming damaged and cause other oral complications.

Causes of Bruxism

The cause of Bruxism is not always clear and can be the result of a variety of psychological and physical conditions. Possible causes include:

  • Emotions such as stress, anxiety, frustration and anger
  • A coping strategy to deal with the above emotions
  • A hyperactive, competitive or aggressive disposition
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
  • An abnormal bite
  • A side effect of some medications such as antidepressants and phenothiazines

Signs and Symptoms

If you have Bruxism, you may experience one or more of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Teeth grinding or clenching which may wake your sleep partner
  • Jaw or face soreness
  • Tired or stiff jaw muscles
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Dull headaches
  • Pain similar to that of an earache
  • Tips of the teeth appear flat
  • Worn tooth enamel, exposing deeper layers of your teeth
  • Tongue indentations
  • Painful or loose teeth
  • Fractured teeth
  • Damage from chewing the inside of your cheek

When to see your dentist:

You should make an appointment to see your doctor or dentist if you experience any of the above symptoms. He or she will determine if you have Bruxism and if so, the best course of treatment.


Your dentist will examine your teeth, mouth and jaw and will ask you some general questions about your dental health, the levels and sources of stress in your life and the medications you are currently taking. If you share your bedroom with another person, the dentist may wish to consult with that person as well to determine whether the grinding sounds are often heard during the night. If Bruxism is suspected, your dentist may take an x-ray.

If your Bruxism is stress-related, your dentist can refer you to a professional counsellor or suggest some strategies for stress-management. A specially designed mouthguard may be fitted to help protect your teeth at night. If the condition is the result of tooth problems or the misalignment of your jaw, your dentist will correct this. If you developed the condition as a side effect of a medication, your dentist can recommend you to see your doctor to discuss the possibility of switching medications.

Cavities: Treatment Solutions

At some stage in your life it is likely that your dentist will inform you that you have a cavity and consequently need a filling. This is a standard dental procedure and generally an uncomplicated one.

What are Cavities?

Cavities are permanently damaged areas in your teeth that, over time, turn into holes. Cavities can be caused by a number of different factors including bacteria in your mouth, frequent consumption of sugary snacks or drinks and poor oral hygiene habits. All of these factors can result in tooth decay, which causes cavities. If left untreated, cavities can increase in size and can result in toothaches, infection and even tooth loss.

Symptoms of Cavities

  • Toothache
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Pain when you bite down
  • Brown or dark stains on the surface of your tooth
  • Visible holes or indentations in your tooth
  • Dental Examination

It is important to see your dentist if you experience any of the above symptoms. Your dentist will also check for cavities as part of your routine dental examination. This involves:

  • Asking about tooth pain and sensitivity
  • Examining your teeth
  • Probing your teeth with dental instruments to discover any soft areas which might indicate a cavity
  • Analysing a dental x-ray which will show the extent of the cavity
  • Treatment

Depending on the severity of the decay, a cavity can be treated in the following ways:

Fluoride treatment (remineralization): used in the early stages of tooth decay, fluoride can help the affected tooth restore itself without further intervention. The teeth are coated with either a gel varnish, foam or liquid solution that acts to strengthen the tooth’s enamel. Your dentist may apply the fluoride treatment directly onto the teeth or may place it in a device that fits over your teeth. The treatment only lasts a few minutes.

Filling: When the tooth decay is more advanced and the damage permanent, a filling is required. Your dentist will anaesthetise the area before using a dental drill to remove the cavity and associated tooth decay. The tooth is then filled with a tooth-coloured resin, porcelain or silver amalgam material.

Crown: When the tooth decay is particularly developed, a crown may need to be fitted. After anaesthetising the area, the dentist will remove all of the decay and will take a mould of your tooth. This mould is then used to create a crown, which is a covering that fits snugly over your tooth. This treatment is only necessary if the tooth decay is very extensive.

Root canal: This is the most drastic treatment for cavities that are so extensive that they have spread deep into the root of your tooth or when the inside of your tooth dies. After administering anaesthetic, the dentist will make an incision in the top of the tooth and will insert an implement that will reach all the way into the root. This implement is used to remove all of the decay from inside the tooth and in the root. The tooth will then be sealed with a rubber-like substance to prevent further decay.

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