I’m obsessed with bleaching my teeth!

I hate to admit it, but I am kind of obsessed with bleaching my teeth. I had trays made by my dentist and I use them two to three times a week. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that they are not white – they actually look gray. What’s going on? — Shelby

Dear Shelby,
Most people think that the more they whiten, the whiter their teeth will be. Unfortunately, when it comes to teeth whitening, less is best. Most of the at-home whitening systems use carbamide peroxide as the main bleaching agent and it can actually damage the gums if it’s used too much. But even worse, teeth can also become brittle and chalky and the edges can become thin – resulting in that translucent or grey color you are noticing.

Dental professionals need to warn patients about the risks associated with overusing teeth bleaching products. It sounds like you have bleached too much for too long and you need to give your teeth a break. There’s no guarantee that your teeth will return to their normal color and strength, but if you don’t stop now, it will only get worse.  Get some Sensodyne ProEnamel toothpaste to help with remineralization and just back off. You may need to make an appointment with your dentist if they stay gray in color or get even darker. If they have become very weak, they could chip or cause other problems, and you’ll be likely looking at some restorative procedures down the road.

This post is sponsored by New Orleans cosmetic dentist Dr. Duane Delaune. Read more about why many consider Dr. Delaune to be the best dentist in New Orleans.

If my implant is loose, will I have to pay to have it fixed?

It’s been a couple of years since I had a missing tooth replaced with an implant and now I think it might be loose. It was very expensive to have done and I don’t want to risk it falling out, but I’m afraid it will cost more money to fix or replace it. That’s just something I can’t afford right now. If it does need redone, will I have to pay for it? — Reed

Your implant should not be loose. Make an appointment as soon as possible with your dentist so that he or she can take a look and determine exactly what part of the implant is loose and why. While it could just be the crown that’s loose or even the abutment or the actual implant, he won’t know the best way to fix it or if there will be any additional costs until he can get a good look.

If the implant failed or malfunctioned, there’s a good chance that the manufacturer might give the dentist a replacement free of charge. But maybe your implant crown just needs re-cemented – that would be a simple and easy fix. For most patients, implants should last for many years, but nothing is guaranteed and there are instances where an implant can fail or be rejected. If you are responsible for any out-of pocket costs it should be significantly less than what you paid for the implant.

This post is sponsored by New Orleans cosmetic dentist Dr. Duane Delaune. Read more about why many consider Dr. Delaune to be the best dentist in New Orleans.

Is it an emergency if I lost my healing cap?

Six months ago I had implant surgery and I’m currently waiting for it to heal completely so I can get the crown placed. Today, I noticed a large hole in my mouth – it completely freaked me out! I think the healing cap must have come off and I have no idea where it is. This is costing me so much and now I’m worried that I could get an infection or potentially damage the implant. Why do these things always happen on the weekend? I left a message on my dentist’s answering service, but I’m not sure if he will even call me back until Monday. Can it wait until then? — Ann

Dear Ann,
First, take a breath and try to relax. While healing caps don’t typically fall off, it can happen and there’s likely not any immediate concern.

After six months, the soft tissue around your dental implant should be well on the way to being healed so the chances of an infection are pretty slim. The main thing you want to watch until you can get it fixed is that you don’t injure the area – eating softer foods can help. If you notice food getting caught, try to pack it with cotton or gauze, or you can use a temporary denture adhesive that is found in the dental section of most grocery or drug stores to cover it.

Your dental implant should be fine looking at the long-term. Just be sure to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible before the tissue could collapse or try to heal over the top. If you wait too long, that could make it much more difficult to place the crown.

This post is sponsored by New Orleans cosmetic dentist Dr. Duane Delaune. Read more about why many consider Dr. Delaune to be the best dentist in New Orleans.

Is it True That Ancient Egyptians Whitened Teeth with Urine?

I’m trying to come up with low-cost ways to bleach my teeth so I don’t have to get Zoom whitening done at my dental office. I know it sounds gross, but I swear I heard that people in Egypt used to use urine to make their teeth whiter. Is this true? If so, is it safe? — Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,
You’re pretty close on your history. It was actually the ancient Romans who gave their teeth urine baths. Ammonia, which is a common household cleaner, can be found in urine, and does have the ability to brighten a smile. Although it’s effective, it takes some time and the Romans were advised to make it part of their regular regimen. It’s no surprise that, today, most people prefer Zoom whitening because it’s faster, more predictable, and, of course, a lot less gross!

The Egyptians, on the other hand, were more prone to using a pumice mixture. Interestingly, pumice is still found in the prophy paste hygienists use to polish teeth today. Although it can help remove stains on the surface of a tooth, it can’t get stains that have seeped into a tooth.

Either case may be considered a step up from the methods used in the early 19th century. Barbers, who were often the one-stop-shop for all things hair, medical, and dental-related, used to shave teeth down and apply acid to them. Sure, they became whiter, but without the protective enamel, they also decayed rapidly.

Techniques have improved over the years because there was a need for it. Zoom whitening is a highly popular option because it delivers results safely,  quickly, and consistently. If you’re hoping for quality results, but need a smaller price tag than in-office Zoom whitening, ask your dentist about custom-made take-home trays. Take-home systems work in a very similar manner and provide results over a period of days or weeks, depending on how often you use them, the strength of the solution, and how long you wear them. Plus, they do so without giving you ammonia-breath, and your close family and friends are sure to prefer the newer, more professional methods, for that very reason.

This post is sponsored by New Orleans cosmetic dentist Dr. Duane Delaune. Read more about why many consider Dr. Delaune to be the best dentist in New Orleans.