Our Blog

Should Children Use Whitening Products?

January 18th, 2019

As adults, we often wish our teeth could be as white as they were when we were small children. Baby teeth have thinner and whiter enamel than adult teeth, and those brilliant smiles are a result! But occasionally, you may be surprised to discover some staining or discoloration on those lovely first teeth. You might be tempted to apply a whitening product to your child’s teeth, but, please—read on!

Causes of Staining

  • Improper Brushing—Often, a loss of tooth whiteness means that plaque has built up on the tooth surface. Careful brushing is needed to remove bacteria and plaque, and if your child isn’t brushing at least twice a day for two minutes, discoloration can be the result.
  • Medications—When given in liquid form, or when added to formula or food, iron supplements can cause dark grey staining on the teeth. Medications taken by a mother while pregnant or breast feeding, such as tetracycline, can also lead to discoloration.
  • Injury—If a tooth suffers a serious injury, the tooth can darken because of changes inside the enamel.
  • Health conditions—Certain health problems can cause tooth discoloration, or sometimes children are born with weaker enamel that is more likely to stain.

If you have noticed any staining on your child’s primary teeth, call our Arlington, TX office. Simple stains can often be removed with better brushing techniques, and we can clean other surface stains in the office. Staining caused by an injury or a health condition is something we can discuss in detail with you. We can even use some professional whitening methods if those are indicated.

Why not just buy a home whitening kit for your child? There are several important reasons to leave these products on the shelf while your child is young.

  • Whitening kits are designed for adults. They have been tested for adult teeth in adult trials. Check the box for age appropriate use. Most products are not recommended for pre-teen children.
  • Remember that thinner enamel we mentioned earlier? Add to that the delicate skin of young children, and it’s sensible to be cautious about using a bleaching agent that can cause mouth and tooth sensitivity even in adults.
  • There is no body of evidence available as to the short and long term effects of using these products on children.

If you are concerned about the brightness of your child’s smile, please talk to Dr. John Witte. We can recommend better ways to brush at home, clean your child’s teeth in the office, or suggest professional methods of whitening if there are physical or psychological reasons that it would be valuable. But while your child is young, those off-the-shelf whitening products can wait a few more years.

Broken Tooth: Is It an emergency or not?

January 11th, 2019

Have you ever had that sinking feeling after biting into something soft and chewy and feeling something hard and crunchy instead? You’ve chipped or broken a tooth, but what should you do next? First try to assess the damage by determining whether it’s a chip or a whole tooth.

As Dr. John Witte will tell you, a broken or chipped tooth is usually not a dental emergency unless you are experiencing a great deal of pain or bleeding, but you should contact us for an appointment shortly afterward. Be sure to mention that you have a broken tooth so we can fit you into our schedule quickly. After a thorough evaluation, we’ll recommend a course of action. If it is a small chip, we may simply smooth it out. For a larger break, the dentist may fill in the space with a composite material that matches your other teeth.

Emergency Dental Care

If you are in severe pain, are bleeding excessively, have a major break, or have lost a tooth, that is a dental emergency and you should contact us. As emergency dental specialists, we’ll be able to schedule an appointment immediately and advise you on the next steps to take.

You can rinse your mouth with warm water and apply pressure to stop the bleeding. An ice pack will help reduce any swelling. Do not take any aspirin as that could increase the amount of bleeding. Should your tooth be knocked out completely, rinse it under running water but do not scrub it. Hold the tooth only by the crown, or the part you normally see above the gum line, not by the root. If you can, put the tooth back into the socket while you travel to our office, or put it in a mild salt solution or milk. Don’t let the tooth become dry, because this can lead to damage. Once you get to our office, our dentist will determine whether the tooth can be saved or if it will need to be replaced.

A broken tooth may not always be an emergency, but it’s best to have it treated with us at John B. Witte, DDS, PC. While it may only be a cosmetic problem at first, if left too long without treatment, you may experience further damage to your tooth and mouth.

Four Oral Health Issues Seniors Face

January 4th, 2019

Oral health is an important and often overlooked component of an older person’s general health and well-being. Dr. John Witte and our team know that for many of our older patients, oral health can become an issue when arthritis or other neurological problems render them unable to brush or floss their teeth as effectively as they once did. Today, we thought we would discuss four common oral health issues our older patients face and how they can avoid them:

Cavities: It’s not just children who get tooth decay—oral decay is a common disease in people 65 and older. Ninety-two percent of seniors 65 and older have had dental caries in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The risk for tooth decay increases because many older adults don’t go to the dentist as often as they used to, thus cavities go undetected and untreated for longer than they should. Keeping regular appointments with Dr. John Witte is the key to getting cavities treated in a timely manner.

Difficulty eating: Oral health problems, whether from missing teeth, cavities, dentures that don’t fit, gum disease, or infection, can cause difficulty eating and can force people to adjust the quality, consistency, and balance of their diet.

Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is a common issue for a lot of seniors. Our friends at the Oral Cancer Foundation estimate that 20 percent of elderly people suffer from dry mouth, which means the reduced flow of saliva (saliva plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay). Many seniors are on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or conditions. Common medications taken that may cause dry mouth are decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, pain pills, incontinence medications, antidepressants, diuretics, muscle relaxers, and Parkinson’s disease medications. To help counter this, we suggest drinking lots of fluids and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol. We also encourage you to check with Dr. John Witte during your next visit if you think your medications are causing your mouth to feel dry.

Gum Disease: Gum (periodontal) disease is an infection of the gums and surrounding tissues that hold teeth in place. While gum disease affects people of all ages, it typically becomes worse as people age. In its early stages, gum disease is painless, and most people have no idea that they have it. In more advanced cases, however, gum disease can cause sore gums and pain when chewing.

Gum disease, which can range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease, is usually caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow dental plaque to build up on the teeth. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar that brushing simply does not clean. Only a professional cleaning at our office can remove tartar. The two forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, and can bleed easily; in periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces that become infected.

Proper brushing, flossing, and visiting our office regularly can prevent gum disease. Seniors with limited dexterity who have trouble gripping a toothbrush should ask Dr. John Witte about modifying a handle for easier use or switching to a battery-powered toothbrush.

What's the connection between gum disease and diabetes?

December 28th, 2018

People who have diabetes are usually familiar with many of the other health risks they face, including damage to the nerves, eyes, heart, and kidneys. But did you know that if you have diabetes you also have a much greater chance of developing gum disease? It's true, and like other diseases related to diabetes, the risk potential severity of gum disease is directly related to how well blood sugar is controlled.

The Causes

In diabetics, there are two primary mechanisms that increase the risk of developing gum disease, also called periodontal disease:

  • Bacterial growth: Bacteria love sugar including the glucose found in blood and bodily fluids. Elevated levels of sugar in saliva can provide a very hospitable environment for bacterial growth. The risk may be elevated if your gums bleed.
  • Circulatory changes: In diabetes, the blood vessels become thick, making it more difficult for blood to carry oxygen to the gums and to carry away harmful waste products. This decrease in circulation can weaken the mouth's natural resistance to decay. If you smoke, circulation can become even more compromised, significantly increasing your risk of periodontal disease.

Preventing Gum Disease

If you're diabetic, the number-one key to preventing gum disease is to make sure you do all you can to keep your blood sugar under control. In fact, studies show diabetics who have excellent control of their blood sugar levels have no more risk for gum disease than those who don't have diabetes. Here are some other tips to keep your gums healthy:

  • Floss your teeth gently, curving the floss so it can gently reach just below your gum line to remove plaque and food particles. Rinse your mouth when you're done flossing.
  • Use a soft-bristle brush to brush teeth twice daily, using small circular motions. Avoid pressing too hard on tooth surfaces.
  • Brush your tongue gently to remove germs that can hide there.
  • Use an anti-bacterial mouthwash to kill germs that are hard to reach.
  • Keep track of how well your blood sugar is controlled and let Dr. John Witte know at each visit.
  • Be aware that having diabetes may mean it takes you longer to heal after undergoing oral surgery.

Most importantly, be sure to visit our Arlington, TX office for regular checkups and tell Dr. John Witte about your diabetes so you can be sure to get the care you need. Follow these steps, and you can enjoy healthy teeth and gums for years to come.