Posts for: January, 2014

By James B. Howell, D.M.D.
January 29, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
HughJackmansShockingTeeth

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.”


By James B. Howell, D.M.D.
January 14, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: root canal   endodontics  
NeedaRootCanalFearNot

Perhaps you or someone you know has been told they will need root canal treatment. Maybe you're experiencing some unexplained tooth pain, and you think you might need to have this procedure done. Nervous? You shouldn't be! A good understanding of this common and relatively pain-free dental treatment can go a long way toward relieving your anxiety.

What's a root canal? It's the small, branching hollow space or canal, deep within the root of the tooth. Like an iceberg in the ocean, a tooth shows only part of its structure above the gum line: That's the part you see when you smile. But about two-thirds of the tooth — the part called the root — lies below the gum. A healthy root canal is filled with living pulp tissue, which contains tiny blood vessels, nerves and more.

A “root canal” is also shorthand for the endodontic treatment that's called for when problems develop with this tissue. For a variety of reasons — deep tooth decay or impact trauma, for example — the pulp tissue may become inflamed or infected. When this happens, the best solution is to remove the dead and dying tissue, disinfect the canals, and seal them up to prevent future infection.

How is this done? The start of the procedure is not unlike getting a filling. A local anesthetic is administered to numb the tooth and the nearby area. Then, a small opening is made through the chewing surface of the tooth, giving access to the pulp. A set of tiny instruments is used to remove the diseased tissue, and to re-shape and clean out the canals. Finally, the cleared canals are filled with a biocompatible material and sealed with strong adhesive cement.

After root canal treatment, it's important to get a final restoration or crown on the tooth. This will bring your tooth back to its full function, and protect it from further injury such as fracture. A tooth that has had a root canal followed by a proper restoration can last just as long as any other natural tooth. And that's a long time.

If you would like more information about root canals, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Common Concerns About Root Canal Treatment” and “Signs and Symptoms of a Future Root Canal.”




Louisville, KY Cosmetic Dentistry
James B. Howell, D.M.D.
3936 Dutchmans Lane
Louisville, KY 40207
(502) 899-7766

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