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Luster Premium At-Home Teeth Whitening

I don’t really feel comfortable with dentists but want to whiten my teeth. I saw an advertisement for a DIY kit call Luster Premium At-Home Teeth Whitening. It seems to have one of those light things that dentists use with teeth whitening. Do you know if it is safe? There are some good reviews, but these days it is hard to tell if they are legitimate.

Kristen

Dear Kristen,

teeth whitening trays
Professional teeth whitening trays

Looking at this particular whitening kit, I am glad you wrote before purchasing it. It won’t harm you, but you won’t be getting the whitening you think you are. True teeth whitening kits use a special peroxide gel to get your pearly whites looking youthful and bright again. Many over-the-counter kits have a legitimate ingredient, such as Crest Whitestrips. Though, by law, they are significantly weaker than what you would get with a dentist’s office.

Unfortunately, this kit doesn’t use a legitimate whitening ingredient. The whitening effect they achieve appears to be from a pigment in the zinc oxide. The pigment will stick to your teeth and make them look whiter, but only temporarily. The pigment will only last a few days. My suspicion is many of these positive reviews were written before the pigment wore off.

The light is another issue altogether. It is too weak to be of any effect even if they had a valid teeth whitening ingredient. It appears to be there for psychological effect. So, you essentially have a company using a bogus lamp that is supposed to aid the whitening, with an ingredient that merely colors your teeth.

If you are absolutely committed to doing this without a dentist, I suggest you use Crest Whitestrips. At least their product will work. It will cost you more in the long run to get the same results you would with a dentist, but it will work.

Dealing with Dental Anxiety

You mentioned being uncomfortable with the dentist. I wanted to make sure you knew dental anxiety is a pretty common thing and there are dentists equipped to help. Most dentists who enjoy working with and helping anxious patients will have a way to locate them on the internet by doing a search for a sedation dentist.

There are medicines available that will relax you in the dental chair and give you an anxiety-free and pain-free experience. I’ve found this has changed the lives of patients who were afraid to go to the dentist. Now they are able to get regular dental care and get the work done they’ve been avoiding for years.

This blog is brought to you by Gilbert Dentist Dr. Matt Roper.

CEREC Crown Hurts

I had a CEREC crown done on a tooth. This isn’t my first crown, but it is my first CEREC crown. For some reason, this one hurts when I bite down. Is that something peculiar to this type of crown? I’ve never had that happen before?

Jeff

Dear Jeff,

Man in pain, grabbing his cheek in need of emergency dental care.

I truly do not believe the pain you are experiencing is because it is a CEREC crown. Most of the time, CEREC crowns fit better because they are precisely milled by a computer. So, what COULD be causing your pain?

The first reason could be that the bite is too high. If it isn’t seated in the correct place, then when you bite down all your biting force is going to that one spot instead of being spread across all your teeth. This can cause some substantial pain. If this is the case, your dentist can adjust the crown and you should have no further problems.

You didn’t mention if you’d already been back to your dentist and this has been done. If the crown has been adjusted and you are still experiencing pain, the next step would be to check for a lingering infection. If you had this crown placed after a root canal treatment, there can be a canal that was missed. Though our teeth only have a limited number of canals, many times they have branches that shoot off into other parts of the tooth. A dentist can do everything right and still not be able to get everything the first go-round. In that case, a re-treatment can be tried. If you do need a re-treatment, I generally recommend you see a root canal specialist to increase your chances of success the second time around.

Even if you didn’t have a root canal treatment, there could still have been an infection there. Sometimes, the infections are small and hard to read, but get easier as the infection grows. A simple diagnostic x-ray should help determine if this is the cause of your pain.

I would start with these two avenues of inquiry as they are the most common.

This blog is brought to you by Gilbert Dentist Dr. Matt Roper.
Learn about our dental sedation options.

Discouraged About My Teeth

I stumbled across your website and am hoping you can help me. I’ve never been so discouraged in my life. I grew up in a very poor family and we could not afford the dentist. They were good parents who worked hard, but dentistry is expensive. I have always had bucked teeth and braces were a wild dream. I spent most of my childhood being teased. Then in high school, I developed a tooth infection. I had a root canal treatment done, but we could not afford the follow-up treatment so I was left with a hole in the back of my tooth. Then, my first year in college the tooth broke in half. It was a front tooth! I was a freshman in college with no resources. One of my professors noticed I always put my hand over my mouth when I was talking and offered to get me a dental crown. I literally cried. Fast forward seven years. I’m married and we have dental insurance. The problem I am facing is my teeth need so much work I just can’t seem to keep up. My dentist seems to have given up as well. He even suggested we just extract them and get dentures. I’m barely 26 years old! Is there any way to save my teeth?

Carol

Dear Carol,

Woman covering her mouth with her hand

You have had a rough go of things and I am sorry. I did love the story about your caring professor. The compassionate people in this world give us hope, don’t they? While you have a tough situation with your teeth. It doesn’t sound like you have anything unfixable. The first thing I would do is look for a dentist who is willing to work to save your teeth. It sounds like they one you are currently with may not be the best fit for you.

Whatever you do, don’t let him extract all your teeth and give you dentures. When teeth are removed, your body begins to resorb all the minerals in your jawbone, the result of that is the shrinking of your jaw. In about twenty years, you won’t even have enough bone left in your jaw to retain your dentures. There is a way to preserve that bone, using dental implants, but it is very expensive and I don’t think you truly need your teeth extracted.

There are two things you can do to get a handle on this quicker. The first is at home. Most people think brushing is what keeps their teeth healthy. While it is a major contributor, if you are someone who snacks throughout the day, you are inadvertently sabotaging your efforts. Your saliva is a tremendous weapon against oral bacteria because of the minerals contained in it. If you limit your snacking, then you will give those minerals their best chance of fighting decay.

The second thing is to get as much work done as possible at each visit to try to get ahead of this situation. As I am recommending you find a new dentist anyway, look for one who offers dental sedation, specifically something like oral conscious sedation. This will completely relax you and even allow you to sleep if need be. Patients who use this are able to get significantly more work done at each visit.

Before you know it, you’ll be caught up on that dental work.
Hopefully, this helped.
This blog is brought to you by Gilbert Dentist Dr. Matt Roper.

My Mother’s Teeth are Just Falling Out

I took my mother in for a filling a couple of weeks ago. She is 87 years old. Today she called me and told me a tooth just fell out. I called her dentist and they want her to come in and they’ll do a dental bridge for her. I’m a bit concerned, though. They didn’t even seem to wonder why her tooth fell out. Will this keep happening? Is there an affordable way to help her?

Presley

Dear Presley,

elderly woman smiling

It is wonderful that you are doing your best for your mother like this. Like you, I am concerned about some of what I am hearing. I want to make sure I understand that you said her tooth just fell out. Is that right? For that to happen, it would mean your mother has very advanced periodontitis (gum disease). It would have to be as advanced as it gets. If this is the case, there should have been intervention quite some time ago. I don’t know what your mother’s dentist has been waiting for.

I don’t like the idea of a dental bridge if this is her situation. A bridge is made by suspending a false tooth between two dental crowns that are anchored to the adjacent teeth. This will put additional stress on those teeth, causing them to fail sooner.

I want you to take her to a different dentist and have her evaluated before moving forward. If it is periodontitis, as I suspect, she is going to lose all of her teeth. Ideally, you’d replace teeth with dental implants. However, she is 87 years old and you asked for an affordable dental solution. In her case, I would suggest extracting the teeth and getting her completely removable dentures.

Normally, I do not like to recommend removable dentures because of the bone resorption. However, at your mother’s age it will not have much of an impact on her.

This blog is brought to you by Gilbert Dentist Dr. Matt Roper.

Can a Root Canal Infect a Salivary Gland?

My daughter has had two salivary gland infections and they are both on the same side where she had a root canal treatment done. Is it possible the root-canaled tooth is infecting her salivary gland?

Kerrie

Dear Kerrie,

A woman grabbing her jaw in need of an emergency dentist

I’m sorry about the ordeal your daughter has been facing. That must be painful. The first thing I would suggest is that you have some x-rays done for her tooth with the root canal treatment. In order for the salivary gland to get infected from the root canal, there would have to be an active infection in the tooth.

Root canal failure is fairly common so I wouldn’t be completely surprised if there was an active infection. You should be aware that the chances of a successful procedure go down with each root canal retreatment. If it turns out your daughter does have an active infection, you will have a better chance of success with the follow-up treatment if you go to an endodontist. It isn’t a guarantee, but they specialize in these treatments and will have more experience. Don’t put off the re-treatment. These type of infections are considered dental emergencies.

When a Tooth Cannot Be Saved

Sometimes, a tooth cannot be saved. When that happens, the tooth needs to be extracted and replaced. The best tooth replacement is a dental implant. You didn’t mention how old your daughter is. For her to get a dental implant, she would need to have a fully developed jaw. Until then, a temporary replacement (like a dental flipper) will keep the space open and will cost you less than other replacement options.

If the x-ray determines there is not an active infection, then whatever is going on with her salivary gland will have nothing to do with her dental health. I would suggest further investigation.

This blog is brought to you by Gilbert, AZ Dentist Dr. Matt Roper.

My 5 Year Old’s Teeth are Rotting

I have a difficult 5-year-old. I do brush her teeth, but she is a nightmare when I do it. Actually, she’s a bit of a Tasmanian devil. This is especially true in the dental chair where she refuses to cooperate any time they try to do work on her. She now has one molar with a cavity, two that the dentist is saying need to come out, and decay on several other teeth. What is your recommendation for something like this? I don’t know how to get the work done for her.

Patty

Dear Patty,

Young girl in a dental chair smiling

I can tell you are worried and want the best for your daughter. I do have a way for your daughter to get the dental care she needs with minimal fuss, but I am also going to suggest some tough love to help in the long run with her oral health care. The extensive amount of decay you are describing at her age is almost always a result of constant snacking and drinking.

Our saliva is a big help in the fight against decay. It contains minerals that help fight bacteria between meals. But, when we are snacking or drinking (with the exception of water) too often, it doesn’t give our saliva time to do its job. This leads to extensive decay, even when we have good oral hygiene.

I’m going to strongly recommend you don’t let your daughter eat between meals for a while. She won’t starve and it will help her be hungry for the nutritious meals you make rather than snack throughout the day and not get the value out of the healthy food you make. Juice and soda should also be limited because of the citric acid and sugar contained in both of them.

When you have a child who will not cooperate with their pediatric dentist but there is important work that needs to be done, you may have to use dental sedation. This is sometimes called sleep dentistry because even adults are so relaxed when they use this aid that they can sleep through their entire procedure.

What you don’t want to do is put off this treatment at all. Tooth infections are considered dental emergencies. This is because our jaws are close to our hearts, lungs, and brains. A dental infection can turn life-threatening quickly.

This blog is brought to you by Gilbert Dentist Dr. Matt Roper.

CEREC Crown Disaster

I was told getting a CEREC crown would be a snap and fit better than other crowns. Not only was I in the chair for over three hours, but the crown didn’t fit properly. She said it was because my tooth was in really bad shape so she had to take a general model from the database. It doesn’t fit at all like my normal teeth or even my other crowns. In fact, she had to grind it down because it didn’t fit in properly. Now it hurts. What do I do?

Carol

Dear Carol,

porcelain block for CEREC crowns

Something is wrong here. Let’s start with your dentist’s statement that she had to use a general model from the database. Her reasoning that the tooth was in too bad of shape doesn’t make much sense to me. Of course the tooth was in bad shape. That is the whole point of needing a dental crown! Why would you put a crown on a healthy intact tooth?

CEREC crowns should fit better than other crowns because they are designed and milled using precision software. However, computer software is only as good as the person programming it. Though, this software is pretty user friendly. For instance, let’s say you were missing your lower left molar. Your dentist would program that in and the software would give her a basic shape to use for that type of tooth to start the design. From there, images of your surrounding and opposing teeth give her the remainder of the information she needs to input into the software. Then it designs the crown.

Your crown is uncomfortable and she had to do grinding on the tooth, so clearly this didn’t happen properly. There are so many things that can go wrong with a dental crown. Here are just three:

  • Open margins. If the crown does not fit the tooth perfectly around the complete circumference of the tooth, then you will have a gap where bacteria can get in leading to decay under your crown.
  • Bite Design. When a bite isn’t designed properly, it throws off occlusion and you will end up with painful TMJ Disorder issues.
  • Poor Contouring. If the tooth is not contoured properly, you will have gum inflammation, which will lead to gum disease.

What this boils down to is you need to have this tooth looked at by another dentist. If they can tell you what is wrong with it, you can get either ask her to re-do the crown or ask for a refund and have it redone by another dentist.

This blog is brought to you by Gilbert Dentist Dr. Matt Roper.
We help patients with dental anxiety.

Invisalign and Retainers

I am on my last pair of aligners and need to move out of state. It is rather sudden, but my mother had a stroke and will need a lot of care. I can work from anywhere so I’m going to move there to be closer to her. I don’t know if I will need to find a new Invisalign dentist or if any dentist can give me the retainer I need. I was told it is important to wear a retainer for a while. How do I handle that?

Amanda

Dear Amanda,

An image of Invisalign aligners

I am sorry to hear about your mother. It is wonderful how you are stepping up to take care of her. You will not have to find another Invisalign dentist to finish out your treatment. You are already on your last pair of aligners so you won’t need any further aligners.

Your dentist is correct that you will need a retainer. It is important in order to get your teeth used to their proper alignment. Without that, they will begin to shift again. The good news is, your final pair of aligners can double as a retainer for you. This will take one burden off of your shoulders while you care for your mother. Follow these directions carefully and you shouldn’t have any problems.

Using Invisalign as a Retainer

  • Step One: Wear them as you have been for your treatment for about a month, only taking them out to eat as well as brush or floss.
  • Step Two: Wear them only at night for a month
  • Step Three: Wear them every other night for a couple of months, doing a shift check after the first few days.
  • Shift Check: If when you try to place your aligners in, they seem a tad more difficult than before, it means your teeth have shifted and you need to go back one step.
  • Step Four: Back off a tad more by wearing them once every three or four days for a month or two, being careful to do shift checks.
  • Step Five: Wear them once a week for a month.
  • Final Step: Leave them out completely.

One word of caution here. Make sure you keep your aligners around and periodically give your teeth a check.

Cosmetic Double Duty with Invisalign

There is another benefit to having your Invisalign aligners around. They can double as teeth whitening trays. This will allow you to whiten your teeth while keeping them straight. All your dentist will have to provide you with is the professional strength gel, which will save you a lot of money.

Best of luck to you and your mother.
This blog is brought to you by Gilbert Dentist Dr. Matt Roper.

Antibiotics and a Tooth Infection

I went to see a dentist because of serious pain I was having along with swelling in my cheek that went all the way up to my eye. He said I have a massive infection and gave me some antibiotics. I have been taking them. The infection seemed to be getting better but then got worse again. Now I am out of antibiotics. Do I just call to get a refill or is something else going on?

Morgan

Dear Morgan,

Man in pain, grabbing his cheek in need of emergency dental care.

Are you certain the dentist you went to didn’t tell you to make a follow-up appointment? Antibiotics alone do not cure a tooth infection the way they do with other types of bacterial infections. Instead, they just keep the infection from spreading. The reason tooth infections are different is because, at some point, the pulp inside the tooth dies. This means there is no longer any blood flow to get the antibiotic to the infected tissue.

This means while the infection will seem to improve for a bit, without completing the treatment the infection will return. When that happens, it is dangerous and considered a dental emergency. This is where you are now.

The Solution to a Tooth Infection

The only way to truly solve a tooth infection is to remove the infected pulp. A dentist can do this two ways. The first is a root canal treatment. This is what you want because it will save your tooth. If that doesn’t work or it is too late to save the tooth, your next option is a tooth extraction.

If you end up having to extract the tooth, you’ll also want to replace it. Because you lose the root of your tooth when you have an extraction, you will want to replace that root. The only tooth replacement that does this is a dental implant. Without replacing the root, the minerals in the jawbone where the tooth was will begin to resorb and the bone in that area begins to disappear.

Bottom line, this is serious. Get to a dentist right away and get this treated.
This blog is brought to you by Gilbert Dentist Dr. Matt Roper.

Dental Care for Addication Recovery Patients

I am on methadone treatments while I am in addiction recovery. I have a lot of dental needs as a result of neglect during my years of addiction. I’m in a lot of pain, but the last time I went to a dentist he refused to give me any pain meds for after the treatment. It was excruciating. I don’t know if I can go through that again. Is there any dentist who will understand my situation? I am willing to allow them to talk to both my doctor and counselor. I’m hiding nothing. I just need to get my teeth tended to without having to face agony afterward.

Paul

Dear Paul,

Man in pain, grabbing his cheek in need of emergency dental care.

I am sorry for all that you are facing. You show remarkable courage for both your ability to face your addiction as well as your desire to get your oral health under control. One of the things you are facing is that many dentists are afraid of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which sometimes cracks down without considering the individual case.

What you need is a dentist who is willing to put his compassion above his fear. You may be better served looking for a sedation dentist. They are already compassionate and treat patients with dental anxiety. You may have to do some calling around, but I am convinced you will be able to find one who will be willing to work with you. Be upfront before scheduling and ask to talk to the dentist directly, explaining you have a unique situation.

One other suggestion. With a sedation dentist, you should have the option of using oral conscious sedation(OCS). This will allow you to get more work done in each sitting than would otherwise be possible, enabling you to catch up on your work much sooner. Plus, it is strong enough that if you wanted to, you’d be able to sleep through your dental appointment.

This blog is brought to you by Gilbert Dentist Dr. Matt Roper.