Posts for: December, 2016

By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
December 30, 2016
Category: Dental Procedures

Academy Award-winning actress Kathy Bates knows how important it is to present your best face to the world — and one of the most important features of that face is a beaming smile. But there came a point when she noticed something was a little off. “I've always had good teeth, but it seemed to me as I was getting older that they weren't looking as good,” Kathy explained in a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine.

That's when she decided it was time to take action. Kathy had orthodontic treatment when she was in her fifties, and she keeps her smile bright with tooth whitening treatments. She uses a kit provided by her dentist with a safe, effective whitening solution.

Of course, a bright, healthy smile looks great anywhere — whether you're on the red carpet or “off the grid.” And you don't have to be a Hollywood star to have professional whitening treatments. In fact, teeth whitening is one of the most popular and affordable cosmetic treatments modern dentistry offers.

The basic options for professional teeth whitening include in-office bleaching or take-home kits. Both types of dentist-supervised treatments offer a safe and effective means of getting a brighter smile; the main difference is how long they take to produce results. A single one-hour treatment in the office can make your teeth up to ten shades lighter — a big difference! To get that same lightening with at-home trays, it would take several days. On the plus side, the take-home kit is less expensive, and can achieve the same results in a bit more time.

It's important to note that not all teeth can be whitened with these treatments. Some teeth have intrinsic (internal) stains that aren't affected by external agents like bleaches. Also, teeth that have been restored (with bonding or veneers, for example) generally won't change color. And you can't necessarily whiten your teeth to any degree: Every tooth has a maximum whiteness, and adding more bleach won't lighten it beyond that level. Most people, however, find that teeth whitening treatments produce noticeable and pleasing results.

What about those off-the-shelf kits or in-the-mall kiosks? They might work… or they might not. But one thing's for sure: Without a dentist's supervision, you're on your own. That's the main reason why you should go with a pro if you're considering teeth whitening. We not only ensure that your treatment is safe — we can also give you a realistic idea of what results to expect, and we will make sure that other dental problems aren't keeping you from having a great-looking smile.

How often does Kathy Bates see her dentist for a checkup and cleaning? “I go about every four months,” she noted. “I'm pretty careful about it.” And if you've seen her smile, you can tell that it pays off. If you would like more information about teeth whitening, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered” and “Teeth Whitening.”

By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
December 23, 2016
Category: Oral Health
Tags: brushing  

It might seem like a simple task but you wouldn’t believe how many people aren’t brushing as effectively as they should.

Okay, okay…so we know that you brush your teeth twice a day (right?), so it probably feels pretty routine by now. After all, you have been brushingbrushing your own teeth for quite some time. But have you ever stopped to think about the fact that perhaps you may not be brushing properly? It might sound crazy but our Gaithersburg and Kensington, MD dentists, Dr. Kenneth Woo, Dr. Edmond Woo and Dr. Ho Kai Wang, are here to provide a little insight to see whether your tooth-brushing game could step it up a bit.

Here are some proper brushing techniques to always follow:

  • Always angle your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward the gums.
  • Gently use a back-and-forth motion with the brush over each tooth.
  • Focus on the outer surfaces of your teeth, and then the inner surfaces followed by chewing surfaces.
  • To clean the inner surfaces of a tooth, turn the brush around vertically and brush in an up-and-down motion.
  • Make sure to brush your tongue, since a lot of bacteria can buildup there and cause bad breath.

Along with these tips for how to brush, here are some other handy oral care tips from our Gaithersburg and Kensington general dentists:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day for a minimum of 2 minutes each time.
  • Always opt for a soft-bristled toothbrush that can easily fit into all areas of your mouth.
  • Look for a fluoridated toothpaste that is ADA-approved.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months or once the bristles begin to fray. Frayed bristles can be too harsh on enamel and wear teeth down more easily.
  • You should also replace your toothbrush after an illness, as bacteria can be harbored in the bristles and cause illness.
  • Remember that on top of brushing, flossing daily, following a healthy diet and getting regular professional cleanings are all part of great oral care.

Do you need to schedule your six-month cleaning? Do you have questions about caring for your smile? No matter what you need, Dr. Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates in Gaithersburg and Kensington, MD are here to help. Call us anytime!

By Kenneth Woo, DDS and Associates
December 15, 2016
Category: Oral Health
Tags: jaw pain  

If you're suffering from jaw pain or impaired function, it may not be the only source of chronic pain in your body. Of the millions of adults with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD), many have also been diagnosed — among other conditions — with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis or sleep problems.

TMD is actually a group of painful disorders that affect the jaw joints, muscles and surrounding tissues. Besides pain, other symptoms include popping, clicking or grating sounds during jaw movement and a restricted range of motion for the lower jaw. Although we can't yet pinpoint a definite cause, TMD is closely associated with stress, grinding and clenching habits or injury.

It's not yet clear about the possible connections between TMD and other systemic conditions. But roughly two-thirds of those diagnosed with TMD also report three or more related health conditions. Debilitating pain and joint impairment seem to be the common thread among them all. The similarities warrant further research in hopes of new treatment options for each of them.

As for TMD, current treatment options break down into two basic categories: a traditional, conservative approach and a more interventional one. Of the first category, at least 90% of individuals find relief from treatments like thermal therapy (like alternating hot and cold compresses to the jaw), physical therapy, medication or mouth guards to reduce teeth clenching.

The alternative approach, surgery, seeks to correct problems with the jaw joints and supporting muscles. The results, however, have been mixed: in one recent survey a little more than a third of TMD patients who underwent surgery saw any improvement; what's more alarming, just under half believed their condition worsened after surgery.

With that in mind, most dentists recommend the first approach initially for TMD. Only if those therapies don't provide satisfactory relief or the case is extreme, would we then consider surgery. It's also advisable for you to seek a second opinion if you're presented with a surgical option.

Hopefully, further research into the connections between TMD and other inflammatory diseases may yield future therapies. The results could help you enjoy a more pain-free life as well as a healthy mouth.

If you would like more information on TMD, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Chronic Jaw Pain and Associated Conditions.”