What you should know before whitening your teeth

Teeth Whitening Before and AfterIf your eyes are the window to your soul, perhaps your mouth is the window to your thoughts, feelings, and dreams. Every day we want to live as our best self, and if you’re hiding your teeth from years of accumulated stains, you may not be able to.

If you don’t feel that your teeth are at their whitest and brightest, our office uses a variety of teeth whitening techniques that can make your teeth gleam. Whether you want in-office or at-home treatments, we have many options for you!

Teeth Whitening FAQ’s

Q: What causes my teeth to turn yellow or brown?
A:  There are natural and habitual reasons for your teeth to be discolored. The most common is food or drink; coffee, tea, colas, wines, and certain foods like cherries or potatoes can cause surface stains that can stain further if teeth are not taken care of. Using tobacco or smoking can also result in stains, as well as certain medications, disease, or genetics.

Q: How do I know if I am able to get my teeth whitened?
A: First, you will need to set up a consultation with us so we may assess your oral health and decide on the best whitening method for you. If you have sensitive teeth or periodontal disease, we can recommend non-chemical whitening treatments to avoid tender teeth or gums. Every case if different, but we’re here to help!

Q: Is tooth whitening harmful to my enamel?
A: There is no permanent damage caused to enamel or other tooth structures by teeth whitening. The immediate effect may be tooth sensitivity, which will typically go away within one or two days after the treatment. After that short period, your teeth will return to its regular state of sensitivity

Q: How long will it last?
A: Depending on the type of teeth whitening procedure you have done, it can last from 6 months to 2 years. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry reports cases in which teeth whitening has lasted for 10 years. After your whitening treatment, it’s best to avoid red wine, coffee and smoking, which can all cause teeth to become stained.

Q: I have fillings. Will whitening affect them?
A: Whitening your teeth have little to no effect on restorative materials such as porcelain crowns, but it can temporarily reduce the bond strength between enamel and composite restorations, like fillings. If you have cavities when we do your pre-whitening evaluation, we may advise certain care instructions for your teeth if you have fillings, veneers or crowns.

Q: Is a whitening toothpaste enough to help whiten my teeth?
A: Typically, whitening toothpastes will only clean surface stains of your teeth. If your teeth have had years of stains, it will be nearly impossible to remove them with just a whitening toothpaste.

Q: What are the types of whitening services that you offer?
A: We offer different options based on your needs. We evaluate what type of whitening treatment you need or can have based on the current health of your teeth, your preferences, and your habits. In some cases, teeth that are yellow respond best to bleaching. Brown, gray, mottled teeth, or teeth exposed to too much fluoride, may be more challenging to whiten. We use Zoom teeth whitening, which is a revolutionary in-office process that gets your teeth their whitest in just over an hour. If you’d prefer an at-home treatment, our whitening kits are easy to use and achieve great results in 4-6 weeks.

Q: Is there any type of procedure other than my pre-whitening visit that I will need to have done?
A: First we will need to do a professional cleaning to remove external staining caused by food and tobacco. The regular use of a whitening toothpaste, as we mentioned, removes surface stains will help us in this process. After your cleaning, if you are having an in-office teeth whitening procedure, we are able to begin.

You should have the smile you deserve. And we can help you get there! Have more questions for us? Comment below, or contact us! To schedule an appointment or inquire about other services, call us at 239-936-0597.

A Toothache… Might be a Tooth Abscess

Girl with sore cheeckPatients may feel that their toothache is run-of-the-mill, however, if you have a severe, continuous toothache, you may have an abscessed tooth.

A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that’s caused by a bacterial infection, usually occurring from an untreated dental cavity, injury, or prior dental work. In some cases, dentists will be able to save the tooth with a root canal treatment, but may need to be pulled depending on the condition of the tooth. Leaving an abscessed tooth untreated can lead to serious complications— a patient could even develop sepsis, a life threatening infection that spreads throughout the body. Patients with weakened immune systems are even more at risk for developing serious disorders from a tooth abscess.

The main symptom of a tooth abscess is a toothache, which could be described as gnawing, sharp, shooting, or throbbing. If you have a tooth abscess, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Severe/persistent/throbbing toothache
  • Sensitivity to pressure of chewing, biting, or hot and cold temperatures
  • Fever
  • Swelling the face or cheek—extremely serious symptom
  • Swollen glands under the jaw or neck
  • Foul-smelling or foul-tasting fluid in your mouth and pain relief if abscess ruptures
  • Breath odor
  • Bitter taste or pain when chewing

Sometimes, there will appear to be swelling of the gum over the infected tooth, which could look similar to a pimple. Poor dental hygiene and a diet high in sugar can increase your risk of tooth abscess. It’s important to remember to properly take care of your teeth and gums by brushing at least twice daily and flossing once per day. Frequently eating or drinking foods high with sugar can contribute to dental cavities that turn into a tooth abscess.

The goal of our treatment is to cure the infection, save the tooth, and prevent any complications.

To treat the infection, we will need to evaluate your condition by doing the following:

  • Tapping on your teeth: a tooth abscess at its root is generally sensitive to touch or pressure. This is how we find out which tooth the abscess is associated with.
  • X-ray: an X-ray of the aching tooth can help identify an abscess.

Treatment options include:

  • Draining the abscess: the dentist makes a small cut into the abscess, allowing pus to drain out, then wash the area with saline water.
  • Perform a root canal: this procedure can help eliminate the infection and save your tooth. To do this, the dentist drills down into your tooth, removes diseased pulp, and drains the abscess. Then the dentist seals the tooth’s pulp chamber and root canals, and caps with a crown.
  • Pull the affected tooth: in some cases, the tooth may not be able to be saved.
  • Prescribe antibiotics: if the infection is limited to the abscessed area, you might not need an antibiotic. But, if the infection has spread to nearby teeth or other areas, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics to keep the infection from spreading further.

Once you have the treatment, there are some small things you can to do help the infected area heal and to ease discomfort:

  • Rinse your mouth out with warm water
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers, like Tylenol or Advil, as needed

Once the treatment has healed it’s important to take care of your teeth to avoid another infection from occurring. Our suggestions are:

  • Brush teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Use dental floss daily
  • Replace your toothbrush head every three months
  • Eat a healthy diet, with limited sugar and in-between meal snacks

If you are having symptoms that correlate with a tooth abscess, it’s important to see a dentist right away. Contact our office to set up an appointment! Click here or call us at 239-936-0597.


The Ugly Truth About Canker Sores


What are Canker Sores?

Many people have canker sores on occasion, but most don’t really know what causes them. Canker sores, otherwise known as mouth ulcers, are normally small lesions that develop in your mouth or at the base of your gums. They can be uncomfortable and can cause challenges with eating, drinking, and talking, are not contagious, and usually go away within a week.

Canker sores result from bacteria, viruses, or fungi, which inflame the lining of the mouth, causing swelling, redness, and ulcer formation. The most common locations for canker sores include the inside of the mouth, on the tongue or lips.

What causes canker sources?

There is no exact cause behind canker sores, however, a few causes have been identified.

  • Minor injury from dental work, hard brushing, sports injury, or accidental bite
  • Dental care products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sensitivities to acidic food, such as strawberries, pineapple, or even chocolate or coffee
  • Vitamin deficiency—lack of essential vitamins like B-12, zinc, folate and iron
  • Allergic response to bacteria in the mouth
  • Stress
  • Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections,
  • Hormonal influxes during menstruation

Types of Canker Sores

It’s a good idea to take a look at the canker sore and decipher what kind of sore it is. Canker sores have three different types:

  • Minor: minor canker sores are small and oval shaped, will not result in scarring, and will heal within 1-2 weeks
  • Major: these canker sores are larger and deeper than minor sores. This type has irregular edges and can take up to 6 weeks to heal
  • Herpetiform: this type of sore is not common. Most often, these sores are located in the posterior mouth, will have irregular edges, and may come with more than one sore. This will heal within two weeks, most likely without scarring.

When do I see a dentist?

If you develop any of the following, please call our office at 239-936-0597 to set up an appointment right away:

  • Large canker sores in your mouth
  • New canker sores before the old one heals
  • A canker sore lasting more than 3 weeks
  • Severe issues eating and drinking
  • Sores that don’t hurt
  • Mouth sores that extend to your lips

How can I treat a Canker Sore Myself?

If you don’t have any of the serious conditions or symptoms above, there are a few things you can do to help your mouth heal quicker.

  • Use a topical paste or gel, such as Orajel Ultra Canker Sore gel
  • Placing damp tea bags on your mouth or sore
  • Take nutritional supplements, such as chamomile tea, Echinacea or licorice
  • Using a rinse of saltwater and baking soda
  • Apply ice to canker sore
  • Placing milk of magnesia on the sore
  • Avoid foods that could irritate your mouth, such as citrus (oranges, pineapple) and spicy foods. Try eating whole grain foods and eliminating acidic fruits and vegetables until it clears up

At Shane McDowell, we care about you and your family’s dental health! If you are suffering from long-term, painful canker sores or have any of the severe symptoms listed above, contact our office or email us at info@myfortmyersdentist.com to schedule an appointment.


Wisdom Teeth – To keep or not to keep

shutterstock_109517087Wisdom teeth are technically referred to as the third molars. These are the last teeth to come in during young adulthood at a time where people are acquiring “wisdom” about life. Typically third molars emerge when people are between the ages of 17 and 25. The once commonly held wisdom was that all wisdom teeth needed to be removed in order to be safe. Though, these days some wisdom teeth can be kept for life as long as they are healthy and positioned properly.

So, how do you decide to keep or not to keep your wisdom teeth? As a part of your visit at the Shane McDowell Dentistry, we will examine you to determine if your wisdom teeth are impacted or in the right position. We will also check for healthy gum tissue and the environment surrounding your third molars.

An impacted tooth is unable to break through a person’s gums because there is not enough room. If your tooth is impacted, it would most likely need to be removed. This is because if left in the mouth, impacted wisdom teeth can potentially damage nearby teeth, or become infected. Impacted teeth can also cause the formation of cysts. When cysts develop they can lead to more serious issues, possibly damaging surrounding nerves, teeth and other areas of the mouth.

Since the condition of your mouth changes over time, even if you are not experiencing symptoms from wisdom teeth eruption, it is very important to get your regular dental check-ups for monitoring. In general, if you experience the following symptoms, it may be time to remove your wisdom teeth:

  • Pain
  • Infection
  • Cysts
  • Tumors
  • Damage to neighboring teeth
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay

If you do decide to keep your wisdom teeth, please be sure to take special care of brushing and flossing your molar area. Annual x-rays of your wisdom teeth will also help to ensure the well-being of your teeth and gums is being monitored. We care about your daily oral health routine and look forward to continuing to serve you! For more information or to schedule an appointment with us, please visit our website at www.myfortmyersdentist.com or call (239) 936-0597.

Conquering dental anxiety – what to know before you go

shutterstock_152749163The thought of visiting a dentist can cause anxiety and even fear for some. Common concerns according to our patients include perceived poor oral health, fear of pain, being in an enclosed area or of the instruments used. For the most part, dental visits are pain-free, but if it’s been a while since you last visited the dentist, my staff and I want to help ease your anxiety with a few helpful pointers on what to know before you go.

First, having dental visit anxiety is very common. Many Americans will avoid going to the dentist due to anxiety. Though, it’s important to emphasize that avoidance of dental evaluations and preventive care can cause things like gum disease to get worse and lead to premature tooth loss.

Next, if you are meeting me or a new dentist for the first time, it can be very helpful to connect with our front office staff to inquire on what the intake process is like. Asking questions about your upcoming appointment and explaining some of your concerns up front can help ease your anxiety. Then, when you are at your appointment, know that asking questions and having an open discussion about your dental health is a welcomed part of the process. We usually don’t get into teeth cleaning right away and enjoy the time to connect with our patients.

If a major concern is perceived poor oral health, the good news is that there are many advanced techniques available for diagnosis and treatment of a variety of dental issues. Tooth decay, for example, is treated based on the severity. After x-rays and an evaluation, I will determine the location and size of the cavity and discuss what method of treatment may be the best. This will help you make an informed decision on treatment options. So, for some, cavities can be treated with fillings and the procedure is usually done within minutes.

If the tooth decay is more severe, then the treatment options may include a crown, a root canal or possibly an extraction. These procedure options will be discussed in great detail by our staff so that you are able to feel most comfortable about the procedure. At our practice, we also offer convenient payment options for these services – so if that is a concern, remember that you have choices.

People who may feel embarrassed about their smile due to chipped, crowded or gapped teeth should also know that there are excellent cosmetic dentistry options that can greatly improve confidence. Our dentistry practice specializes in a variety of general and cosmetic oral health care treatments. We deeply care about your questions and dental health concerns and invite you to call us today at (239) 936-0597 or visit our website for more information www.myfortmyersdentist.com.

At Shane McDowell Dentistry, we pay special attention to our patient’s comfort, as well as health, so you can even visit our website’s photo gallery to see pictures of the office and patient rooms before your first appointment!

New Year’s Resolutions for a Healthier Smile

shutterstock_73635604Each New Year we turn a page and discover new opportunities to increase our energy, our happiness and our health. While the typical New Year’s resolutions may include losing weight, getting more exercise, eating healthier and reducing stress, we wanted to recommend some positive dental-friendly resolutions that can play an important role in good oral health for 2014.

Below are our mouth-healthy resolutions for 2014:

Quit smoking or using tobacco products: Tobacco products are more than just harmful to your body, they cause bad breath, stained teeth, dulled sense of taste and smell, gum disease and even oral cancer. Quitting is the only way to reduce your risk of these or other related tobacco health issues. We recommend that putting a plan together and getting support through people you know will best help with this resolution. Those that have been successful in smoking or tobacco cessation have used methods like exercise, chewing gum and sometimes, medication. Talk with your dentist or doctor about medication available to help you in your plan to quit.

Start (or keep) brushing 2 times a day for 2 minutes: Always brush at least twice a day for two minutes with a soft-bristled brush for healthier teeth, great breath, less cavities, and to avoid painful dental problems. Not sure you’ve been brushing for two minutes? Try using a stop watch to time yourself.

Floss at least once daily: Flossing is also an important part of being mouth healthy. The most important thing about flossing is to do it at a time where you can devote a couple of extra minutes to your dental hygiene. Some people who get extra tired at night choose to floss their teeth in the morning or even after lunch. If you’ve just started to floss and it is uncomfortable, that is normal. Keep flossing each day and you will notice the discomfort will go away in about a week or two. Talk to a dentist if you find the pain persists.

Chew sugarless gum: Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay. Look for chewing gum that carries the ADA Seal, your assurance that the sugar-free chewing gum has met the ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness.

Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables: Many foods and beverages, especially those high in sugar, can cause an increase in cavities. Paying close attention to your eating habits will reduce your risk of developing cavities and other more progressive dental problems.

Drink fluoridated water: Fluoride helps prevent cavities by making teeth more resistant to the acid attacks that cause cavities.

Rounding off our list of dental-friendly New Year’s resolutions is to ensure you visit a dentist every six months. Regular dental visits will help you stay mouth healthy for life. For more information or to schedule your next appointment, please visit us at www.myfortmyersdentist.com or call (239) 936-0597.

How Diabetes Affects Oral Health

When there is too much sugar in the bloodstream of a person with diabetes, it causes ashutterstock_93866083 variety of potential health problems, including dental issues. The most common problems from diabetes include gingivitis, periodontitis, thrush, dry mouth and burning mouth. Each dental health issue is accompanied by symptoms like swollen gums, pain in the mouth, bad breath that doesn’t go away, sore white or red patches on the gums, tongue or cheek and others.

To prevent serious dental health complications from diabetes, it is important to control blood sugar levels and adhere to the following recommended practices:

  • Eat healthy:  Keeping your blood glucose level at a target range requires eating healthy carbohydrates, fiber-rich foods, and watching portions. Foods that may benefit your dental health include cheese, milk, leafy greens, almonds, and eggs. Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water! Flouridated water is your most tooth-friendly beverage.
  • Brush your teeth a minimum of twice a day: Brushing the right way with fluoride toothpaste can dramatically reduce any progression of symptoms from gingivitis. For best brushing, the American Dental Association recommends selecting a soft-bristled brush that is comfortable to hold for necessary brushing. If it’s possible to brush three times a day, that is also recommended. Brushing should last at least two minutes.
  • Get regular dental check-ups and cleanings:  With regular check-ups, your dentist can help you manage any diabetes related oral health concerns. For example, patients who experience thrush (a growth of fungus in the mouth) or xerostomia (dry mouth) may be provided medicine by their dentist. Deep dental cleanings are typically provided to patients who have periodontitis, which is a more severe form of gum disease.

Elevated glucose levels increase plaque growth in the mouth, which causes tooth decay and cavities. Though, with proper monitoring, a healthy daily routine and regular visits to Shane McDowell Dentistry, you can maintain a healthy, happy smile. For more information or to schedule your next appointment, please visit us at www.myfortmyersdentist.com.

How to choose the right mouth rinse

We’vemouthwash_87709747 all been there. Walking down the aisle of the pharmacy and seeing one too many mouth rinses’ to choose from. They all promise to protect your teeth, make your pearly whites whiter, and make your breath the freshest it can be. So, how do you know which one is right for you?

There are three major categories of mouth rinses – fluoride mouth rinses, anti-gingivitis and anti-plaque mouth rinses, and cosmetic and therapeutic mouth rinse products.

Fluoride mouth rinses

You never stop needing fluoride, and the truth is most people don’t get enough. Did you know that 85% of all adults experience tooth decay? Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by helping your body strengthen your teeth enamel, which is the protective white layer that covers your teeth. Using fluoride toothpaste can help with tooth decay, but fluoride toothpaste doesn’t help everyone.

Some fluoride toothpastes actually dry out the mouths of some consumers, so people with dry mouths might find a fluoride mouth rinse is a better fit for them. “Severe dry mouth can lead to a change in the bacterial balance of your mouth, while too much bad bacteria can lead to tooth decay,” says Michelle Henshaw, DDS, MPH and assistant dean for community partnerships and extramural affairs at Boston University, Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. “Fluoride mouth rinses can help prevent these problems.”

If you are not using a fluoride toothpaste, you might want to start using a fluoride mouth rinse to see if you like it. Talk with your dentist if you have any questions.

Anti-gingivitis and anti-plaque mouth rinses 

According to the American Dental Association, anti-plaque, anti-gingivitis, antibacterial, antimicrobial or chemotherapeutic mouth rinses reduce bacterial count and inhibit bacterial activity that can cause gingivitis, a form of periodontal (gum) disease.

It is a good idea for adults to use this kind of mouth rinse. “Although brushing and flossing are the key components of good oral health, we don’t always do as good a job with these tasks as we should. Anti-plaque and anti-gingivitis mouth rinses can give a boost to your dental care habits by killing potentially damaging bacteria,” said Henshaw.

Mouth rinse to freshen your breath 

Many mouth rinses are available for you that make your breath smell nice and fresh, however, they don’t offer any long-term dental health benefits.

Cosmetic mouth rinses may temporarily control or reduce bad breath and leave your mouth feeling nice and fresh; however, they don’t deal with the underlying cause of why you have the bad breath. They don’t kill the bacteria that cause bad breath or chemically inactivate odor causing compounds. Also, none of the cosmetic mouth rinses helps reduce plaque, gingivitis or cavities.

If I can give you any advice when choosing a mouth rinse, its choose a mouth rinse product that has the ADA seal of approval. For a complete list of ADA approved mouth rinses click here.

The office of Dr. Shane McDowell is here to help you with any questions or concerns that you may have dealing with any oral health concerns you may be having. Please call 239-936-0597 or visit www.myfortmyersdentist.com/appointment to schedule an appointment with Dr. McDowell and his excellent staff today.

Fluoride 101

If you aren’t practicing good dental hygiene – regular dental visits, brushing twice a day, and flossing daily – your teeth will become susceptible to the acid-producing bacteria that collect around your teeth, called plaque. Another key ingredient that people tend to forget about when practicing good dental hygiene is using fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that fluoridehelps prevent tooth decay, and can actually help and repair teeth in the beginning stages of dental disease. There are two forms of fluoride: topical and systemic.

Topical fluoride is applied directly to the tooth’s enamel. The most popular topical fluoride comes in the form of toothpaste or mouthwash. Systemic fluoride is swallowed. Examples of systemic fluoride are fluoridated water and dietary fluoride treatments.

Dentists have used in-office fluoride treatments for decades to help protect their patients oral health, especially when their patients develop tooth decay. In an article written by the American Dental Association, some factors that may increase a person’s risk of developing tooth decay include the following:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Lack of regular professional care
  • High levels of bacteria in the mouth
  • Poor diet
  • Existing fillings
  • Tooth enamel defects

If you or anyone you know are at high risk of tooth decay, the office of Dr. Shane McDowell provide a full array of dental care services, and pay special attention to your comfort and health. Dr. Shane McDowell recommends using a fluoride rinse at night, which can help protect the enamel from decaying. Call or go online to schedule an appointment with Dr. McDowell to make sure your mouth is in the best shape possible. Visit www.myfortmyersdentist.com/appointment or call (239) 936-0597.

Heart and Mouth Healthy

When you go in for your routine dental cleaning, you are not only helping to keep your mouth clean, but you are also helping your heart.

New research suggests that people who have had their teeth professionally cleaned at least once every two years were 24 percent less likely to have a heart attack, compared with those who skipped those professional cleaning. The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting.

Researcher and head of this study, Zu-Yin Chen, MD, a cardiology fellow at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan, reviewed the records of more than 100,000 people in Taiwan’s national health insurance database. About half had received at least one cleaning, finding that the other half has never had a cleaning. “Results showed that people who had more than one cleaning a year had the lowest risk of heart attack and stroke,” said Chen.

“Something as simple as having good dental hygiene — brushing, flossing, and having regular cleanings — may be good for your heart and brain health,” says Ralph Sacco, MD, head of neurology at the University of Miami.

The office of Dr. Shane McDowell wants to make sure your mouth and your heart are in the best shape possible. From examinations and cleanings to restorative procedures such as root canals, extractions and gum treatments, you can trust Dr. McDowell for all of your dental health needs. Dr. McDowell and his team provide the full array of dental care services with special attention to your comfort and health.

To make an appointment for your regular dental cleaning, please call (239)-936-0597 or go online to www.myfortmyersdentist.com/appointments to make your appointment today!