General Dentistry

Tooth Whitening (or “bleaching”)

Why aren’t my teeth white?

The strongest teeth are natural, healthy teeth and these teeth are not necessarily white. Teeth naturally come in many shades of off-white to yellow or gray, depending on several factors. Your enamel itself is a bluish white color, but is also somewhat translucent so that the color of your dentin underneath is what determines the appearance of your tooth color. Time and other factors wear away the outer layer of enamel so the color of the dentin shows through with more prominence. Hair may get whiter with age, but teeth do not!

How can I brighten my smile?

Our office recommends the Opalescence Go whitening system. The whitening trays are pre-filled, disposable trays that contain a powerful whitening gel, as well as potassium nitrate (to reduce sensitivity) and fluoride (to help reduce caries and strengthen enamel). Trays are worn from 15 minutes to 1 hour a day, depending on strength (10% or 15% hydrogen peroxide gel) and one kit contains enough trays for 10 days. Whitening results may last 6 months to 2 years, depending on lifestyle habits and types of food you eat.

How do I protect my smile?

Stains on teeth can be either extrinsic (on the surface) or intrinsic (formed on the interior of the teeth). Several factors contribute to tooth stains. Food/drinks, tobacco use, poor hygiene, medications, age, excessive fluoride, and trauma can all cause discoloration to your teeth. Some lifestyle changes may help prevent this discoloration. Begin with brushing and flossing regularly, and getting your teeth cleaned professionally by a dental hygienist every 6 months. Things to avoid or cut back on are:

Acidic foods (these can wear away your enamel)

Sugary sweets

Coffee or tea




Generally, if a food can stain your clothing, it can stain your teeth!

If you do choose to partake, after eating or drinking anything suspect, have a big sip of water and swish to clear away acids or staining compounds. Actively try to get more saliva into your mouth. Saliva is your mouth’s natural defense against enamel erosion, staining and cavities.

Dental enamel is softer after eating one of the above foods. Wait 30 minutes before brushing, as brushing right away may actually make things worse by wearing away the weakened enamel.

What is Periodontal disease?

Periodontal (meaning “around the tooth”) disease is a progressive gum disease that ranges from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in bone loss, and in the worst cases, tooth loss. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of their disease because it doesn’t typically hurt until it is in the advanced stages. In the early stages, periodontal disease is quite responsive to treatment and much depends on how well you care for your teeth and gums every day.

What are the Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?

  • red, swollen and tender gums
  • gums which bleed easily during brushing or flossing
  • gums which pull away from teeth
  • bad breath that won’t go away
  • pus coming from the gums
  • a change in how your teeth fit together when you bite
  • loose teeth

Healthy gums are pink and firm, fit snugly against the teeth, and do not bleed easily. Bleeding is the body’s way of indicating something is wrong.

What Are the Stages of Periodontal disease?

There are two main stages of periodontal disease.

Stage 1: Gingivitis. This stage is easier to treat as it only affects the gums. Gums are red, swollen, and bleed easily during brushing or flossing. Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.

Stage 2: Periodontitis can occur when gingivitis is left untreated. Plaque builds up beneath the gum line causing inflammation of the gums. If this plaque isn’t removed, the sensitive gum tissues react as they might to a splinter – by drawing away. This creates “pockets” where bacteria lodge and begin to erode the tissue that connects gums and teeth. If periodontitis isn’t checked, these pockets deepen, eventually destroying bone around the roots of the teeth.

How Does One Begin to Treat Periodontal Disease?

The procedure to remove the plaque beneath the gumline is called scaling and root planing. This allows the hygienist to reach further beneath the gum line to clear away the toxins causing inflammation. Under local anesthetic, the hygienist would remove plaque and calculus (tartar) deposits, then smooth the root surface of each tooth to encourage re-attachment of gum tissue. Treatment can be completed in two appointments, each lasting about an hour. Should you need more extensive treatment, we can refer you to trusted periodontists in the area.

The hygienist would take the time as well to explain how to maintain healthy gum tissue at home. Your home care in the form of effective daily brushing and flossing – more than anything else – is the key to successful periodontal therapy.

Dental Fillings

A filling restores the function and shape of a decaying tooth. The decayed material must first be removed and the area cleaned before the tooth can be “filled” with one of several different filling materials. The location and extent of the decay affects the recommended material most appropriate to restore and protect your tooth.

Amalgam Fillings (metal fillings)

Amalgam fillings are strong, long-lasting, and less expensive than other materials. Amalgam has been used for more than 150 years in hundreds of millions of people around the world. The US Food and Drug Administration currently affirms that the material “is a safe and effective restorative option for patients” (

Composite Resin (white fillings)

Composite resins are tooth-colored and can be matched specifically to your teeth. After removing the decayed portion, the surface of the tooth is prepared by applying an etching solution. The resin is then used to fill the cavity, hardened with a high-intensity light and finally polished. While composites typically do not last as long as amalgam fillings, they are preferable where a more natural appearance is desired.

Glass Ionomer (white fillings)

Glass ionomer, another tooth-colored material, is a self-hardening mixture of silicate glass powder and polyalkenoic acid, an ionomer. This is a common material used for fillings below the gum line. Glass ionomer may provide some help against decay because it releases fluoride. Its use, however, is limited as it tends to crack over time and can be dislodged. It is not recommended for biting surfaces in permanent teeth.

Call 410-268-5046

Hours: 8am-5pm Monday-Thursday

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Neil W. Vanik, D.D.S.
1610 McGuckian Street
Annapolis, Maryland 21401