Bicarbonate of soda teeth whitening

bicarbonate of soda teeth whiteningAs the demand for cosmetic dentistry increases people are often wondering if there are alternate ways to whiten teeth, we’ve heard of people trying coconut oil, charcoal, and bicarbonate of soda. This post is going to focus mainly on bicarbonate of soda teeth whitening.

In order to know if baking soda is effectively using teeth whitening, indeed, in order to know if ANYTHING is effective in teeth whitening let’s look at how teeth whitening works in conjunction with cleaning your teeth (coconut oil, charcoal, and bicarbonate of soda are all typically used as a toothpaste to whiten teeth).

Ways to whiten your teeth

In order to whiten teeth you need to do one of the following:

  1. abrade the surface to remove any surface stains
  2. remove the surface stains altogether by bleaching

Teeth bleaching works by having a released amount of hydrogen peroxide in a gel. The oxygen molecules in the gel react with the discoloured molecules in your teeth, this reaction breaks down the bonds that hold these molecules together, consequently, the discolouration disappears.

Removing tooth surface gives the illusion of whitening by removing any surface stains. However, if the tooth itself is actually darker then you’d like no amount of surface abrasion is going to whiten it.

Throughout the following questions we will always be linking back to this part of this blog post and asking the question, how is this whitening your teeth?

What does toothpaste do?

This is the next important question we need to consider. Because coconut oil, charcoal, and bicarbonate of soda are typically used in toothpaste it’s important to understand what toothpaste does and how it works. We can then compare any toothpaste against this standard and ask ourselves if the toothpaste is actually working.

Toothpaste typically has 3 main ingredients:

  1. a mild abrasive.
  2. fluoride.
  3. A mint taste.

The mild abrasive is often dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate or similar. The particle size and quantities are carefully measured to ensure the toothpaste cleaned adequately without damaging your teeth.

The fluoride is there as it has been shown that fluoride helps in the remineralisation process which is required in order to keep the enamel of your teeth healthy. Throughout the day your teeth will be subject to acid attack and they become demineralised, it’s important that the remineralisation process is maintained and fluoride helps with this.

The mint taste is simply to make the whole process more palatable.

It’s really important that any toothpaste you use contains fluoride as without it the toothpaste is not working as effectively as it could.

So now we know how teeth whitening works and what toothpaste does, let’s look more specifically at baking soda products.

Does baking soda really help whiten teeth?

The very simple answer is yes, however it only whitens teeth by abrading the surface and removing surface stains. This comes with a couple of potential problems:

  1. excessive abrasion causing tooth wear
  2. if you only use baking soda to clean your teeth you aren’t adding any fluoride to your tooth

If the tooth abrasion continues for a long period of time you can find that the hard outer layer of the tooth (enamel) gets worn away, this is particularly prevalent around the neck of the tooth where it joins the gum. This can cause sensitive teeth in the long-term!

If you only use baking soda to whiten your teeth and don’t use regular toothpaste then you will be missing out on the protection that a toothpaste provides if it contains fluoride.

The other problem with using a mixture of baking soda and water is that whilst it may effectively remove stains, such as coffee, tea or red wine it won’t actually whiten the inherent colour of your tooth. in order to whiten the tooth beyond removing surface stains when you will need to use conventional dental teeth whitening products.

Does brushing your teeth with Sodium Bicarbonate damage them?

If used in the long-term then yes sodium bicarbonate could damage your teeth. Sodium bicarbonate can lighten teeth by removing surface stains but it does this by simply being an abrasive. If you use an abrasive on anything for an extended period of time then one of the side-effects could be that you lose vital tooth structure.

This could result in increased sensitivity of your teeth making an extremely uncomfortable or even painful.

If you are not using conventional toothpaste you could also exacerbate this process by not having any fluoride, fluoride helps with the remineralisation of the enamel and if this remineralisation is not happening then the abrasion could be more aggressive.

Does lemon and baking soda whiten teeth?

We highly recommend that you do not use lemon juice to whiten teeth. Lemon juice is extremely acidic with a pH level between 2 and 3 meaning it is 10,000 – 100,000 times more acidic than water! This acid, when coupled with the naturally occurring acid which is excreted from the bacteria in your mouth could lead to excessive dental decay.

Does baking soda prevent plaque in teeth?

Baking soda will not prevent plaque in teeth. Plaque is caused by the thin biofilm which covers your teeth forming into a sticky layer. If this sticky layer is not removed each day by cleaning adequately then it can harden into tartar. This tartar collects in between your teeth and looks very yellow. The tartar also stains extremely easily which can then make your teeth look even darker.

The way to keep this tartar buildup to a minimum is to clean your teeth with the fluoride containing toothpaste and then use an interdental brush or floss to clean between your teeth, using a brush or floss then removes the sticky layer which then does not harden into the yellow tartar.

All baking soda would do to your teeth is a abrade the surface!

Can baking soda and hydrogen peroxide be used?

This is one of the most dangerous things we have heard, if you use hydrogen peroxide in an uncontrolled way on your teeth then you risk damaging the soft tissue around your tooth. Hydrogen peroxide will burn and should NEVER be used outside of the controlled dental environment where it is precisely measured into a gel to ensure you use the barest minimum.

How to whiten my teeth?

So now we come onto actually whitening teeth and how to do it safely without damaging the surface or affecting your long-term dental health.

You can start the tooth whitening process at home by ensuring you have a good oral health care routine and watching your diet. Cleaning your teeth twice per day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste for 2 min and then cleaning in between your teeth with an interdental brush or floss will help keep plaque to a minimum (it’s often the plaque in between your teeth which picks up sustain darker and gives the overall impression of dark teeth, keeping plaque reduced means your teeth will look whiter).

Once you have got your oral health care under control you can then consider dental teeth whitening. This should always be undertaken by a registrant of the General Dental Council, this ensures that your treatment is safe, legal and effective.

cosmetic guide download

Find out:

  • The costs and lowest price alternatives
  • Your options and choices for treatment
  • Are you suitable for treatment?
  • How you can have whiter, straighter and better looking teeth
  • How long does each treatment take?
  • Plus lots more…
download now

How to look after your children’s teeth

How to look after children's teethWe’re often asked about the importance of looking after children’s teeth, after all, they all come out so why do we need to look after them? Let’s take a detailed look…

How many milk teeth are in a small child?

Babies usually start to see their first teeth at around 6 months of age. They will have 20 milk teeth which will slowly be lost as they move through to adulthood.

Milk teeth are labelled A (front tooth), B (2nd tooth), C (canine), D (premolar) & E (molar)

Teeth are labelled 1 ( front tooth), 2 ( second tooth), 3 (canine), 4 ( first premolar), 5 (second premolar), 6 ( first molar), 7 ( second molar), 8 ( wisdom teeth)

What’s the purpose of baby teeth?

It’s simply a matter of size. A baby is just not big enough to cope with the size of teeth that an adult needs to eat and chew. The baby teeth are smaller and fewer than adult teeth enabling the young child to grow and then lose this first set of teeth to be replaced with a larger set.

How can an adult still have baby teeth?

Baby teeth are lost as the permanent adult teeth come through. If the permanent adult tooth is naturally missing then there is nothing to push the baby tooth out and adults can be left with baby teeth. If the baby teeth cause no problems than they will more often than not be left in the mouth, however if problems occur then they are easy to extract as the roots are much smaller.

Do all baby teeth fall out?

Baby teeth will only fall out if there is a permanent tooth behind it. In normal circumstances then all baby teeth will be lost however if there is no permanent tooth underneath then a baby tooth can be retained through to adulthood.

Is it possible to have another set of baby teeth?

No, babies/children are only have 1 set of baby teeth. If the first set of baby teeth are lost due to decay, disease or trauma then a new one will not grow and the child will have to wait until the permanent tooth comes through.

Should I use a fluoride or fluoride-free toothpaste?

Fluoride helps the re-mineralisation process of dental enamel. This is important to ensure that the enamel repairs and stays hard and tough. It has been shown that fluoride facilitates this process you should therefore always use of fluoride containing toothpaste.

The only difference for children is that you should use a child toothpaste which typically contains a lower amount of fluoride in adult toothpaste.

As an adult, why shouldn’t I use children’s toothpaste?

In order to keep the enamel of your tooth hard re-mineralisation is required, fluoride helps this process but there is not enough fluoride in a child toothpaste to really make a big difference. As an adult you should therefore use adult toothpaste typically with around 1500ppm ( parts per million), children’s toothpaste is typically between 600 and 1000 ppm.

Is it bad if I use a natural, fluoride-free toothpaste?

It is well recognised that the worldwide reduction in dental caries can be attributed to the widespread use of fluoride in toothpaste. If you decide to use a fluoride free toothpaste you should do this in the knowledge that you increase your risk of developing dental decay.

Should I force my toddler to use toothpaste?

It is not recommended that you force a toddler in the early stages of cleaning their teeth. Forcing a toddler may Give them anxiety over their dental health and cleaning their teeth. We recommend placing a small pea sized amount of toothpaste onto a child toothbrush and allowing them to simply play with a toothbrush and toothpaste in their mouth. It’s okay if they swallow this toothpaste.

As they get used to the feeling and taste then you can start to clean their teeth for them to ensure they have healthy teeth and gums.

When should you start brushing your child’s teeth?

You should start brushing BEFORE any teeth come through. Simply massaging the gums of your baby will get them used to having a toothbrush in their mouth. As soon as teeth start coming through you should then use a pea sized amount of child fluoride containing toothpaste to clean their teeth daily.

This routine will help them prevent tooth decay, maintain good oral health and avoid gum disease which can be quite prevalent in children due to their diet of high sugar foods (which we recommend you also limit if possible).

How to prepare your child for their first visit to the dentist?

Dental care for children is extremely important and it’s good to prepare as early as you can. From a small toddler we recommend bringing your child to your appointment with you and spending a small amount of time with them sitting on your lap to get used to the chair.

Most dentists will be happy to let your toddler sit in the chair and simply ride up and down to get used to it.

Allowing your child to see you in the dentist let them know that it is safe to let someone else look in their mouth.

The key is to take small simple steps.


Top questions people ask about bruxism

Bruxism (Teeth grinding) is a common condition in dentistry so we thought would be useful to dedicate an entire article to bruxism

How is tooth grinding diagnosed?

Your dentist will be easily able to see if you grind your teeth. They will be looking at the back teeth and checking for wear patterns over the cusps (the pointed parts) of your teeth. These wear patterns will indicate how your jaw moves from side to side and backwards and forwards and will give the dentist an idea as to the extent of any teeth grinding problems.

Can teeth clenching cause my sore gums?.

Yes, grinding and or clenching your teeth can indeed cause sore gums. The forces can be transmitted down the outside surface of your teeth, this can lead to a complex form of enamel erosion. This can subsequently irritate gums and lead to sore gums.

Do I really need a night guard for bruxism?

Night guard are just one of the forms of bruxism treatment. This type of mouthguard helps to keep teeth apart at night, because the teeth are apart the muscles reset and relax, this means you wake up in the morning having not ground your teeth during the night. Because there has been minimal muscle activity at night not only will tooth wear be reduced but also the side effect of bruxism can be limited such as headaches and jaw joint pain.

How to get relief from jaw pain?

You need to see your dentist for treatment of bruxism if you have any of the following problems:

  • Headaches – bruxism can cause headaches because of excessive pressure on the muscles of the face and those which help in chewing.
  • Tooth Sensitivity – excessive teeth grinding can cause tooth wear. As a result, teeth become sensitive to hot or cold foods.

A night guard can then help with jaw joint pain once bruxism has been diagnosed.

How to cure myself from sleep bruxism?

The trick to treating yourself at home with sleep bruxism is to look at the cause.

  • Do everything you can to reduce stress or anxiety.
  • If you believe you have a sleep disorder consider visiting your doctor, MA mandibular advancement device may help with any sleep apnoea which may in turn help with any nighttime bruxism.
  • Look at your lifestyle, do you smoke or drink alcohol excessively?
  • Read any prescription drug information carefully to ensure there is no side-effect which may cause bruxism.
  • Practice relaxing your jaw with general muscle relaxation techniques.

You may however find that some form of dental treatment can help better than simply trying to cure bruxism at home.

What causes bruxism?

Bruxism can occur due to a variety of reasons:

  • Stress – this is one of the most common reasons for grinding teeth. Most people start to grind their teeth during exam season, when they are stressed out at work or when they are dealing with a personal crisis. This form of bruxism usually occurs during the daytime.
  • Improper Bite – when the upper and lower teeth do not mate properly, it can lead to excessive stress on the teeth. This situation can also result in the bruxism.
  • Sleep Disorders – sleep problems like obstructive sleep apnea, can also result in teeth grinding during sleep.
  • Medication – Bruxism can also be a side-effect of some medications. It has been particularly linked with a group of drugs known as the “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI[1]s). The use of recreational drugs can also cause bruxism.
  • Lifestyle – excessive smoking and alcohol intake is also linked with bruxism.

Can asymmetric jaw muscles cause bruxism?

Theoretically yes. Bruxism occurs if there is excess muscle activity, this may be caused by stress or anxiety as well as problems with the muscles. Occlusion splints to prevent tooth grinding can certainly help in this area.

What are some treatments to cure bruxism?

Treatment of bruxism for children and adults involves the identification and correction of the underlying problem. In the meantime, your dentist will give you a mouthguard to protect your teeth from further damage because of grinding and clenching. In case the underlying problem is stress, you should change your lifestyle habits. Your dentist may also advise you to see a therapist for cognitive behavioral therapy[2]. Finally, if you are grinding your teeth because of an underlying sleep disorder, you should consult a medical professional who specializes in sleep therapy.

Bruxism can be easily managed and controlled. However, what most people don’t recognize is that failing to seek treatment for this condition can cause serious damages, like tooth erosion, headaches, and even temporomandibular joint disorders. Therefore, if you or your partner realize that you are grinding your teeth, you should seek treatment right away.

Can tooth damage from bruxism be repaired?

The good news is yes. It depends on the amount of damage that has been caused. The first thing to consider would be to have a mouth guard as this can help to prevent any tooth damage getting worse.

Dental veneers, crowns or composite fillings can then be used to repair any damaged tooth area. Sometimes this is on the surface of back teeth, it can however occur on the incisors age (tip) of front teeth or even on the outside surface of back teeth where the forces transmitted down the tooth.

What would cause someone to wake up with broken teeth?

Teeth grinding is the most likely cause of waking up with a broken tooth. You may not be aware that you grind your teeth at night so if you wake up with a broken tooth we strongly recommend you visit your dentist as soon as possible. They will be able to assess the way your teeth bite together and let you know if you are grinding your teeth at night.

[1] “SSRI Fact Sheet –” 13 Sep. 2016, Accessed 5 Nov. 2018.

[2] “In-Depth: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Psych Central.” Accessed 5 Nov. 2018.

How to reduce the number of fillings you need

In this blog post our Barnstable dentist walks through some of the key principles to help you reduce the number of fillings you need. Reducing the number of fillings you need at the dentist has multiple benefits:

  • You spend less money at the dentist.
  • You spend less time at the dentist.
  • You have fewer injections.
  • You keep your teeth natural which means they are for more likely to last longer.

… And who wouldn’t want all of that?

You will only need a dental filling if you have a broken down tooth, usually this is caused from tooth decay so reducing the number of fillings you need depends upon a few factors:

  1. Your genetics.
  2. Your diet.
  3. Your dental health routine.

Genetic factors which affect tooth decay

  • Tooth enamel strength
    • Some people are born with thin tooth enamel which is just more prone to breaking down which consequently exposes the underlying softer dentine which becomes more susceptible to decay.
  • Saliva
  • The microbes in your mouth
    • Your mouth contains a large amount of bacteria, this is quite normal and nothing to worry about so long as your body’s immune system is working well. These communities of bacteria can change in size if your body becomes immunosuppressed

There is often nothing you can do about genetic factors which affect tooth decay but if you are susceptible to any of the above then following a good diet and dental health care routine will certainly be of increased benefit.

How does diet affect tooth decay?

The biggest contributor to tooth decay in diet is sugar. Tooth decay is caused when the bacteria in your mouth excrete acid during the day congestion of the sugar in your diet. It is this acid which attacks the enamel on your teeth causing it to decay.

Your saliva is alkaline so is designed to counteract this excessive acidity but if there is too much acid created then the saliva can’t keep up.

When thinking about sugar don’t just think about added sugar, think about sugar which naturally occurs in fruit, this can also create that acid attack on your teeth.

Ready-made meals also very often have sugar added to them to make the more flavoursome. Reducing the amount of ready-made meals you eat will, in turn, help to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.

Reducing cavities with a good dental health routine

Having a good dental health care routine is one of the key ways to reduce dental cavities. Following a simple 3 minute routine twice a day can help to reduce the chance of developing cavities, that routine is:

  • Wait 20 min after eating before brushing your teeth to give your enamel chance to recover from the acid attack.
  • Brush using a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Brush your teeth the 2 min. 1 min brushing the top teeth and 1 min brushing the bottom teeth.
  • Clean in between your teeth using dental floss or incidental brushes (the bacteria love to lurk in between your teeth so this is a vital step to keeping buildup at bay).

Using a fluoride containing mouthwash after meals can also help to reduce the chance of developing cavities, however do not use mouthwash after cleaning your teeth as mouthwash contains less fluoride than toothpaste and you will actually reduce the amount of fluoride in contact with your teeth if you use mouthwash after cleaning with toothpaste.

…and lastly, but definitely by no means least, visiting your dentist and dental hygienist regularly Is one of the key factors to keeping tooth decay at bay.

At home you may only notice if you have tooth decay when there is a visible hole or pain. Your hygienist and dentist will be able to spot the very early warning signs of tooth decay (such as enamel becoming soft) at an earlier stage than you could ever possibly achieve at home.

This means a very tiny filling can then be placed early on in the decay process, rather than leaving the decay to get bigger and then requiring a larger filling.

Doing this means your dentist is able to preserve as much natural tooth structure as possible which is always the goal of every dentist.


The ultimate dentist ‘how-to’ guide

With more and more people turning to Google to discover ‘how to’, we thought it would be a good idea to create the ultimate dentist how to guide, answering some of those common questions that people ask every day.

The information written here is provided by our Devon dentist and should be used as guidance only, only by visiting your dentist can you get a tailored treatment plan  designed for you and your teeth.

How to find an out of hours dentist

Most dental practices will offer some form of out of hours service. You may find that private practices offer this only to practice members, usually by way of a direct contact mobile phone with their dentist. NHS dentists will often work to provide emergency cover for each other’s patients. More information about NHS out of hours services are here.

The best way to find and out of hours dentist is to search for a dentist near you, then call that dentist and listen to the answerphone message, this will give information about how to reach the emergency dental health service in your local area.

How to register with the dentist

Registration with a dentist is actually very simple, a quick phone call or completion of an online form will begin the process. Registration involves attending for an initial consultation where your dental health will be assessed plus a completion of a medical history questionnaire. Following the initial consultation any necessary treatment plan will be created, or you will be booked in  for your next dental health check in approximately 6 months.

Most modern dental practices will also offer some form of recall system, they will remind you in adequate time that you have your appointment, this makes the reminder system simple and easy.

How to get rid of a tooth abscess without going to the dentist

How to get rid of the tooth abscessUnfortunately, if you have an abscess you will not be able to get rid of this without a dentist. An abscess is where an infection has caused  puss to build up in the gum or bone around the tooth. The pressure this puss causes can cause extreme pain and the only way to relieve the pain is to have this puss removed. Any damage to the tooth, bone or gum  will then need to be repaired and the infection treated.

If you think you have a tooth abscess you should visit your dentist immediately as this would be classed as a dental emergency. You cannot get rid of a tooth abscess without going to the dentist.

More information about tooth abscesses can be found here.

How often should you go to the dentist

Ideally you should visit the dentist and hygienist every six months. The dentist will perform a dental health check including a muscle, gland, joint, tooth, gum and oral cancer assessment. The hygienist  will look at your oral hygiene, give you advice on what you could do better to prevent problems occurring and clean your teeth professionally.

Attending the dentist frequently will help you to keep your teeth and gums in good condition which ultimately will save time, pain and money in the long run.

How to complain about a dentist

If you feel you need to complain about a dentist the first port of call is to talk to the dentist directly. Dentists should have a formal complaints procedure which is freely available upon request.  Local resolution to any complaint is always the best way forwards as your local dentist  is best placed to resolve any issues you have. The  General Dental Council (GDC) is the governing body which regulates the dental profession in the UK on the half of patients, any complaints which cannot be resolved locally can be escalated to the GDC.

How to cure gum disease without a dentist

The best way to cure gum disease without a dentist is to prevent the gum diseases from happening in the first place. Regular attendance to have your dental health assessed and any minor problems treated at an early stage  will help prevent gum disease from happening in the first place. Minor gum disease will normally sort itself out without a dentist if you manage to clean your teeth properly.

The problem arises however if the bacteria have been allowed to build up to such an extent that they cannot be removed at home. To this extent it is always advisable to see a dentist if you think you have gum disease, only a dentist will have the equipment to be able to clean deep enough under your gum margin to clean these areas adequately.

How long does dentist numbing last

Most local anaesthetic injections will begin to wear off after approximately 2-3 hours. The surrounding area in your lips and tongue may have some numbness for up to 5 hours. It takes some time for the blood to carry away the local anaesthetic and begin to metabolise and break it down.

How to remove tartar from teeth without a dentist

You can remove small deposits of tartar each day by ensuring you have a good dental health care routine. Tarter is an accumulation of bacteria, these bacteria form a biofilm layer  over your teeth daily, this is a normal occurrence.  Cleaning your teeth twice per day for 2 minutes each time, using dental floss and mouthwash in between brushing will ensure that this biofilm layer does not build up into a hard tartar (plaque) layer. Once the biofilm has built to this hard tartar it is much more difficult to remove it at home and you stand more chance of damaging the soft tissue if you try to pick at it with an implement.

How long do you stay registered with the dentist

A dentist will consider you are registered at the practice so long as you continue to attend your regular appointments. If you do not attend the practice for a period of 2 years then most dental practices will consider that your registration has lapsed. A good dental practice will contact you regularly to ensure you attend appointments.

How to treat dry sockets without going to the dentist

How to treat a dry socket without going to the dentistA dry sockets occurs  when a clot fails to form after a tooth has been extracted. The best way to treat a dry sockets without a dentist is to think about what you can do to help the clot to form, things such as:

  • Not smoking.
  • Not drinking carbonated drinks.
  • Using a straw to drink to prevent the water washing over the socket.

Taking over-the-counter pain medication and using a cold compress in the form of a soft icepack on the side of your face for approximately 15 min at a time can also help. Gentle mouth washing with salt water to remove food debris can also help, but be careful not to rinse so vigourously that you dislodge any clot that has formed.

What other ‘how to’ questions do you have about visiting the dentist? We love to hear them in the comments




Is there a future for silver fillings?

The European Parliament has agreed that the use of dental amalgam for fillings is going to be phased out by 2030. This phasing out is part of the European Union  Mercury pollutant legislation in the 2013 United Nations Minamata Convention, although where we will stand after Brexit is anyone’s guess!

What is dental amalgam used for?

Dental amalgam is used when there is dental decay in your tooth, the decay is removed by the dentist and then the hole is often replaced with the dental amalgam (Many other techniques to get the same outcome exist). Amalgam is a mixture of mercury (50%), silver, copper, tin and zinc. Due to the Mercury and silver the amalgam appears silvery in colour.

Why have the Europeans decided to phase out amalgam?

Mercury is harmful to both the environment and humans. It is poisonous to the nervous system  and gets into the system mainly by inhaling vapours.  These vapours are absorbed into the body via the lungs and can easily move through the bloodstream to the brain. However, when elemental mercury is eaten or swallowed there is very little that is absorbed into the body.

What is the alternative to dental amalgam?

If dental amalgam is to be phased out following  ratification by the European Council than one needs to consider what the alternatives are.fillings

White fillings

These fall into a few different categories:

  • Dental bonding
  • Dental inlays
Dental bonding


Bonding involves your dentist using a specially light cured resin to replace the missing tooth structure after the dental decay has been removed, it is used very similarly to dental amalgam.

Advantages: Quick, simple and painless

Disadvantages: Stains more easily, wears more than amalgam

Dental inlays

These are often made by a highly skilled dental technician and will usually be made out of a dental ceramic material.

Advantages: restorations last an extremely long time

Disadvantages: more than one injection required as the restoration will take approximately 2 weeks to make

Is dental amalgam safe?

The British Dental Association says that:

The European Parliament agreed on 14 March 2017 to the final version of its Regulation on Mercury. The Regulation is the EU’s instrument to ratify the Minamata Treaty of 2013

They go on to say:

.. amalgam remains one of a range of safe and effective filling materials that are available to dentists to provide the most appropriate treatment for the needs of each individual patient.

The EU’s Scientific Committee has recommended that, from 1 July 2018  :

“To reduce the use of mercury-added products in line with the intentions of the Minamata Convention (reduction of mercury in the environment) and under the above mentioned precautions, it can be recommended that for the first treatment for primary teeth in children and in pregnant patients, alternative materials to amalgam should be the first choice.”

The British Dental Association stress that the EU regulation on Mercury is an environmental regulation, not a health regulation as the EU can’t make laws that directly change the way health systems in member states are arranged.

The best way to cut down on the amount of dental amalgam used is to increase the preventative measures that many practices and patients take as standard, this includes dental health advice and information, brushing your teeth twice per day for 2 minutes each time using a fluoride toothpaste and cleaning in between your teeth each day with an interdental floss or brush.

Patients can play their own part in the reduction of amalgam use by looking after their dental health and ensuring they have a good dental health routine, whilst working in conjunction with the dentist to treat any dental health problems which may arise.

If you are concerned about any of the issue is raised in this blog post, please contact our Devon dentist in Barnstaple  who will be pleased to help.

Is it finally possible to regrow teeth?

regrow-teethAre you one of the many people that would really rather not go to the dentist to have dental fillings? Well, a new scientific breakthrough by King’s College London may be just what you were looking for.

The researchers have found that The Alzheimer’s treatment drug Tideglusib can enhance your tooth’s ability  to rebuild  naturally the dentine which is lost when acids dissolve the tooth structure causing cavities.

“The simplicity of our approach makes it ideal as a clinical dental product for the natural treatment of large cavities, by providing both pulp protection and restoring dentine.

“In addition, using a drug that has already been tested in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease provides a real opportunity to get this dental treatment quickly into clinics.”

said Professor Paul Sharpe.

So what happens when the tooth is damaged and how could this new drug help?

dental-caries-stepsShould the bacteria in your mouth buildup then the amount of acid which attacks teeth after eating will also build up as it is excreted by this bacteria as they digest sugar. Once the acid has removed the hard outer layer of the tooth (enamel) it will then begin to remove the softer inner surface of your tooth (dentine).

However,  your tooth will naturally fight this process.  Underneath the dentine are the nerves and blood supply to the tooth  (pulp), your tooth will naturally  create a layer of secondary dentine which is harder than the regular dentine but not as hard as enamel.

This process can only continue for so long and only repair relatively small holes in the tooth.

What the researchers found is that when a biodegradable sponge was soaked in the Tideglusib, the natural repair process of the tooth was enhanced and larger cavities could be covered over. The scientists called this a

“complete, natural repair.”

During the process the biodegradable sponge was absorbed  and the dentine formed  around it.

At the moment the trial has only been completed on mice but if it could be modified to work for humans it could reduce the need to have fillings at the dentist!

Other ways to reduce the need for fillings.

Of course, none of this would be necessary if we didn’t have cavities in the first place!

Cavities form when bacteria builds up naturally in our mouth, as the bacteria digests sugar in our diet they excrete acid and it is this acid which attacks the outer surface of our teeth.

This is a natural process and your saliva is designed to be alkaline and counteract the acid from the bacteria. This is why chewing sugarfree gum after the meal can redress the acidic balance in your mouth and neutralise the acid from the bacteria.

However, two factors affect this natural process:

  1. A diet which is high in sugar
  2. Not adequately cleaning teeth to remove the bacteria

With a diet that is very rich in sugar the natural neutralisation of this acid by the saliva  cannot work at such a high level, this means that acid remains in contact with your teeth causing the cavities.

Likewise, if the bacteria are not adequately removed by brushing and flossing then again the neutralising effect from the saliva can’t keep up with the acid production.

Interstitial cleaning brushes
Interstitial cleaning brushes

Being aware of one’s diet and keeping sugar to a minimum plus cleaning your teeth twice per day with a fluoride toothpaste and then using interstitial brushes or floss to clean in between your teeth will radically reduce the likelihood of developing tooth decay and cavities.

For further advice and information please contact our dental practice in Barnstaple, North Devon and book an appointment with our dental hygienist who can give you advice and information about looking after your dental health plus a tailored treatment plan  should one be required.

Report Shows That 42% of Children Have Not Had a Dental Checkup in the Last Year

NHS Digital (the new name for the Health and Social Care Information Centre) recently uncovered some alarming statistics regarding children’s dental health In the UK.

That equates to almost 5,000,000 children not being seen by an NHS dentist in 2015/16. Guidelines state that children should visit the dentist regularly, at least every year.

The NHS Digital report showed that:

  • 917,346 tooth extractions were performed on children..
  • Extractions were most common in South Tyneside  with one for every six children and adults.
  • The Blackpool and Medway region was next with one’s extraction for every seven people.
  • The lowest in the country was Richmond-upon-Thames with one extraction on the NHS in every 39 people.

Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, said of the new data:

“There is nothing to smile about in these woeful statistics.

“With the average five-year-old now eating their own weight in sugar each year, it is alarming that 42.1% of children failed to visit an NHS dentist at all in the last year.

“It is appalling that in the 21st century, tooth decay remains the most common reason why children aged five to nine are admitted to hospital. In some cases, these children undergo multiple tooth extractions under general anaesthetic – despite the fact that tooth decay is almost entirely preventable.

“We are failing to address this issue of improving children’s access to an NHS dentist and we urge ministers to act.”

Looking at things a little more locally, the NHS Oral Health Strategy 2012 – 2015 (Devon and Torbay) states:

Oral health is an integral part of general health and wellbeing. Good oral health enables individuals to communicate effectively, to eat and enjoy a variety of foods, and is important in overall quality of life, self-esteem and social confidence

We all know that children learn their behaviours from adults, so it’s vitally important to ensure you look after your own teeth and oral health, for yourself and your children.

The effects of poor dental hygiene on your body.

Oral health affects your whole body

As can be seen from the image here there is a significant link  between your oral health and your overall body health.

Diabetes. 95% of adults in America with diabetes also have periodontal disease and a third have advanced periodontal disease that has led to tooth loss.

Erectile dysfunction. Periodontal bacteria can travel through the bloodstream, inflaming blood vessels and blocking blood flow. Men with periodontal disease are seven times more likely to experience erectile dysfunction than men with good dental hygiene!

Heart disease. A study in the Netherlands of more than 60,000 patients showed that people with periodontal disease are twice as likely to develop heart disease. The researchers in the study found that 4% of patients with peritonitis had  atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, compared to 2% without periodontitis. Even after taking other risk factors for cardiovascular disease into account such as diabetes, smoking and high blood pressure those with periodontal disease was still 59% more likely to have a history  of heart problems.

How to brush your children’s teeth and stay dentally fit

How to brush children's teeth

  1. Divide the mouth into six sections (Upper left back teeth, upper front teeth, upper right back teeth, lower left back teeth, lower front teeth, lower right back teeth) and take 20 seconds to brush each.
  2. Within each section brush the inner,  outer and biting surfaces of each tooth.
  3. Use a fluoride toothpaste.
  4. Supervise brushing up until the age of seven  years old.
  5. Brush twice a day.

If you follow this guide you will stand a much lower chance of developing tooth decay and cavities which can lead onto periodontal disease if left untreated.


Dental Cavities and Fillings, What You Need to Know

Decay and cavitiesIn this blog post our Barnstaple dentist takes a detailed look at dental cavities and fillings.

What is a dental cavity?

tooth decayA dental cavity forms when the outer surface of your teeth are attacked by acid excreting bacteria. The bacteria excrete acid as they digest sugar in your diet. The cavities can become larger as more bacteria sit in the cavity, excreting more and more acid.

In the beginning small cavities may have zero pain as they are in the outer surface of the tooth, but as they deepen and get closer to the nerve your teeth may become more sensitive or even painful whilst eating or drinking, particularly hot or cold food/drink.

This deteriorating process is known as a dental decay.

What is a dental filling?

A filling is simply filling up this cavity with a suitable material, your dentist will remove any decay and then fill the cavity back up to the original contour of the tooth.

What do they fill cavities with?

The exact material used to fill a cavity depends upon various factors:

  • The size of the cavity
  • The location of the cavity (in between the teeth, on the biting surface, on the front of the teeth etc.)
  • The philosophy of the dental practice, some practices prefer not to use mercury containing amalgam.
  • Affordability

What is a filling made of?

Depending on the criteria listed above there are a variety of filling materials which can be used.


This is a malleable metal alloy containing mercury. It has been shown to be extremely durable as a dental filling material and lasts many years. It does not however look particularly attractive.


Gold is virtually inert and is very well tolerated by the body. It’s highly polished surface also very closely matches the surface of dental enamel when viewed microscopically. This means it does not wear the opposing teeth and can be considered a highly biocompatible material.

Many people like the look of gold, it does not however look particularly natural and some people prefer to have a more natural looking filling.


Dental porcelain is made by combining various minerals with quartz, effectively making dental granite, an extremely hard and durable material! The porcelain is naturally tooth coloured and can be made highly aesthetic to blend in with the surrounding teeth. A porcelain filling will be made by a dental technician; this adds time to the procedure which means a porcelain filling often takes two weeks to complete.

Dental bonding.

Your dentist can also use a tooth coloured composite material to pack into the cavity once the diseased area has been removed. This has the advantage of being highly aesthetic and also highly convenient as it can be placed in one appointment. Dental bonding does however tend to discolour over time so may need to be replaced more often.

The cavity filling procedure

The procedure for having a cavity filled depends upon the material being used, generally the procedure will be similar to the following:

  1. Either your dentist or you notice the cavity and decide to take action.
  2. A discussion is had as to the best material to use clinically, there may be a few options which can be discussed that have different prices.
  3. A decision about the material is made, based on this decision the dentist will prepare the cavity accordingly. Some materials require specific shaped cavities in which to fit and so your dentist will prepare the cavity in the correct way.
  4. If you are having a direct dental bonding them the composite material will be placed directly, if not your dentist will take an impression of the prepared cavity, place a temporary filling and send this impression off to the dental laboratory to have the new restoration manufactured.
  5. If you had a dental bonding composite filling then step 4 would have been your last stage, if a dental laboratory is manufacturing your filling then this will be returned approximately 2 weeks later and you will visit the dentist to have this fitted.
  6. A review of this filling will take place at your six monthly check-up at the dentist.

Tooth cavity fillings at home

There are cavity filling kits available in various pharmacies and online. They may seem like a cheap and convenient option however they should never be used as a permanent solution.

Home kits may well fill the cavity however the chances are you will be filling over bacteria which will continue to cause dental decay underneath. This means you may not notice this decay until it has reached the nerve of your tooth, by which time more expensive dental procedures may be required.

If you need to use a tooth cavity filling at home, consider this an emergency repair and always make an appointment to visit your dentist within the next week or so.

Preventing dental cavities

It is always better to prevent problems arising in the first place rather than try to cure them once they do. The best way to prevent dental cavities is to:

  • clean your teeth twice per day for 2 min using a fluoride releasing toothpaste.
  • Clean in between your teeth with an interdental brush or floss.
  • Use a fluoride mouthwash after meals but NOT after brushing.
  • Visit your dentist regularly as they will be able to detect the tiniest cavities in places that you cannot see.

By doing everything you can to prevent cavities forming and then visiting your dentist regularly so that if there is any decay it can be dealt with quickly and simply, you can keep the cost of dentistry down and ensure you remain fit and healthy for life.

Our North Devon based dentist is here to help you stay dentally fit for life, keeping dental decay and cavities to the absolute minimum.

Are Sports Drinks Destroying Your Teeth and a Risk to Your Health?

sports-drinksSome recent research from the University of Cardiff showed that of the 160 children that responded to their survey 89.4% of them stated that they drank sports drinks with half of them drinking them at least twice a week. These drinks are intended to improve performance and keep athletes hydrated and are not intended to be drank as recreational drinks, especially by young people.

Drinking these drinks has been marketed as being fashionable, trendy and often healthy which has led to a surge in popularity amongst the younger members of our population.

The main reasons for consuming these drinks was attributed to the nice taste (90% of respondents) With 80.4% of respondents purchasing the drinks from local shops. 77.9% of boys came to drink sports drinks during physical activity whilst only 48.6% of girls claimed the same thing however, more girls claim to drink socially, 51.4% compared to 48.5% for boys.

Alarmingly, a study reported in the says that 55% of the sports drinks consumed at home rather than during any exercise at all!

The problem is not the sports drinks themselves, the problem is the fact that these drinks are formulated for enhanced exercise performance. The sugar in sports drinks is there to give fast absorption of carbohydrate so that the muscles can run at peak performance. Yet if these drinks are consumed with out the physical exercise then the body is not using the sugar in this way.

Lucozade sport, for example Contains 27 g of sugar or 7 teaspoons worth in a 750 mL bottle. The world health organisation recommends people consume a maximum of 50 g of added sugar per day, meaning one bottle of Lucozade sport is more than 50% of your daily recommended intake.

Obesity expert Dr Donal O’Shea says:

“If you’re a gold medal Olympian who’s burning 6,000 calories a day and can’t eat enough to replace that, maybe a sports drink is okay, but for everyone else they have no benefit,”

The government’s recent launch of their Change4Life campaign of the Sugar Smart app goes a long way to helping children understand how much sugar is contained in various drinks, because this is an app, children find it more interactive and a useful way to scan their favourite drinks to see how much sugar is included.

What are the risks to your dental health of too much sugar?

We’ve written in other blog posts about the effects of too much sugar with regards to diabetes and obesity but there are also risks to your dental health.

Dental decay is caused by the acid excreting from the bacteria in your mouth, these bacteria feed prolifically on the sugar in your diet, the more sugar you have, the more they feed on the more acid they excrete.

In the most part your saliva neutralises this acid but it can only work to a certain degree, too much acid and it attacks your teeth and causes dental decay.

One of the biggest problems is that these bacteria lurk in between your teeth which is notoriously difficult to clean, this is why using an interdental brush or floss is absolutely vital for maintaining your dental health.

Ways to reduce sugar intake

Tt is fairly easy to limit the amount of added sugar that you put on food, more difficult is being aware of the sugar that you don’t know you are eating. It’s important to doublecheck  things like sauces, dressings, cereals plus  prepackaged food like soup and ready meals.

Fizzy drinks contain a huge amount of sugar, a 500 mL bottle of cola contains the equivalent of 17 cubes of sugar. Even  when you drink fruit juice you are still consuming a large amount of additional sugar.

Here are a few additional tips to reduce sugar intake:

  • Consider sweeteners in moderation instead of adding sugar.
  • Remove the temptation of adding sugar by not putting  it on the table in the first place. Remember, syrup and honey also contain sugar, so keep these safely in the cupboard also.
  • Enhance your food with spices instead of sugar, things like ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg can add interesting flavours without adding sugar.
  • Purchase sugarfree drinks or get into the habit of drinking water, perhaps with a slice of lemon or lime to give it a fresh taste.
  • When baking reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe by up to 1/2, often you won’t notice any difference.
  • If you purchase tinned fruit, make sure it is in water or natural juices rather than in syrup.
  • If you like sugary cereal, rather than add sugar, experiment with different fruits such as bananas, cherries, strawberries or dried fruits such as apricots, raisins or cranberries.

dental hygiene