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Secrets your dentist hasn't told you

Do you have to shave down your natural teeth to get veneers? Can bleaching your teeth make them more fragile? And what drugstore products really whiten teeth? Cosmetic dentist Dr. Michael Apa addresses the most common dental myths and questions.
/ Source: TODAY

We chew over 32 million times before we reach the age of 60.

With all that wear and tear on our teeth, what can we do to make sure our pearly whites stay shiny?

Cosmetic dentist Dr. Michael Apa sheds some light on some common dental myths and questions.

Myth #1: Only kids can wear braces
This myth is false. You can be an adult and still need braces.

There is actually a sub-specialty of orthodontists for adults that need braces where they can put the braces on the backs of your teeth to avoid the dreaded "metal mouth" look. This sub-speciality of orthodontists can also offer you Invisalign, invisible braces that you put on like a retainer.

So why do adults need braces?
Sometimes it's because they didn't want or couldn't afford braces as a child. Another reason is that as adults get older the wear and tear of using your teeth can cause the teeth to erupt more, thus changing the alignment of your teeth. So, the way you chew now can affect your teeth later in life.

Is it more painful to get braces as an adult versus a child? No. Its the exact same procedure. There is less you can for an adult because a child's bones haven't fully formed making them more flexible. However, 80 percent of orthodontic movement can be fixed in adults' mouths.

Myth #2: Your natural teeth must be shaved down to get veneers
You do not have to necessarily shave down to get veneers. You have to address where the position of the teeth currently are and what you want the result to be. Instead of shaving down the natural tooth, sometimes you can simply put the veneer over the tooth. You may also be able to reshape the enamel to put the tooth in the right position and then put the veneer on.

Myth #3: Overbleaching teeth will make them fragile
When you bleach your teeth, they do not lose their strength. They just become translucent. There is no such thing as overbleaching. It deals with color not strength. According to the American Dental Association, the most commonly observed side effects of professionally applied hydrogen peroxide products are temporary tooth sensitivity and occasional irritation of oral tissues. On rare occasions, irreversible tooth damage has been reported, but in general bleaching doesn't make the teeth any more fragile.

If I can't afford to go to the dentist to brighten our smile, what choices would you recommend at my local drugstore?
Crest Whitestrips really set the bar for teeth whitening products. Anything with hydrogen peroxide will bleach your teeth. What consumers should look at is strength of hydrogen peroxide. The higher the strength the more effective the product will be. The highest percentage available is 5%.

There is a myth that you have to leave these in for 1 to 2 hours but the truth is that the bleach reaches its highest efficacy after 8 minutes. If you want most effectiveness, you could do 8 minute intervals multiple times a day.

There is also a product called Go Smile that will take all the residue of what you have eaten or drank such as coffee off your teeth if you used right after consuming.

What oral diseases do we become more susceptible to as we get older?
We become more susceptible to oral cancer and gum disease. For oral cancer, make sure to get regular oral cancer screenings with your dentist starting at age 25.

Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. What are the tell-tale signs and what can we do to avoid getting gum disease?
Tell-tale signs of gum disease is recession around and teeth movement where it feels like the tooth might fall out.

If you do have gum disease, there are medicated rinses that stabilize the disease and stop it from progressing. They used to prescribe you a medicated rinse that stained your teeth but now there is a great rinse called Healthy Gums by Natural Dentist that has a similar efficacy but does not stain your teeth.

In order to avoid gum disease make sure to get regular checkups and keep your mouth clean.

Here are some products that Dr. Apa recommends:

- An electric toothbrush. A lot of times you don't brush properly. Oral B Triumph is an electric toothbrush that tells you if you're brushing right or wrong. A smiley face will appear to indicate that you have brushed for the dental-recommended two minutes.

- Floss regularly. Dr. Apa recommends Oral B wax floss.

- Choose any mouthwash with fluoride, like ACT mouthwash.