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All Posts in Category: Cosmetic Dentistry

Young person smiling to show off whitened teeth

Safest Whitening Treatments
Insight from Your Family Dentist in San Marcos TX

Everyone wants to have that perfectly white Hollywood smile, so naturally, the topic of teeth whitening comes up frequently. With so much information circulating and new trends making way, it can be tough to know what direction to go to finally get those pearly whites you have always wanted. Knowing your options is the best place to start!

Consult Your Dentist

Just like you would want to consult your doctor before trying a new medication or diet, you definitely want to get advice from your family dentist if you decide to whiten your teeth. They will have the best insight on what is ideal for your current situation because they know your oral health best. They will know whether you have intrinsic or extrinsic discoloration (whether your discoloration stems from external or internal issues), what your gums need to stay healthy, and they can give you the best advice for maintaining whiter teeth after your treatment.

Professional Whitening

It is likely that your best and safest option for teeth whitening is going to be done by your dentist. One of the benefits of taking this route (aside from a catered approach by a professional) is the speed at which you get results. If you have a specific event coming up like a reunion or wedding and you want your teeth whitened quickly, your dentist might be able to get results in a single appointment depending on your type and level of discoloration.

It is also possible that your dentist will recommend at home teeth whitening where they make custom fit trays and give you a concentrated hydrogen peroxide mix. These are typically worn for a half to full hour a day for a designated amount of time to achieve your desired result. Choosing between these two methods (in office or at home) is a great conversation to have with your dentist in order to decide on your needs for optimal oral health.

Whitening Strips

After consulting and getting approval from your dentist, you might decide to take an over the counter approach for your teeth whitening. This can be a good option if you have extrinsic discoloration from food or beverage consumption (who hasn’t suffered from coffee stained teeth?). When taking an over the counter approach, there are a few things to be cautious of. For starters, be very aware of the application instructions and follow them. Secondly, it is always important to look for a product with the ADA Seal of Acceptance because this will give you the added confidence that the product is both safe and effective. If you have any questions about a specific product on the shelf, definitely ask your dentist to get their professional and informed opinion.

Whitening Toothpaste and/or Mouthwash

If you are willing to give your teeth whitening a little more time than the strips option, a good choice might be to switch to an ADA approved whitening toothpaste and mouthwash. This is a slightly less harsh approach, and it is also more affordable than the strips. But, again, if you already suffer from any kind of tooth sensitivity, gum problems, or think you might have a cavity developing, consult your dentist before making the switch.

Contact Our San Marcos Dentistry

Wishing for a whiter smile? As we mentioned above, scheduling an appointment to consult with a dentist in person is the safest way to start any whitening treatment. Contact Carothers Family Dental at (512) 396-4288 to discuss which whitening options are safest for you.

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Cosmetic Dentistry 101

What is one of the first things you notice about someone you meet? For many people, they notice someone’s smile. After all, who doesn’t want a nice bright smile? Straight teeth make you feel more confident. But that’s not all. Having a beautiful smile is about more than just looking good. Fixing dental imperfections that affect your appearance can also improve your bite, dental health, and well-being.

What is cosmetic dentistry? 

When you think of cosmetic procedures, you might be thinking of a nip here or a tuck there. But when it comes to your teeth, what is cosmetic dentistry? Cosmetic dentistry is the term typically used to refer to dental procedures that improve the appearance of your teeth or bite.

Keep in mind; most dental procedures should be beneficial cosmetically. For example, a procedure, such as a bridge or an implant not only improves the function of your teeth but also has a cosmetic benefit.

What are the Benefits of Cosmetic Dentistry?

Who doesn’t want to look their best? An obvious benefit of cosmetic dentistry is it improves your appearance. But there is an old saying that beauty is more than skin deep.”

Improving your smile does more than enhance the way you look. Fixing dental imperfections can also boost your self-image and confidence. Even a subtle change in your teeth and smile can make a difference in how you feel.

When you think about changing your life, a visit to your dentist is probably not the first thing that comes to your mind. But feeling better about your smile and how you look is often a game changer. If you feel confident, it can change your outlook on things, which affects all areas of your life.

How Can Cosmetic Dentistry Improve My Smile?

So, you’re sold on the idea of a healthy mouth and improving your smile. But what are your options? We’re glad you asked. Procedures that may improve the appearance of your teeth and in many cases the functioning include the following:


A veneer is a thin piece of material placed on top of a natural tooth to correct or repair chipped, strained, or misaligned teeth. Veneers are usually made of resin material or porcelain. If you’re having more than one tooth repaired, veneers adhere to each individual tooth to improve your smile. Your dentist will be sure to match the veneer with the color of your other teeth to create a natural appearance.


A crown is a prosthetic tooth that is made of various materials including ceramic, stainless steel, and porcelain. Crowns are an excellent option to repair a broken or weak tooth. Usually, crowns are needed if a tooth is too weak to be repaired with a filling alone. Opting for a crown is a great way to improve both the function of a tooth and the appearance.

Usually, it takes two appointments to have a crown. During the first appointment, the decay from your tooth is removed, and the tooth is filled and prepared, so it supports the crown. An impression of your teeth is taken, and the permanent crown is made in a dental lab. Your dentist will match the color of the crown to your other teeth, so it blends in naturally.

A temporary crown is placed while you wait for your permanent crown to be made. During your second appointment, the crown is placed over your tooth and cemented in place.

Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is one of the easiest ways to enhance your smile. As we age, our teeth often lose their natural brightness. Eating and drinking certain things, such as coffee, red wine, and berries can also stain teeth.

Whitening can take your teeth from a yellowish hue to a white smile. Both at-home and in-office teeth whitening are available. At-home whitening is often a convenient option for many people.

At- home whitening involves wearing custom-made trays and a whitening agent. The whitening agent placed in the trays comes in preloaded syringes, so it’s user-friendly. Trays can be worn overnight or during the day.

Custom-made trays fit your teeth better than over the counter store bought products. Wearing a custom-made tray helps the whitening agent cover every angle of your teeth, which provides optimal results.

It’s helpful to wear the trays on consecutive days until your teeth are your desired color. The number of days it takes to reach your desired shade depends on how discolored your teeth are. Keep in mind, teeth whitening products will not brighten veneers or crowns.

How Do I Know What Procedure is Right for Me?

With all the cosmetic dentistry options you have, how do you know what is best? The dental problem you are hoping to correct plays the biggest role in which procedure is most appropriate. In some cases, you may have more than one option that would work well.

It’s also essential to determine if any cosmetic dental issues are due to an underlying problem, such as gum disease. A thorough dental exam helps your dentist identify any problem areas.

Choosing the best cosmetic dental procedure may also depend on several factors, such as your cavity rate, periodontal health, and your bite. Your dentist will work with you to determine what type of cosmetic dentistry is right for you. The bottom-line is if you are unhappy with your smile, you can do something about it. There are several ways to enhance both your appearance and dental health!

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Tooth Whitening for a Bright Smile

Watch any Hollywood awards show, and you’ll see celebrities flash their bright smile as they walk the red carpet. Did you ever wonder how they get their teeth so white? Even good genes don’t prevent tooth discoloration from the foods and beverages we drink and eat. Fortunately, you don’t have to be rich and famous to achieve a pearly white smile.

Why Teeth Become Discolored  

If you don’t have super white teeth, you’re not alone. Many of us have varying degrees of discoloration that range from off-white to yellow to deeper golden hues. Yellow and gold may be on your color wheel, but not when it comes to your teeth. So, what causes those nice white teeth we have as kids to take on a darker tinge?

Even if you have healthy teeth, you’re not immune to tooth discoloration. There are several reasons your smile may not be as bright as it used to be. Some discoloration may just be due to genetics. Yep, blame it on your family. Genetics may play a role in the brightness and thickness of your tooth’s enamel, which in part determines if you have whitewashed teeth.

Aging is also one of the most common reasons some people experience tooth discoloration. Your teeth have a few different layers. The enamel is the outer layer. Under the enamel is an inner layer called dentin, which has a yellowish tint. As we age, the enamel may thin, which causes the dentin to show more and makes the teeth appear discolored.

Certain foods and drinks can also lead to discoloration. For example, red wine can stain your teeth. Unfortunately, white wine doesn’t reverse the discoloration. But seriously, many common foods and drinks can contribute to discolored teeth. In addition to wine, cola, blueberries, and tea can sabotage your bright smile.

In some cases, side effects from medication may be to blame for discolored teeth. Certain medications, such as high blood pressure drugs, can cause discoloration of the teeth. Trauma to the teeth can cause changes in the tooth’s structure, which also leads to discoloration.

One of the biggest culprits for yellow teeth is smoking. The chemicals in cigarettes, especially tar and nicotine, often lead to discoloration. The longer a person smokes, the worse the discoloration usually becomes.

What Can You Do About Discolored Teeth?

Whitening your teeth can cause an immediate positive change in your self-esteem and appearance. Having a bright smile helps you talk and laugh with confidence.

Pretty much everyone wants a nice white smile, but they may not know how to achieve it. The goods news is tooth whitening has never been easier. Over the counter whitening products, such as mouthwash, toothpaste and whitening strips are available to brighten your teeth.

Your best bet to get a whiter smile is at-home bleaching with custom-made bleaching trays and whitening products. The custom-made trays fit your mouth better than over the counter products. A better fitting tray makes the difference in your results. A custom-fitted tray helps ensure every angle of your teeth gets consistent coverage by the whitening product. Plus, the products dispensed through your dentist typically have a higher concentration of the bleaching agent, which means you get better results.

Keep in mind; no product can whiten your teeth several shades in only a few minutes. Chemically, the whitening agents cannot penetrate deep enough into the teeth to whiten teeth dramatically in a short time. For best results, tooth whitening should be done on consecutive days for a week or two or until the desired shade is reached.

Teeth whiteners are usually safe for most people. Some people may have some tooth or gum sensitivity. If tooth sensitivity occurs, try delaying whitening a few days. In most cases, tooth sensitivity is only temporary and usually disappears in a day.

Remember that tooth whitening does not work on bridges and crowns. Depending on the shade of discoloration, it may not be effective on all teeth. Talk to your dentist to determine what method of tooth whitening may be most effective for your situation. Always follow the instructions, since the overuse of whiteners may harm the tooth enamel.

Keeping Your Pearly Whites Bright

Once your teeth are pearly white, you want to keep them that way. Although certain factors that contribute to tooth discoloration, such as age and genetics, are uncontrollable, you can still do several things to keep your teeth looking good. Consider the following suggestions to keep your smile bright:

Stop smoking: If you smoke, you probably already know that it is bad for your overall health. It is also bad for your teeth. Smoking cessation programs, medications, and nicotine patches are available to help smokers break the habit.

Keep diet in mind: Once your teeth are whitened, they can become discolored again depending on your eating and drinking habits. If you want to keep your teeth white, consider the foods and beverages you eat and drink. Consider limiting certain things that stain the teeth, such as coffee, tea, and cola.

Use a straw: When you’re drinking certain beverages, such as cola or coffee drinks, using a draw limits the amount of contact the stain causing dyes have with your teeth.

Practice good oral hygiene: One of the best ways to keep your teeth white naturally is by practicing good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. Have regular checkups and get your teeth professionally cleaned as recommended by your dentist.

Consider touchups: You can’t expect to whiten your teeth once and have it last a lifetime. To maintain a bright smile, you may have to use tooth whitening products periodically. How often you have to do a touchup depends on lifestyle factors, such as the foods and drinks you consume and whether or not you smoke. Talk to your dentist to make sure you are not using whitening products too often.

Use an ADA approved whitening toothpaste: To maintain your bright smile between touchups, consider using a whitening toothpaste. To be sure the toothpaste is approved by the American Dental Association, look for the ADA seal on the package.



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Implant or Bridge? A guide to deciding how to replace your missing tooth

Missing a tooth?  

A toothless smile on a baby is adorable. But on an adult, not so much. If you lost a tooth due to trauma or tooth decay, you know how embarrassing, and frustrating it can be. You might be self-conscious when you talk and even reflexively cover your mouth when you smile.

Consequences of a Missing Tooth

But a missing tooth is not like a bad hair day and just about appearance.  Even if you only have one missing tooth, and it’s not visible when you smile or talk, it can have a significant impact on your dental health. For example, when you have a tooth missing, the nearby teeth may drift towards the gap leading to shifting and misaligned teeth.

If shifting teeth are not enough to freak you out, your jawbone under the missing tooth can also start to wear away. Here’s what happens: although you don’t realize it, teeth make contact with each other all the time when you chew and talk. This contact provides stimulation to the jawbone. Without the stimulation, the jawbone can eventually deteriorate.

If enough bone is lost, it can affect the way you speak and even your appearance can change. Losing bone decreases support of your facial structures. Have you ever noticed that someone without teeth has a sunken-in or sagging facial appearance? A sagging facial appearance makes you look older than you are. Considering how much effort most of us put into looking younger, this is just somewhat counter productive.

Options: Bridges and Implants

Yikes! If all the effects of missing teeth sound like a big deal, it is. The moral of the story is if you have a lost tooth, now is the time to do something about it. Fortunately, when it comes to replacing missing teeth, you have options. Both bridges and dental implants are good choices to restore one or more missing teeth. But before you decide which procedure to go for, it’s important to understand what is involved with each.

A dental bridge is just like what it sounds; a replacement tooth that spans the gap or creates a bridge between two teeth. If you opt for a dental bridge, it typically consists of two crowns and a prosthetic tooth in the middle. The crowns are placed on the adjacent teeth to hold the bridge in place. Before the bridge is placed, the teeth on both sides of the missing tooth have to be shaped so the crowns can fit.

Back in the old days, the only way to restore missing teeth was dentures and bridges. But now dental implants are also an option.  A dental implant works somewhat differently than a bridge. An implant does not just replace the missing tooth, but also replaces the tooth root. So why does that matter? Replacing the root can prevent the breakdown of the jawbone, which is optimal.

The way it works is an incision is made in your gum and an implant post is surgically placed. Now don’t freak out. You’ll be numb during the surgery and won’t feel anything. The site is given time to heal so the implant can integrate into the jawbone. New bone cells grow on and around the implant, holding the post in place.

After the implant has integrated into the jawbone, a connecting piece, called an abutment, is attached to the post. Lastly, a prosthetic tooth is placed on the abutment. Implants can be used to replace one tooth, as well as a full set of teeth.

Pros and Cons of Implants and Bridges

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to both implants and bridges.

Advantages of Implants

  • Implants can lasts a lifetime, with proper care
  • Implants are easy to clean around
  • Acts like your natural teeth and can prevent bone loss that often occurs if you don’t replace a missing tooth
  • Does not require any drilling of the adjacent teeth


  • Implants are often more costly than a dental bridge
  • Not everyone may be a candidate for the procedure
  • Dental bridge may need to be replaced at some point
  • Some people find a dental bridge a bit harder to clean around than an implant

Dental bridges don’t involve surgery, and can usually be completed quicker and usually cost less than implants.

How to Choose Between a Bridge and an Implant

So with two good options, how do you decide what’s right for you? At Sullivan and Carothers, DDS, our dentists will go over all the pros and cons of each procedure and answer any of your questions.

When you’re thinking it over, there are several things you may want to consider.

  • What are your time constraints? The implant process often takes longer than a bridge. Once the implant is placed, you have to allow time for the bone to integrate with the implant.  This ensures long term success.
  • The health of the adjacent teeth. This may also play a role in your choice. If you opt for a dental bridge, the teeth on both sides of the missing tooth need to be strong enough to support the bridge. Some people don’t want to involve the neighboring teeth, which may make them lean towards an implant.
  • The amount of bone available for an implant. If your tooth has been missing for a while, some bone loss may have started. But in some instances, procedures, such as a bone graft, may be performed so the implant can be completed.

Remember, when it comes to choosing between a dental bridge and an implant, there is usually no right or wrong choice. What it often comes down to is your circumstances and personal preference. The important thing is to take action, replace the missing tooth and restore your smile and confidence!

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Cosmetic Dentistry: More Than a Beautiful Smile

Should You Consider Cosmetic Dentistry?

Maybe you had a perfect set of pearly whites, but time took its toll. A crack here and a chip there can detract from your smile. Or you might have always had some bothersome dental imperfections, such as a gap between your teeth.

Either way, if you’re considering improving your smile, cosmetic dental procedures may be the way to go. Let’s face it; your appearance also affects the way you feel. If you’re unhappy about your smile, it can waver your confidence, leaving you self-conscious. Being happy with your smile compliments your overall dental health and well-being.

But it doesn’t stop at aesthetics and a strong self-esteem. Some procedures, such as those that repair cracked or chipped teeth, can also correct discomforting or painful dental problems, such as your bite or tooth decay.

What is Cosmetic Dentistry?

If you’re considering having a dental procedure, your first question may be: what is cosmetic dentistry? Some dentists define cosmetic dentistry as a procedure which is done to improve the appearance of the teeth.

But if you think about it, most dental procedures, such as crowns, implants and bridges, not only improve oral health, they also improve a person’s smile and have cosmetic benefits. So even if a procedure is done for the health of your teeth, all dentistry should be aesthetically pleasing.

But there are also some cosmetic procedures that are simply done to improve your appearance and are considered elective. Wait a minute. Making a deliberate trip to the dentist when you don’t absolutely need to? Sounds crazy right? But even procedures that are done primarily for aesthetics, such as tooth whitening, can have significant benefits. Although it does not improve the functionality of your teeth, having a brighter smile can boost your self-esteem and who doesn’t want that?

Cosmetic Dentistry Options  

Although we all have things about our appearance that we’re not too happy about, some issues are more of a concern than others. There are various types of cosmetic dentistry procedures ranging from simple to complex that may work for you.

The type of procedure recommended may depend on what you want to correct, your budget and time constraints. Remember not every imperfection needs to be corrected. What is a priority to one person may be no big deal to another.

Cosmetic dental procedures can help treat a wide variety of problems including gaps and misshapen teeth, cracked teeth and broken teeth. Whether you want subtle changes, major repairs, or anything in between, there is a variety of procedures available to improve your smile. Consider some of the following options:

Teeth Whitening: Even if your teeth are in good shape, they may not be as white as you like. Over the years, teeth can easily discolor. A cup of java may help you get going in the morning, or a glass of red wine might help you unwind at the end of a day. But both can stain and yellow your teeth. At Sullivan and Carothers, DDS, we offer at-home teeth whitening, which is a convenient and easy way to brighten your smile. If you are either looking for something fast or do not feel you would wear the trays at home, we offer several in-office bleaching options.

Bonding: Bonding is a simple and cost-effective way to improve the appearance of chipped teeth, lengthen teeth and close a gap between teeth. Bonding involves using a composite resin, which is shaped and polished to match your other teeth.

Veneers: Veneers are another cosmetic dentistry option, which involves placing permanent thin porcelain fronts on your teeth. Veneers are a good option to reshape worn teeth, restore discolored teeth or fix chips.

Implants: Dental implants are not only for cosmetic purposes, but they also provide restorative benefits. An implant replaces both the tooth root and the natural tooth using an implant post and an artificial tooth. It’s a great option to replace one or more missing teeth.

How can you Benefit from Cosmetic Dentistry?  

When you first think of cosmetic dentistry, you might think it’s entirely about appearance. But having a nice smile and being happy with how you look is not about being superficial. It’s about increasing your self-confidence. Everything from your love life to your job is affected by how confident you are.

Think about it. If you’re self-conscious about your teeth and smile, it can make you feel insecure in social situations and limit the things you do. You might even try to hide your teeth. Do you reflexively cover your mouth when you smile or laugh.

Cosmetic dental procedures may be elective as opposed to essential. But in many cases, they can also improve your dental health and provide restorative benefits. Enhanced appearance and improved dental health are not mutually exclusive. Replacing a missing tooth with a bridge or implant improves your smile. But it may also prevent your teeth from shifting and decrease bone loss in your jaw. So you’re not only leaving looking and feeling better, but you also improve your dental health.

While cosmetic dentistry won’t fix all of life’s problems, it can change the way you see yourself. Keep in mind, even small changes can have a big impact. Sometimes small steps are all it takes to boost your self-esteem. Improving your smile is about taking control of your life and making the changes you want. Having a smile you’re happy with may mean you smile more often, which is always a plus!

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