My Blog

Posts for: December, 2014

By Gary W. Machiko, DMD
December 30, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  

Did you know that the bacteria that cause tooth decay are usually transmitted to children from their parents, through sharing the same spoon or kissing? Once inside the child's mouth, the bacteria live on the teeth in what is called a biofilm. When the child consumes sugary foods or drinks, the bacteria act upon the sugar to produce acids that eat away at the child's teeth, producing tooth decay.

These bacteria thrive on carbohydrates such as bread, sweets, and sodas. Even fruit juices, which offer more vitamins than soda, are filled with sugars that lead to decay. The child's saliva works hard to neutralize the acidity produced from these foods, but if the child often snacks between meals this neutralization process doesn’t have a chance to occur.

The first sign of decay may be white spots on the teeth, an indication that minerals in the surface enamel have been dissolved in certain locations. Before it goes any farther, this process can be reversed by reducing the exposure to acids and using fluorides to strengthen the tooth surface.

Make sure your child sees a dentist by his first birthday, to provide preventive care and treat any beginning decay.

You can also help your child develop the habit of brushing his teeth with fluoridated toothpaste. It is important to use only a smear of toothpaste on the brush for very young children, and a pea-sized amount on the brush for children over the age of 2. Sometimes small children swallow their toothpaste, and excessive amounts of fluoride can cause staining on the teeth. When your children are very young, you must brush their teeth. As they get older, they can do it themselves, with your supervision. We can also apply fluoride varnish to strengthen the tooth surface and make it resistant to acids.

Brushing twice a day is a good start. But it can't prevent tooth decay when a child is eating carbohydrates all day. One way to reduce the use of sugar is to use xylitol, a naturally occurring sweetener that looks and tastes like table sugar and improves oral health. Studies have shown that use of this sweetener reduces tooth decay in children.

Another good idea is to wean children from bottles and training cups as early as possible. Sometimes children are given bottles filled with milk or sugary beverages at bedtime to help them relax. A better idea for their teeth is to teach them to drink from a regular cup filled with milk — or preferably, with water.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth decay in children. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Managing Tooth Decay In Children With Chronic Diseases.” While this article focuses on children with health challenges, it contains excellent advice to help all children prevent tooth decay.


When Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi wanted to help her kids develop good oral health habits, the gold-medal-winner made good use of a family connection: Her father Jim Yamaguchi is a practicing dentist in the San Francisco Bay area who treats her entire brood. As she said in a recent interview, when she suspects the kids may be spending a little less effort on oral hygiene than they should, she playfully admonishes them: “You've got to brush your teeth better than that. Papa-san is going to know!”

Not all kids are lucky enough to have a grandpa who's a dentist — but every child can learn how to help take care of his or her oral health with age-appropriate techniques, plus plenty of parental guidance and encouragement. What's the best way to help your kids develop good oral hygiene routines? We're glad you asked!

Through babyhood and the toddler years, parents have the main responsibility for keeping kids' teeth clean. But as they begin to put away pacifiers and cease sucking thumbs — around ages 2 to 4 — children can also begin to help with their own oral hygiene routine. By then, kids will probably be used to the feel of gentle brushing, and may be eager to try it themselves.

A soft-bristled brush with a pea-sized dab of toothpaste is all they need to get started… along with a good dose of parental patience. Show them how to wiggle the brush back and forth from the gum line, and all around the upper and lower teeth, both in front and in back. At first, they will probably need plenty of help. But after the age of 6 or so, as their manual dexterity increases, so will their ability to get the job done.

You'll still have to check their work periodically — but you can also teach them how to do it on their own: Have your child run his or her tongue over the tooth surfaces. If they feel smooth and silky, they're probably clean too. If not… try, try again. This test is a good guideline to brushing effectiveness — but if you want to know for sure, use a temporary dye called a disclosing tablet (available at many drugstores) to reveal unseen buildups of plaque bacteria.

What else can you do to give your children the best chance at keeping a healthy mouth and sparkly teeth? Set a positive example! Make sure you (and your kids) eat a healthy diet, get moderate exercise, limit between-meal treats — and visit the dentist regularly. The encouragement you'll get after having a good dental checkup will make you feel like a gold medalist — even if the praise isn't coming from grandpa.

If you would like more information on how to help your child develop good oral health habits, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dentistry & Oral Health For Children” and “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”

By Gary W. Machiko, DMD
December 15, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: Teeth Whitening  

Having white teeth will never go out of style.

There are always a ton of do’s and don’ts in the fashion world, and we’re sure that most of you have heard to put away the white pants after Labor Day; however, sometimes nothing looks more fresh and crisp than something radiantly white. So even if you’ve already put away those white pants this year, that’s OK. The only white we’re talking about wearing is your smile. If your smile has lost some of its luster it’s time to get your smile back on track, and teeth whitening in Pittsburgh can hold the key to a brighter smile.

Professional versus over-the-counter whitening

If you’ve wandered through your local drug store lately, then you’ve probably noticed the rows of teeth whitening products. If you’ve ever tried them you may well know that it takes weeks before you see results, and even after you do start to notice changes, it’s very subtle. Commercial whitening products aren’t exactly known for producing significantly brighter smiles; however, our teeth whitening system offers a brighter smile in only 45 minutes. Plus, we can get teeth up to eight shades whiter in just one visit. No more waiting weeks for results. You can walk in and out of our office with a noticeably brighter smile.

What is the teeth whitening process like?

First an instrument is inserted into the mouth to push the cheeks away, exposing all your teeth (don’t worry, this doesn’t hurt!). Then a resin is painted on your teeth to protect against bleaching irritation.

Then a bleaching gel goes over the teeth and a specialized laser is directed at your smile to activate the gel. Each session lasts about 15 minutes before the gel is washed off, and fresh gel is reapplied. There are often two or three sessions involved in one bleaching visit.

What are the advantages?

No other teeth whitening can produce results as quickly. This is also the safest way to bleach teeth, as your dentist can control any teeth sensitivity.

Are there any drawbacks?

If you have dental work like fillings or crowns, the bleach will only change the color of natural teeth. This means that the teeth whitening won’t actually brighten cosmetic procedures.

There are also some stains that are harder to remove than others. Teeth that are darker due to trauma, antibiotic use, or overexposure to fluoride also may not benefit from teeth whitening.

By Gary W. Machiko, DMD
December 04, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants   dentures  

If you’ve had the misfortune of losing all or most of your teeth (a condition called edentulism), you still have effective options for restoring lost form and function to your mouth. There is, of course, the traditional removable denture that’s been the mainstay for edentulism treatment for decades. If you haven’t experienced significant bone loss in the jaw, though, a fixed bridge supported by titanium implants could be a better choice.

But what if bone loss has ruled out an implant-supported fixed bridge? There’s still another option besides traditional dentures — a removable “overdenture” that fits “over” smaller diameter implants strategically placed in the jaw to support it.

A removable, implant-supported bridge offers a number of advantages for edentulism patients with significant bone loss.

Speech Enhancement. Any denture or bridge supported by implants will have a positive impact on speech ability, especially involving the upper jaw. But patients who’ve previously worn removable dentures may not see a dramatic difference but will still be able to benefit from the greater stability of the denture, particularly if the dentures were previously unstable.

Hygiene. A removable denture allows better access to implant sites for cleaning. Better hygiene reduces the risk of gum disease and further bone loss.

Long-Term Maintenance. Regardless of which type of implant supported restoration is used, it will eventually require some maintenance. A well-designed removable overdenture can make any future maintenance easier to perform.

Aesthetics. For personal satisfaction, this is often the ultimate test — how will I look? As a product of the evolving art of facial aesthetics, removable dentures supported by implants can replace lost tissues and restore balance to the face, and often produce a remarkable smile “makeover.”

To find out which restoration option is best for you, you should first undergo a thorough examination to determine the status of your facial and jaw structures, particularly the amount of bone mass still present. Ultimately, though, the decision should be the one that best fits your functional needs, while fulfilling your desires for your future smile.

If you would like more information on tooth restoration options, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Fixed vs. Removable: Choosing Between a Removable Bridge and a Fixed Bridge.”

By Gary W. Machiko, DMD
December 04, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: veneers  

Veneers are a popular solution to common cosmetic dental issues. They cover unsightly imperfections in the teeth while preserving much of the original tooth. Many dental patients are curious about how veneers are made. Pittsburgh cosmetic dentist Dr. Gary W. Machiko, DMD is happy to answer these questions when seeing patients who want restorative work to improve the appearance of their smiles.

What Are Veneers?
A veneer is a lightweight wafer made of porcelain material that looks like the surface of a tooth. It is designed to lay right on top of Veneersyour original tooth to give it a more attractive appearance. The dentist must first prepare the tooth (usually preserving much of the original tooth matter). He then uses a bonding cement to place the finished veneer on top. If you prioritize dental and oral health care (including regular visits to the dentist) porcelain veneers can last up to 20 years.

The Process of Making Veneers
Permanent veneers are commonly manufactured in a dental laboratory by a specialist who knows how to form the restoration according to the molds taken by Dr. Machiko. The specialist is an artist of sorts who uses the raw material (usually porcelain) to craft a tooth-like wafer. They are often formed by hand with specialized dental tools or technologically advanced cutting machines that create restorations. It usually takes a few weeks for the veneer to be finished and ready for placement in your mouth at the office of your Pittsburgh cosmetic dentist. In the meantime, you’ll be fitted with temporary tooth coverings.

Are Veneers Your Best Bet?
Countless patients have found their solution to cosmetic dental issues with veneers. They allow you to preserve your original teeth while significantly improving the overall look of your smile. A qualified cosmetic dentist must examine your specific case to see if you can benefit from porcelain veneers, and also to determine how many may be needed. Schedule a consultation appointment with Pittsburgh cosmetic dentist Dr. Gary W. Machiko today at http://, or by calling a friendly receptionist at (724) 719-2866.