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Dealing With The Dental Aftermath Of Pan Masala And Gutka Use

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Pan masala is a vastly popular treat in Southeast Asia. After meals, the concoction of betel nuts, acacia extract, slaked lime, and various other herbs and spices is chewed along with an areca nut to freshen the breath and aid digestion. Gutka, pan masala's adult counterpart, consists of a similar blend of plant matter, but it has the addition of tobacco for those who crave stimulants.

If you grew up in Southeast Asia, or spent any length of time there, it's likely that you've chewed plenty of these mixtures, and that the mixtures have left lasting stains on your teeth.

Why Do Pan Masala And Gutka Stain Teeth?

The plant matter used in pan masala and gutka contains tannins -- the same compounds that are used to tan leather and dye fabrics. Areca nuts promote salivation. When placed in the mouth together, the areca nut stimulates the salivary gland to produce excess quantities of saliva, which is then dyed by the tannins in the pan masala or gutka. The newly dyed saliva then lingers in the mouth, staining the teeth in shades of brown and red.

In addition, many pan masala mixtures are sweetened to appeal to children, and the repeated chewing of these sugary substances can lead to severe tooth decay.

Is The Staining Permanent?

Tooth stains caused from pan masala and gutka can't be removed by brushing alone, but there are treatment options available through a cosmetic dentist.

Bleaching -- If your habit was short-lived and caused only minimal staining, and you don't have any tooth decay, a simple bleaching may be all you need to restore your teeth to a whiter shade. An in-office whitening takes approximately one hour, and can transform your teeth into a smile ten times brighter than it was before the procedure.

Because the bleach used by your dentist is stronger than over-the-counter whiteners, it can only be applied to your front eight teeth. However, it provides nearly immediate results for these most visible teeth, and your treatment will continue with an at-home whitening solution prescribed by your dentist.

Bonding -- If you have severe staining or tooth decay from chewing pan masala or gutka, but the staining and/or decay is limited to only a few teeth, then your dentist suggest a bonding procedure.

When bonding a tooth, your dentist will roughen its enamel with a special tool, and then apply a thin layer of bonding cement. He or she will then place a tooth-colored resin compound directly over the enamel before applying ultraviolet light to the area. The light activates the cement and bonds the resin to your natural tooth.

You can expect to spend between 30 and 60 minutes at the dentist's office for every tooth that needs to be bonded.

Veneers -- If you have several teeth that have been stained or eroded due to pan masala or gutka use, then you're a good candidate for dental veneers. Dental veneers are similar to dental bonds, but they can be made to fit over several teeth at once. You'll begin this procedure with your dentist removing a very thin layer of tooth enamel. He or she will then take an impression of your bite, and send it to a laboratory. The laboratory will then use resin or porcelain to craft an overlay for your teeth.

Once the overlay arrives at your dentist's office, they'll call you up and schedule an appointment to bond it to your teeth. Both resin and porcelain veneers are applied in the same manner as dental bonding -- dental cement is applied, the veneers are placed, and then an ultraviolet light is shined on the teeth to complete the process.

The dental aftermath of pan masala and gutka use can be devastating, but it doesn't need to be permanent. Schedule an appointment with a cosmetic dentist today to find out what dental stain treatment option is best for you.