Increase your Dental IQ with Dr. Bruce Howell – Longmont Dental Health

At Dental Health Colorado, we believe that increasing your dental IQ  can increase your chances of maintaining good oral health.  In order to accomplish this goal, oral health education should take place both inside and outside of our dental office, especially because access to dental care is declining in Colorado. Feel free to ask one of our Dental Health Colorado dentists an oral health question and they will get back to you as soon as they are able.

Increase your dental IQ with Dr Bruce Howell of Longmont Dental HealthCurrently, we have two dentists, Dr. Bruce Howell of Longmont, CO and Dr. Stephen Perry of Boulder, CO signed up to answer your dental IQ questions.

Dr. Bruce Howell of Longmont Dental Health has answered a number of oral health questions that are detailed below.  Currently, Dr. Howell has been recognized for 70 awards for his responsiveness, reliability and peer recognition.  You can learn more about oral health and ask your own questions on our Ask a Dentist page.

We are taking advantage of the Health Tap organization to provide you with a portal to our Dental Health dentists so that you can increase your dental IQ.


Dental IQ for You:

What do dental sealants do?  Our teeth have natural grooves that assist in the chewing process. On a microscopic level, there can be very deep grooves that can be difficult to keep clean and decay easily. Sealants fill in these smaller grooves to keep them more decay free.

What type of teeth whitener whitens teeth stained by tetracycline medication?  Tetracycline staining is normally a very dark, difficult stain to lighten. Over the counter products will normally not help. Professional teeth whitening with possible micro-abrasion may be required.

How long does it take gingivitis to resolve?

Tooth whitening toothpaste often have a dual effect. Gingivitis is a more minor inflammation of the gums as opposed to periodontal disease. A good professional cleaning and good home care will normally resolve it in a week to 10 days.
Is there a specific way to brush so that whitening tooth paste is more effective?  Yes & no.  Tooth whitening toothpaste often have a dual effect. There may be a chemical that has an effect but the paste may also have extra abrasives that whiten. You need to be careful not to use a toothpaste that is too abrasive.
My son has an extra (supernumerary) tooth. What does this mean?  Just an extra tooth.  Sometimes an extra tooth bud forms and we end up with an extra tooth. Nothing to worry about. Depending on the location it may just need to be removed.
How effective is mouth rinse for a poor-healing tooth extraction site?  An extraction site should heal normally without any special assistance. Certain medical conditions such as diabetes can slow down healing. Sometimes the extraction site may have residual bone or necrotic tissue that would need to be removed by your dentist. If the extraction site is not healing properly, consult with your dentist.
What problems can occur if I floss too deeply?  Improper flossing can cause unnecessary injury to the teeth. The floss needs to wrap around the tooth, not pushed deeply between them. Consult with yours dentist or hygienist for proper technique.
What causes teeth ache aftering using bleaching trays?
Our teeth have tiny fluid filled micro tubules that are normally naturally plugged up. Bleaching unplugs the opening causing sensitivity. Normally the sensitivity goes away with time but it may depend on the specific bleaching product.
Why would the dentist tell me to rinse my mouth with warm salt water?  Warm salt water can have a healing effect on gum issues for several reasons. Puffy gums can benefit from something called osmosis which causes water to be pulled out of the soft tissue, reducing the puffiness. Also, just the cleaning action of the rinse helps.

Just click on the link to schedule a visit with one of our dental offices in Downtown DenverDTCMidtown DenverWestminsterBoulderLongmont and Greeley.


  1. Victoria Bean says

    Hi Dr. Howell,
    Hi Dr. Howell,

    I was wondering if you could help me out with a dental dilemma I’m having. I have read conflicting opinion over whether or not wisdom teeth extraction changes the face, and I was hoping you might be able to clarify this issue for me. A dentist told me that with each tooth extraction the facial width/height shrinks by 2-4mm, I assume this would be true of wisdom teeth as well? I am currently a little despondent over this as I think I’ve observed this change in myself (narrower face), and am strongly considering dental implants. Could these regenerate the atrophied bone and/or prevent further atrophy? Money really isn’t an issue and I haven’t been coerced into the idea by a dentist/perio or intuition just tells me this would be as close as I could come to having my natural teeth (and face) back. And I also know that as we age our teeth wear down and this is often when wisdom teeth will choose to erupt as they now have space/can aid the other teeth. So I also think implants would help in reducing dental erosion on my other teeth and slow down/lessen jaw shrinkage as I get older. What are your thoughts on this?

    O I apologize, wanted to add one more question: I have read that the jaw will commonly grow to accommodate wisdom teeth (especially impacted), and am also concerned that I missed out on this natural growth process by having mine extracted at 19. Would that fact, combined with the atrophy after removal, mean that I now have a smaller jaw? (as I think I am perceiving)

    Thanks so much for your time and expertise,


    • Victoria let me answer your questions by first giving some background information. We are designed to have 32 teeth in our mouths, all 8 bicuspids and all 4 third molars. If you go back several hundred years there were no impacted wisdom teeth, there were very few crowded teeth. As a society our mouths are smaller than our ancestors, not because of genetics but because of lack of use.

      There is a correlation between children that were breast fed and mal-occlusion (see references). It takes very little effort for a baby to receive nutrients from a bottle leading to underdeveloped jaw muscles. Bone grows in response to the attached muscles; strong musculature contributes to broad full jawbones with room for all 32 teeth, weaker jaw muscles leads to impacted wisdom teeth and crowded teeth.

      We can’t just blame our mothers for our small underdeveloped jaws since our eating habits as a society are also a huge factor. Infants and children eat baby food and other soft foods. As adolescents we continue the softer diet; when was the last time you saw a child take a huge bite from an apple? Instead we cut it into pieces for them to eat. By the time we reach 12 to 13 years of age our faces are nearly fully formed and most of us as a society have some degree of impacted wisdom teeth as well as crowding requiring orthodontics.

      To answer one of your specific questions, yes; our jaw will grow to accommodate wisdom teeth as well as all 8 bicuspids if the muscles are properly developed in the formative years which for our jawbones end at about age 13. As adults our jawbones will not grow.

      Our jawbones are designed to support teeth. When teeth are removed the surrounding bone does atrophy, shrink mainly vertically. Our posterior teeth also hold our cheeks in place so with multiple tooth loss our faces do collapse in width to a varying degree.

      Unfortunately once that bone is gone nothing can be done to naturally replace it. The best way to preserve the bone following tooth loss is with a dental implant. Often bone grafting is performed to better support the artificial root of the implant.

      Only in the case of harmful grinding habits do our teeth wear down. This does not create room for the wisdom teeth to erupt but it does contribute to further collapse of the face vertically.

      If you can imagine when you open your mouth wide, our cheek tissue stretches and is smooth and tight. If you could close your mouth more than normal, in this case by the teeth being ground down from grinding, then our cheek tissue, no longer stretched, would bag and sag making us look older. A splint or bite guard can prevent this harmful grinding.
      With proper professional and home care, our teeth are intended to last our lifetime. I hope this answers your questions.

      Dr. Bruce Howell
      Dental Health of Longmont