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Herald Journal Health & Medical Resources Guide

published July 2012

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Herald Journal Publishing
PO Box 129
Winsted, MN 55395
(320) 485-2535

The do’s and don’ts of teeth whitening

By Starrla Cray, Staff Writer

From brushing with strawberries to bleaching with gels, people have tried a mouthful of ways to attain a gleaming smile.

“It seems that people are becoming more and more conscientious about white teeth,” commented Kimberly Nelson, office manager at Delano Dental.

So, what works, and what doesn’t?

Home remedy websites tout techniques like rubbing teeth with sand or fruit and gargling with olive oil, but local dental professionals say it’s safest to stay clear of unproven options.

“You get what you pay for,” Nelson said.

“Anything acidic would be a concern with gum health,” added Roxanne, financial coordinator at Dassel Dental.

Nelson wouldn’t recommend whitening products from strip malls, either.

“We’ve had patients use those who were very dissatisfied,” she said. “They came into our office to correct it.”

“Malls aren’t regulated like we are for products,” Roxanne added. “They don’t care about your health, and we really do.”

In addition, some products that seem inexpensive might end up costing more in the long run.

“They might not be as effective as advertised, and might require additional treatments,” Roxanne said.

Many area dentists offer in-office whitening, tray whitening, and white strips.

Winsted Gentle Dental, for example, uses Philips Zoom DayWhite trays.

“We get good results with it,” hygienist JaNaye Dressler said. “We don’t use the light, because we found that it wasn’t that effective.”

Delano Dental also uses Zoom whitening, which is best recognized for its use on ABC’s Extreme Makeover.

“That’s the Cadillac,” Nelson said, adding that teeth can sometimes get five to seven shades lighter.

The “whitening for life” program, open to new patients who sign up for a checkup every six months, is also popular at Delano Dental. At each visit, patients receive a complementary tube of whitening gel, which is used at home with a custom-fit tray.

Whitening strips (such as professional strength Crest Whitestrips) are another option available from many local dentists, including Winsted Gentle Dental.

“You’re supposed to do it when you don’t need to be talking a lot, such as watching TV or reading a book, or getting ready in the morning,” Dressler said.

Similar strips are also available at stores. Lester Prairie resident Sarah Mathews, for example, started using Crest Whitestrips about five years ago.

“The new ones are a lot better than when they first came out,” she said. “They still worked; they just slipped around more.”

The box directions say to use one strip each day for a month, but Mathews said she prefers to just use one strip whenever it’s needed.

“You can tell if you haven’t done it in awhile,” she said.

People who are having cosmetic dental work often chose to whiten teeth beforehand, so that everything matches with their new whiter color.

“Everybody is really white now,” Dressler said. “We have to order lighter colors than in the past for filings and crowns. I always tell people that tooth color should match the whites of your eyes, in order to look natural.”

It is possible to over-whiten, according to Roxanne.

“Then, you get a grey-bluish color to your teeth,” she said, adding that dental offices monitor the color to ensure that doesn’t happen to their patients.

The whiteness of people’s teeth varies, depending on factors such as age, diet, and genetics.

“In reality, not everyone’s teeth are the same,” Roxanne said.

People who smoke, or drink dark liquids (like coffee, tea, and red wine) are more likely to have darker teeth.

As for the safety of whitening products, Nelson said dentists would have stopped using them years ago if they were harmful.

“Everything in moderation,” Dressler added.

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