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Dr Alexandra Choi

Are These DIY Teeth Whitening Trends Harmful?

October 12th, 2017

TRENDS IMPACT JUST about every aspect of life, from slang and fashion to which toys are collectibles this year and which fad diet everyone’s aunt is doing.
Most trends are harmless symptoms of an ever-evolving society and culture, but when they affect the ways we take care of ourselves, they can become serious. In recent years, do-it-yourself teeth whitening has been a “trendy” topic and  bloggers and influencers have flooded our feeds touting the latest remedies. We take a closer look at a few of the more popular methods and use science to see if some are risking the health of your teeth without delivering the promise of a whiter smile.

Charcoal Versus Tooth Enamel
As counterintuitive as it seems to rub black powder on your teeth and expect them to become whiter, the rationale behind the idea makes sense. Charcoal is extremely porous and absorbent, and has been used even in hospitals to safely neutralize toxins. In theory, it could do the same for your teeth.

However, charcoal isn’t just porous, it’s also abrasive. Even as it absorbs harmful compounds from your mouth and disrupts bacterial populations, it could also be scraping away your enamel, doing more harm than good. If you enamel things, more of the underlying and darker dentin shows through and could make your smile look more yellow. Until we know more about the effects of charcoal on teeth, it’s safer to give that home remedy a pass.

Lemon Juice: Dissolving Stains Or Dissolving Teeth?
The enamel on your teeth is the hardest substance in your body, but it is extremely susceptible to erosion by acid. Your saliva keeps the pH in your mouth balanced to protect your enamel, but any time you eat or drink something acidic, that pH is disrupted and your teeth are vulnerable. Using lemon juice on your teeth in hopes of whitening them is, therefore, likely to cause a lot of enamel erosion, and once that enamel is gone, it’s gone for good.

Oil Pulling: An Ancient Folk Remedy
Oil pulling involves swishing oil (typically coconut, sunflower, sesame, or olive oil) around in one’s mouth for up to twenty minutes. Proponents of oil pulling claim it has numerous health benefits, including teeth whitening, but the American Dental association doesn’t recommend it because there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims.

Eating Strawberries And Bananas
Strawberries do contain some citric acid, but they also contain malic acid (particularly when ripe), which actually can give your teeth a whiter appearance. Bananas contain potassium, magnesium, and manganese, all of which promote healthier teeth and can help remove surface stains. So these two do-it-yourself teeth whiteners may actually provide some benefit! Both fruits still contain sugar, however, so you should still brush your teeth with dentist approved toothpaste after eating them

Stick To The Science
Trends like charcoal toothpaste and lemon juice mouthwash will come and (hopefully) go, and occasionally we’ll discover remedies that do have benefits, like strawberries and bananas, but the best benefits to our teeth will always come from dentist-approved methods. Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day, avoid sugary drinks and snacks, and schedule regular dental appointments. If all of these good habits aren’t keeping your teeth white enough, we do have a safe, professional teeth whitening solution.

Our Whitening for Life Program
You may turn to these home remedies to save some cash, but if you end up damaging your teeth without getting results, it's really not worth the risk. To bring back the shine in your smile, we have a Whitening for Life program for our patients.  For a one time fee, you receive teeth whitening for as long as you are a patient. With your membership, you receive a whitening kit that includes.

  • Custom-made tray to hold bleaching gel  to your teeth comfortably
  • Safe and effective bleaching solutions that strengthens while it whitens your teeth
  • Professional Formula Scientifically Proven to Whiten Teeth
  • Receive new bleaching gels at every 6 months at your regular cleaning for as long as you're a patient.

For a limited time, the first 10 new patients can receive a free Whitening for Life membership ($400 value) after their first exam and cleaning. This special offers will expires November 30, 2017.  To sign-up for this special offer, click here.


Dr. Al's Mission Trip to Thailand

March 9th, 2015

When my college roommate, now a pharmacist, invited me on a medical missions trip to northern Thailand, I had some initial reservations. I knew the medical and dental needs were great and access to care was difficult and sometimes non-existent for the people we would be treating, but I was fearful of "jungle dentistry" as some of the more seasoned missionaries on my team jokingly called it. And jungle dentistry it was! No x-rays, no suction, no adjustable, cushioned dental chair. After much consideration and prayer, I decided to go for it.

Fortunately there was another dentist joining our team, Dr. Philip, so I wasn't completely on my own, but unfortunately, all the supplies Dr. Philip brought were confiscated by customs when the rest of the team arrived in Chiang Mai. By the grace of God, me and my friend had done some traveling before the missions trip and came through a different airport so all the supplies I brought were allowed through. This presented a bit of a challenge nonetheless as Dr. Philip and I had coordinated what we were bringing to minimize redundancy in our instruments. Thankfully, Dr. Sun and Isabel had helped me gather my supplies and encouraged me to bring a few extra things so we had enough tools to get the job done and plenty of the important stuff - local anesthetics! Dr. Choi also generously donated all the supplies I was able to bring for future use in light of the difficulties we faced at customs this year.

We set up our primitive clinic - a single table for all our instruments and cold sterile area and a raised table for the patients to lay on - in two locations. One was at an orphanage in Chiang Saen (about 5 hours from Chiang Mai) and the other at a local church in Huay Jor. Over the course of our time there we were able to see 97 patients ranging in age from 4 to 71 and extracted 116 root tips, broken teeth, and wisdom teeth. Most of our patients were from the most impoverished people groups of Laos, the Khmu, where there is minimal access to dental care due to geographical and financial hardships. For most, this annual mission trip is the only dental care they will receive. One patient broke my heart - a nine year old girl, the youngest of 12 children, came to have her two permanent front teeth extracted because they were broken and infected. We were able to remove the infected teeth but without access to further dental care, she will likely go around without two front teeth for the rest of her life.

Sincere thank you to Dr. Choi, our associates and our office staff for covering for me while I was gone and enabling me to take the opportunity to go on this trip!