How much do we love a bright smile? About a billion dollars’ worth—that’s the amazing amount Americans spend on over-the-counter tooth whiteners every year. But which products actually deliver the dental dazzle? Read on for the most effective picks for pearlier whites.

Whitening Strips

According to recent scientific research, consumer magazine testing and good old customer feedback, dental whitening strips brighten better than anything outside of a professional in-office visit. The best? Crest 3D Whitestrips—their 9.5% peroxide blend bleaches teeth up to three shades lighter when worn once a day for two weeks. The newer “advanced seal” means these grip teeth better than old-school Whitestrips, so they don’t shift around. Crest also gets high marks for other offerings in their whitening line, including Professional Effects and their more affordable Vivid package.

Gels and Trays

If you prefer to precisely place your tooth-whitening solution or like the idea of using tray systems to achieve a more dazzling grin, there are some very effective choices on the market. The GO SMiLE Whitening System offers neat little ampoules that you pop open and brush on for quick and convenient lightening. The solution not only gets thumbs up from those with sensitive choppers, it tastes surprisingly pleasant. (GO SMiLE also offers a Pre-Whitening Gel pack for a speedier and more spectacular shade change.)

Confining a peroxide gel in a tray is a more powerful method of stain removal, as the cleaning agent won’t be compromised by the mouth’s saliva. It may also irritate sensitive teeth and gums, so we’d advise using over-the-counter trays (or any intensive teeth whitening product) only after seeing your dentist for a once-over. That said, an effective mouth-guard-style whitening choice is Aquafresh White Trays—these are pre-filled with a cleaning solution for convenience and fit average-sized mouths best.


No whitening toothpaste can match the stain-blasting power of strips, gels or tray systems as even those containing peroxide don’t stay on your teeth long enough to bleach, but the best ones are a great addition to your “get gleaming” arsenal. They’ll scrub away superficial surface stains so that the results from your last intensive whitening routine don’t quickly fade. If you want that bright smile to survive, try to brush after every meal with one of our recommended toothpastes. (Note: dentists recommend you use over-the-counter whitening kits only once or twice a year to avoid enamel damage, so it’s smart to extend the results with the right toothpaste.)

Which toothpastes clean the best? Experts love Colgate Total, as it provides superior cleaning, fluoride protection and an antibacterial kick to boot. Arm & Hammer Advance White also gets super-high marks, as does Colgate ProClinical toothpaste. Our bargain bet is the cult fave Ultrabrite Advanced Whitening—it’s got the chops to thoroughly clean your choppers.

Rinse, Floss and Gum

While over-the-counter teeth whiteners vary in their power, you’ll get approximately three to four shades lighter with the best strips and trays, a little less brightening with brush-on gels and about one shade of noticeable difference with superior whitening toothpastes. What about mouthwash, dental floss and chewing gum that purports to polish? They won’t really whiten on their own, but work well as part of a tooth-polishing tag team. Listerine’s Whitening Vibrant White Pre-Brush Rinse acts as a booster for more intensive stain removing procedures. (If you’re getting older and concerned about weakening enamel, try their tooth-strengthening variation—Listerine Whitening Plus Restoring Fluoride Rinse.)

We all know the “must floss” mantra—so how about doing your dental duty and getting a little blast of extra cleaning and freshening at the same time? SuperSmile infuses their floss with Calprox to clean and baking soda to promote healthier gums. And speaking of gum, SuperSmile’s whitening chewing gum is sweetened with Xylitol, a cavity inhibitor, and the very act of chewing it helps discourage new stains from forming.


From Science of Dentistry


Dead bodies, diseased lungs and a man on a ventilator were among the graphic images for revamped tobacco labels unveiled today by U.S. health officials.

In the most significant change to U.S. cigarette packs in 25 years, the nine new labels – which include phrases like ‘Smoking can kill you‘ and ‘Cigarettes cause cancer’ – must be on cigarette packages and in advertisements starting in October 2012.

Proposed in November under a law that put the multibillion-dollar tobacco industry under the control of the Food and Drug Administration, the labels send a clear message to consumers about the dangers of tobacco – responsible for about 443,000 U.S. deaths a year.

The labels will take up the top half of a pack of cigarette packs. Warning labels also must appear in advertisements and constitute 20 per cent of an ad. Cigarette makers have until autumn 2012 to comply.

Mandates to introduce new graphic warning labels were part of a law passed in 2009 that, for the first time, gave the federal government authority to regulate tobacco, including setting guidelines for marketing and labelling, banning certain products and limiting nicotine.

The announcement follows reviews of scientific literature, public comments and results from an FDA-contracted study of 36 labels proposed last November.

In recent years, more than 30 countries or jurisdictions have introduced labels similar to those being introduced by the FDA. The U.S. first mandated the use of warning labels stating ‘Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health’ in 1965. Current warning labels – a small box with black and white text – were put on cigarette packs in the mid-1980s.

The FDA says the new labels will ‘clearly and effectively convey the health risks of smoking’ aimed at encouraging current smokers to quit and discourage non-smokers and youth from starting to use cigarettes. American Cancer Society CEO John R Seffrin applauded the new labels in a statement, saying they have the potential to ‘encourage adults to give up their deadly addiction to cigarettes and deter children from starting in the first place’.

The new labels come as the share of Americans who smoke has fallen dramatically since 1970, from nearly 40 percent to about 20 percent. The rate has stalled since about 2004. About 46 million adults in the U.S. smoke cigarettes. It’s unclear why declines in smoking have stalled. Some experts have cited tobacco company discount coupons on cigarettes or lack of funding for programs to discourage smoking or to help smokers quit. While it is impossible to say how many people quit because of the labels, various studies suggest the labels do spur people to quit. The new labels offer the opportunity for a pack-a-day smoker to see graphic warnings on the dangers of cigarettes more than 7,000 times per year.

The FDA estimates the new labels will reduce the number of smokers by 213,000 in 2013, with smaller additional reductions through 2031. The World Health Organization said in a survey done in countries with graphic warning labels that a majority of smokers noticed the warnings and more than 25 per cent said the warnings led them to consider quitting.  While some have voiced concerns over the hard-hitting nature of some of the labels, those concerns should be trumped by the government’s responsibility to warn people about the dangers of smoking, said David Hammond, a health behaviour researcher at the University of Waterloo in Canada, who worked with the firm designing the labels for the FDA.  ‘This isn’t about doing what’s pleasant for people. It’s about fulfilling the government’s mandate if they’re going to allow these things to be sold,’ Hammond said. ‘What’s bothering people is the risk associated with their behaviour, not the warnings themselves.’

In places like Canada, Hammond said smokers offended by some of the images on cigarettes packs there started asking for different packs when they received ones with certain gory images, or used a case to cover them up. But smokers said those warnings still had an effect on them.

Canada introduced similar warning labels in 2000. Since then, its smoking rates have declined from about 26 per cent to about 20 per cent. How much the warnings contributed to the decline is unclear because the country also implemented other tobacco control efforts.

The legality of the new labels also is part of a pending federal lawsuit filed by Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Reynolds American Inc, parent company of America’s second-largest cigarette maker, RJ Reynolds; number three cigarette maker, Greensboro, North Carolina-based Lorillard Inc; and others.

Tobacco makers in the lawsuit have argued the warnings would relegate the companies’ brands to the bottom half of the cigarette packaging, making them ‘difficult, if not impossible, to see.’

A spokesman for Richmond, Virginia-based Altria Group Inc, parent company of the nation’s largest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, said the company was looking at the final labels but would not comment further.

What are your thoughts on the new warning labels?


Do you know what’s lurking on your toothbrush?  Your toothbrush is loaded with germs, say researchers at England’s University of Manchester. They’ve found that one uncovered toothbrush can harbor more than 100 million bacteria, including E. coli bacteria, which can cause diarrhea, and staphylococci (“Staph”) bacteria that cause skin infections.

But don’t panic. Your mouth wasn’t exactly sterile to begin with.

Mouthful of Bacteria

“The bottom line is, there [are] hundreds of microorganisms in our mouths every day,” says Gayle McCombs, RDH, MS, associate professor and director of the Dental Hygiene Research Center at Old Dominion University.

That’s no big deal. Problems only start when there is an unhealthy balance of bacteria in the mouth. McCombs says.

“It’s important to remember that plaque — the stuff you’re removing from your teeth — is bacteria,” says dentist Kimberly Harms, DDS, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. “So you’re putting bacteria on your toothbrush every time you brush your teeth.”

Could Your Toothbrush Be Making You Sick

Probably not. Regardless of how many bacteria live in your mouth, or have gotten in there via your toothbrush, your body’s natural defenses make it highly unlikely that you’re going to catch an infection simply from brushing your teeth.

“Fortunately, the human body is usually able to defend itself from bacteria,” Harms says. “So we aren’t aware of any real evidence that sitting the toothbrush in your bathroom in the toothbrush holder is causing any real damage or harm. We don’t know that the bacteria on there are translating into infections.”

Still, you should exercise some common sense about storing your toothbrush, including how close it is to the toilet.

Don’t Brush Where You Flush

Most bathrooms are small. And in many homes, the toilet is pretty close to the bathroom sink where you keep your toothbrush.

Every toilet flush sends a spray of bacteria into the air. And you don’t want the toilet spray anywhere near your open toothbrush.

“You don’t store your plates and glasses by the toilet, so why would you want to place your toothbrush there?” McCombs says. “It’s just common sense to store your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible.”

You also wouldn’t eat after going to the bathroom without first washing your hands. The same advice applies before brushing your teeth, McCombs says.

Toothbrush Storage Tips

Once you’ve moved your toothbrush away from the toilet, here are a few other storage tips to keep your brush as germ-free as possible:

  • Keep it rinsed. Wash off your toothbrush thoroughly with tap water every time you use it.
  • Keep it dry. “Bacteria love a moist environment,” Harms says. Make sure your brush has a chance to dry thoroughly between brushings. Avoid using toothbrush covers, which can create a moist enclosed breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Keep it upright. Store your toothbrush upright in a holder, rather than lying it down.
  • Keep it to yourself. No matter how close you are to your sister, brother, spouse, or roommate, don’t ever use their toothbrush. Don’t even store your toothbrush side-by-side in the same cup with other people’s brushes. Whenever toothbrushes touch, they can swap germs.
From The Science of Dentistry

June 8, 2011

I wonder if Kanye looked at 4 C’s when the diamonds were picked … for his teeth.


Have you ever used floss, rinsed out your mouth and seen some pink in the sink after spitting?  This is extremely common, but why does it happen?  To better understand why bleeding happens after flossing, let’s first go into depth about how the gum tissue works and reacts to different things.

Gum tissue is something that is extremely important in the mouths of those that have teeth as they keep their teeth in place and don’t allow them to wiggle loose.  When flossing, many people stimulate the gums which cause them to bleed.  The bleeding can mean several things, but most commonly it is because the gums have not been flossed in a while.  This can lead to oversensitive gums that can bleed when stimulated too hard.  While this is the most common reason for bleeding gums after flossing, there are a few other reasons.  These reasons include signs of gum disease, which is called periodontal disease. This disease basically involved the breakdown of the gum tissue.  Contrary to popular believe, periodontal disease does not just happen to old people, but it can happen to any age of person depending on how they care for their teeth. If you get some subtle bleeding, there are several things that you can do to reverse periodontal disease from getting any worse in your mouth.

The best thing to do is to continue dental flossing regularly and brushing your teeth.  Keeping the mouth clean will help to reduce the amount of plaque that is left in your mouth to attack your teeth. By flossing on a regular basis, your gums should start bleeding as they will get used to having stimulation.  If they continue to bleed after flossing regularly, you may want to see your dentist as you may have a more advanced stage of periodontal disease which may need the attention of your dentist in order to reverse.  Another great idea is to use a mouth wash that can get into the hard to reach places in your mouth.  This will also help to kill germs and keep them from attacking the gums and the tooth enamel.  By doing this, you will be able to reduce the bleeding of your gums and promote good oral health.  Having a healthy mouth is extremely important as it can make a huge difference when it comes to having less cavities and other issues in your mouth.


The Science of Dentistry


Can gum disease affect your heart’s health? The latest studies are suggesting so. Scientists have found that people with gum disease can be almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as healthy patients1.  Other studies have shown that having common problems in oral health, such as gum disease, can be as good of a predictor of heart disease as cholesterol levels2.

More than half of all people over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease, but many still do not realize the serious health risks that have been associated with having oral health problems. For the past 80 years, heart disease has been one of the leading causes of death in the US3.  Much research has shown that a link between gum disease and heart problems exists, but we currently do not understand how this relationship actually works. Two predominant theories exist to help explain the link between gum disease and your heart’s health1,2:

  1. When bacteria from the mouth enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart, it begins to attach to plaque found on the walls of the coronary arteries. As bacteria and plaque continuously build up, the arteries can become obstructed. Normal nutrient & blood flow is restricted, placing the patient at an increased of heart attack.
  2. Another theory involves the body’s natural immune response to disease. When oral bacteria enter the bloodstream, a low-grade inflammatory response may occur. When bacteria reach the heart, inflammation & swelling of the arterial cells may occur. This can cause the arteries to narrow and increase the patient’s risk of heart disease.

People with gum disease have been shown to be at increased risk of heart disease, but scientists are still unsure of how the diseases interact, and cannot definitively say if one leads to the other. Until this research becomes available, patients with gum disease should try to reduce their risk factors and take preventive measures at an earlier stage in life, including regular dental hygiene visits and annual periodontal assessments. Routine things like these can be key components in receiving high-quality oral care and may even improve your overall health.

  1. American Academy of Periodontology
  2. WebMD: Periodontal Disease and Heart Health
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Prevalence of Heart Disease—United States, 2005.


It is true that plaque can be removed without the use of toothpaste, and especially when having a demonstration of oral hygiene techniques. It’s a lot easier to see what’s going on when your mouth is not foaming!

However there are many good reasons for using toothpaste which don’t only depend on bacterial plaque removal, but also for a variety of others as well. For example, there are anti-cavity toothpastes, extra-whitening toothpastes, toothpastes with mouthwash, and toothpastes for sensitive teethtoothpastes with stripes, clear toothpaste, and even liver flavored toothpaste for dogs.

All toothpastes contain the following ingredients: binders, abrasives, sudsers, humectants (a substance that retains moisture), flavoring, sweeteners, fluorides, tooth whiteners, preservatives, and water. Toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors, most often being some variation of mint spearmint, peppermint, regular mint and many others.

Probably the most researched of any toothpaste components is fluoride, which has scientifically proven anti-caries properties; it increases the resistance of teeth to demineralization — acid dissolution, and better yet also remineralizes teeth replacing calcium and reversing very early decay. Fluoride was first added to toothpastes in 1914; in fact fluoride toothpastes developed in the 1950s very early on received the American Dental Association’s (ADA) approval.

One toothpaste brand has recently added triclosan, a widely used antibacterial, in hopes of helping to reduce plaque. Other items added to toothpaste are to whiten, remove stain, polish, desensitize, bubble and the list goes on.

Important Features and Ingredients of Toothpastes

Fluoride: You should only buy toothpastes that contain fluoride. On the label, this may be called stannous fluoride, sodium fluoride or monofluoride phosphate (MFP). This is the most widely researched and agreed upon basis for using commercial toothpastes. As long as the product has fluoride, it will help maintain dental health, reduce decay and help with sensitivity.

Desensitizing Toothpastes: These work for mild cases of tooth hypersensitivity, but may take weeks to be effective. The ADA recognizes two effective ingredients in treating sensitive teeth and gums: strontium chloride and potassium nitrate, although studies are more equivocal. These block the tube-like channels of the dentine, thereby reducing the ability of the nerves to transmit pain. They are meant for sensitivity caused by receding gums, not other causes like decay.

Tartar Control: The active tartar-control ingredient, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, has been shown to prevent tartar, but it can’t remove tartar already on the teeth, which requires professional removal by a hygienist or dentist. Some people have reported mouth irritation, and do not do enough extra to warrant this risk.

Baking Soda: There is actually no proof that this has any effect at all. Baking soda may be too abrasive for continual use, and may actually lead to gum problems and irritation in the mouth. Some people, however, like the taste and feel of baking soda in the mouth.

Peroxide: While the ADA believes current levels of peroxide in toothpastes are safe, some studies report that peroxide in high concentrations can irritate and damage gum tissue. The bubbling may make you feel like you’re getting a better cleaning, but there is no scientific proof of this.

Abrasives: These are essentially for helping to remove plaque, and are usually in the form of silica. All ADA-approved toothpastes contain mild abrasives.

Whitening Ability: As mentioned above, no toothpaste has been proven effective in actually changing the color of teeth. The whitening toothpastes merely clean surface stains, but cannot change the underlying tooth color.

American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance: The ADA awards its seal only after reviewing the “appropriate clinical and/or laboratory studies and scientific data.” Any toothpaste with the ADA seal has been proven safe and effective.

So, you see, there are lots of good reasons to use toothpaste and many choices to allow you to find one that is right for you.

From The Science of Dentistry