Helpful Hints for Healthy Teeth
• Coat hangers
• Ice crushers
• Potato chip bag openers
• Knot looseners
• Fork tine straighteners
• Chomping frozen candy bars full of caramel or frozen nuts
"Blenders have special blades to crush ice, for heaven's sakes," he laments.
Whiteners: Good or Bad?
Gregory L. Paskerian, DMD, a private dentist and former assistant professor at Tufts University, tells WebMD that the new whitening rage follows a continuum of products. "The strips and other over-the-counter whiteners do not damage teeth or burn gum tissue," he says. "The trays (to hold the peroxide solution) you can buy may can contain an acidic, unbuffered solution, which could damage enamel."
The best tray-type lightening, he says, is provided by the dentist, who can control the solution and timing.
"For the fastest and safest whitening," Paskerian says, "you need to get the high-intensity light systems. This light changes the molecular structure of the enamel for a time, but it goes back to normal and at a lighter shade."
He adds, though that whitening is not really a color change, but a brightness or value change.
Price says he wishes patients would concentrate more on keeping teeth healthy. "There are bleaching groupies," he says, "People who can't get enough. You can only get teeth so white."
Price also says these solutions can sometimes cause gum sensitivity, although it is usually short-lived.
Don't Overbrush Your Teeth
Price says it's hard to go wrong on paste or brush if you look for the American Dental Association (ADA) label of approval. "This means a brush is firm enough to remove plaque but not tear up gums," he says. "Choose a brush like you would a piece of silverware -- something that feels comfortable in your hand." The designation of "Soft" is preferred by most dentists.
"Don't use a brush more than three months," Price adds. "That is the limit."
If you use an electric brush, Paskerian recommends a rotary head type that you take from tooth to tooth rather than cruising across the teeth with it.
Water picks, both dentists say, can drive bacteria back up into the gums, which can lead to it lodging in other parts of the body, such as the heart. "The picks do not remove plaque," Paskerian says.