Take-home kit versus in-office teeth whitening treatments

Our last blog post helped illustrate how teeth become discoloured over time, and offered suggestions on how to counteract some of the most stain-inducing foods and drinks out there.

This post will help you navigate the different whitening options available to you after you have decided you want to up the shine factor of your smile.

Dentists typically offer two professional, safe, and gentle approaches to tooth whitening: take home kits and in office treatment.

  1. Take-home kit: a custom fit tray is made in-office, and the office provides the professionally designed gels that you take home, apply to the trays, and wear for a few minutes to a few hours over the course of a few weeks until you obtain the results you are happy with.
  2. In-office: Your initial visit involves a proper diagnosis and vetting to make sure you are a good candidate for teeth whitening. Your second visit lasts approximately 90 minutes in the chair, where you dentist will isolate your teeth before applying the much stronger and more powerful gel, often triggering the process with laser or special lighting.

The table below illustrates the main similarities and differences between your two choices:

  Take home In office
Looks like
Active ingredient Peroxide Peroxide
Strength Mild Strong
Results Brighter whiter teeth Brighter whiter teeth
Length of time A number of weeks, depending on desired change and frequency wearing Often, just one 90 minute visit
Costs $$ $$$
Safety Relatively safe as long as you follow the instructions. Done in a controlled setting, less risk of damage to surrounding tissues, more controlled results, can stop treatment if you experience any discomfort or sensitivity.


While over the counter whitening strips and/or toothpastes are a tempting way to DIY, dentists often do not recommend them. Their ingredients can be uncontrolled and may lead to abrasion of the teeth causing sensitivity.

To hear Dr. Hatamian speak to the professional whitening services he offers, watch the video.

The staining effects of tomatoes and turmeric on your teeth

Last week we reminded our readers to spring clean their mouths by heading to the dentist for regular smile –maintenance.

This post will delve into the intricacies of maintaining that squeaky clean smile and what to do to reduce staining.

If you are a regular human who eats and drinks through their mouth, then chances are your teeth have experienced some degree of staining. We all know that our daily coffee/tea drinking habits cause some tooth discolouration, and one doesn’t have to stretch the imagination to appreciate the staining effects of red wine, but these life sustaining drinks aren’t the only robbers of your lustrous smile. Here is a list of some of the lesser-known culprits that are also guilty of turning the lights off in your mouth:

  • Food and drink with high acidity content. Acid works against our teeth by wearing away the shiny white enamel, exposing the yellow dentin underneath. Some foods and drinks are a double threat because they are both acidic and deeply pigmented (*):
    • White wine
    • Fruits and berries, including blackberries and blueberries*
    • Tomatoes*
    • Balsamic vinegar*
    • Soft drinks*
    • Energy drinks
    • Curries
    • Turmeric
    • Any candy/food colouring that stains your tongue will also likely stain your teeth
      • On that note, the harder the candy, and the more time it spends in your mouth, the more damage it can do

While we hardly suggest you eliminate all tooth staining food from your diet, there are simple maintenance tricks you can do to reduce the damage to your chompers. When drinking your coffee, you can try using a lid or a straw, but swigging swiftly will be the most helpful in keeping the time for staining low. Always rinse your mouth with water after consuming any of the offenders above, and try and brush your teeth shortly after ingestion.

Despite our best efforts, stains creep up on us, and it only takes one simple trick to see how far your teeth have fallen from their original shine. By comparing your Chiclets to something white (say, a tissue), you can determine or yourself if you’d like to up the shine factor for a more confidant smile.

Our next post will detail the two professional, safe, and gentle approaches to tooth whitening offered by your dentist: take home kits versus in office treatment.

The one thing you missed during spring cleaning

Spring has officially sprung. The cherry blossoms have bloomed, beckoning the hoards of spectators who flock to the parks. The threat of Fourth-Wave-Winter has nearly been extinguished, and our parkas have bravely marched into storage for their short retirement.

As buds continue to unfurl with the promise of summer in the air, so too blossoms an instinct to engage in Spring Cleaning. Deep within us explodes an urge to get on hands and knees and scrub away the dinge that has collected all year. Places previously untouched by the feathers of a duster are tickled anew.

Hands up if your to-do list looks something like this:

  • Vacuum baseboards behind the couch
  • Scrub bathroom grout until it sparkles
  • Mop floors until they shine
  • Polish stove top back to it’s original glare
  • Wash glass doors until so clear that the family dog walks into it (OK maybe not the last one, but you get it)

And so, while you engage in the ancient ritual of spring-cleaning your home, we are here to remind you of the one big thing you’re missing: your mouth! Here are some delightful stock images to help your to internalize some of that same zest for spring-cleaning:

Fresh air < fresh breath

Sparkling mirrors < sparkling teeth

Stains scraped from grout < plaque scraped from your gum line

Polished white tiles < polished white teeth*

No spring-cleaning will truly be complete until you have the smile to match.

*To learn more about the benefits of professional whitening services, stay tuned for our next blog post. Sneak peek here.

Queer Eye: The mainstreaming of the water flosser

If you’re one of the millions of viewers of the wildly successful Netflix remake Queer Eye, chances are you caught every dentist’s favourite episode: Season 1, episode 6 ‘The Renaissance of Remington’. In this episode, fan favourite grooming expert Jonathan Van Ness (or JVN) tackles young entrepreneur Remington’s flossing routine (or lack thereof).

With a few short minutes to educate Remington on the importance of regular flossing, JVN introduces him to a water flosser (aka oral irrigator). JVN successfully mainstreams an otherwise clunky and unknown dental tool unlike any dentist ever could.

Here is a transcript of the hilarious exchange (emphasis our own):

JVN: This is the biggest moment: One of the things that I took away from this is that you are completely gorgeous and stunning but when I asked about our floss game I was like, “Honey, no”. Cuz, we wanna floss, but sometimes it’s like, “who really wants to floss?

So I hooked you up with a big-girl water pick. I use them once in the morning, and once at night. All we’re talking about is you just wanna get the crap out from between your teeth. So what you do is just turn it on, mind the overspray – hello!

A fine mist of water showers over Remington

 Yes, and that’s what you do. So you just

Points pick into his mouth, gestures the technique, grunts twice.

Do you wanna try it?


JVN: Point it right between your teeth – you can get all friendly with yourself.

R: Tries it, sprays everywhere

JVM: yes, Queen, that’s how you do it! And do it methodically, too.

R: more spray

JVN: clapping Yes, Queen. Yes! Yes, Yes! Yes, Yes!


JVN: Do you feel it?

R: No I do, I feel it.

JVN: All right. Lets get you on to gorgeous Tan.

 End scene.

If your curiosity has been piqued, then read on to understand more about the tool, and how it can compliment your oral hygiene routine.

  • The what: Water flosser, oral irrigator, brandname: Waterpik
  • The how: Shoots a thin stream of water at a high velocity, strength can be turned up and down
  • The why: When used correctly, removes food particles from between the teeth and at the gum line, can even work away at plaque build up
  • The cons: Needs to be plugged in, has a tank of water, not exactly pocket friendly, takes up coveted bathroom counter space
  • The pros: Excellent for people with braces, dry mouth, and those that just seem to get a lot of food stuck in their teeth

If you find yourself in the minority of the population that flosses their teeth daily, then a water flosser likely isn’t for you. If you are in the majority that can’t seem to get into a regular flossing routine, then this  gentle, novel tool that leaves your teeth feeling squeaky clean is an excellent option. Flossing with regular floss is the absolute best for healthy gums and teeth, but a water flosser can compliment this routine beautifully.

Dentist approved Easter activities

We have written at length about the importance of good oral hygiene and a healthful diet low in sugar to help keep cavities at bay. You can read about high sugar cavity culprits and how to fight them here.

Instead of lamenting on the dangers of sticky sugar laden Easter candy, we have compiled some sweet (dentist-approved) suggestions on what you can offer your little ones that won’t risk tooth decay!

With the Easter bunny hopping into your neighbourhood at the end of the month, consider replacing your typical candy treats with some of the following:

Hunt for Easter coupons

Type or write these out of colourful paper, cut them into strips or circles, and place them in those hollow plastic eggs. Weather depending, you can hide these outdoors or in, and have a hunt:

  • One rocking dance party to [insert favourite musician here]
  • One trip to the Science centre/Aquarium/Zoo
  • One extra episode of [insert favourite TV show here]
  • One cookie baking afternoon
  • One epic fort building evening complete with all of the blankets, pillows, and fairy lights
  • One bracelet making session
  • One movie date with parent, grandparent, guardian, sibling, relative, or friend
  • One extra late sleep in allowed (or extra early wake up, age dependent)

Set up a craft station

We love this easy and cute bunny nose craft by Kids Craft Room.

Teachable moment: Did you know that unlike our teeth, rabbits’ two front teeth (incisors) never stop growing! Bunnies need to chew on rough, fibrous foods like hay and vegetables to grind their teeth down to a healthy length.

Dye your own Easter eggs – naturally!

We love the deep rich tones that Magnesium Blue was able to create with cabbage leaves, grape juice, and turmeric (pictured at top).

This science experiment doubles as an easy opportunity to remind our little ones that what we eat has a direct effect on the appearance of our teeth. By soaking the pearly white eggs overnight, they absorb colour of the food that coats them – much like going to bed without brushing our teeth!

And when you and your kids do inevitably indulge in some sweet treats this Easter, take the opportunity to make sure you have your regular preventative cleaning appointments for the season booked.

Fluoride: the good, the bad, and the spotty (Part 2 of 2)

Last week we posted the introduction of this two-part post on the effect of fluoride on our teeth.


  • Fluoride is a mineral that is naturally occurring in the Earth’s crust
  • A healthy amount of fluoride helps strengthen teeth and protects them against cavities
  • Fluoride is found in the majority of toothpaste brands, and is added to many municipal water sources, including Toronto’s water
  • Most common water filtration devices do not remove fluoride

While fluoride is helpful in strengthening the enamel that protects the teeth, it is possible to consume too much fluoride.

The primary complication of an extreme amount of fluoride ingestion is called fluorosis, which is observed as spots on the teeth. Fluorosis can affect primary (baby) teeth as well as adult teeth. Initially, this mottling of the teeth appears as white spots. The white spots signify areas in the enamel that are subject to decay. With time, white spots begin to turn brown, and are at risk of turning into cavities. The degree to which these spots appear is related to the degree of fluorosis.

In addition to the cosmetic issues of fluorosis, it is important to visit a dentist who will also address the risk for tooth decay. A consultation with your dentist will help you determine which of the following options is best for you:

Take note of some common culprits that can lead to over ingestion of fluoride:

  • Swallowing toothpaste
    • Parents should monitor children when they are brushing to ensure they spit out toothpaste
    • Parents should only use a rice grain sized amount of toothpaste when brushing infants teeth
  • Eating foods with high concentration of fluoride (like grapes and raisins) and failing to brush afterwards
  • Drinking a copious amount of dark leaf teas, as some tea plants absorb a great deal of natural fluoride from the earth
  • Use of topical fluoride treatments administered without a dentist
  • Use of fluoride tablets when not doctor or dentist recommended

And of course, it is never to late to adopt preventative lifestyle changes. Good oral hygiene and frequent visits to the dentist are essential.

Fluoride: the good, the bad, and the spotty (Part 1 of 2)

In this blog post, we discover what fluoride is, how much is found in Toronto tap water, and how to know if we are getting enough. Next week, we will explore the negative effects of too much fluoride consumption and how your dentist can help.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral that is widely distributed in nature, and occurs naturally throughout the earth’s crust. A healthy amount of fluoride consumption reduces tooth sensitivity, helps prevent tooth decay, and can even help your teeth rebuild areas of decay.

In North America, where the water sources do not have naturally high traces of fluoride, many municipalities add fluoride to the tap water to help prevent tooth decay. Based on recommendations of the Canadian Dental Association, and supported by Toronto Public Health, Toronto’s water is fluoridated (and has been since 1963). Fluoride levels in Toronto vary between 0.5 and 0.6 milligrams per litre (or ppm). For reference, in 2015 The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) set the optimal level of fluoride for preventing tooth decay at 0.7 ppm. Before 2015, this was 0.7 to 1.2 ppm.

How does it work?

Fluoride helps to prevent cavities in growing children and in adults.

  • In children, the fluoride that is consumed concentrates in their growing bones (which includes developing baby and adult teeth), which hardens the enamel even before these teeth emerge
  • Fluoride also helps to harden existing enamel on adult teeth, well after they have emerged through two processes:
  1. Remineralisation: when the saliva in the mouth is less acidic, it coats and strengthens the teeth by adding calcium. Fluoride makes the coating even harder than it would be naturally, creating a strong protective barrier.
  2. Demineralization: when the saliva in the mouth is acidic, it strips away the protective calcium barrier. Fluoride slows this process and makes the effect less extreme.

Am I getting enough fluoride?

  • Regular consumption of tap water from a source that has up to 0.7 ppm of fluorine (either added or naturally occurring), in addition to consuming foods that are cooked with tap water isn’t quite enough to have the desired decay-fighting effect.
  • Children and adults should also be supplementing tap water consumption with twice daily brushing with toothpaste that contains fluoride.

Curious about your water filtration device?

  • If you reach into the fridge to pour yourself cool water from an activated carbon filtration device (like a Brita filter), then you are still receiving all of the fluoride that originated from the tap.
  • Brita Faucet Filters and Pitcher Filters have been tested and verified to remove only a trace amount of fluoride over the life of a filter.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we dive into the ugly side of fluoride over-consumption.

Strategies to help ease dental anxiety

For a whopping 10 percent of the worldwide adult population, a routine check up at the dentist can bring up such extreme anxiety that they avoid going to the dentist altogether. If you find yourself feeling fairly to very anxious considering any of the following, you may also have dental anxiety:

  • the thought of going to the dentist tomorrow
  • picturing yourself in the dentist waiting room
  • imagining yourself receiving a local anaesthetic injection
    • or getting a tooth drilled
    • or receiving a scaling and polishing

The degree of anxiety that you feel regarding any of the moments above, and whether you have a previous negative dental experience that precipitates those feelings will determine if you are in the camp of dental anxiety or of a more extreme dental phobia. With the help and diagnosis from a GP, there are many strategies available to a person with a dental phobia.

For those who experience dental anxiety, we offer some suggestions of calming your nerves and making your visit to the dentist more bearable:

  1. Acknowledge that you have some anxiety in the first place. If you have missed several routine dental check ups because of a demanding schedule or inconvenience, then we urge you to take a moment to truly analyse why you’re skipping appointments. Only once you acknowledge a dental anxiety can you take the next steps to help alleviate it.
  2. Find a dentist you can trust. Ask your friends/family for recommendations. Know what is important to you. If good bedside manner is key to your comfort, then lookup reviews on rapport. If years of experience is what you trust, then prioritize age.
  3. Once you decide on a dentist, call to schedule an appointment. Disclose your feelings with the knowledge that you are certainly not the first person with dental anxiety that they treat. Ask if the team is willing to meet you/talk through your questions prior to a dental check up. This is your opportunity to vet the team, get acquainted with the space, and familiarize yourself – before your first regular appointment.
  4. When you do schedule your first visit, try to make it for early morning. That way you won’t need to stress all day before your visit. Practice calming techniques the night before and give yourself plenty of time to get some much-needed rest.
  5. Consider bringing a friend to the appointment with you. The presence of a familiar person who you trust and who can advocate on your behalf if you feel unable to do so can do wonders in easing anxiety. What are friends for? Holding your hand in the dentist chair, that’s what!
  6. Agree with your dentist on a sign for ‘stop’ – something you won’t need your oral capabilities to communicate. A simple hand wave will do. Knowing you can stop a procedure when you’re uncomfortable with a simple flick of the wrist should ease some anxiety.
  7. Take breaks during your visit as needed, but also know that you can break your dental needs up into shorter, more frequent visits. It is better to have your dental needs addressed slowly than not at all!
  8. Bring your headphones and a playlist of familiar and calming music to listen to. Sometimes droning out the whirl of the drills is enough to make it through an appointment stress free.
  9. Learn what forms of sedation are available to you and consider an oral or nitrous oxide sedation to help you relax.
  10. Take preventative precautions to ensure your visit to the dentist are as pain and problem free as possible. We offer many tips on the importance of good oral hygiene and tips to help you incorporate flossing into your daily routine here, here, and here.

The deal with sugar and kids teeth


‘But WHYYYYY’, your child asks you for the 99th time today. You’ve just explained (again) to them that the sugary treats they so desire aren’t good for their oral health. For some reason, though, they aren’t buying it when you parrot the fear-mongering tale that your parents told you about how sweets will “make your teeth rot and fall out of your head.”

Today’s children know better than to accept our half- hearted answers at face value. With the internet at our fingertips, we can help satisfy that curiosity once and for all!  Therefore, let us help you dig a little deeper into the origins of cavities. A little more knowledge should go a long way to help you explain to your questioning kids why, exactly, they should limit the consumption of sweets to mealtimes over snack times; why the lollipops they receive at the doctor’s office are likely sugar-free; and why water is really the very best hydrator between meals.

Here are the easy-to-digest facts about sugar and its role in cavity creation:

  • Germs (also called bacteria) exist in all of our mouths.
  • One tooth can be home to 500 million bacteria!
  • We can’t get rid of all germs, but we can control them with regular brushing and flossing.
  • Most of these germs live in what is called plaque, which isn’t necessarily harmful when looked at independently.
  • Plaque is the stubborn, sticky stuff that likes to live on teeth (that is what we are trying to get rid of when we brush + floss, it is also what your dentist might sometimes scrape away at).
  • Enamel is what we call the hard outer layer of the tooth.
  • Enamel is known as the “tooth “protector”, as it covers up the nerves that live deep inside the tooth.
  • During sugar consumption (via eating it and/or drinking it), a mild form of acid is created when these sugars mix with the existing bacteria in the mouth.
  • This acid is what burns through the protective tooth enamel and causes cavities (holes in our teeth).
  • Cavities are holes that burrow through the enamel – these holes leave us open to tooth sensitivity.
  • We should always aim to avoid cavities, but if they arise they should be treated by your dentist right away.
  • Sugar is not limited to the refined (white) sugar that you bake with.
  • Sugar also occurs naturally in many healthy foods (such as fruits and vegetables, called fructose), and even milk (called lactose).
  • According to the Canadian Dental Association, other sugars to look out for include “corn sweeteners; corn syrup; dextrose; fructose; glucose; honey; maple syrup; molasses and sucrose”
  • Time is of the essence! The longer something sweet stays in our mouths, the more time the newly created acid has to do damage.

Now that we understand how painful cavities happen (any sugar we put into our mouths + existing mouth germs = enamel-burrowing acid), we offer some tips on how to avoid them:

1. Limit consumption of the following Cavity Culprits:
  • Hard candy that dissolves slowly, like lollipops and Jaw Breakers.
  • Gum (not the sugar- free variety) that is chewed and chewed…and chewed.
  • Soft, sticky (and sneaky) candy that gets stuck in teeth. Think: toffee, caramels, jujubes, etc.
  • Soft, sticky (and sneaky) foods also get stuck in teeth. Dried fruit in all its varieties include high concentrations of fructose that stick to teeth just the same as candy, so think twice the next time you offer a box of raisins to a hungry child. Grapes are a much better alternative thanks to the high water content.

2. Only offer water as a drink between meals.  When we eat, there is significantly more of saliva in the mouth that helps help wash away unwanted sugars more quickly.

  • Other major Cavity Culprits are sugary drinks that are consumed between meals and overnight, as they allow sugar to linger in the mouth (these include any kind of juice, pop, and milk).
  • For this very reason, a bottle of milk or juice offered to an infant overnight is a big no-no, as the sugar pools in the mouth and covers teeth for a prolonged period of time.
  • Offer sweet drink with meals (if you must), and only offer water between meals.

3. Brush and floss regularly, especially after consuming any Cavity Culprits.

4. Visit your dentist proactively, as they have the best tools that to reduce plaque and diminish your chances of developing cavities in the first place.

New Year, New Resolutions

As we bid farewell to 2017 and prepare for a new beginning in 2018, our list of New Years resolutions continues to grow. Improving your oral health is a big item to add to the list! Big resolutions are difficult to maintain, but we have the tips to breakdown this big resolution into bite-sized details to help make it more attainable. Here are the smaller resolutions to try, as well as preparation ideas to make sure you’re ready to go come Jan 1st.

Resolution #1: Floss once per day

We’ve written a number of blog posts about flossing and why it’s important, but it never hurts to emphasize that flossing once a day is one of the best things that you can do for the health of your teeth and gums. Check out more in our post on preventing gum disease.

2017 Prep: Ensure that you’re stocked up on dental floss. Make sure that flossing will be at the top of your mind by storing the floss in a visible area by your toothbrush and toothpaste.

Resolution #2: Go for regular dentist visits

Going to the dentist regularly is crucial for oral hygiene and illness prevention. Check out an in-depth summary of the importance of regular dentist visits here.

2017 Prep: If you haven’t already scheduled your next appointment, call your dentist office to schedule one for the new year.

Resolution #3: Minimize teeth discolouration from foods and drinks

While getting regular cleanings will help combat the effects of teeth discolouration, you can get longer lasting white teeth through prevention techniques. It doesn’t have to mean completely abstaining from foods and drinks that are known to stain teeth. Check out this post for an in-depth overview of prevention and treatment ideas for teeth discolouration.

2017 Prep: Purchase straws and put them in the kitchen to be readily available for when you’ll be drinking teeth-staining liquids (including coffee, tea, or red wine). For staining foods, you can minimize discolouration by drinking water after you’ve finished eating.

Happy new year everyone, and best of luck for keeping those resolutions!