Thursday, July 22, 2021

What to know about teeth whitening strips

 Whitening strips are a popular dental product that may help remove stains from and whiten the teeth. While they are not as effective as treatments from a dentist’s office, they can be a simpler and cheaper alternative. However, people should take care to check the ingredients of the strips and apply them carefully.

Teeth are an important part of a person’s self-image. Inevitably, teeth begin to yellow with age, but people can use various techniques to slow the process. Among these techniques are whitening strips, which people can purchase over the counter (OTC) and use to help remove stains and whiten teeth.

People apply whitening strips directly to their teeth. Although the strips contain chemicals, such as carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, the American Dental Association (ADA) states that they are safe and effective if they bear the ADA Seal of Acceptance. However, people may experience adverse effects when using any whitening products.

In this article, we look at whether whitening strips work, what to look for when buying them, how to use them, their pros and cons, and how to avoid teeth staining.

Do they work?

According to the ADA, teeth whitening products, including strips, can help effectively remove both internal and external stains on teeth. However, they do not work on fake teeth. A 2020 review also states that teeth whitening strips are an effective OTC agent that typically works better than other OTC whitening agents, such as whitening toothpaste.

However, it is important to note that at-home whitening strips contain lower concentrations of whitening ingredients than dentist-supplied products. People with heavily stained teeth or high expectations will not get the results they want using OTC whitening strips.

Additionally, the effectiveness of the strips may rely on the strength of the chemicals and how long people keep them on the teeth. Therefore, it may be advisable to discuss the use of these products with a dentist.

What to look for

When shopping for whitening strips, people may wish to consider the following:

  • Ingredients: People should opt for products that contain proven effective ingredients, including carbamide and hydrogen peroxide.
  • Dentist approval: It is advisable to look for products with approval from dental organizations, such as those with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
  • Customer reviews: People can also check online reviews to see what others have to say about a product. A comparison of before and after photos can provide an accurate view of what to expect from a particular brand of whitening strip. Additionally, a person can ask their dentist for specific advice.

How to use

People should carefully read any information on the product’s packaging and instructions before using whitening strips.

However, a person typically applies the strips directly to their teeth. Manufacturers may recommend avoiding brushing the teeth shortly before applying the strips. A person will then leave the strips on their teeth for the recommended length of time. This duration may vary among products, but it is common to leave the strips on for about 30 minutes.

Manufacturers may also recommend the ideal frequency of use for their whitening strips. A standard recommendation is to apply whitening strips twice daily for 2 weeks.

However, these instructions may vary depending on the product. Therefore, a person should follow the guidelines on the packaging and never wear the strips for longer than the manufacturer suggests.

Pros and cons

The pros of using whitening strips may include:

  • effective whitening
  • ease of use
  • no need to visit the dentist
  • affordable

While there are advantages to using whitening strips, there are also some downsides. These include:

  • The strips can cause side effects, such as tooth sensitivity and gum irritation.
  • Some people might not get the results they want with at-home whitening strips, which may not have dramatic effects. A person may have to do several sessions to get noticeable results.
  • It can be difficult to keep the strips in place, so using them might be fiddly.
  • Whitening sessions can take roughly 30 minutes, so using them requires time and patience.

People are more likely to experience side effects if they do not follow the manufacturer’s instructions for a product. If a person has gum disease or another dental disease, they should consult a dentist before trying OTC whitening strips.

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Why stains develop and prevention

There are various reasons why teeth may stain over time. These include:

  • high intake of certain foods and drinks, such as coffee, red wine, and tea
  • use of tobacco products
  • medications, such as allergy medications and blood pressure drugs
  • wear and tear due to aging or trauma

People can attempt to avoid staining by limiting their consumption of foods and drinks that are known to discolor teeth. They can also try to stop smoking or chewing tobacco, if applicable. If medications are the culprit, a doctor may be able to recommend alternatives if they are available.


There are two categories of dental whitening products: those available through a dentist and those for sale OTC.

Aside from whitening strips, other products available OTC include:

  • whitening toothpaste
  • whitening mouthwash
  • whitening gels
  • whitening trays
  • whitening powder

A person can also get whitening products or services through their dentist. Dentist-supplied whitening products are usually more concentrated. The options available directly from dentists include:

  • custom dental trays with bleaching gels, for either at-home or in-office application
  • light-activated bleaching, which is an in-office procedure

Some people prefer to use natural products to remove stains, but most reports of effectiveness are anecdotal at best.

Like the possible risks of carbamide and hydrogen peroxide, it is important to apply caution if using certain products that people sometimes recommend, such as fruit juices, vinegar, or scrubs. These may instead cause damage to the teeth or make staining even worse.


Teeth whitening products, such as whitening strips, are generally safe to use and can be a beneficial and a cost-effective way to remove stains from the teeth. However, it is important that people use them correctly to avoid adverse effects.

Some people may experience gum irritation and tooth sensitivity after using whitening products. In some cases, if people use them incorrectly, these products may damage the enamel on the teeth and result in long-term complications.

People considering the use of teeth whitening products may wish to discuss them with their dentist. It is also important to check user reviews, dentists’ recommendations, and ingredient lists.

People should also set their expectations and understand that it may take time to achieve noticeable results. Although at-home bleaching products work, they may not produce results equal to those of in-office bleachi

Monday, April 19, 2021

What is the connection between dry mouth and diabetes?


Dry mouth, or xerostomia, occurs when a person’s salivary glands do not produce enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. Xerostomia can be a symptom of diabetes and, also a side effect of the medication that treats diabetes.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), dry mouth is a common symptom of diabetes.

In this article, we look at the symptoms of dry mouth and its link with diabetes. We also explain how a person can treat dry mouth.

What are the symptoms of dry mouth?

Dry mouth occurs when there is not enough saliva in the mouth.

According to the NIDDK, people with dry mouth may experience:

  • a frequent dry feeling in the mouth
  • mouth pain
  • a rough, dry tongue
  • difficulty eating, talking, chewing, or swallowing.
  • sores or infections in the mouth

In addition, the American Dental Association (ADA) note that dry mouth may involve:

  • a sore throat
  • nasal dryness
  • hoarseness

What is the connection between dry mouth and diabetes?

The NIDDK list dry mouth among the most common problems that people living with diabetes experience.

Its high prevalence in this population may be due to:

  • Dehydration: People with diabetes are prone to dehydration.
  • Increased blood sugar levels: In those with diabetes, a person’s blood glucose levels can become too high. The term for this is hyperglycemia, and it can cause a person to experience dry mouth.
  • Kidney conditions: Over time, high blood glucose can lead to kidney disease, which can cause dry mouth.
  • Diabetes medication: Some medications that a person can take to help control diabetes can cause dry mouth as a side effect.

Also, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, approximately two-thirds of those with diabetes have high blood pressure or use medications to help control hypertension. Dry mouth can occur as a side effect of these medications.



Is dry mouth a symptom of diabetes?

According to a 2014 review, dry mouth can be a warning sign of diabetes. However, although it is common in those with diabetes, it is not the only symptom.

A person may potentially experience several symptoms due to diabetes, including:

  • blurry vision
  • fatigue
  • increased thirst
  • more frequent urination
  • increased hunger
  • unexplained weight loss
  • tingling or numbness in the extremities, such as the hands or feet
  • sores that do not heal

Although both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have similar symptoms, the NIDDK state that they do not develop in the same way.

They note that while people who develop type 1 diabetes usually experience a fast onset of symptoms, people living with type 2 diabetes tend to see a gradual onset of symptoms, which they may not notice until another complication develops, such as blurred vision.



People who experience dry mouth because of medication can ask a doctor about the possibility of switching medications. Managing any underlying conditions — for example, keeping blood sugar levels within a safe range to control diabetes — may also help.

Healthcare professionals can also prescribe medications to stimulate saliva production. These include pilocarpine (Isopto Carpine), which has a typical dosage of 5 milligrams (mg) three times a day, and cevimeline (Evoxac), which has a typical dosage of 30 mg three times a day.

A person will need to take these medications for 3 months to ensure that they are working.

A person can also try saliva substitutes that come in the form of gels, sprays, and lozenges. However, the authors of a 2020 article note that these do not work reliably and that when they do, they only provide temporary relief.

Home remedies

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research recommend that a person take the following steps to minimize the symptoms of dry mouth:

  • avoiding spicy or salty foods because they can aggravate the issue.
  • sipping water slowly throughout the day
  • chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candy to help stimulate saliva production.
  • sipping water or other sugar-free drinks during meals to aid swallowing.
  • refraining from alcohol or tobacco use.
  • using a humidifier when sleeping.
  • avoiding caffeinated beverages.


Thursday, January 7, 2021

What to know about gargling with salt water

Sore throats and mouth sores are common conditions that most people experience. Saltwater gargles can be a cheap, safe, and effective way to ease pain and relieve symptoms from conditions that affect the mouth and throat.

While pharmacies and other stores sell medicated mouthwashes and similar products, some people prefer saltwater gargles and other home remedies.

In this article, we discuss what saltwater gargles are and what conditions they can help treat and prevent. We also cover how to make and use a saltwater gargle, as well as risks and considerations.


Saltwater gargles can be effective for treating mild pain, discomfort, and tickles in the mouth and throat. We discuss some of the conditions that saltwater gargles can help treat and prevent below.

Sore throats

Saltwater gargles can be an effective way to relieve discomfort from sore throats.

Both the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement and the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend gargling with salt water to soothe sore throats. According to the ACS, regular use of saltwater gargles can help keep the mouth clean and prevent infections, particularly in people undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Canker sores

Canker sores are painful ulcers that can develop in the mouth. Gargling with salt water may help ease pain and promote healing of the sores.


Some allergies, such as hay fever, can cause a person’s nasal passages and throat to swell, which can be uncomfortable. Though gargling with salt water will not prevent the allergy, it may help alleviate some of the throat discomfort.

Respiratory infections

Upper respiratory infections are typical and include common colds, the flu, mononucleosis, and sinus infections. Some research suggests that gargling with salt water can alleviate symptoms and even help prevent upper respiratory infections.

For example, a study from 2013 involving 338 participants found that those who gargled with salt water were less likely to have upper respiratory infections.

Dental health

Regularly gargling with salt water can assist in removing bacteria from the gums, which helps in cleaning and preventing the buildup of plaque and tartar. A buildup of bacteria in the mouth can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommend that people gently rinse the mouth with a warm saltwater solution after having a dental procedure. Doing this can help keep the extraction site clean and prevent infection.

What is it?

A saltwater gargle is a home remedy for sore throats and other causes of mouth pain. Saltwater solutions are a simple mix of water and table salt and can be a cheap, safe, and effective.

Doctors and dentists often recommend saltwater gargles to help alleviate mouth and throat pain.

Salt water may kill some, but does not kill all, mouth, and throat bacteria. However, solutions of salt can help bring bacteria to the surface of the gums, teeth, and throat. Once the bacteria are brought to the surface, some of it washes away when a person spits the salt water out.


Saltwater gargles are easy and cheap to make. The ADA recommend adding half of a teaspoon (tsp) of salt to 8 ounces of warm water, then mixing until they are combined.

An alternative recipe involves adding baking soda to the saltwater solution. For example, the ACS recommend combining the following to make a saltwater gargle:

  • 1 qt water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

How to gargle effectively

To use the saltwater gargle:

1.    Take as much of the solution into the mouth as is comfortable.

2.    Gargle the salt water around the back of the throat.

3.    Rinse around the mouth, teeth, and gums.

4.    Spit out the solution.

A person should try to gargle the saltwater solution for as long as possible. Although the saltwater solution is generally safe to swallow, it is best to spit it out.

For maximum effectiveness, a person should gargle with salt water once or twice a day.

People recovering from dental procedures can use a saltwater solution to rinse their mouth. However, for the first few days, they should rinse very gently and follow the directions from their dental professional.



Risks and considerations

Gargling with salt water is considered safe for both children and adults. However, people who have trouble gargling should not use a saltwater gargle.

Some young children may also not be able to gargle effectively. A pediatrician may be able to provide advice on when a child is ready to gargle.

Saltwater gargles are safe to use several times a day if desired, and for most, there are no side effects. People with high blood pressure or those with other medical conditions who need to limit their sodium intake should speak with a doctor or dentist before gargling with salt water.

People who do not like the taste of saltwater solutions can try adding honey or garlic to help improve the flavor.


Gargling with salt water can help keep a person’s mouth clean and may alleviate pain and discomfort from sore throats, mouth sores, and dental procedures. Saltwater gargles are quick and easy to make and are a cheap and natural alternative to medicated mouthwashes.

A person can safely gargle with salt water several times a day. There are typically no side effects. However, people with high blood pressure or those who need to limit their sodium intake should speak with a doctor before gargling with salt water.

Monday, December 7, 2020

How to use ventilation and air filtration to prevent the spread of coronavirus indoors

The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs indoors, most of it from the inhalation of airborne particles that contain the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading in a home or business would be to simply keep infected people away. But this is hard to do when an estimated 40% of cases are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus to others.

Masks do a decent job at keeping the virus from spreading into the environment, but if an infected person is inside a building, inevitably some virus will escape into the air. 

Once the virus escapes into the air inside a building, you have two options: bring in fresh air from outside or remove the virus from the air inside the building.


All of the air in a room should be replaced with fresh, outside air at least six times per hour if there are a few people inside.


It’s all about fresh, outside air


The safest indoor space is one that constantly has lots of outside air replacing the stale air inside. 

In commercial buildings, outside air is usually pumped in through heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. In homes, outside air gets in through open windows and doors, in addition to seeping in through various nooks and crannies.


Simply put, more fresh outside air inside a building. Bringing in this air dilutes any contaminant in a building, whether a virus or a something else, and reduces the exposure of anyone inside. Environmental engineers quantify how much outside air is getting into a building using a measure called the air exchange rate. This number quantifies the number of times the air inside a building gets replaced with air from outside in an hour.

While the exact rate depends on the number of people and size of the room, most experts consider roughly six air changes an hour to be good for a 10-foot-by-10-foot room with three to four people in it. In a pandemic this should be higher, with one study from 2016 suggesting that an exchange rate of nine times per hour reduced the spread of SARS, MERS and H1N1 in a Hong Kong hospital. 

Many buildings in the U.S., especially schools, do not meet recommended ventilation rates. Thankfully, it can be easy to get more outside air into a building. Keeping windows and doors open is a good start. Putting a box fan in a window blowing out can greatly increase air exchange too. In buildings that do not have operable windows, you can change the mechanical ventilation system to increase how much air it is pumping. But in any room, the more people inside, the faster the air should be replaced. 


Air cleaners

If you are in a room that cannot get enough outside air for dilution, consider an air cleaner, also commonly called air purifiers. These machines remove particles from the air, usually using a filter made of tightly woven fibers. They can capture particles containing bacteria and viruses and can help reduce disease transmission.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that air cleaners can do this for the coronavirus, but not all air cleaners are equal. Before you go out and buy one, there are few things to keep in mind.

The first thing to consider is how effective an air cleaner filter is. Your best option is a cleaner that uses a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, as these remove more than 99.97% of all particle sizes.

The second thing to consider is how powerful the cleaner is. The bigger the room – or the more people in it – the more air needs to be cleaned.

The last thing to consider is the validity of the claims made by the company producing the air cleaner.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers certifies air cleaners, so the AHAM Verified seal is a good place to start. Additionally, the California Air Resources Board has a list of air cleaners that are certified as safe and effective, though not all of them use HEPA filters.


Keep air fresh or get outside

Both the World Health Organization and the U.S Center for the Disease Control and Prevention say that poor ventilation increases the risk of transmitting the coronavirus. 

If you are in control of your indoor environment, make sure you are getting enough fresh air from outside circulating into the building. A CO2 monitor can help give you a clue if there is enough ventilation, and if CO2 levels start going up, open some windows and take a break outside. If you cannot get enough fresh air into a room, an air cleaner might be a good idea. If you do get an air cleaner, be aware that they do not remove CO2, so even though the air might be safer, CO2 levels could still be high in the room. 

If you walk into a building and it feels hot, stuffy, and crowded, chances are that there is not enough ventilation. Turn around and leave. 

By paying attention to air circulation and filtration, improving them where you can and staying away from places where you cannot, you can add another powerful tool to your anti-coronavirus toolkit.


Thursday, October 8, 2020


Nobody thinks of oral hygiene as luxe self-care. Brushing and flossing feels more like a chore, a habit you have adopted since the days of footsie pajamas. But since the mouth is a portal for taking in all kinds of things, including the coronavirus, oral care is essential right now.

Not only does good dental hygiene keep the bacteria in the mouth to a minimum, it can be, as The Mayo Clinic suggested, a window to your overall health. Oral conditions may impact infection in other parts of the body, especially in people with a compromised immune system.

To keep that microbiome in check and keep you from an emergency dental visit during quarantine do the following.


Brush, floss, rinse, repeat.

Preventative measures like brushing and flossing are a must, as it might be a while until your next dental appointment.

An electric or ultrasonic toothbrush is the best option for removing bacteria and keeping teeth and gums healthy. And when it comes to toothpaste, natural is not always better. Make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride to prevent cavities. Charcoal paste might be trending, but you might end up with more holes in your mouth.

Contrary to common belief, over-the-counter mouthwashes do not contain a high enough concentration of alcohol to kill most bacteria and viruses.

When a mouthwash bottle claims, ‘kills 99.99% of bacteria,’ it is referring to the bacteria found around the gumline called tartar and plaque. Instead, we recommend gargling with a hydrogen peroxide solution if you are getting over a cold or flu. Use a 3% concentration of hydrogen peroxide (the ones most found in homes are 3%). Anything stronger is likely to cause irritation. Mix two parts water with one-part hydrogen peroxide. Limit this practice to a few times a week and only during times of minor irritation or recovering from strep, cold or flu. Overuse can damage the normal flora and bio ecosystem of the mouth and allow the opportunity for fungal infections to appear.


Clean and replace your toothbrush often.

The bristles of your toothbrush can be a breeding ground for bacteria.

Fungi, like candida, can live on a toothbrush. Because people are on high alert right now, a good tip is to rinse your brush with hydrogen peroxide every day to keep the bristles clean.

If you are using an electric toothbrush, your best bet is to store it in the charger, with the head cover on for added protection. And you will want to keep your toothbrush in a clean area to dry, preferably away from your toilet, which can spray fecal matter when it’s flushed.

A good toothbrush has flexible bristles, and they should have rounded ends. Toothbrushes should be replaced when the bristles become bent or frayed. Do not go longer than three months without changing the head or replacing your handheld brush.


Stop sharing oral hygiene products.

If you are sharing oral hygiene products with anyone in your family, stop immediately. Periodontal disease, a common septic condition caused by poor hygiene and candidiasis, an oral yeast infection also called thrush, can be spread easily via toothbrush. So, can viruses such as streptococcus mutans, which can cause MRSA infections as well as Herpes simplex and HPV, a virus linked to esophageal, oral, and cervical cancers. Plus, bleeding gums can spread a bloodborne illness.

To minimize the transference of germs, keep your own roll of floss and even your own tube of toothpaste. Because we are during a viral outbreak, to avoid cross contamination, anything you handle with your hands prior to putting in your mouth should not be shared.

Keep your aligners, mouth guards, or retainers bacteria free.

Clear aligners, mouth guards and retainers can collect bacteria and viruses. To clean them, rinse them with cold or room temperature water (never hot! as the plastic may melt or deform). Then use mild antibacterial soap. Another option is to soak aligners in one tablespoon of white vinegar and cold water for 15 minutes. Do not soak longer than 15 minutes, as this may damage your aligners, and dry them well before storing them in the holding case.

Limit sweets and avoid biting into hard foods.

Sweets are acidic, which can, make your mouth more prone to cavities. This does not mean you have to swear off sugar during quarantine, but you should limit sugary foods to one time per day and brush your teeth within one hour of consumption. Also avoid hard bread, popcorn, hard candy, and anything that can crack the tooth, causing an emergency visit. And do not use your teeth as tools right now.

Do not pick chapped lips.

It might be tempting to pick at dry, chapped lips, but this, may irritate and infect oral areas. Stay hydrated, consider using a humidifier and moisturize lips with a gentle product. Resist licking, as this exacerbates dry skin.

Try tongue scraping.

You might find it satisfying to scrape away colonies of bacteria that live on your tongue. A 2004 study indicated that tongue scraping is more effective than tongue brushing for a squeaky-clean mouth.

Debris, bacteria, and dead cells can build up on your tongue over time, can lead to bad breath and have a negative impact on your overall oral health. Using a tongue scraper can help remove this buildup and help with overall hygiene. So, go ahead and balance the body’s microbiome, boost immunity, and have a little fun with this final step in your oral hygiene routine.