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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don't listen to Dr. Oz about teeth whitening!

Recently, the famous TV doctor, Dr. Oz, blogged about natural dental "remedies." With all due (or not) respect to Dr. Oz, he is no more qualified to give advice on dentistry than I am an expert on cardio-thoracic surgery (his specialty).

The theme of his blog post was natural remedies to whiten teeth.

One of his suggested remedies was to eat raisins. The rationale is that raisins will stimulate salivary flow (true), rinsing away plaque (ummm.... baloney!). Raisins are classified as a "sticky sugar." Combine sticky sugars with plaque, and that's how you get cavities (tooth decay). The notion that saliva will rinse away the sticky bacterial mass that is "plaque" on your teeth is utter nonsense. The only way to remove plaque from your teeth is MECHANICALLY. That means brushing and flossing. Period!

Dr. Oz also suggested that the vitamin C in strawberries would "clear away plaque." Again... simply not true. Brush and floss. And, get a professional cleaning twice a year. There is no magic elixir, rinse, fruit, or berry that will "rinse" or "clear" away plaque.

So, he might as well have suggested eating Tootsie-Pops to "rinse away" your plaque. Tootsie-Pops will also stimulate salivary flow. But, like raisins, candy can contribute to decay if not eaten in moderation. And, I certainly would not recommend either (or any kind of sticky sugar) to do anything beneficial for your teeth. NOT AT ALL.  I admit to enjoying the occasional orange or grape-flavored Tootsie-Pop!  😆

Dr. Oz's second, and even more frightening suggestion is to use a slurry mix of baking soda and lemon juice on your teeth to whiten them. Put simply... it's crazy! Lemon juice is acidic. And, it's not a little bit acidic. The pH is about 2. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14. The strongest acid is 0, where as the strongest base / alkali (opposite of acid) is a 14. Care to guess what the pH of Coca-cola is? It's about a 2! It's the same.

Now, let's add baking soda... an abrasive material. It's also a mildly basic material, which would cancel out some of the acidity of the lemon juice. That's why you'll see bubbles - a chemical reaction. But, I do not agree with the idea of putting an acid on your teeth in combination with an abrasive. It's a recipe for erosion of your enamel.

While Dr. Oz's blog suggests leaving it on for only 1 minute with the caveat that it's acidic and will dissolve enamel, it doesn't account for most people likely REPEATING this process over and over. And, over time... repeated (although short) applications of acid WILL ERODE THE ENAMEL. 100% certainty!

Please don't do this! Don't put acid on your teeth to whiten them. Don't get dental advice from non-dentists. Not medical doctors. Not podiatrists, optometrists, nurses, or veterinarians. Not even famous TV heart surgeons like Dr. Oz. I'm a doctor, too. But, I wouldn't suggest you ask me for advice about heart surgery.

The very idea that a celebrity heart surgeon like Dr. Oz would suggest a DESTRUCTIVE method to "whiten" your teeth in an effort to save a few hundred dollars (cost of professional and SAFE whitening) is stunningly ignorant and a danger to the public, in my opinion.

If you want to explore options on how to SAFELY and EFFECTIVELY whiten your teeth, click on the link in this sentence or please ask a DENTIST.

Stick to what you KNOW, Dr. Oz! Remember, "First do no harm." And, I promise I won't give out advice on how to save money with do-it-yourself heart surgery.


Dr.Denemark said...

Perfectly said! He's on TV so he has to say something that will get people's attention! Thanks for the sensible comment. Next he'll be telling people to pack baking soda and hydrogen peroxide on their gums to get rid of gum disease! Dr Keis would be proud! LOL. Thanks from a concerned periodontist, Dr Paul J. Denemark, Burr Ridge, Illinois, Periodontist.

bill g said...

Thanks Dr Barr for alerting your patients and blog readers to potentially harmful advice given by "an authority."

Your explanation was sensible and valuable, beyond just expressing our opinion of this bad advice.

bill goldner, dds
key west, fl

DMDrep said...

As usual, I love your point of view Dr. Barr!

Steve said...

Mike, good job trying to get the word out. I'd posted something yesterday on Facebook, and would appreciate comments at:!/profile.php?id=837033189

Unknown said...

Dr. Barr has done something many of us should be doing. He's started an information blog for patients to offset misinformation being handed out on the internet and television about the practice of dentistry. His statements here are dead on. Never in my 45 years in dentistry have I seen the danger of misinformation so great as it is now with television and the internet. Talk to your dentist. Doctor Oz knows zilch about dentistry and should be ashamed for dumping this on the internet. There is too much positive information out there to use. Way to go Mike.

Guy W. Moorman, Jr. DDD

dreiner said...

Thank you so much for setting the record straight. It is incredible that unqualified people are able to share faulty information and are believed to be credible because they have a tv show or even a "Dr." in front of their name. Dr. Oz is not a dentist, the last I heard! Thanks again, Dr. Barr for speaking up!
Debra Reiner, DDS

spikedds said...

Wow! A least Dr. Oz didn't recommend a mixture of battery acid and bleach, right? ;-)

I'm not sure where Dr. Oz is coming from, but I do resent (a little) the fact that Dr. Oz is suggesting that the way dentists do it does not provide the best value. His suggestion implies that we are only doing this service for our patients with profit as our primary motivation.

Number one, dentists don't use acid to whiten teeth. We use peroxide-based gels. But the problem with peroxides is that when used at an effective concentration, it harms the gums, and dentists are equipped to minimize or eliminate the harm done to the gums.

Number two, I do teeth whitening in my office to help my patients have the smile they want without harming themselves. THAT'S the main reason why I do it, not profit!

The name of the game in tooth whitening is to get the best results while preventing harm. You nailed this Dr. Barr! The public should be grateful for your response and be mindful to question "authorities" like Dr. Oz who have little to no credentials in the topic.

McKee Dental said...

Thanks for blogging, Mike. It is scary how little most physicians know about teeth. Then again, you probably would not want me cracking anyone's chest either. I just don't go on TV to talk about it.

Speaking of, I am always amazed how many times I hear physicians (probably PA's) tell my front desk that "Yes, the patient needs premed" but "they only need it for fillings and not for cleanings." I try hard not to kill my patients. It would be great if they actually read the AHA guidelines. They are good for 7 years and they only take a few minutes to read...