Whitening Teeth at Home: Yes or No?

The pursuit of whiter, brighter teeth is a $3.2 billion-a-year global industry. Suffice it to say, many of us are searching for a prettier smile. But walking down the toothpaste aisle of your local store can be almost dizzying with options. How do you know what works and what doesn’t work? How can you tell what’s safe and what isn’t? And if you buy an over-the-counter whitening product or device, are you really saving any money over professional whitening? Here’s what you need to know about bleaching your teeth.

When it comes to whiter, brighter teeth, bleaching with the active ingredient hydrogen peroxide is the gold standard used by dental professionals as well as many over-the-counter bleaching kits. Unfortunately, while at-home kits tend to be less expensive than professional whitening services, they do carry with them a high level of risk.

For starters, many of these kits can contain upwards of 25 percent hydrogen peroxide, a dangerous level if applied incorrectly. To put it into perspective, in the United Kingdom, where products containing hydrogen peroxide are regulated by the government, even dentists can only use products containing 6 percent hydrogen peroxide!

Why? Because hydrogen can damage enamel as well as gums. Unfortunately, because whitening kits are classified as cosmetic and not medical products here in the United States, there are no data on how often this type of injury occurs, as cosmetic manufacturers are not required to submit that data to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Another popular ingredient that is widely available here in America, sodium chlorite, was recently investigated in a study published in the British Dental Journal. The study found that sodium chlorite was more likely than any other over-the-counter ingredient to cause permanent damage to the tooth enamel.

So, what can be done for those of us who want whiter teeth? Look no further than your dentist. Yes, in-office whitening treatments are a bigger investment up front, but with better, longer-lasting results and the benefit of being done safely and accurately, it can actually save you money in the long run. Other safe and effective ways to whiten teeth at home include brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day, not smoking, and avoiding foods that stain the teeth.

To learn more about teeth whitening and oral hygiene, contact Dr. Lesko’s office at 970-812-0355.

Don’t Try This Dangerous DIY Trend at Home

When it comes to beauty, trends come and go. What’s on trend today may be long forgotten by tomorrow (hello, oil pulling!). But a recent trend in cosmetic oral health care is still going strong, and it could be causing a lot more harm than good. It’s the charcoal toothpaste trend, with the black mineral more commonly associated with summer grilling taking center stage in a number of new pastes and all-natural oral health products. But how safe is charcoal toothpaste, and why are dentists warning people to definitely not try the “do-it-yourself” version at home?

Dr. Allison Lesko is a dentist in Fort Collins, Colorado. She says the charcoal toothpaste trend is bad news for teeth.

“Charcoal toothpaste can scratch the tooth enamel, which is permanent damage to the teeth,” Lesko says.

According to Lesko, charcoal toothpaste grew in popularity when many users discovered their teeth appeared whiter after using the paste.

“Part of it is, I think there is a placebo effect of seeing your teeth black and then rinsing away the paste, seeing how white they look in comparison,” she says. “But charcoal toothpaste, to its credit,.does remove some surface staining.”

That being said, Lesko says that same stain-lifting effect is one you can get from any toothpaste and, yes, even that old standby, oil pulling.

“Almost anything can remove surface stains if you do it long enough,” she says.

So, what’s the problem with using charcoal toothpaste if it is doing what it claims? Not so fast, says Lesko.

“There is a difference between whitening and removing surface stains. The charcoal paste isn’t whitening the teeth, it’s cleaning them like any other, safer toothpaste would do,” she says.

The dangers of store-bought charcoal toothpaste aside, Lesko says there is an even scarier trend making its way around the country: homemade charcoal toothpaste.

“Usually homemade gets the reputation of being somehow safer, but people are using charcoal briquettes like you would use for your grill and making toothpaste with that,” she says.”It’s extremely dangerous.”

Why? For starters, charcoal briquettes contain flammable additives and chemicals that are not meant to be consumed.

“You are essentially brushing your teeth with lighter fluid,” says Lesko.

So, what can you do if you want a natural way to fight cavities and get a whiter smile? Lesko recommends looking for a natural toothpaste with the American Dental Association seal of approval, or to watch what you eat so that food-based staining is less prevalent.

“Avoid smoking and heavy consumption of dark soda, red wine and coffee, and always brush twice a day for at least two minutes at a time,” Lesko says. “That will do more to keep your teeth stain free than brushing with an abrasive or dangerous ingredient like charcoal.”

Protect Teeth While Swimming This Summer

It’s fun, it’s refreshing and it’s one of America’s favorite summer pastimes: swimming in the pool. Swimming provides the body with heart-pumping yet low-impact exercise that’s gentle on the joints. It also can improve muscle tone and body strength and constitutes a full-body workout. But for all the good swimming does for our bodies, it could be doing harm to one particular area of the body: the mouth. Here’s why swimming can be dangerous to your oral health, and what you can do to protect yourself while making a splash this summer.

Swimmer’s Calculus

No, its not a special math class for pool lovers. Swimmer’s calculus is a type of buildup that occurs on the teeth from the raised pH of chlorine and chemicals found in pool water. Swimmer’s calculus builds up over the summer, especially if you spend more than an hour in the pool at a time. Swimmer’s calculus appears as deposits of yellow on the teeth. Though it may be unsightly, thankfully swimmer’s calculus is temporary and can be removed by going to the dentist for your regular cleaning

Chlorine and Your Teeth

Chlorine can be a useful chemical when it comes to keeping the water in your pool clean and free of germs and bacteria, but it can also take a toll on your skin, causing it to dry out. It can even discolor and dry out your hair, irritate your eyes, and burn your lungs. But it can also cause problems in the mouth – namely sensitive teeth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, pools with a pH of lower than 7.0 pose the highest risk to your teeth, including enamel erosion. Enamel erosion occurs when the enamel of the teeth wears away, exposing the lower layers of the tooth known as the dentin. Aside from being unsightly, this can cause tooth sensitivity. Worse yet, enamel does not grow back, so fixing enamel erosion may require sealants, veneers or even a procedure called gum grafting, which can help raise the gumline and reduce sensitivity along the gums.

An Ounce of Prevention

So how can you prevent swimmer’s calculus and enamel erosion due to chlorine? Try to not ingest or get pool water in your mouth. Keep your mouth closed while swimming, diving or standing in the water. When you are done in the water, rinse your mouth out with fresh tap water or bottled water, and apply the same rules as you would to brushing after eating an acidic food. Wait at least 30 minutes after exiting the pool to brush your teeth so the enamel has a chance to reharden.

For questions or concerns or to schedule an appointment, please contact Dr. Lesko’s office at 970-812-0355.

These Beauty Trends Can Destroy Smiles

If you’re searching for a whiter, brighter smile, there are many trendy products out there that claim to be able to help you reach your goals. But what you don’t know can hurt you. That’s because many of these so-called oral “health” products aren’t so healthy after all. In fact, they can be doing more harm than good to your teeth and gums. Before you reach for those white strips or that designer toothpaste, check out these surprisingly dangerous oral care products.

Trendy Flavored Toothpastes

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change up the flavor of your favorite paste from time to time. Basic mint can get boring after awhile. But beware some of the newer, trendier toothpaste brands that have sprung up in stores and online. They may taste great, but many don’t contain the recommended daily amount of fluoride, and thus aren’t doing as much for your teeth as they could be. Always check the packaging for the American Dental Association seal of approval, and if you’re not sure if a product contains fluoride, read the ingredients on the packaging.

White Strips

White strips have been an affordable, reliable way to whiten teeth for years, but a new study has found that they could be very dangerous to your teeth. That’s because researchers found that when hydrogen peroxide (the active whitening ingredient in white strips) was left on the teeth, it was able to penetrate the enamel and destroy the dentin of the teeth by causing it to crumble apart. While it is not yet known if this dentin can be revived or if this is problem is isolated to the pulled, dead teeth used in the study, for now we’d advise you to avoid these products until more conclusive evidence is reported.


No, not teeth pulling – oil pulling. Though this ancient ayurvedic practice seems pretty safe, there are safer ways to rinse the teeth. First of all, it’s important to note that oil pulling with essential oils only removes surface stains. If that’s all you’re trying to do, you can achieve the same results using mouthwash, saltwater and, yes, even plain old tap water – all of which are proven safe for your teeth. Meanwhile, pulling with some varieties of oil has been found to cause pneumonia if the oil makes its way into your lungs!

Bottom line, you don’t need trendy oral health care products to maintain a healthy, beautiful smile. Just brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes at a time and floss once a day. This will keep your smile looking as white and bright as possible – without the risk.

Ready to make an appointment with Dr. Lesko? Call 970-812-0355 today.

7 Effective Teeth-Whitening Tips

You may think that having sparkling white teeth is only restricted to celebs, but you can achieve it too by using several effective teeth-whitening techniques. We’ve scoured the web for things that really work, and here are our most effective tips to help you get that beautiful smile you deserve.

1. Get an In-office Treatment

You’re probably not surprised this comes in as No. 1. Professional teeth whitening is the fastest and safest way to get the results you’re looking for.

 2. At-home Kits and Strips

Some over-the-counter bleaching products such as whitening strips can also be effective since the ingredients in these products are similar to those used in professional teeth-whitening procedures, albeit at lower concentrations. At-home treatments take more time to show results and in the long run may cost you more money since it takes several weeks of using these kit’ to see results. And the results you do get most likely won’t be even close to the results you would see with a professional treatment.

3. Whitening Toothpaste

Whitening pastes don’t work like strong bleaching products, but they can help with those stains that are very close to the teeth’s surface. Watch out for tooth sensitivity, though, and be sure to talk to Dr. Lesko about which whitening toothpastes are best for you.

4. Quit Smoking

Smoking is one of the most common causes of yellowing for many people, and it poses a risk to your teeth-whitening goals. Once tobacco penetrates the enamel, it becomes impossible to remove the stain by just brushing alone.

5. Eat Right

Food and drinks such as coffee, red wines and red juice can easily discolor your teeth, so you have to try your best to avoid them.

Foods like celery, apple, carrots and other crunchy products will stimulate saliva production, thereby reducing the amount of debris on your teeth. You’ll also want to rinse out your mouth with a glass of water after every meal.

6. Floss Once, Brush Twice

Flossing rids your mouth of the bacteria accumulation between the teeth; once a day is all you need. Brushing, on the other hand, removes stains and plaque from the teeth’s surface and should be done twice a day.

7. Visit Your Dentist

Dental cleanings and examinations can also be of great advantage. Your dentist will use professional tools that will effectively remove many of the stains you already have on your teeth and help prevent a buildup of plaque that could lead to future discoloration.

To find out more about teeth whitening or to schedule an appointment, call us today at 970-812-0355.

Skip or Try: Toothpaste Alternatives

Brushing your teeth twice a day for a minimum of two minutes is a necessity of life – but what you choose to brush with is becoming more and more open ended. With so many options flooding the marketplace, it can be difficult to know if the paste you’re considering is a good option. Here’s what you should know about some popular and up-and-coming toothpastes.

Toothpaste Tablets

Designed to solve the problem of toothpaste tubes sitting in landfills, one of the newest oral health inventions to hit store shelves are toothpaste tablets. These tiny tablets activate with saliva and require no water. Simply crunch on the tablet and it dissolves into a foam that you use to brush your teeth. Brush for two minutes as usual, spit and voila! Clean teeth.

As for how the toothpaste tablets help the planet, they come in small, recyclable jars that, unlike traditional toothpaste tubes, reduce the carbon footprint of brushing your teeth.

Charcoal Toothpaste

Charcoal toothpaste is toothpaste made with activated charcoal that claims to whiten teeth and work as well as regular toothpaste. The only problem is, the American Dental Association says there’s not enough data to tell if charcoal toothpaste is safe or effective. What’s more, it carries with it a high risk of damaging both the gums and the tooth enamel. And, it doesn’t really whiten the teeth – it just reduces surface staining, something that any ADA-approved whitening toothpaste can do, without the risk of enamel and gum damage.

Baking Soda

Homemade baking soda toothpaste isn’t exactly a new invention, but it does work in a pinch if you’re out of paste or averse to strong flavors. The problem with using this type of paste regularly is that it’s missing one vital ingredient: fluoride. That being said, if you do need to make a makeshift baking soda paste, just mix 2/3 cup of baking soda with water until you reach the texture of paste you want. Then just brush as usual! If you decide you’d like to use baking soda toothpaste all the time, speak with Dr. Lesko about supplementing your fluoride.

All-Natural Toothpaste

There are many new designer “all-natural” toothpastes on the market these days, and most of them are perfectly safe. If you are interested in trying one of these pastes, just make sure it carries the ADA seal of approval – and happy brushing!

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lesko, please call 970-812-0355.

Winter Is Coming: Time to Get Teeth Ready!

There’s no question about it, winter is on the way. While we’re all enjoying fall right now, it’s good to be prepared for the upcoming chilly weather and winter season. That includes preparing teeth. One of the biggest issues that comes up with oral health in the winter months is tooth sensitivity. If you struggle with sensitive teeth, here are some possible reasons it happens and some things to help you control and possibly even reverse the sensitivity.


Whiter Teeth with GLO Technology

When you meet someone new, what’s the first thing you do? For most people, that would be smile and introduce yourself. If you aren’t confident in your smile, meeting new people can cause feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Everyone talks about the importance of first impressions, and when your smile is the first thing people see, it’s important to feel confident and secure in it.