The Importance of Seeking Professional Dental Treatment for Teeth Whitening & Orthodontics

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The internet’s availability has changed the way society functions. It has opened doors to information, products, and social connections. Access to the internet allows the browser to review products and businesses and to order products and services, as well as to make appointments and access medical records. Dental products and services are not exceptions. The internet’s ease of access and convenience, however, does not personalize a patient’s needs. Understanding the value of seeking professional opinions in a clinical setting is imperative to gaining a healthy lifestyle.

Since the availability of products is endless on the internet, it is not surprising that many patients surf the web for dental products that should be only available under professional supervision or recommendation. Understanding the positive and negative effects of the following products or services, based on patient’s health and dental history, can best be overseen by a professional.

Whitening Products

There are an array of over-the-counter whitening products with varying delivery methods, such as whitening trays, whitening toothpaste, and whitening gels. Whitening toothpaste typically contains silica, a compound that can be abrasive to the tooth surface if not used in limited amounts. Other active ingredients present in whitening toothpaste and gels are hydrogen peroxide and/or carbamide peroxide, which can be caustic to the soft tissue and enhance tooth sensitivity if not applied properly and at the correct concentration.1 Although these chemicals are effective on the stain contained on the surface and deep surface of the tooth, the ADA recommends that any level higher than 10% should be administered and overseen by a dental professional.2

A home remedy some use to whiten teeth is hydrogen peroxide and baking soda combined and applied to the tooth surface with a toothbrush. According to the Journal of American Dental Association, this combination can be abrasive to the tooth surface, and overuse may cause the teeth to look more yellow in color by wearing away the enamel surface and exposing the yellow dentin surface underneath.

The newest tooth whitening method is activated charcoal which whitens by brushing to “bring a shine back to the teeth,3” however, this, too, is abrasive and may have a reverse effect over time. Choosing a product based on needs and dental history is important and may be best recommended by a dental professional.

Clear Orthodontic Retainers

There are a variety of companies offering mail order, do-it-yourself (DIY) orthodontic treatment. These companies have flooded the market with an orthodontic treatment that is affordable to the consumer by presenting a clear retainer system to straighten teeth without the service of an orthodontic specialist. Such specialists are required to receive two to three year of additional specialized education to ensure the knowledge to treat their patients effectively. General dental practitioners receive orthodontic certification to offer clear retainer options in office. Dental health, age, jaw growth, teeth position, and expectation are only a few of the variables that are taken into consideration when devising an individualized orthodontic treatment plan.

Although DIY orthodontic aligner treatment has grown in popularity, there are many risks associated with DIY treatment that may be irreversible. The American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) has cautioned against using DIY orthodontics.4 A study conducted by the AAO revealed that of the nineteen hundred members, thirteen percent of the orthodontist were seeing patients that the DIY treatment had caused irreparable damage.­5

To protect public health and safety, statues and regulations have been enacted, and litigation has been initiated by orthodontic specialists. In 2017, the ADA House of Delegates advocated for the importance of educating patients on the risks of self-managed orthodontic treatment. The ADA supports the need to receive orthodontic treatment by a specialist to ensure appropriate care.6

Dentistry, whether specialized or general, has provided a positive impact on communities through proper treatment, legislation, dental health education, and awareness. Holistic and do-it-yourself products have risen in popularity with the rise of internet sales. The US Census Bureau recently released the third quarter E-Commerce sales, with over a three percent increase from the previous quarter, topping off at over a hundred-thirty billion dollars.7

Dental treatment, such as whitening and orthodontics, are not a product but a treatment or service that should be implemented by a dental professional. The importance of individualized treatment recommendation by a professional will not only ensure optimal results but also safe treatment. Therefore, it is important for the clinician to educate patients on the importance of seeking proper information and professional guidance in reference to products and treatment of interest.

SEE ALSO: Mail-Order Orthodontics: Are They Worth the Risk?

DON’T MISS: Why You Should Discuss Nutrition with Patients to Increase Homecare



  1. ADA Mouth Healthy. Whitening: 5 Things to Know About Getting a Brighter Smile. Sourced from:
  2. ADA (2014). American Dental Association: Patients Should Visit Dentist Prior to Tooth Whitening. May 07, 2014.  Sourced from:
  3. John K. Brooks, DDS, Nasir Bashirelahi, Ph.D., Mark A. Reynolds, DDS, Ph.D. (2017). Charcoal and charcoal-based Dentifrice. JADA; Sept. 2017. 148(9): 661-617. Sourced from
  4. AAO. Adult Orthodontics.  Sourced from:
  5. David Burger (2017).  ADA discourages DIY orthodontics through resolution. ADA News; November 10, 2017. Sourced from:
  6. American Dental Association. Sourced from:
  7. U.S. Department of Commerce (2018). Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales 3rd Quarter 2018.  U.S.Census Bureau News; November 19, 2018.  Sourced from:
  8. ADA Mouth Healthy a-z topics Sourced from:


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Heather Hakes, RDH
Heather Hakes, RDH, was born in Upstate New York where she started her Dental Hygiene career in 2000. Heather practiced in Upstate New York for three years at a general dentist practice where she gained experience with high and low functioning special needs patients. Heather then went on to pediatrics before moving to Virginia in 2007. She currently practices in Virginia in a general dental practice, where she has worked for the last ten years. Heather also works one day per week in an office with periodontal focus. Heather resides in rural Virginia with her husband, Robert, her son Ryan, and two dogs, Rex and Jake. Heather enjoys home improvement projects, reading, writing, and spending time with family and friends.