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Wise Investment or Waste of Money?

Self-brushing toothbrushes. Waterpiks. UV teeth-whitening lights. With so many oral health innovations on the marketing – and so many more coming out each year - it can be overwhelming to consumers to know which products work, and which ones just aren't worth the investment. After all, why spend $200 on a whitening kit if it’s no more effective than your $4 whitening toothpaste? Here, we'll go over some of the more popular at-home products to help you decide which ones to buy.

LED Whitening Treatments

Light-emitting diode, or LED, whitening treatments are growing in popularity as they decrease in price. In fact, the price point for some kits has come down so much you can get one for under $50. But do home LED whitening kits really work?

In a word, no. You see, the efficacy of LED bleach treatments depends on several factors: how long you use the light, how stained your teeth are, how long the whitening gel is on your teeth, and what concentration of active ingredients are in the gel you use. When you go to the dentist for an LED whitening treatment, your dentist uses a stronger, medical-grade whitening gel than what is available to consumers, and frankly the light that comes with those kits won’t help much. Your dentist also knows how long to apply the gel, and how to apply the gel safely to eliminate the risk of burns or tooth damage.

Bottom line, if you really have severe staining on your teeth, save your money and invest in a whitening treatment at your dentist’s office. You’ll get better results and a lot less risk.

Water Flossers

Water flossers aren’t exactly new - in fact they’ve been around since the 1960s. But even though water flossers are now old enough to join the AARP, many people still don’t know how or why to use them.

First of all, water flossers are not designed to replace flossing with string dental floss. Water flossers can help loosen plaque and food debris between the teeth, but they aren’t able to completely clean between the teeth like string floss can.

Water flossers are also helpful for rinsing the mouth after flossing or brushing, and can be a useful tool for people with braces or expanders to help clean food particles off these orthodontic devices.

App-enabled Toothbrushes

There have been quite a few app-enabled toothbrushes introduced to the consumer market in the past year or so. These brushes will work with or without a smartphone, but in order to use the app you must have a smartphone. The purpose of the app is to time how long you brush and, in some brushes, how effectively you brush. But are these really worth the investment? If you go by the reviews, maybe not. Because the technology is still so new, it may be better to hold off on an app-enabled brush for now. If you’re really concerned about hitting that two-minute mark while brushing, many less-expensive brushes come with a two-minute auto shutoff. Or you can set a timer on your phone.

Tongue Scraper

Tongue scrapers are one of those devices that have been around forever. In fact, people have been cleaning their tongues in some way or another for centuries, but you just don’t hear about it when oral care is discussed. Why? Well, many people don’t think it’s necessary. So, is it?

Technically, no. Popular in Ayurvedic medicine, tongue scraping is an effective way to remove surface bacteria from your tongue. Some people say it can also help freshen your breath. But unfortunately, no clinical studies have proven tongue scraping to be effective at doing much of anything else. If used correctly, a tongue scraper can’t hurt, but it probably won’t help much either.

Self-brushing Brushes

Self-brushing toothbrushes are one of the latest innovations in oral health, with popular models claiming to brush your entire mouth in three to 10 seconds. The brushes aren’t very expensive compared to the average cost of an electric toothbrush, but the reviews on these products vary widely, with some saying the products simply don’t work. They also carry a high replacement head cost and require you to purchase special toothpaste that’s compatible with the brush. Don’t want to switch your paste? You’re out of luck.

Though it's an excellent idea in theory, we recommend you hold off on investing in this kind of brush until the technology - and the reviews - improve.

Ultimately, all you need for a clean, healthy smile is a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss. Everything else is nice to have, but unless you have special circumstances (as in the case of water flossing with braces) they won’t really make much of a difference in your oral health.

Ready to schedule a cleaning? Give Dr. Abelar’s office a call at 858-866-9692.

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