ASK A DENTIST is back! This week, our featured dentist is Dr. Katie McCann who answers questions about teeth whitening.

A telephone survey conducted in 2011, by Harris Interactive commissioned by Philips, the makers of Sonicare power toothbrushes and Zoom whitening, found that 89 % of those polled felt that a bright or white smile makes a good first impression, and 55% believed a person’s smile is the best physical indicator of someone’s friendliness. The survey also found that 53% of respondents said if they could enhance one thing about their smile, it would be the whiteness of their teeth, rather than the straightness of their teeth or any other cosmetic feature.

A number of our blog readers have wondered about teeth whitening and so we asked our Smile Generation-trusted dentist, Dr. Katie McCann of Aurora Modern Dentistry in Aurora, Colo., their questions.

Q. Can everybody get their teeth whitened at a dental office? If so, how often is the best?

A. “It is safe for most patients to have their teeth whitened at the dental office. In fact, it is safer to have it done under professional supervision than by one’s self at home. A trained professional can monitor the dosage of whitening, the application, and any potential side effects such as sensitivity and gingival burning,” says Dr. McCann.

She recommends having a professional dental examination prior to beginning whitening. According to Dr. McCann, “It is important to determine the cause of tooth discoloration and to rule out etiology of periodontal disease, pulpal necrosis, caries, genetic abnormalities, fluorosis, etc. It is wise to avoid whitening procedures during pregnancy and during childhood. It is also important to determine if bleaching is safe for patients who have bonding or multiple restorations, as the hydrogen peroxide could be damaging to dental work. The most common side effects to bleaching are gingival burning or sensitivity. Both are reversible and usually minor in severity.”

Q. What are the best foods to eat to maintain healthy white teeth?

A. “Whitening is only temporary. What we eat and drink will affect the color of our teeth and how long the bleaching lasts. Drinks such as soda, coffee, tea, fruit juices, and wine stain our teeth. Although fruits and vegetables are healthy, berries and beets are known to excessively stain teeth. It is important to avoid these foods and drinks for at least 2 weeks after bleaching your teeth because bleaching causes the enamel to become porous, allowing the pigments to penetrate and stain teeth more easily,” says Dr. McCann. She advises: “To keep teeth white and healthy, I recommend patients eat crunchy fruits such as pears and apples that can help cleanse the teeth while being masticated. In addition, it is important to have constant salivary stimulation because saliva cleanses and helps to re-mineralize teeth. One can achieve salivary stimulation by chewing sugar free gum.”

ABOUT: Dr. Katie McCann, DDS graduated from the University of Illinois, Chicago College of Dentistry. She is a practicing dentist at Aurora Modern Dentistry in Aurora, Colorado. When not busy practicing dentistry, Dr. McCann enjoys exercising, running, volleyball, gymnastics, boating, skiing, wake boarding, and spending time with her pet Pug, Lucy. Connect with her on her Facebook page.

Dr. Katie McCann