An Early Bite with Dr. John Paul: “Can’t I Just Get This Done at the Mall?”

By Dr. John Paul, FDA Editor

When it comes to teeth whitening, how often do patients ask, “Why can’t I just get this done at the mall?” — which is patient speak for “I don’t want to pay what I think you are going to charge for results I want but can’t count on.”

Here’s what I tell them:

“Mrs. Gruntbuns, you certainly can go to that kiosk at the mall and get teeth whitening supplies there, but for the life of me I can’t imagine why you would want to. You don’t know where the person handing out the whitening supplies was last week. That lab coat they are wearing does not mean they are a dentist or even a certified assistant — there is no reason to believe they have any special training. There also is little or no regulation on the actual chemicals that will be sold to you. In Florida, there are regulations that say unless the person in the kiosk is a Florida-licensed dentist they cannot legally place anything into your mouth or shine a “special light” onto your mouth, but you as a consumer would have to report the procedure to see any enforcement.

When you come here, part of what you are getting is my training and expertise. I will advise you how likely whitening is to work for you. I can prescribe different products to suit your individual needs. My staff and I are overseen by the Florida Board of Dentistry and should we stray from the standard of care, my license and my livelihood would be in jeopardy. Besides the fact that I like you, I have a vested interest in running a clean office with the best products, the latest techniques and a well-trained staff.

I certainly won’t stop you from spending your money at the mall, but you should think about whether the rewards outweigh the possible risks, and whether there will be anything you can do if you are unhappy with the results.”

Have a question you have a tough time answering? Send it to Dr. Paul at jpaul@bot.floridadental.org.

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