How Does Tooth Whitening Work?

How Does Tooth Whitening Work?

Tooth Whitening: Implications and How It Works

Tooth whitening, also referred to as ‘vital bleaching’, is a non-invasive way of lightening discoloured teeth. This procedure is often requested by patients and is considered cosmetic; therefore most insurance companies do not cover the cost. There are three primary reasons for having tooth whitening:

  1. Extrinsic stains: food, cigarettes, coffee, tea
  2. Aged teeth
  3. Intrinsic stains: mild tetracycline or fluorosis

Your teeth are made up of different layers, the first being enamel. Enamel is porous, so when you drink coffee, tea, smoke, or eat anything that has color dyes it creates a stain. When whitening is used, the chemicals get into the enamel which creates an ‘oxidation reaction’- a chemical reaction in which oxygen reacts with another atom, molecule, or compound to produce a new substance, thus making it able to break down the stain.

Treatment Options with Tooth Whitening Products

In-office whitening usually takes up to 1 ½ to 2 hours to complete. This results in immediate changes in your teeth. This type of whitening is only available in-office because of the high concentration in 38% hydrogen peroxide gels. When arriving at the office, your health care provider will place a barrier above your teeth just at the gingival to protect your gums from the product.

At-home treatment consists of custom-fitted bleaching trays. This is a very thin plastic that you place the whitening gel in and, depending on the percentage of hydrogen peroxide, these trays will stay in place from 4-10 hours a day. These are usually worn to bed unless you have time during the day to wear them.

Over-the-counter whitening strips are thin, clear strips that contain no more that 6% hydrogen peroxide. They are placed on the facial part of your teeth, and the remaining portion wraps around the inside of your teeth, making sure you adapt the strip to all facial surfaces (especially along the gum line). These usually stay on for no more than 30 minutes, twice a day. Because of the lower concentration, it will typically take a week to see results.


The main purpose of tooth whitening is to achieve a whiter smile. This could be easily achievable by doing either in office, take home, or strips. By doing an in-office procedure you will see results instantly, and will continue for the next 24 hours. Take-home is an easy application by putting the gel into your trays and going to sleep or leaving them in to do stuff around the house, though this approach could take anywhere from 30 min to 8 hours depending on the strength of hydrogen peroxide. White strips are simple and quick. Apply strips for 30 minutes 2 times a day, but because of the little percentage it could take a week to see results.


There are two major adverse effects of tooth whitening. The first is thermal hypersensitivity, 'temperature-sensitive teeth'. Breathing through your mouth, or drinking hot or cold beverages can cause sensitivity. When this happens, the best way to prevent sensitivity is to use a tooth-paste high in fluoride. The other side effect is tissue irritation. Excess gel can seep out of the trays or when in office the barrier can leak causing the hydrogen peroxide to have contact with your gums creating a stinging sensation. To prevent this from happening, when loading your custom trays you should apply very little into the wells. If some does leak out, you can wipe excess gel as soon as you notice it. Also, for those of you who have crowns, veneers, or fillings in the front teeth: these do not whiten. If you are thinking about whitening and have this issue, you can always whiten until you are happy with your shade and then get those fillings re-done so your dentist can match that shade.

Which Product Do We Use?

At Longworth Dental, our main whitening product is Opalescence. In-office and take-home products can be purchased. For take-home products, you will be required to come in for impressions of your teeth to make your custom bleaching trays. Once this is completed, you will receive a starter kit that contains 8 carpules. This should last 8 treatments. Instructions on how to take care and load your trays are included. For full-mouth whitening, it costs $300: $150 for your upper arch and $150 for the lower. ‘Touch up’ kits are also available containing 4 carpules for $25

For a more affordable approach we offer Crest White Strip Supreme. These different than over the counter strips by having 80% more hydrogen peroxide, they come with a strip for lower and upper arch in one pouch. You can purchace a box of 42 pouches (84 strips in total) for about $38.

Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

We often see patients who ask if they should have their wisdom teeth removed. The first thing we mention is that this is a decision that you need to make while referring to the advice of your dentist. However, there are some things you can think over in preparation for having an informed discussion with your dentist about your oral health care.

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

In my years as a dental receptionist, I have met my share of patients who have wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are an extra set of four molars that most people have. I remember meeting one patient who had nine extra molars, which is very rare. Most patients have four, but there are cases where there are fewer. A lot depends on your genetics, and if Mom or Dad had only two or three, the chances go up that you might have the same. Also, it is interesting to know why we have wisdom teeth in the first place!

I'm Thinking About Getting My Wisdom Teeth Extracted. Does My Age Matter?

This is a particularly good question for parents of young adults who are in the position of needing them removed. Wisdom teeth develop and can be removed when you are as young as 16 years of age. Removing them at 16 is much easier than leaving them until you are older. As you age, the roots of the wisdom teeth start to grow, and more of the root the bigger the issue. For example, my oldest daughter had her wisdom teeth removed when she was 16, and this was done under IV sedation. So she was unconcious through the whole procedure, and did not remember a thing. She had no complications, and recovered with no issues. My youngest daughter decided she would put it off as long as she could, and had them removed at 21 years of age. Perhaps because the roots had an extra 5 years to grow, her experience was a bit more eventful. Although she also had the IV sedation, her recovery time was much longer, and she experienced some slight complications.

My advice to Mom and Dad is to have your dentist check the progress of your children’s wisdom teeth at their next visit. If the teeth are causing pain, ask if it would be too early to think about removing them. Generally, the rule of thumb is "the earlier, the better".

Should I Think About This Sooner, or Later?

I see so many children who are covered under their parents' insurance, and are covered usually to the age of 21 and 25 as full time students. Keep in mind that dental insurance coverage is different for each family, and the age limit for your children could vary.  Your dental receptionist should be able to check that information for you and advise you of the findings. For those kids who are insured by Mom or Dad’s insurance and have wisdom teeth, you are in for a big surprise if you don’t take advantage of that while you are covered! In cases where wisdom teeth become infected, they often will not subside until you have them removed. During my years of experience, I have seen a lot of patients that wish they would've had them removed while Mom or Dad's insurance could cover the bill.

My words of advice are, “have those dreaded wisdom teeth removed while you are covered.” If you put it off, paying out of your pocket could cost $2500 or more. No one wants to pay out of their pocket, especially for something that they could have avoided while their are under their parents' insurance.

So now the bottom line: if you are experiencing pain, don’t put off the removal of those wisdom teeth. Be sure to check with your dentist at your next visit if it is time for them to be removed, and take it from me, you will not have any regrets. If I can be of any help with regards to your wisdom teeth or just dentistry in general, please don’t hesitate to stop in and see me at Longworth Dental.


How Does Local Anesthetic, or "Freezing" Work?

How Does Local Anesthetic, or "Freezing" Work?

What is Topical Anesthetic, or Superficial Freezing?

Anesthetic, commonly known as freezing  is “medication that produces the temporary loss of feeling or sensation”. It is used during many dental procedures for pain control. There are two main types used on a regular basis in any dental practice. The first is topical anesthetic. The purpose of topical anesthetic is to numb the oral mucosa in a specific area where the injection is going to take place. This creates a temporary numbing of the nerve endings, making the injection less painful. For this type of gel to have maximum effectiveness it should remain on the site for 3-5 minutes.

What is Local Anesthetic, or Full Freezing?

Local anesthetic is what actually numbs your teeth, cheek, lip or tongue. It is achieved by injecting a solution near a nerve, which temporarily blocks nerves from generating an impulse. A vasoconstrictor is used in anesthetic to slow down the intake of the agent and increase the duration, which is the “time from induction to complete reversal of anesthesia”. This agent prolongs the duration by decreasing blood flow and bleeding. The typical vasoconstrictor used with anesthetic is epinephrine. Since the solution is absorbed into the body, it can cause strain on your heart. Therefore, patients with heart conditions should receive freezing without a vasoconstrictor. This is why it is important to inform your dentist of any medical conditions and medications being taken.

Do Some Places Take Longer to Freeze Than Others?

When receiving local anesthetic on the mandible, it lasts longer and takes a little longer to start working because the bone is dense. Therefore, the dentist will perform a block injection. This freezes the entire area, which is approximately half of your mouth. Sometimes you will feel a shock to the lip or tongue. That just means the injection is in the appropriate spot. The second option is to utilize the maxillary arch, which uses infiltration. This area is more porous and reaches the apices and bone of your teeth more easily.

 How Long Does Freezing Last?

According to the Canadian Dental Association, the approximate duration of anesthetic is as shown:

Type of Anesthetic



Articaine 4% with epinephrine

3 hours 10 min

3 hours 50 minutes

Bupivacaine 0.5% with epinephrine

5 hours 40 min

7 hours 30 minutes

*Lidocaine 2% with epinephrine

2 hours

3 hours 10 minutes

Mepivacaine 2% with levonordefrin

2 hour 10 min

3 hours 5 minutes

Mepivacaine 3% plain

1 hour 30 min

2 hours 45 minutes

Prilocaine 4% with epinephrine

2 hours 20 min

3 hours 40 minutes

*Prilocaine 4% plain

1 hour 45 min

3 hours 10 minutes

* Used in our dental practice.

Are There Any Possible Complications?

As with everything in life, it is important to be aware of possible complications. While rare, complications such as the injection of air into a blood vessel are possible. To ensure this does not happen, your experienced dentist will alway aspirate the needle before injecting the solution. Another possible complication is paresthesia, which is freezing that lasts longer then it should. This can be temporary or permanent, but most cases are resolved within 8 weeks. Paresthesia can be caused by contaminated solution, bleeding in or around the nerve sheath or by trauma during injections.

However, the most common complications aren't nearly so severe, and are even more easily avoided. Since local anesthetic creates temporary numbing you have to make sure you do not bite your lip, cheek or tongue. If you do, you may feel swollen or have a ‘fat lip’, but this is completely normal and should pass in a few days.

Small Business Website Development (Part 1): 3 First Steps for Planning Your Website

Small Business Website Development (Part 1): 3 First Steps for Planning Your Website

This is part 1 in a series of articles for business owners in the Clarington and Durham areas on small business website development. From the moment your small-business starts searching for a professional who can design a new website for you or who can update your existing site, you will constantly hear about the importance of marketing your business on the web. However, it is often difficult to separate the professionals from the enthusiastic amateurs. In this series of articles, I hope to show you some of the steps involved in creating a website, while sharing some of the pitfalls to look out for.

Step #1: Don’t Want to Have to Buy Your Small Business Website Domain Back? Register Your Domain Yourself.

There are tons of sites where you can buy canadian domain names. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) maintains the registrar list here. At the time I registered, GoDaddy was the only place I could register a “.ca” name, and I haven’t switched, despite this scandal or this more recent incident.

No matter if you hire another company to do contract work for you down the road or if you end up doing the work yourself, it is extremely important that you register your own domain for your small business website. Once you register your domain name, it is yours for as long as you keep paying your registrar.

There are are number of web design companies out there who will tell you that they will register your domain name for you for free. If you already own your domain name, they might say that you need to transfer it over to them to make the design work easier. Unless you want to risk an expensive buy-back of the domain later on, find someone else to work with.

Step #2: Register Variants on Your Small Business Website Domain Name

Search engines like Bing and Google currently give special preference to domain names that contain exactly the search terms your audience is looking for. Let’s look at a real life example.

It took us a while before deciding on the name “Longworth Dental” for our clinic. We liked the connotations of the value of patients’ long-term investment in their oral health. Once we chose the name, the first thing we checked was whether or not the website and its variants were available. GoDaddy offers a bulk registration tool that helps you quickly check the availability of the domain name you are looking for, as well as its variants, such as .com, .org and .ca. We took the .com and .ca versions, because we are a small business, but the bigger your company is, the more important it is to register the other variants of your domain name.

While you are at this stage, also have a look at other keyword-rich and exact-match domains in your niche. For example, if you are a dentist in Bowmanville, you might want to purchase:,,,,, and so on (as well as the .ca versions). At the same time, don’t get obsessed with it. There is still some debate on how important these top level domains really are, as well as how much importance they will continue to receive in the future. Keep track of your expenses, and if things start getting out of hand, start asking yourself if your money would be better spent elsewhere, or donated to a local sports team.

Step #3: Register Your Social Media Accounts

The next thing you’re going to want to do is to register your social accounts. Want to know which account names are available for your business on which social sites? KnowEm makes it easy. They can also set up all the accounts for you (for a fee).

Next, set up a dedicated e-mail account for your company that you can use to verify all the services and profiles you are about to create. At this point in time, it is a good idea to start looking into a password manager like LastPass so that you can start generating unique, secure passwords for each site.

Why the dedicated e-mail account? While using your personal e-mail account may be easier in the short term, it is better to be prepared for the day that you hand over your business to someone else. On that day, when they ask you to give them the passwords for your Twitter, Facebook, Bing and Google account with all the Webmaster, Insight and Analytics tools that come with them, you could spend a lot of time disconnecting those from your personal e-mail and transferring them over. Be careful with your Google analytics account (among others), because you may lose data associated with the website in the transfer.

Even if you’re like me and you started setting up all those accounts up using your personal e-mail, it’s better to start changing slowly now than in a rush during crunch time later.

What to Do When a Child Dental Emergency Arises

What to Do When a Child Dental Emergency Arises

One of the most frightening events for a child and parents alike is when an accidental trauma occurs in the mouth area. It could come as the result of a fall or being hit by a baseball, or any one of a number of other scenarios. Because such an event can happen virtually any time of the day or night, it is essential that parents have a "dental home" that they can call when emergency services are required. Here is a brief parents' guide for what to do when a child dental emergency arises. --Broken jaw: If it is obvious that your child has suffered a broken or fractured jaw, then an emergency room visit is in order. Otherwise, a good pediatric dentist with 24-hour contact for emergency services can handle most other dental emergencies in a non-threatening atmosphere and for significantly less cost.

--Toothache: Toothaches can be caused by a variety of different factors including cavities and infections. Parents should gently floss around the tooth to determine whether the pain is simply being caused by trapped food. If the floss is clear, rinse the mouth with warm salt water, apply a cold compress, and call your "dental home:" preferably a good pediatric dentist.

--Broken or chipped tooth: If there is bleeding, apply direct pressure to the gum just above or below the tooth (never on the tooth itself). Rinse the mouth and apply an ice pack to prevent swelling until you can get to the dentist. If possible, gather all pieces of the tooth and place them in a sealed plastic bag with a little water (not milk) and bring them with you to the emergency provider.

--Knocked-out tooth: If it is a permanent tooth, rinse the tooth with water without touching the roots and reinsert it gently into the socket, holding it in place with gauze. If it cannot be reinserted, place it in a plastic bag with saliva or plain water and take it with you to the emergency dentist. For a primary tooth, do not attempt to reinsert the tooth: but there will probably be a considerable amount of bleeding to attend to. Apply gentle pressure on the gums above or below the missing tooth: never on the wound itself. Contact a pediatric dentist right away when emergencies arise.

If your child is into sports, having him or her wear a mouth guard appliance during play is a great preventive measure against accidental mouth injuries. Sports-related injuries account by far for the greatest number of dental emergencies, so having child athletes use mouth guards makes good common sense.

Carolyn Ethington

Carolyn Ethington works at Stevenson Pediatric Dentistry. You can contact her through this page or read her other articles at This article was reposted with permission from

No Dental Insurance? How to Make Dentistry Affordable.

No Dental Insurance? How to Make Dentistry Affordable.

Dear Nancy,

I don't have dental insurance and can't afford to go to my dentist. What can I do? And why does dentistry cost so much, anyways?

Dear No Dental Insurance,

If you don't have dental insurance, please do not delay going to your dentist until you are suffering with a horrible toothache. I know dentistry can be expensive, but preventative maintenance is the best approach to your dental care.  If you wait until you are in pain, then the issue may be bigger and more expensive than if you'd gone before it started hurting. Get your teeth the attention they need when problems are small, and you will save yourself some hassle in the long run.

No Dental Insurance
No Dental Insurance

Taking the initiative to visit your dentist for a check-up, a few necessary radiographs and possibly a cleaning is the best route to take. If you haven't gone in a while, the first visit may be more expensive. But once the initial visit is complete, your return check ups (whether they are 6 months, 9 months or yearly, as decided between you and your dentist) are much less expensive.  This is because you have already established a chart and your return visits are on a preventative basis instead of a "new patient" basis.

There are different options available for those who don't have dental insurance.  You can talk to your dental office receptionist and inquire about your different options.  I tell my patients that their options are to set up:

  1. a payment plan;
  2. individual dental insurance; or
  3. a Dentalcard.

Read More: Why doesn’t my dentist just accept payment from my dental insurance company?

Payment plans and individual dental insurance have been available for many years, and they work for many patients. The newest idea is plan 3, Dentalcard financing.  This is a financial institution that offers financing for patients who are interested in going ahead with the treatment plan outlined by their dentist, and payment plans or dental insurance are not an option.  They will work with you, and make arrangements best suited to your budget, and in turn, they will pay the dentist directly.  Most offices will have pamphlets that will give you more information if needed.

Now for the second part of your question, "why does dentistry costs so much?" My answer would be, like everything else in today's society, overhead is the biggest contributing factor.  The cost of dental equipment, instruments, material used in restorative procedures, sterilization products which are most important in making sure you are looked after and all procedures are safe for you and the environment.  The list goes on.  These are the costs that the dentists incur so that they can make sure the office runs with precision and accuracy, and your care is utmost and foremost.  There are no corners cut when it comes to overhead costs.  The ultimate care of your oral health, the cleanliness of the clinic and the operation of the dental team is included in those costs.

I hope I have answered your questions. Always remember that you are always welcome to stop in and visit if you have any others! I'll leave you with this piece of wisdom: "BE TRUE TO YOUR TEETH, AND THEY WILL NEVER BE FALSE TO YOU."

Dentist Not Accepting Payment From Employer's Dental Insurance?

Dentist Not Accepting Payment From Employer's Dental Insurance?

Dear Nancy,

Every time I visit the dentist, I have to pay up front and get reimbursed through my dental insurance. Why doesn't my dentist just accept payment from my employer's dental insurance?

Dear Confounded,

This is a good question for those who have insurance coverage which WILL NOT pay your dentist directly.

There is a percentage of employers who have chosen for insurance claims to be paid directly to the employee. Some examples are the federal government, Bell Canada, Royal Bank and Durham College.  This decision is made by your employer, and while it can be an inconvenience, it is a choice that you can only affect by talking with your employer or union.

Read More: Why is There a Balance When I Visit the Dentist?

The immediate solution for this particular situation is to pay the dentist "up front". Most offices accept debit, cheque, cash and credit cards. The receptionist can submit the claim electronically for you, and you will be reimbursed within days.  This will avoid extra costs such as the gas or postage you will use to get the cheque back to the dental office.  It can also have the benefit of giving reward points or air miles on your credit card. Importantly, by the time the charge shows on your credit card statement, you would have already applied the insurance cheque, incurring no interest.

I hope I have been helpful in answering your question. Feel free to stop in and visit if we can be of any other assistance!

Snacks and your Oral Health

Snacks and your Oral Health


How do caries (also known as "cavities") form? If you have the right ingredients, consisting of bacteria, your teeth, carbohydrates and time, you will eventually form caries. Here are some helpful tips from Your Oral Health to help prevent future caries from developing:

  • When reaching for a snack, go for the nuts, cheese, plain yogurt and popcorn.
  • Reduce the consumption of carbonated soft drinks, orange juice and lemonade as their acidic nature demineralizes your teeth making them more susceptible to cavities and sensitivity.
  • If you really want to have that acidic or sweet food and drink, try to have it with your meal when your mouth contains more saliva rather than between meals when your mouth contains less saliva.
  • Using a straw when drinking soft drinks helps to reduce the amount of liquid that touches the teeth.
  • Avoid eating toffee and hard candy as they stick to your teeth and take a long time to dissolve.

Caring for Your Baby's Teeth and Oral Health

Caring for Your Baby's Teeth and Oral Health

In 2005, the WRHA created a series of easy-to-read pamphlets on preventing tooth decay for children of different ages. They offer a number of good tips on how to care for children’s teeth, and they break their tips up by age category. Here are some of the tips they offer, with links to the pamphlets:

If you have any questions or comments, please share below!

Facebook Comments with ElegantThemes

Facebook Comments with ElegantThemes

[UPDATE (July 1/11): While the below information is still valid, I have started using the Disqus comment system. Some of the comments on this post were, however, originally posted using the SFC plugin, then exported later to Disqus.]  


I have almost no experience with coding. Luckily, I do have the ability to follow simple instructions, an ability which has served me well during this project.


I spent several evenings doing research on how to add Facebook comment integration to this site. There are a large number of articles and resources for this subject, but many are either too simple (and don’t have enough customisation options) or too complex (and are hard to implement if you lack the ability to code). A simple, flexible solution was more difficult to find. This was perhaps because, while many solutions work for generic Wordpress themes, there are fewer resources for my current theme, SimplePress by ElegantThemes.


My first reflex was to find a plugin to do the coding work for me. Two plugins seemed promising:

  • Simple Facebook Connect (SFC) plugin: I couldn’t get this working at first, not realizing that it requires a small amount of coding for integration with SimplePress. More on this in Part 4!
  • Facebook Comments plugin: This plugin slowed down my theme and wouldn’t integrate properly. It is still worth checking out if you are using a theme other than SimplePress.

Since I could not, at first, get either of these plugins to work, I started reading the Facebook Developers documentation. They have well-documented articles, for beginners and experts alike, on how to use Facebook comments with your website.



The benefit of this solution is how easy it is to implement. The downside is that all user comments are shared across your entire site. For example, a comment about a “shark logo” was easily understood in its intended post, but was incomprehensible when viewed from other articles.

A prerequisite for having Facebook comments in your blog posts, no matter whether you use a plugin or you code everything yourself, is to create your own app. It only takes a few minutes, and at the end, you’ll get your APP ID and your App Secret. This gives you administrative control over comments once people start posting.

Following the instructions on the Facebook Developers Page, I started by searching comments.php (from the WP Dashboard, go to Appearance -> Editor) for the following lines.

[php]<!-- You can start editing here. --> <div id="comment-wrap"> <?php if ( have_comments() ) : ?>[/php]

I inserted several lines, with this result:

[php]<!-- You can start editing here. --> <div id="comment-wrap">

<!--START FACEBOOK COMMENTS --> <meta property="fb:app_id" content="{YOUR_APPLICATION_ID}"> <div id="fb-root"></div> <script src=""></script> <fb:comments href="YOUR_CANONICAL_URL"></fb:comments> <!--END FACEBOOK COMMENTS --> <?php if ( have_comments() ) : ?>[/php]

I discontinued this implementation once I learned that I couldn’t set up separate comment walls for separate posts, and that I could not store any of the comments on this site. For a more detailed discussion, read this post by the Facebook Developers (how-to video included).


Before giving up, I decided to try one last shot in the dark: e-mailing the author and asking him for help. I e-mailed him the “comments.php” form last night before going to bed. When I checked my e-mail this morning, he had already modified the file so it worked perfectly. I’m sure there’s an important lesson to be learned somewhere in this experience.

I read the author’s notes in this blog post, but I had trouble figuring out how to implement it exactly with my theme. For SimplePress (and possibly other ElegantThemes), here are screenshots of what to change. Here is the first code to add. The left side is the original, and the right side has been modified.

[php]<div id="comment-user-details"> <?php do_action('alt_comment_login'); ?>[/php]


Here is the second part of the code to add.

[php] </div> [/php]


I still have a lot of testing to do, trying to figure out how all the SFC sub-modules work. But installing SFC is a much better solution than either using Facebook’s comments box or writing all the code from scratch. Comments are stored on-site, people can still comment seamlessly, using their Facebook profile, and coding requirements are minimal.

[UPDATE: April 3rd, 2011:] For those of you who are looking for a way to use the actual "Facebook Social Comments" plugin, try looking at David's WordPress Plugins. I haven't tried to use his "Simple Facebook Comments" with an ElegantThemes template, but if you want to implement the Facebook comment system only (without storing comments on your blog) it might be what you're looking for.

Leaving Logo Design for Last

Leaving Logo Design for Last

We started designing our logo late in the building process, once all the construction work had been planned. Our original reason for the delaying the logo design was that so much of the startup loan was already budgeted for other things. Should we have left the logo for last? Designing the logo first made us reflect on what to talk about with our interior designer. In hindsight, it might have been easier to design the clinic first and base the logo on the colors we chose. The criteria we used in choosing our logo designer were simple: we wanted to experiment with a variety of ideas, for a fixed price and to be relatively sure of producing an attractive design. We researched local graphic designers and their quotes varied between $40 and $60 per hour. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a designer who offered a flat rate. Normally, this wouldn’t be such a big deal: after all, if it takes 3 hours to design the logo, the total cost is still low. The problem was that we didn’t know if it would take 3 hours or 30 hours to complete the design.

In the end, we decided on what we thought was a compromise, choosing to do an online contest. Our hope was that having access to more designers would generate more (and better) ideas, while at the same time guaranteeing that we stayed within our budget. To an extent, we were right: we received an overwhelming 281 design variants.

The downside, as you can see below, was that the design quality varied greatly between one submission and the next. We could only interact with the designers through a forum-style conversation or through private messages, and we had to extend the contest because some designers didn’t submit their best work until minutes before the deadline.

All things considered, we had a good experience. We managed to stay within budget, and our logo was finished within the required time. However, this is certainly not the only way to go, and we would be interested in hearing suggestions from logo designers with the Durham and Clarington regions on better ways to go about the best practices of logo design.

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Systems and Starbucks

Systems and Starbucks

Our staff—a term I use delicately for the moment, as it includes only Dr. Sharon and I—recently attended the 2011 Greater New York Dental Meeting, which was held a week ago at the Javits Center. Although I've often visited the state of New York, I've never before been all the way down to the capital. While the conference did not afford us much time to play the tourist, we did manage to see Times Square and take in a show while we were there. It was an informative few days, packed with interesting seminars, reunions with colleagues and an enormous expo featuring thousands of products and services. There were a number of outstanding presentations offered. While Dr. Sharon attended the seminars oriented toward dentists, I was free to attend the seminars on administration. Among the presenters, Kirk Behrendt of ACT Dental stood out from the crowd, noticeably for the depth of his analysis and the hilarious delivery of his presentations. His rendition of a frustrated dentist trying to explain how insurance plans can sometimes compromise patient treatment, à laJack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men", literally had people crying tears of laughter.

Kirk is the CEO of ACT Dental, a company that helps American dentists provide "highly personalized care" to their patients. One of the ways he does this is by guiding them through a process of identifying the systems they use to deliver their services to their patients. By "system" is meant each of the processes used in day-to-day work in their clinics; from how the receptionist greets patients to how insurance claims are processed and filed. The philosophy behind the approach is that by taking the time to clearly define each system, the dental team can then begin to make each process more efficient. Their objective is essentially to produce predictable, reliable patient care, especially with regard to: patient health, finances and satisfaction with dental care.

Mr. Behrendt has effectively found a way to analyze the structure of a dental clinic in a relatively simple and straightforward manner. To underline the importance of systems in any business, Kirk gave the example of the efficiency of Starbucks employees in New York, where some of the busiest locations serve 300 customers per hour during peak periods. If they were only serving plain coffee to that many customers, it would be considered a tiring yet straightforward task. However, when you order a "tall half-skinny half-1 percent extra hot split quad shot (two shots decaf, two shots regular) latte with whip" (or another of the roughly 70,000 combinations), the staff still present you with precisely what you asked for.

Many of you know why. Despite the complexity of the order you give to the kid behind the counter, he or she will follow the system they have in place: they write your name on the cup, fill in the six boxes on the side and pass the cup to the next staff member. Mr. Behrendt remarks that in some of the bigger Starbucks, he suspects the employees don't even know each other all that well, and yet are still able to work as a team to provide a service.

Certainly, having employees work in a chain to produce a product doesn't produce the most creative results. Dental staff members must not only be highly skilled, but they must be intensely curious and mindful in carrying out their tasks. However, the preceding example does illustrate a profound point. When the members of a dental team clearly define who is responsible for meeting which of a patient's needs, and then go a step further by systematizing their process, two things are certain: the service they provide will be increasingly effective, and they will be able to reproduce it time and again.

Dental Website Design and an Empty Cup

Dental Website Design and an Empty Cup

When I sat down to do the research necessary for our dental website design, my first step was to search through selected websites and establish a list of elements I wanted to include in this site. Interestingly enough, while I was able to find a number of creative and well-designed sites through Google, most of the elements of my list came from analyzing the sites that I visit regularly. Clicking through my bookmarks, I happened upon our wedding videographer's website, which I had luckily saved. When we used their services, Collin and Carla of Empty Cup Media were perfectly professional, their service was beyond reproach, and more importantly (in the context of this post, anyway), what first enticed us to contact them was the attractiveness of their website. While the rich photography and superbly edited short films immediately catch the eye, the site also offers an interesting series of articles for readers who want to spend more time perusing the site. The combination of visually appealing media elements and well-written posts serve to showcase their talent, as with the entry where Collin proposes to Carla.

Obviously, the purpose of a media company's website and a dental office's website aren't exactly the same. At the same time, there are still certain characteristics that are common to both, such as the necessity of exposing the services the organization offers and the philosophy they follow. It turns out that Simon de la Salle, who did a lot of the design work for Collin and Karla's site, has a good understanding of the elements that contribute to a great online presence. He boasts a unique webpage of his own, where (among other things) he shares his thoughts about the Empty Cup Media website. If you are looking for ways to update your own website, there are certainly worse places to start than here.

Sippy Cup Tips

Sippy Cup Tips

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry published an article in 2007 on using "sippy cups" for children. The advice in this article on keeping children's teeth healthy is important for parents everywhere!

  • Childhood caries (or "cavities") are becoming more and more common. One of the main causes is frequent exposure to sugared beverages for extended periods of time.
  • A sippy cup is a transitional tool for your child when switching from a bottle to a regular cup. It must only be used for a short period.
  • The only beverage recommended for use in a sippy cup is water. If you use sugared beverages, limit them to mealtimes and start gradually diluting the beverage until the child gets used to pure water.
  • This is especially important at bedtime, since prolonged exposure to sweet beverages at night can cause extra tooth decay.

3D Model

3D Model

One of the interesting things about any new project is that there are constantly new things to learn. Once we chose our two-dimensional layout, we thought it might be easier to visualize with a three-dimensional model. This video is an attempt to figure out what the clinic might look like once built. I put the mock-up together with Live Interior 3D Pro, which is a paid program for Mac, but if I had to do it again, I'd probably use Google Sketch-Up, which is less aesthetically pleasing, but more flexible and free! Please forgive the lack of colour-coordination and details in this version! We still have lots of design work to do!

Under Construction

Under Construction

Construction on the new clinic is going to be starting soon, and in the meantime we're getting our website up and running. This space is going to be undergoing some substantial changes over the coming weeks, as content is added and the theme is updated. Stay tuned! :D