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Ask Dr. Mike: Safe Ways to Whiten Your Teeth PLUS What Is Life?

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans.

Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

What is life? I'm asking this because billionaire inventor, Craig Venter, gave an answer about DNA software systems and am curious what you think.

Here's something that Dr. Mike finds interesting... something that has always been amazing to him, in all his research on medicine, is how the reactions and cellular processes require the use of proteins that almost resemble machines. It's almost like we are specifically designed by a designer with DNA. For Dr. Mike, life isn't just a process or a chemical reaction. Dr. Mike is a Christian and would take a more faith-driven approach of this question.

What are the safest ways to whiten teeth?

Baking soda is a safe way to whiten your teeth, and is even used in certain toothpastes. Dentists have also recommended using carbamide peroxide as a natural way to help whiten your teeth. However, you might also want to consider staying away from foods and drinks that stain your teeth, like coffee.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.844.305.7800) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents: Healthy Talk with Dr. Michael Smith | Original Air Date: May 29, 2015
Host: Mike Smith, MD

You’re listening to RadioMD. It’s time to ask Dr. Mike on HealthyTalk. Call or email to ask your questions now. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 877-711-5211. The lines are open.

DR. MIKE: This next question, I have been debating about answering. I have had it for a while now. I decided, “Why not, it’s a Friday.” It’s kind of an “open Dr. Mike day” type thing. Let me go ahead and try to tackle this. I want you to know that the answer I am going to give to this question is just purely my own world view, my own belief, my own faith system. The question is being asked so I get to answer it. The question is simple.

“What is life? I am asking this because billionaire inventor J. Craig Venter” – that’s interesting, this billionaire inventor and his last name is Venter – “gave an answer about DNA software systems. I was just curious what you think.”

This guy J. Craig Venter answered the question, “What is life,” by talking about DNA software systems. I found his answer. It was reported in the Wall Street Journal a couple of months ago. The question again, “What is Life?” Here is his reply. By the waym this J. Craig Venter gentleman he is the founder of a company who is really into the genome sequencing stuff. So, that tells you why he is focusing on DNA with his answer.

Here’s what he said: “The short answer is life is a DNA software driven system. At least on this planet, as far as we know, every species is driven by their DNA software totally and completely. The much more complicated answer deals with energy balance and a cellular system and transporting molecules in and out. But it all gets down to reading your DNA software from second to second--every one of your cells. Making new proteins, making new versions of your cells. Without this software you can’t make new hardware.”

DNA has been called the backbone of life and I get that. I agree with everything he just said. Here is something that I find really interesting. He refers to the DNA as a software system. That’s really interesting because as I have studied medicine and I have studied biology and microbiology--and I have been doing this for quite some time now. Really, in 1989 is when I really started to get into science. So, I have been doing this for a while. Something that has always just been amazing to me is how a lot of the cellular processes, the reactions, the enzymes, how muscles contract, how ATP is made. They require the use of these proteins that fold up in ways that almost resemble machines. I can’t help but see this design quality in all of these different enzymes and proteins and DNA. There is a design quality to it that has lead me in my own personal beliefs to believe in a designer. I’ve said it before on my show. I am a Christian and I believe in a creator and a personal creator. I answer the question, “What is life,” I guess, more based from that world view. Craig Venter is taking more that naturalistic approach – I don’t know his background. I’m just going by what he said here. He’s giving the answer to, “What is Life”” He is going back to the naturalistic approach. In naturalism, there is no creator. Matter has happened through random processes over eons of time. There are some people who believe that matter itself is eternal. People who are atheists or naturalists, they answer the question with no help from an outside transcendent God or creator. They don’t allow that in their belief system. That’s fine. For me it is that life isn’t just a process; it’s not just a chemical reaction. I agree that there is a DNA software system in the body. I think that there are all kinds of interesting software and hardware systems in the body that have a design quality to them. So, to me, there is a designer. Where we differ, I guess, Craig Venter would just say that the DNA software system has evolved over time. For me, it was designed and placed in the cell. I agree with everything that he is saying. I think it just really comes down to how did it begin and how did it get into the cells. For me, there is a designer. I’ve come to appreciate the design quality and all of these different cellular processes, enzymes and proteins. Life to me isn’t just the physical. It’s soulish. It’s personhood. It’s spiritual. All that kind of stuff. That is just my personal answer. I don’t know if I did a good job answering that.

Another question: “What are the safest ways to whiten teeth?” I am assuming this person is asking the question because on one of the morning talk shows – and I know this because a friend of mine was talking about it. I don’t remember what network it was on. There was a segment on, is teeth whitening safe – is it good for your teeth or bad for your teeth? Maybe this person is asking this question that based on that show. Are there safe ways to whiten your teeth? Maybe. The things that whiten the teeth the most, like hydrogen peroxide, for instance, are going to have some enamel issues and may not be the best thing for your gums. I had a dentist friend of mine say, “If you ever do anything to whiten your teeth and it makes your gums tingle or burn, get it out of your mouth. That’s not good.” Pretty much all of the big, main ways that you can whiten your teeth, at least outside of a dentist office – on your own, in your home, over the counter stuff – all of those things that really can do a good job cause gums to tingle and burn. They are probably not good, like hydrogen peroxide. Baking soda might be a safer way to do it. A lot of people love baking soda. They say it works great. I don’t think it is going to be as powerful as some of the other bigger teeth whitening systems out there but baking soda might be a way to do it. There is another form of peroxide called carbamide peroxide. Carbamide peroxide is very similar to hydrogen peroxide but it is more carbon based. It is supposed to be a little bit safer for you. I don’t have any specifics on it. But I do know there are some dentists who prefer carbamide peroxide versus hydrogen peroxide. Maybe carbamide and baking soda combination would be a safe way to whiten your teeth. How about this, though? How about avoid the things that cause the stains in the first place? The coffees, the teas – I know that is hard to do because I enjoy all of that stuff, too. Maybe cutting out some of the coffee, or brushing your teeth when you are done drinking or eating those kinds of food that can stain teeth. Maybe just cutting those foods out a little bit and when you do consume them, brushing your teeth right away. Maybe that would be a safe way to keep teeth white, or to prevent the stain in the first place. Just a thought. I don’t have anything else, but I’m trying to think off the top of my head. We do know that some of the mouthwashes now, too, have in them some of those teeth whitening chemicals that you find in the strips. Some people are questioning the use of those mouthwashes every day. Be careful there. Some of the toothpastes that say ‘extra whitening’, they use abrasives. If you ever see in your toothpaste little circles or dots those aren’t things that dissolve. Those are little plastic abrasive things. They don’t really leave your system. Be careful with those. As a matter of fact, when you clean out deep pockets you can find some of those small little plastic dots from those toothpastes. So, be careful with that as well. So, carbamide peroxide and baking soda.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I’m Dr. Mike. Stay well.