Dentists use teeth whitening to raise money for cancer

LAWRENCEVILLE - Local dentists have the rest of the month to put their money where their mouths are.

More than 50 dentists in Gwinnett County have agreed to help raise money for Gwinnett Medical Center's cancer projects through their practices.

As part of the Brighter Smiles for Brighter Futures program, founding doctor Bruce E. Carter and others provide patients with teeth whitening services in exchange for a $250 donation (plus a small kit fee) to the Medical Center Foundation's Time Matters Campaign.

Carter said the donations are given directly to the hospital to use for cancer related initiatives. This year's funds will be used to open a new mammography screening center at the hospital's Duluth campus.

Carter said he began the program in 2001, initially donating the money to the American Cancer Society.

"We worked with Relay for Life for four years, but at that time I had several close friends who developed breast cancer," Carter said. "So I wanted to do something locally, and that's when I made the decision to contact Gwinnett Medical Center."

Carter said he and other dentists started offering the donations for whitening services Jan. 15 and will continue the campaign until April 30.

"One hundred percent of the money goes to the hospital, dentists and their staff donate their time and the patients get a tax writeoff," Carter said. "It's a win, win, win situation."

Carter said a number of patients have already been into his and other dentists' offices for the bleaching services, in which the doctors and staff donate the time to make impressions of patient's teeth and molds for the at-home whitening product.

"We have had very little problem getting patients to donate," Carter said. "We find patients are very excited. And we're not doing this to gain patients. The dentists that are doing this really have a heart for this."

Carter said the bleaching services he and other dentists are providing normally cost about $300 to $350 for the molds, impressions and the tray and solutions given to patients.

"We're reducing the cost so it's affordable, and it's really a great product," Carter said. "The trays are made from custom molds of the patient's teeth. You can't get this type of whitening product in stores, and it works much better than over the counter products."

John Riddle, hospital foundation executive director, said dentists involved in the Brighter Smiles program have raised $400,028 since 2004 for the foundation.

Riddle said the foundation is anticipating the program will raise about $150,000 to $170,000 this year, raising total donations over the past 3 years to more than $500,000.

The past year's donations were used to upgrade hospital mammography machines with the latest digital technology.

"Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation is grateful to Dr. Carter and the team of dentists that raise funds through Brighter Smiles for Brighter Futures campaign for breast cancer initiatives," Riddle said. "They are truly saving lives each day."

For more information about the campaign or a list of participating doctors, visit www.gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/subpages/Participating_Dentists.asp.