Teeth Whitening Warning
Glistening white teeth have long been hailed as a symbol of health and attractiveness, and as an indicator of wealth and glamor. Despite the huge advances in professional dentistry and home dental care, people still look for new ways to cosmetically enhance the color and sparkle of their teeth.
The industry response has been a barrage of tooth-whitening products that can be obtained through prescription or over the counter. A process that used to cost hundreds of dollars and was performed only in the dentist's office, can now be done at home or on the road, and in some cases, even while we sleep.
While these products might be a nice quick fix for that upcoming presentation or formal event, we may want to seriously consider the long-term effects such products can have on the health of our teeth. A recent study from Ohio State University College of Dentistry in Columbus suggests that these products can do extensive damage to teeth and enamel. The findings are published in the Journal of Dentistry.
The study tested five different home-use whitening products (following the directions for application and duration of use) on 10 tooth samples. The products included both prescription and over the counter brands, and were either strips or nightguard bleach systems.
At the end of trial use, the researchers measured the changes using a nanometer (one billionth of a meter) scale. They looked specifically at the thickness and hardness of the teeth, as well as elasticity, which is the enamel's ability to recover from wear and force. As the hardest substance in the human body, enamel is known to repair and strengthen itself over a period of time.
According to the measurements, the teeth exposed to the whitening treatments lost between 1.2 and 2 nanometers of thickness, and 6 to 18.8 percent of elasticity.
Compare this with the measured damage of the control group of untreated teeth: These teeth lost an average of 0.4 nanometers of thickness. The loss of elasticity was much less than that of the experimental group.
Teeth can look yellow because of the dentin under the normally translucent enamel. Dentin is the substance that makes up most of our teeth, and it is often a yellowish color. It consists of minerals, including calcium, and functions as protection for the inner tooth, and as a base for the enamel. Aging, smoking, and dark liquids such as wine, coffee, and tea can also cause a yellow appearance by wearing away and staining the enamel.
Teeth-whitening products bleach the enamel so it becomes white and more opaque. However, the chemicals in these products cause harm, as noted in the above study. The depletion of healthy enamel can lead to sensitive teeth and gum irritation.
To keep your teeth bright, try a more natural approach. A few simple changes can make your smile whiter and shinier:
- Brush two to three times a day with a gentle baking soda paste. Use a brush that scrubs your teeth, but is easy on your gums.
- Cut back on drinking coffee, tea, wine, and cola, which are known to stain teeth.
- Don't smoke or chew tobacco. Not only is tobacco a risk to the health of your entire body, but it can leave stains on your teeth.
- Floss daily. This helps to keep food and plaque stuck between your teeth from settling and staining.
- Try drinking through a straw. This will minimize the amount of liquid that touches your teeth.
- See your dentist every six months for a thorough cleaning.
- Eat a whole foods diet that will contribute to better overall health, which will also improve oral health.
Your body is a machine, and every function can be affected by what you put into it. Teeth that munch on healthy food will look all the better for it!