For many of our patients at Roane Family Dental, a healthy smile means a bright smile. Teeth whitening has quickly become the most popular and commonly performed cosmetic dental treatment in the U.S. In fact, the teeth whitening industry is forecasted to become a $7.4 billion industry by 2024. Each year, Americans spend $1.4 billion on over-the-counter whitening products in an effort to achieve the brilliantly bright smile the desire.
While Dr. Roane believes that every patient should have the dazzling smile they deserve, teeth whitening products can actually cause some problems if not performed by a dentist or when not used as directed. Early research performed by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has even suggested that whitening strips could actually damage the health of our teeth.
The Brighter the Smile the More Harm Done?
Our teeth consist of three layers, each one playing an important role in keeping our teeth healthy. The first layer is the outer enamel that acts like a hard protective shell for the more delicate parts inside. Beneath the enamel sits the dentin, a layer of vital proteins that helps to nourish the final layer – the pulp. The pulp contains the roots, blood vessels and nerves that keep our teeth alive and healthy.
New research suggests that hydrogen peroxide – the active ingredient in over-the-counter whitening products – may actually harm the dentin layer of our teeth.
Conducted by researchers at Stockton University, the study examined the effects of whitening strips on human teeth extracted from cadavers. Researchers followed the manufacturer’s instructions, and left the whitening strips on the teeth for an hour. Researchers also submerged the teeth in artificial saliva and washed them, in order to simulate what teeth would naturally experience in the human mouth.
Researchers tested the level of collagen and other proteins that remained in the dentin layer of the teeth, and compared their results to a control group of un-whitened teeth, as well as another group of teeth that underwent three whitening treatments.
The team discovered that teeth whitened with strips just once had less collagen and other vital proteins when compared to the un-whitened teeth. Overall, the proteins in the dentin of the whitened teeth were converted into smaller fragments. The teeth in the group that were whitened three times had even smaller amount of proteins remaining.
“Our results show that treatment with hydrogen peroxide concentrations similar to those found in whitening strips is enough to make the original collagen protein disappear,” wrote the research team.
ADA Suggests Further Research Needed
While the results of this study call into question the safety of teeth whitening, the ADA stands behind its decision to consider whitening a safe procedure.
In response to the study, the ADA suggests that more research is needed before any conclusions can be drawn about what hydrogen peroxide does to the pulp of our teeth. One of the biggest concerns the ADA has over the study is the use of cadaver teeth. Those teeth may have been dehydrated and had a different composition when compared to the teeth of a living person.
Even though the ADA maintains that teeth whitening remains a safe procedure, patients need to closely follow the directions of any product they choose to use. When overused, hydrogen peroxide can weaken enamel, making it more likely that teeth are damaged by plaque and other harmful oral bacteria. However, the tooth sensitivity that comes from overusing whitening products can be reversed by stopping treatment.