Is Teeth Whitening Safe?
Teeth whitening products are popular, but some research suggests they can cause changes to proteins inside the teeth. Here’s what you need to know about using teeth bleaching kits safely.
Nobody wants to be famous for their pearly yellows. But recent research suggests there might be a downside to popular teeth whitening strips and gels.
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Are they really a safe way to brighten your smile? Dentist Anne Clemons, DMD, breaks it down.
You’ve probably seen them (or even used them): Sticky strips or gel-filled trays designed to whiten your teeth with hydrogen peroxide. They’re easily available over-the-counter, and they can do a great job lightening teeth and removing stains, Dr. Clemons says.
Now for the “but” (you knew it was coming): Hydrogen peroxide products might damage proteins in the tooth’s dentin layer, according to study results presented at the 2019 meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Dentin is the hard tissue that lies beneath the tooth’s surface enamel.
Earlier research has shown that whitening products might also roughen or soften the tooth’s surface, Dr. Clemons says. But there’s a caveat. “These studies were done in a lab, not on living teeth,” she says.
It’s possible that the changes are temporary and could reverse after a person stops using teeth bleaching products. Even if the changes stick around, though, it’s not clear that they equal bad news for your choppers.
Do these changes matter?
“We don’t know yet whether this is something that will have a long-term effect on tooth health,” Dr. Clemons says.
Now for some reassurance. Hydrogen peroxide bleaching products have been around for decades, and millions of people use them — including plenty of dentists, Dr. Clemons points out. “And we haven’t seen an increase in problems like cavity risk or tooth fractures after bleaching,” she says.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has also said that hydrogen peroxide whiteners are safe and effective.
If you do use them, here’s how to do so safely, Dr. Clemons says:
One more piece of advice from Dr. Clemons: Take steps to keep teeth sparkling so you won’t have to use teeth bleaching products so often.
Bottom line, says Dr. Clemons:
“If you want a brighter smile, teeth whitening products can be good tools — but they aren’t a substitute for good dental hygiene.”