The penchant for white or whiter teeth is unique to the 21st century. White teeth are often associated with a youthful, healthy, radiant look and subsequently has made teeth whitening a global billion dollar industry. Dentists accidentally stumbled across hydrogen peroxide as a whitening agent when they were trying to treat gum disease. Dentists noticed that over time the appearance of the tooth enamel became whiter following the use of hydrogen peroxide mouthwash.
Today, whitening services are offered by dentists, dental applications and cosmetic businesses. The urge for blinding white teeth has been popularised by celebrities and influencers alike who have become sales agents for cosmetic brands. This bleaching trend has its downfalls with over-bleaching becoming an obsession among some whitening proponents. High concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can cause permanent damage and sensitivity to the teeth and can leave people in a lifetime of pain.
The most common misconception surrounding oral care is the optimum level of white our teeth should be. The term ‘pearly whites’ was conceived in an era where pearls were not cultured and had more of a milky white appearance. Biologically, teeth are not made to be paper white. The colour of teeth is determined by the thickness of the enamel and the yellowness of the underlying dentine. With age, diet and lifestyle teeth become darker due to the thinning of the enamel.
Modern lifestyle factors can accelerate this process, making whitening products all the more appealing. Whitening teeth does little for the ongoing preservation of oral health, the cosmetic procedure, however, does enhance the appearance of teeth and can help individuals to feel more confident.
Studies show that home whitening services are the ones that pose the greatest risk. Compared to dental procedures that take place in a controlled environment under professional supervision, home applications may be ambiguous when disclosing the indigents used. Hydrogen peroxide is necessary for any whitening product as it’s is the active whitening agent. Home products that claim to be peroxide-free will be ineffective in whitening the enamel and may contain acids, sugars and powerful abrasives that may lead to damage. Another issue arising from home whitening kits is that the DIY application process may expose the gums to peroxide agents. If peroxide is left in contact with the gums for too long this will lead to painful burns. While teeth whitening is usually a pain-free experience that leaves the individual feeling confident and content, taking it too far may lead to permanent, irreversible damage. The advisable thing to do is to consult a dental professional before undergoing any DIY whitening application. This may inform you of any underlying dental issues that the whitening may aggravate or exacerbate. Sensitivity may ensue after whitening but is usually temporary and harmless. Only use home whitening products as directed and avoid using any whitening agents after a dental procedure.