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Tooth Whitening: Behind Enemy Lines

Aug 4, 2008
When an A-list celebrity glides along the red carpet of any premier possibly the most outstanding feature the camera picks up on is the wide, glistening smile. The Hollywood smile, as it has been labeled.

As with most luxury products in this day and age the Hollywood smile has been made increasingly accessible and no longer the reserve of the rich and famous. Now the perfect smile is within the grasp of anyone who has around 30GBP to spend.

Unsurprisingly the dentistry fraternity across the globe has been up in arms and branding these over the counter treatments as unsafe. The battle lines are drawn and each side has their independent studies in their arsenal but are the dentists just trying to hang onto the most lucrative dental procedure? Or are the home tooth whitening kits really dangerous?

Firstly we must briefly look at how tooth whitening works. Each of your teeth is made up of an inner dentin layer and a hard outer enamel layer, which protects the teeth. When you eat, drink or smoke the foreign material accumulates to form a pellicle film over the enamel layer.

After a long period of time the foreign material sinks deeper into your tooth beyond the porous surface enamel which makes it unreachable by corrosive brushing even with whitening toothpaste, as this only operates on the surface.

Most tooth-whitening kits contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide which breaks down in the mouth absorbing into the tooth and creating an oxidising chemical reaction which breaks down the staining compound.

The dentists are adamant that the over-the-counter imposters are not as safe and effective as the in-office treatment. Their argument for this is that they can use a higher intensity chemical compound, custom fit your mouthpiece from a dental mould and most importantly assess whether the treatment could be detrimental to any existing dental conditions.

Just after the turn of the millennium there were concerns raised about common tooth whitening products causing oral cancer. Note that it is only common tooth whitening products that could cause cancer, despite dentists using exactly the same chemicals at higher concentrations. I wonder where the concerns about the common products could have come from.

These concerns were dashed in 2006 by a comprehensively accepted study of over 4000 human subjects definitively stating that there is no relation to common whitening products and cancer. Apparently no-one pieced together that a large majority of people who wanted their teeth whitened might be smokers.

In fact several independent studies have come back stating that there is no health risk in buying over the counter which leaves the main difference being the speed and effectiveness of the process. Basically if you pay more your teeth stand to be whiter, quicker.

The primary drawback of the over-the-counter tooth whitening systems is that customers who use them may not be good candidates for tooth whitening, and there is no professional making sure everything works correctly, however most kits come with detailed instructions and links to helpful websites.

It is certainly true that if an individual should consult a dentist if they have current dental problems as a potential gym user should consult a doctor if they have a medical condition. The dental industry can provide more effective and rapid results however the consumer must pay for that benefit with costs running into the hundreds of pounds.
About the Author
Shaun Parker is a leading teeth whitening expert with many years of experience in the dental industry.
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