We’ve all seen them: people with teeth so white, they practically seem to glow. Sometimes, we snicker about them, how they look fake, unreal. And yet, the pursuit of a super white smile is one that ever more people seem intent on pursuing for themselves.
The question we hope they’ll ask is: is a preternaturally white smile really worth it?
For there are health risks to teeth whitening, whether using an at-home kit or having it done in a dental office. As we noted in an earlier post, the peroxide used in bleaching causes a sloughing of the surface epithelium cells of the gingival tissue – the cells that form the surface of your gums. The solution then penetrates the cell walls and works its way to the nucleus, killing the cell. While this sequence of events isn’t good for anyone, it may be worse for people with oral vulnerabilities due to gum disease (more than 50% of the US population) or mercury amalgam fillings (well more than 50% of the US population).
Additionally, the surface texture of the tooth enamel changes after use of peroxide, coating the natural crystalline lattice texture of the teeth. This ultimately weakens the enamel and gives the biofilm (plaque) an even more attractive place to develop, increasing susceptibility to future decay.
Recently, the European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) issued an opinion on the use of home-use whitening products. In it, they flatly stated that, because of the health risks involved, products containing more than 6% hydrogen peroxide should be considered unsafe for use by consumers.
Yet many of the most popular home kits contain much more than this – sometimes four times as much!
Here’s the deal: A super white smile may look nice for a while. But take the long view. Consider the risks. Imagine more dental work, higher dental bills, and quite possibly systemic health problems down the road.
Then ask yourself again, is it worth it?