When you think about tooth bleaching, you probably think of it as a cosmetic thing: the means to a whiter, brighter smile. But if a new report published in JADA holds up, it may also be the means to better oral health for the elderly, disabled and others who have trouble with things like standard brushing and flossing.
Dentists have used carbamide peroxide, or urea peroxide, for decades to whiten teeth, but its original use was as an oral antiseptic. It removes plaque, kills bacteria and elevates the mouth’s pH above the point at which enamel and dentin begin to dissolve, which results in fewer cavities.
“All these benefits lead us to believe that tray bleaching can be a very effective supplemental method of oral hygiene for patients facing greater challenges keeping their mouths clean,” said Dr. David Lazarchik, associate professor in the Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine and the report’s co-author.
Of course, like any dental or medical treatment, bleaching does pose some risks, including soft tissue damage, enamel changes and, when “silver” amalgam fillings are present, an increase in release of mercury vapor from the restorations. (You can read more about these risks in our previous posts here and here.)
That said, we’ve not seen many problems in our practice other than some individuals with sensitivity that goes away after they stop bleaching. Still, we think the risks are worth keeping in mind, especially in cases where other health issues may be present and thus affected by the procedure. Perhaps ongoing research about this promising new use for bleaching will shed more light on these, as well.