This week, we saw the release of a potentially explosive story: teeth whitening damages teeth. The headlines were enough to alarm anyone who was using strips, trays, or pastes to whiten their teeth.
But you shouldn’t panic. While this is a potentially significant finding and we have to pay attention to it, there are many reasons why this study isn’t as bad as some of the headlines might make it seem.
At Top Down Dental, we are a holistic dentistry practice dedicated to ensuring you have a beautiful, and above all healthy smile. We work hard to understand the latest science so that we can be sure that every treatment we offer is healthy for your teeth.
Understanding the Study Results
It’s always a good idea to start by understanding the study’s actual findings. In three linked studies, researchers looked at the impact of teeth whitening on the dentin. The dentin is the second layer of the tooth, between the bright white enamel (the outer layer) and the living part of the tooth, the pulp, which is the innermost layer.
They showed that when peroxide contacts the major protein in dentin, the protein gets broken up into smaller fragments. Proteins are what gives dentin its ability to squish and flex, while holding together. It helps make the middle layer of the tooth tougher, even though it’s not as strong, and the loss of collagen could potentially make teeth more brittle and vulnerable to fracture.
Researchers point out that although the dentin is the second layer of the tooth, studies have shown that the peroxide in whiteners can penetrate through the enamel to reach the dentin.
Why This Study Isn’t a Big Deal–Yet
It’s easy for science headlines to make you freak out about a new finding. And since teeth whitening is very popular, headline writer figure they’ve got a scoop that will give them a lot of clicks, but let’s take a moment to look at the results honestly and scale our concern appropriately.
First, it’s important to note that this research wasn’t published in a journal, it was presented at a research conference. Research conferences have low standards for evidence–it’s all preliminary, trying to invite commentary from other scientists so the research can be refined. Once the research is refined, it will be submitted for rigorous review before publication. Once it’s published, we can start to take the results more seriously.
Second, this study didn’t use real-world circumstances. It used natural teeth, but exposed them to whitening strips for more than two weeks continuously. This is not only more prolonged exposure, but the use of dead teeth doesn’t allow for the teeth to regenerate their collagen, which, unlike enamel, the body can potentially regrow.
Finally, we don’t know how this loss of protein actually impacts the tooth. We don’t know that there is any practical impact on the health and function of a living tooth.
Most likely, this impact is similar to what happens to the enamel, which can lose some minerals to whitening, but can restore those enamels between treatments and suffers no effective damage.
Are You Looking for Safe Teeth Whitening in San Jose?
If you are looking for a dental practice that is constantly assessing the safety of the techniques we use, then we invite you to visit Top Down Dental. Your safety is our top concern, and we strive to ensure that every treatment we use is safe and effective for your teeth.
To learn more about teeth whitening and other cosmetic dentistry procedures in San Jose, please call (408) 354-5600 today for an appointment with cosmetic dentist Dr. Nancy Nehawandian at Top Down Dental in Los Gatos.