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Safety of Tooth Whitening Products Evaluated Again

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(News Report) With tooth whitening now the most common cosmetic dental procedure in the U.S., researchers continue to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of tooth bleaching products.

Two recent reports in separate issues of the Journal of Dentistry indicate that name-brand home whiteners are safe, although they do cause microscopic damage that slightly softens the tooth enamel. The negative effect is so small, however, it is measured at the nanometer level (one billionth of a meter).

Researchers note that teeth can typically repair minute enamel softening using natural calcification processes. The study’s findings are still important, according to Shereen Azer, assistant professor of restorative and prosthetic dentistry at Ohio State University and lead author, because the information helps manufacturers create even more gentle and effective dental products.

“This just gives us a better understanding of precisely how these products affect our teeth,” says Azer in a Science Daily article describing his work.

Other researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that the effects of standard 6% hydrogen peroxide tooth whiteners is insignificant compared to the tooth erosion that occurs from highly acidic drinks like orange juice.

“It’s potentially a very serious problem for people who drink sodas and fruit juices daily,” said author YanFang Ren, DDS, PhD. “We do not yet have an effective tool to avert the erosive effects, although there are early indications that higher levels of fluoride may help slow down the (tooth) erosion.”

The American Dental Association monitors over the counter tooth whitening products and applies the ADA Seal of Acceptance to products that are deemed safe and effective. Patients are advised to check for this label on the product box and to follow the manufacturer's directions. The ADA also recommends that patients confer with their dentist before using any tooth whitening procedure to be sure it is appropriate for their particular dental needs.

Article Links:
Science Daily, 2009. “Home Tooth Bleaching Slightly Reduces Enamel Strength,”

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