As Salem, Oregon cosmetic dentists, Drs. Willis and Nelson understand the importance of a healthy, great-looking smile.

Studies have shown that our smiles rank as the first thing most people notice about us, especially when it comes to meeting a potential significant other. Ensuring that our smiles look their best, Americans have gone crazy over teeth whitening. Not only has teeth whitening quickly become the most commonly performed cosmetic treatment by dentists in the U.S., consumers spend over one billion dollars annually on whitening products each year in the country.

While teeth whitening can provide the brighter, whiter smile most patients desire, the treatment can also potentially damage our teeth if not properly administered, according to new research.

In three separate studies, researchers discovered that hydrogen peroxide, the active ingredient found in over-the-counter whitening products, can damage the protein-rich dentin tissue found beneath the protective enamel coating that surrounds our teeth.

Researchers from Stockton University in New Jersey recently presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The Anatomy of a Tooth

Our teeth are comprised of three distinct layers: the outer enamel, the dentin layer, and the connective tissue that binds the roots of our teeth to the gums.

Enamel works to protect the delicate interior of our teeth from potentially harmful oral bacteria. When our tooth enamel becomes worn or cracked, it allows bacteria to enter the interior of our teeth where it begins to attack the dentin inside.

Dentin is the soft interior of our teeth that includes the blood vessels and nerves that keep our teeth alive and functioning. When bacteria attack the dentin, it begins to erode away at the interior of our teeth, potentially causing the need for a root canal to save the tooth.

Finally, the connective tissue of the roots of our teeth provides the stability and blood flow our teeth need to stay healthy. After bacteria permanently damages the dentin, it will eventually reach the roots, leading to permanent tooth loss.

Now that we understand how the tooth functions, let’s take a look at the study.

Surprising Results

Most studies that examine teeth whitening products have focused on what these types of products do to our enamel. However, in the study from Stockton, researchers instead elected to study what effective whitening products might have on the dentin. It’s important to note that healthy dentin contains high protein levels, most of which is comprised of collagen.

Previous research has shown that hydrogen peroxide can penetrate the enamel and dentin of our teeth. Additional research has also found that collagen in the dentin layer decreases when teeth are treated with whitening strips.

In this latest study, researchers wanted to determine what hydrogen peroxide was doing to the collagen in our teeth. Using whole teeth collected from cadavers, researchers decided to test the impact hydrogen peroxide has on proteins found in the dentin of our teeth.

Researchers were able to successfully demonstrate that the major protein in dentin is changed to smaller fragments when exposed to hydrogen peroxide. In additional experiments, researchers treated pure collagen with hydrogen peroxide and then examined the protein using a gel electrophoresis lab technique that enables proteins to become visible under a microscope.

The team’s results showed that treatment with hydrogen peroxide levels similar to what’s found in over-the-counter whitening products was enough to cause collagen protein to completely disappear.

While this may seem like a blow to teeth whitening, researchers were unable to determine whether collagens levels returned to normal once whitening products were no longer used. Despite this limitation, researchers plan to continue further study looking into whether hydrogen peroxide use can permanently damage our teeth.

Our Salem, Oregon Cosmetic Dentists Can Whiten Teeth Safely

While further research delves into how safe whitening strips eventually prove to be, the study makes an important point regarding at-home whitening practices.

In an effort to quickly achieve the whiter smile they’ve been desiring, many people over-use whitening products at home. Whether leaving whitening strips on longer than recommended or using whitening strips more frequently than directed, the unsupervised use of whitening products at home can damage our teeth when not properly used.

When you visit our Salem, Oregon cosmetic dentists for teeth whitening treatments, you can feel safe knowing that your teeth are under the supervision of a dentist. Drs. Willis and Nelson will ensure that no harm comes to your oral health as a results of the whitening agents we use in-office.

If you’re looking for a safe and effective option for brightening your smile, contact Willis Dental today to schedule your next teeth whitening appointment.