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Teeth Whitening That’s Safer and More Effective

If you’ve been wanting to whiten your teeth but are afraid of the potential damage it can do to your enamel, now may be the time to give it a go. A team in China has developed a method of whitening that is less destructive to teeth while still achieving great results.

Having pearly white teeth has become a bit of a fad due to celebrity-endorsed products, social media photos, and a general cultural shift associating very white teeth with beauty. Most people seeking a whiter smile will turn to one of two options: either using a teeth whitening product available at a chemist or visiting their dentist for professional bleaching. Although these treatments are approved as being generally safe for use, they can harm your teeth.

Most Common Whitening Solution

The bleaching agent typically used in over-the-counter products and dentists is hydrogen peroxide. It’s even found in kinds of toothpaste and mouth rinses formulated for their whitening effects.

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Hydrogen peroxide works by penetrating through teeth’s enamel and the inner layer (called dentin) to steal electrons from the organic molecules in these layers. These organic molecules reflect light and are responsible for the appearance of your teeth. The more complex these molecules are (complex meaning they have the extra electrons), the more light they reflect, which makes teeth appear stained or discoloured. When hydrogen peroxide steals away these electrons, it makes the molecules less complex, therefore making teeth appear whiter. Using a blue light in tandem with a hydrogen peroxide treatment can speed up this process even more

The Problem with Hydrogen Peroxide

High concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, like those typically found in whitening products and dentists’ offices, can break down a tooth’s enamel. This can lead to tooth sensitivity and irritation of the gums, cheeks, and tongue. Damage to the roots of teeth can also occur. These side effects are typically temporary and will recede after the treatment ends. In some cases, however, the damage can be permanent. This is especially true if a person uses whitening products or has their teeth professionally whitened repeatedly.

A New Approach

Because of the potential negative side effects of hydrogen peroxide-based whitening products, researchers from Nanchang University in China decided to find out if a different blue-light-activated compound could be used as a safer, but equally-effective, alternative. Their findings are published in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.

To achieve this, they modified titanium dioxide nanoparticles (a common mineral used in beauty products used for thickening, whitening, lubricating, and sunscreen properties) with polydopamine so that they could be activated with blue light. In their experiment, the teeth were coated with this compound and irradiated with blue light to test its whitening effect.

In four hours of total treatment, the whitening levels these researchers were able to achieve was similar to that produced by hydrogen-peroxide-based procedures and no significant enamel damage was found on the surface of the teeth. As an added benefit, the treatments were also seen to have some antibacterial properties against specific microbes in the mouth.

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