Those whitening strips may damage your teeth

accreditation
Whitening may weaken the structure of your teeth.
Whitening may weaken the structure of your teeth.

Having a pearly white smile may come with a significant cost – the health of your teeth.

New research suggests that over-the-counter whitening strips may be eroding the structure of your choppers.

"This study shows that there is a loss of protein from the teeth with these whitening treatments," said senior author Kelly Keenan, an associate professor of chemistry at Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey.

While the research looked at over-the-counter products, Keenan thinks those used by dentists might also do damage.

"Whether you buy over-the-counter or go to a dentist, it's the same ingredient – it's hydrogen peroxide. I don't know of a safer alternative for whitening teeth," she said.

But not everyone thinks Americans need to give up their love of a bright white smile.

"Anything that can harm the teeth concerns me, and I have read that whitening can soften teeth, but clinically, I'm not concerned," said Dr James Sconzo, chief of dental medicine at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. "I haven't seen a higher decay rate in people who whiten their teeth."

A substance called collagen

Sconzo, who wasn't involved with the study, said he's more concerned about damage to teeth from other things, like sugary sports drinks.

Americans spend billions of dollars every year on products to whiten their teeth, including whitening strips, researchers said.

Teeth are made up of several layers – the outer layer is protective enamel. The next layer is called dentin, which makes up the bulk of a tooth, according to the researchers. Dentin contains high levels of protein, and most is a substance called collagen.

Keenan and her team conducted three experiments with over-the-counter whitening strips. Whole teeth were placed in artificial saliva to try to mimic conditions in the mouth.

The teeth were treated with the strips for between 20 and 60 minutes (the time recommended), with a round of 20 strips.

The researchers saw that exposure to hydrogen peroxide in the strips caused the major protein in the dentin to be converted into smaller fragments. In another experiment, they treated pure collagen with hydrogen peroxide. The original collagen disappeared.

No red flags

The study didn't address whether teeth in their natural state in your mouth can regenerate proteins after exposure to hydrogen peroxide.

Sconzo suspects that's probably what happens. "Dentin is a live cellular matrix," he said.

He's been whitening teeth for many years with a stronger concentration of hydrogen peroxide than was used in these experiments, and he "hasn't seen any red flags", he said.

"I have yet to see any clinical evidence that there's damage to the teeth," Sconzo said.

The American Dental Association would not comment.

The studies are to be presented at the Experimental Biology meeting, in Orlando, Florida. Findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Authorities should bring in the army already
11% - 2317 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
48% - 9934 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
37% - 7686 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
4% - 765 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.66
-1.6%
Rand - Pound
20.08
-1.2%
Rand - Euro
16.96
-1.7%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.55
-0.3%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-1.0%
Gold
1,763.50
-0.7%
Silver
19.81
-1.6%
Palladium
2,144.66
-0.7%
Platinum
928.75
-1.0%
Brent Crude
92.34
-3.0%
Top 40
64,168
-0.9%
All Share
70,967
-0.8%
Resource 10
63,227
-3.4%
Industrial 25
87,430
+0.4%
Financial 15
16,160
-0.5%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE