Tooth Whitening

September 12th, 2014

Tooth whitening is a practice that has been immensely popular and desirable for thousands of years, dating all the way back to Ancient Egyptian and Roman times. The Egyptians used a homemade mixture of crushed pumice stones and vinegar, that supposedly, when applied to the teeth, created an effect of bright, shiny dentures. The Ancient Romans were convinced that human urine was the way to go. While it may seem unnecessary and even disgusting to people in contemporary society, it contains ammonia, a chemical proven to be sterile and an effective cleaning solution.

During the eighteenth century hairdressers were also the local dentists. They used nitric acid, a chemical commonly used today in fertilizer and rocket fuel, as a cleaning agent. At this point in time people were less concerned with long-term negative effects than they were with their own vanity and social status. The nitric acid would produce the desired effect, but it would also severely damage the enamel, sometimes stripping it completely, leaving behind weak, brittle teeth. Not to mention the effects it can have when coming into contact with skin. It is not uncommon for people who have contact with nitric acid to come away with second and even third degree burns. Imagine having that on your gums and lips. Ouch.

In the nineteenth century scientists discovered the benefits of fluoride in attacking decay-causing bacteria, a method which has carried on through the times and remains a popular source of dental hygiene. Today it is used in all sorts of dental products, from mouth wash, to toothpaste, and even lozenges for smelly breath.

Modern tooth whitening methods involve a gel material called carbamide peroxide releasing hydrogen peroxide at the tooth surface. Now that its illegal to sell a product containing more than six percent hydrogen peroxide, there is not much benefit from ‘power whitening’ or ‘laser tooth whitening’ in the surgery because it doesn’t work that much better than whitening at home with our custom made bleaching trays. Even if you ‘power-bleach’ you would still need the additional home whitening system to achieve the result you desire. 

Tooth whitening is now only legal if performed by a dentally qualified professional following a change in the law several years ago and in the most recent development a ban on tooth whitening for under eighteens has been partially lifted if it is provided for therapeutic reasons. Suitable justification would include the correction of medically-induced tooth staining, or psychological distress caused by dental problems. The ban discourages youngsters under 18 who seek teeth whitening simply for its pleasing aesthetic benefits.

Tooth whitening has come a long way since the days of urine and vinegar, but the one thing that has remained constant has been its popularity among the general public. Nowadays it is an affordable procedure which can dramatically improve the aesthetic appearance of teeth and also acts as a confidence booster for many. If the idea of shinier, whiter teeth appeals to you, then contact us on 01235 533777 to book an appointment with one of our dentists. Invest in a brighter smile to brighten your life!

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