Health and Beauty

Do Whitestrips Damage Enamel

The dark side of teeth-whitening strips

Pearly whites can come with a price.

Teeth whitening is expected to become a $7.4 billion industry by 2024 , with Americans spending $1.4 billion alone on over-the-counter whiteners to bleach away the stains from cigarettes, red wine, coffee and natural aging, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. But preliminary research presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s annual meeting this week suggests that these whitening strips could be damaging teeth beneath the surface.

Our teeth are made of three layers : the outer white enamel layer; the underlying dentin layer composed of proteins (namely collagen); and the pulp in the center that houses nerves, blood vessels and connective that binds the tooth to our gums. And this latest research found that the hydrogen peroxide that serves as the active ingredient in whitening products could be hurting that protein-rich dentin layer.

The study, led by Kelly Keenan, an associate professor of chemistry at Stockton University, treated extracted human teeth (from cadavers) with whitening strips, following the manufacturer instructions to leave them on for an hour. Researchers also immersed the teeth in artificial saliva and washed them, to simulate what teeth experience in a human mouth. Then they tracked the level of collagen and other proteins remaining in the dentin layer of the whitened teeth, and compared that to a control group of unbleached teeth, as well as to another set of teeth that were whitened three times.