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You can’t open a magazine or go on social media without seeing someone with a set of perfect, pearly whites smiling back at you. We’ve all become obsessed with getting the perfect smile, which is why the demand for teeth whitening products has soared in recent years.
The process of modern teeth whitening was discovered in the 19th Century. Dentists during this time would use a form of hydrogen peroxide gel as a local anesthetic to numb the gums during dental procedures. They soon noticed that a side-effect of this treatment was that it turned their patient’s teeth brilliant white and sparkly. And so, modern tooth whitening was born!
These days, whitening agents are present in a number of different products, from toothpaste to chewing gum. Those looking for the perfect dazzling smile can either commit to pricey toothpaste, whitening pens, mouthwashes, whitening strips or at-home trays. Or they can head to their local cosmetic dentistry practice and whiten their teeth with the help of lasers and expert advice.
Hydrogen peroxide is the foundation of most whitening treatments. The most popular method that many people are familiar with works by applying the hydrogen peroxide gel to the teeth using trays. The custom-made trays can be worn in the evening or overnight until the right level of whitening is achieved. After this, the user can ‘top up’ their treatment when they like. Dentists are also using lasers to accelerate the process, so patients can get a beautiful white smile in as little as one hour.
This sounds great, but what do we really know about tooth whitening? Like any other cosmetic procedure, results aren’t guaranteed and will depend entirely on the individual. Just like dying your hair using a pre-packaged kit will end up with different results depending on the individual, tooth whitening is no different.
Without a doubt, the biggest risk when it comes to tooth whitening is getting burned by the gel, and this is also the top cause of cosmetic surgery negligence claims. Hydrogen peroxide can be very damaging to the skin in your mouth, such as your gums and cheeks. When it is below 6% concentrate, it is generally safe for most people, but if you use anything above 10% you are at risk of chemical burns inside your mouth. With new clinics popping up offering teeth whitening for lower and lower prices, it’s important that everyone is aware of the risks of having their teeth whitened by untrained professionals.
Burns aren’t the only thing you should worry about. All tooth whitening comes with the risk of increased sensitivity. This can range from a slight twinge when your teeth touch anything hot or cold, to sharp stabbing pains that come on without warning. People can also go overboard with the treatments and ‘over-whiten’ which will leave them with almost transparent teeth. There is also the risk of uneven whitening, that will leave you with blotchy teeth which will be far more noticeable than slightly off-colour teeth.
Provided the tooth whitening is carried out by a trained professional, there’s no reason to be afraid of going a few shades whiter.
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Ryan Duffy is a freelance writer who is a recent university graduate in Media Studies. His passion for people and writing has encouraged him to pursue this career full-time. He enjoys writing about lifestyle, and fashion and this is where most of his work has taken him.
Find him on Twitter here: @Ryan_Duff199