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Does whitening teeth damage tooth enamel?

Jul 03, 2012

Since the surge in popularity of over-the-counter tooth whiteners, arguments have ensued over whether or not the home-whitening kits were safe. Some critics have claimed that tooth whiteners have ingredients that damage tooth enamel.  

According to a study reported in June's Journal of the American Dental Association, tooth whiteners do not damage tooth enamel as noted in previous studies.

Enamel is the thin exterior covering of the tooth but is the hardest tissue in the human body.  It is translucent and helps protect your teeth when chewing, crunching, biting and grinding. Enamel covers the visible part of the tooth and surrounds the dentin. Dentin is responsible for tooth color, whether that be white, off white, grey or with a yellowish tint.

Unfortunately enamel has no living cells, so once it weakens, it results in a broken or chipped tooth and the body can’t repair the damaged enamel.

In a recent Brazilian study, researchers from the Sao Leopoldo Mandic Institute and Research Center examined the calcium and phosphorus concentrations in tooth enamel after the use of in-home and dental office bleaching treatments.  Calcium and phosphorus are minerals that are vital to healthy teeth.

Despite earlier studies of the harm bleaching agents like carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide could cause, the Brazilian study’s authors said it was the first study conducted which effectively measured the calcium and phosphorus concentration before, during and after the bleaching activity.

The study involved 80 patients without cavities and periodontal disease. Participants were randomly assigned to four groups of 20 each determined by the bleaching agent they used.

Bleaching techniques included two using home-use bleaching kits, the first using 10% home-use carbamide peroxide, and the other 20% home-use carbamide peroxide. The latter two groups were divided into bleaching techniques performed in dentist offices. One group used 35% hydrogen peroxide, the other 38% hydrogen peroxide. 

Researchers evaluated the participants’ teeth before the bleaching treatment; during treatment at seven, 14 and 21 days; and after treatments at seven and 14 days.

Their findings: no differences were found on the mineral composition of enamel before, during or after the bleaching sessions. The authors attributed that to the protective effect of saliva. Saliva dilutes the bleaching ingredients, acts as a buffer and actually aids enamel remineralization by supplementing calcium and phosphorous ions.

More studies were called for to confirm this most recent finding.

Sources:,, WebMD, Journal of the American Dental Association

Copyright 2012, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC

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