For several months now, Ive been using a popular brand of teeth whitening strips. However, about a month ago, when I put the strip on my lower teeth, I nearly fell over in pain.
Where the strip touched my gums began to burn and turn white (not where I wanted the whitening to occur!). And, because the strips are meant to adhere, I couldnt get it off. I ended up needing to grab my toothbrush and, adding insult to injury, scrub my already-painful gums to get the strip off.
Since I hadnt had problems in the past, I decided to see how common this reaction was to teeth whitening. I looked at past issues of Dr. Larks newsletter and found a 2003 study from the Journal of Esthetic & Restorative Dentistry, which evaluated the efficacy of over-the-counter tooth whiteners.
Participants were divided into two groups. One group used a customized application tray and tooth whitening gel that consisted of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes three times a day every day for two weeks. The other group also used a tray, but with an inactive gel.
At the two-week mark, the group that used the hydrogen peroxide solution had significantly lighter and brighter teeth, and enjoyed this change for up to six months.
Great, right? But, from a safety standpoint, there have been a few concerns. On the positive side, the research has shown that teeth whitening does not cause damage to the tooth pulp, nor does it cause plaque build-up. Conversely, tooth sensitivity and inflammation of the gums are fairly common. One study found that 35 to 40 percent of participants using teeth whiteners experienced either minor tooth sensitivity or irritation of the gums.
NOW they tell me!
So, while teeth whitening is generally considered to be safe and quite effective, I will not be using the strips any longer.
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