Highlighted by the BBC today, there are still many harmful cosmetic dental materials available online
Some of our Canterbury patients may have noticed an article on the BBC website today regarding potentially dangerous teeth whitening products being sold online.
This follows an investigation by ‘Which’ magazine who found that the worst of these contained quantities of the active ingredient which whitens the teeth and which is a form of bleach, to be 300 times above the recommended amount.
We will look at the issues around these treatments shortly but this is probably an opportune moment to appeal to our patients to remember that your teeth are not a solid block of material and shouldn’t be treated, for example, like a fingernail. Teeth are very complex and as those who have had a painful tooth will know, also have very sensitive nerves within them too!
Teeth whitening agents
The active ingredient in these products and also in teeth whitening toothpastes and the treatments that we use at Bradley and Partners Dental and Implant Clinic, is called hydrogen peroxide. It is a form of bleach that is safe to use by those who are professionally trained to do so; i.e. dentists. Whilst it is in teeth whitening toothpastes, it is there only in very small quantities and typically would not exceed 0.1%. As you can see, this is a small quantity which ensures that the toothpaste is safe to use. Unfortunately, it also means that anyone hoping to have bright white teeth from its use are likely to be somewhat disappointed.
The amount allowed is higher for specialised home teeth whitening kits that can be bought from chemists. Whilst small children are sometimes known to eat toothpaste, it is assumed that the kits will be less easily available to them in the home and therefore a higher amount of bleaching agent is allowed. This can range from a starting point of 0.1% up to 6%. This is also the maximum level that suitably trained cosmetic dentists can use.
Home or professional teeth whitening?
From the above, you might question why you should go to the dentist to have your teeth whitened when you can do so at home. The fact is that the whitening kits which have a 6% concentration of hydrogen peroxide, whilst enabling whiter teeth, also come with risks.
There are two key issues here. Firstly, if you buy a kit and use it, you may be doing so on teeth that have small areas of decay or have cracks in them. This could be potentially painful but also begs the question why anyone would focus on having white teeth when they are actually unhealthy. If you have a teeth whitening treatment at the local dentist, your teeth will be thoroughly examined and made sure that they are healthy before any cosmetic treatment is carried out.
The second issue is that the kits contain trays that are mass produced and therefore can’t ensure a secure fit as everyone’s mouths are different. This means that the bleaching agent could potentially leak onto the gums and other soft tissues and cause burning (see image of what a whitening treatment did to a steak, on the BBC website). If you have this treatment done professionally, the trays will be made from impressions of your own teeth and therefore minimise the risk of any burning. In addition, they are also likely to be more comfortable as they are made for you alone.
At one time, beauty salons were allowed to apply this treatment but this is no longer the case, following health concerns and a number of complaints of burnt gums and extremely sensitive teeth following the treatment. Now, only a trained dental clinician is allowed to administer this treatment and whilst most beauty salons now don’t offer this treatment, there are still a small number that might do so illegally, sometimes ‘flexing’ the law to enable them to do so. Please don’t risk this, it really isn’t worth it and could cause permanent damage to your teeth.
The BBC report does say that these products have now been removed from the sellers websites but you can be sure that more will appear over time. We urge patients of our Canterbury dental clinic to avoid these products, however cheap you might think they are, and contact us instead for any advice on teeth whitening, and cosmetic treatments in general.
The internet has allowed us to explore many new areas of our lives and there are lots of video tutorials available on all sorts of things. Whilst you might want to redecorate a room using remote video advice, any medical and dental issues should be treated with caution and professional help sought. Using one of these rogue ‘tutorials’ could well result in damaged and potentially painful teeth.
For more information on teeth whitening treatments or other cosmetic procedures that we offer, please call Bradley and Partners Dental and Implant Clinic on 01227 463529.