Can Whitening Products Really Damage Your Teeth?

It’s easy to get a gleaming white smile thanks to over-the-counter teeth whitening products, but a new study says they may damage the deep layers of your teeth.

Researchers from Stockton University in New Jersey say that hydrogen peroxide found in these products damage dentin, the layer located below enamel. They found that hydrogen peroxide in concentrations similar to whitening products damage collagen proteins in dentin.

According to a release, the team’s findings is different from previous research which didn’t focus on how hydrogen peroxide damages collagen protein in dentin. The study is not yet published and will be presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting this week.

So what does this mean for the average consumer, given that millions of dollars are spent on whitening products?

Probably nothing, according to Dr. John Grbic, Professor of Dental Medicine and the Director of the Division of Foundational Sciences at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. Grbic, who was not associated with the study, explains researchers already know that hydrogen peroxide damages dentin and enamel. However, Grbic says findings haven’t been shown to be clinically relevant, meaning these studies don’t offer information that impact our lives.

“If it’s not clinically relevant [then] who cares?,” he poses.

Grbic says it’s safe to whiten your teeth with over-the-counter products–as long as you follow directions.

“One of the problems with bleaching products is that people have unrealistic expectations,” he explains. Often people will hope for teeth as white as Hugh Jackman’s. And when that doesn’t happen consumers buy another kit and try again, he says.

Bottom line: Most dentists prefer patients opt for in-office treatments, but at-home kits are safe, provided you follow all directions and use a fluoride toothpaste after, which strengthens teeth, says Grbic.

“Is there potential [for damage]? Yes. Is it likely? No,” he says.

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