Don’t white overnight

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As if further evidence was needed that tooth whitening shouldn’t be available over-the-counter, a small study published in this month’s issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association has shown the use of whitening gel overnight may be overdoing it.

The study included 60 dental students. The students were divided into four groups. Each group used a 10 per cent carbamide peroxide whitening gel for a different amount of time. The times were 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour and eight hours (overnight). They used the gel once a day or overnight for 16 days.

Once the 16 days were over, all of the people in the eight-hour group were satisfied with the whiteness of their teeth. Only 33 per cent of those in the one-hour and 30-minute groups were satisfied. And 13 per cent of people in the 15-minute group were satisfied.

Then, the researchers let the students continue bleaching their teeth, for the same amount of time each day, until they were satisfied with the results. In the one-hour group, this took two more days, for an average of 18 days total. In the 30-minute group, it took six more days. In the 15-minute group, it took 12 more days.

The gel used for tooth bleaching can cause sensitive teeth. No one dropped out of the study because of tooth sensitivity. But 80 per cent of people in the eight-hour group said their teeth felt sensitive, compared with fewer than 15 per cent of people in the other groups.

For some people in the eight-hour group, sensitivity was moderate to severe. In the other groups, all sensitivity was mild.

The authors say that the ideal amount of time people should wear the bleaching tray probably is far less than the usual six to eight hours. Currently tooth whitening products are not regulated by either the TGA here or the FDA in the United States.

“Because of the lack of oversight, the appropriate use of these products has not been widely clinically tested,” said David A. Albert, D.D.S., M.P.H., director of the Division of Community Health and associate professor at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. “This study supports the cautious use of these products to avoid the possible side effect of tooth sensitivity.”

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