By Timothy Hyland
Walk down the dental care aisle of your local pharmacy or supermarket, and this much will become abundantly clear: teeth-whitening products are incredibly popular.
Moreover, all indications are that they will become even more popular—and more lucrative for their manufacturers—in the years to come.
A February 2019 report from ResearchAndMarkets.com, in fact, concluded that the market for whiteners—products that use bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or other chemicals to remove stains and generally brighten teeth—will grow by nearly seven percent annually until the year 2026. That report followed another, released just a month earlier by ReportLinker.com, that forecast the market will be worth a staggering $7.4 billion by 2024.
The popularity and rising appeal of these products is hardly a surprise.
Whiteners are available at a wide range of price points, and many are both incredibly easy to use and highly effective. But according to one new study, some of these products may not be without flaw – and using them may not be without risk.
In research published recently in the journal Experimental Biology, a team working in New Jersey under the direction of Stockton University associate professor of chemistry Kelly A. Keenan found that hydrogen peroxide-based whiteners can do significant damage to tooth dentin, the layer of tissue within the tooth that lays beneath and is protected by the surface enamel.
The finding builds on earlier research that established that, while H2O2-based whiteners are effective cosmetically, the chemical is able to penetrate the enamel layer at the tooth’s surface. Dr. Keenan’s work, however, was the first to discover that peroxide can damage dentin, as well.
In all, Dr. Keenan and her team completed three studies, with one being particularly eyebrow-raising. As Dr. Keenan notes, dentin is composed mostly of protein. The most prevalent protein in it is collagen – and as it turns out, hydrogen peroxide is particularly adept at attacking it.
When the researchers exposed teeth to just one dose of hydrogen peroxide, in fact, they saw that collagen content was reduced by a third. After three treatments, the decline was a full 50 percent. Notably, the authors observed that collagen damage, in which the H2O2 seemed to break collagen down into smaller and smaller “fragments,” was possible even when the concentration of H2O2 was equivalent to what is found in comparatively mild whitening strips.
“We sought to further characterize what the hydrogen peroxide was doing to collagen,” Dr. Keenan said in a release from Stockton. “Our results showed that treatment with hydrogen peroxide concentrations similar to those found in whitening strips is enough to make the original collagen protein disappear, which is presumably due to the formation of many smaller fragments.”
Author: Contributing writer Timothy Hyland has more than 20 years’ experience as a writer, reporter, and editor. His work has also appeared in Fast Company, Roll Call, Philadelphia Business Journal, and the Washington Times.
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