You’re flipping through the channels on television when you come across a commercial about teeth whitening—the before-and-after photos they show make it seem like magic! But teeth whitening hasn’t always been such a quick and easy process; it has an interesting history that is riddled with trial-and-error and creative experimentation. Let’s take a look at the story behind teeth whitening and how it has gradually transformed into what it is today.
How It Started
The history of teeth whitening can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who used mixtures of rock and vinegar on their teeth to make them brighter. But the practice has modern roots, too; dentists in the 1960’s and 70’s began experimenting with different methods to treat swollen gum tissue in teenagers who had been wearing braces. Some of the ideas they tried included filling mouth trays with Gly-Oxide, a simple over-the-counter product used to treat mouth sores.
The results were surprising and impressive; not only did the Gly-Oxide help with the inflammation, but coincidentally, it also whitened teeth! This led to similar formulas being commercially produced, making teeth whitening a widely available solution.
Results May Vary
The development didn’t stop there; dentists continued to tweak and improve upon existing whitening methods. Since the strengths of many peroxide-based formulas seemed to vary, other things were incorporated into treatment, including heating lamps. These lamps produced an intense amount of heat—sometimes they could actually damage the dental pulps (the center part of your tooth that’s composed of tissue and blood vessels).
Eventually, these hot lamps were replaced by bleaching lights and lasers, which typically yielded better results with far less risk. But these results were still inconsistent and unpredictable, with the effects often relapsing soon after. As this trend continued, dentists became exhausted by their constant efforts and began sending patients home with whitening trays and gels. With so many methods and variables in play, results certainly varied when it came to having your teeth whitened.
How It’s Going
Even if there was a lot of trial and error, the evidence speaks for itself; there are many whitening methods today that are widely utilized because of their efficacy. Most of the popular ones involve some form of peroxide-based whitening agent. It’s a quick and painless process with noticeable results that people are more than willing to invest in. Dentists don’t have to experiment with heating lamps or Gly-Oxide anymore; although, as cosmetic dentistry continues to evolve, it will be interesting to track the developments in whitening.
There is no magic wand that your dentist can wave to whiten your teeth; it is a magic gel! But in reality, it’s the culmination of years of focused scientific effort; teeth whitening has certainly come a long way.
About the Author
Originally from Pennsylvania, Dr. Chris Devlin received his dental doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine after playing for four seasons in the National Football League. He is associated with the Dawson Academy, the Pankey Institute, and The Society of Dental Anesthesiology. His practice offers a wide range of services, including cosmetic options like in-office whitening. He enjoys making his patients smile and he would be happy to assist you with any questions or concerns you might have about teeth whitening. You can contact him through his website or by phone: (814) 238-3553.