Dentists have been warning patients about the dangers of overusing store-bought hydrogen peroxide teeth-whitening sheets for years since they can damage a tooth’s enamel and cause tooth sensitivity. Now, dentists could start warning patients that these same whitening strips can also damage a tooth’s protein-rich dentin.

Dentin is one of the three layers in a tooth. The outer layer is called the enamel. The next layer is called dentin, and the innermost layer is the pulp. There have been many studies on the effects of hydrogen peroxide to the enamel, but enamel has very little protein. That led a group of undergraduates at Stockton University in New Jersey to study the dentin, which contains high levels of protein. Most of that protein is collagen.

The undergrads work in the lab of the Associate Professor of Chemistry, Kelly Keenan, PhD. The group’s research shows that collagen levels in the dentin decreased when teeth were treated with hydrogen peroxide whitening strips. Although the study shows hydrogen peroxide breaks down collagen, the study did not determine if the damage is permanent. The findings of the undergrads were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology earlier this year. Their next mission is to determine whether or not other proteins in teeth are damaged by hydrogen peroxide. The best way to see if your teeth have been damaged by the overuse of hydrogen peroxide products is to visit your dentist.

If whiter teeth is your goal, here are some changes you can make in your daily routine that could help you avoid the need for whitening products.

ELIMINATE TEETH STAINING FOODS AND DRINKS
Red wine, tea, coffee, dark sodas and juices can stain teeth. Also, acidic foods can wear down a tooth’s enamel and that could make your teeth look yellow. Cut down on citrus, which is highly acidic. If you do indulge in teeth staining foods and beverages you should brush your teeth at least 30 minutes after consumption.

QUIT TOBACCO
Smoking or chewing tobacco can stain teeth with nicotine. Not only does tobacco stain teeth, smoking can also lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

The one thing to remember is the word moderation. The safest way to use hydrogen peroxide teeth-whitening strips is to use them only occasionally. The saying rings true here: too much of a good thing can be bad for you.

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