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Brighter Smiles

Brighter SmilesAs teeth whitening becomes a national trend, Tufts experts weigh in on what works – and what doesn’t. Boston.

Boston [02.20.03] Cavities. Root Canals. Impaction. There was a time when visiting the dentist was anything but cosmetic. But these days, this is no longer true. According to Tufts experts, more people than ever are making appointments - not just for a check-up, but to get their teeth whitened.

"Now people actually want to see the dentist," Dr. David Bardwell - head of aesthetic dentistry at Tufts School of Dental Medicine - told the Boston Globe. "[Teeth whitening is] a simple procedure. It makes people look better, and everyone wants to look good."

Teeth whitening has become a national trend. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, consumer demand for whitening procedures grew more than 300 percent between 1996 and 2000. Both at-home kits and in-office procedures are popular - so much so that whitening is now available in 90 percent of dental offices in the United States.

Most teeth whiteners use peroxide to temporarily bleach the stains and discolorations which naturally occur with age. The strongest and most effective procedures are available in dentist offices for $500 to $600.

According to Dr. Gerard Kugel - associate dean for research at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine - the trend is harmless.

"Whitening is probably the safest thing we do in dentistry," Kugel - who, for the record, whitens his own teeth - told the Globe. "Drinking a cola does more damage to teeth than what we see in bleaching studies."

In-office whitening has the greatest potential for safe and dramatic results, says Dr. Roger Galburt, a professor at Tufts' Dental School. The Tufts expert says over-the-counter methods may be less effective.

"The have a very low percentage of the peroxide in them, approximately three percent, as opposed to 35 percent for the in-office bleaching," Galburt told Boston's WCVB-TV News. "It's not to say that they won't work, it will just take a longer amount of time."

The Tufts doctor warns against at-home kits which do not leave the whitening elements on teeth long enough to be worthwhile.

"I don't believe paint-on methods could really be effective, because the peroxide is going to get washed off very quickly, certainly if you eat," said the Tufts expert.

Overall, the Tufts doctors recommend that consumers who are going to use over-the-counter methods choose "lower-dose products with proven effectiveness documented in published, peer-reviewed studies," reported the Boston Globe.

"The best way to choose a product is to look for the A.D.A., American Dental Association, seal of approval," Galburt told WCVB-TV. "That would be the best way of approaching this."



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