Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Shedding Some Light On Teeth Whiteners

Date:
February 12, 2003
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
With all of the advertising today about teeth whiteners, surely this is a relatively new miracle of modern science. So just how new? Try the Middle Ages, reports Chemical & Engineering News in its Feb. 10 issue.

With all of the advertising today about teeth whiteners, surely this is a relatively new miracle of modern science. So just how new? Try the Middle Ages, reports Chemical & Engineering News in its Feb. 10 issue.

The problem with having the treatment in those unenlightened years was that your neighborhood barber-surgeon would file down your teeth and then soak them in a concentrated solution of nitric acid. The procedure would turn them pearly white, all right, but it also destroyed the tooth enamel and led to massive tooth decay, says the weekly magazine, published by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

It may have taken some time, but 21st century dentists with their latex gloves and rubber face masks are using far safer and more effective whitening techniques than their barber-surgeon predecessors. Among their tools are gels, strips and pastes.

The main cause of most tooth discoloration lies just at the surface of the enamel, where red wine, coffee and tea are the culprits, says C&EN. Colored molecules such as tannins and polyphenols, found in these beverages, become absorbed by the enamel's surface. Dark pigments in cigarettes, blueberries and other foods also can be deposited on your tooth enamel. Much of this staining can be brushed away, but over time these compounds can seep into the enamel, where you can't reach them with your brush.

Aging is another major culprit. As we grow older, our teeth gradually turn more yellow. On the other hand, the antibiotic tetracycline can turn children's teeth gray if taken during the early childhood, when tooth enamel has yet to harden completely, C&EN explains. Over time the antibiotic mixes with light and oxygen and gives teeth a grayish-blue tint that's hard to remove. All toothpastes depend on abrasives to scrub stains from the tooth surface. The first "toothpowder," invented in England in the late 1700s, like the first whiteners, was a bit harsh. It contained brick dust and ground-up cuttlefish as abrasives. Today toothpastes contain milder polishing agents such as silica, aluminum oxide, calcium phosphates and calcium carbonate.

If the stains are below the surface, however, you'll likely need whitening agents containing hydrogen peroxide, according to the news magazine. The tooth-whitening power of peroxide was first recognized by dentists in the early 1970s. They had been using an oral antiseptic containing peroxide to heal mouth sores when they realized it also brightened teeth. Today peroxide-based teeth-whiting gels are in millions of bathrooms across the nation.

Hydrogen peroxide whitens by forming radical intermediates (extremely unstable and destructive molecules) that then break down into water and oxygen. Researchers believe these radical intermediates react with pigments that stain teeth, at least in part by destroying the double-bond network that gives such compounds as polyphenols their color.

As so often is the case, if the usual whiteners don't work for your teeth, you can look to the beautiful people in Hollywood for one more option: tooth veneers. These thin coverings made of porcelain are bonded to your teeth. They won't last as long as your pearly whites, but they won't stain.

###

For more stories on the chemistry of everyday objects, go to http://www.cen-online.org and click on "What's That Stuff?", winner of a Scientific American Sci Tech Web Award for one of the best science websites for the public.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Shedding Some Light On Teeth Whiteners." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 February 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/02/030212073656.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2003, February 12). Shedding Some Light On Teeth Whiteners. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/02/030212073656.htm
American Chemical Society. "Shedding Some Light On Teeth Whiteners." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/02/030212073656.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is expected to send 3,000 troops to West Africa as part of the effort to contain Ebola's spread. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
EU Ministers and Experts Meet to Discuss Ebola Reponse

EU Ministers and Experts Meet to Discuss Ebola Reponse

AFP (Sep. 15, 2014) The European Commission met on Monday to coordinate aid that the EU can offer to African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. Duration: 00:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite The Risks, Antibiotics Still Overprescribed For Kids

Despite The Risks, Antibiotics Still Overprescribed For Kids

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) A new study finds children are prescribed antibiotics twice as often as is necessary. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins