So, is it safe to bleach your teeth?
By Alice Hart-Davis
Catherine Zeta-Jones has got it, so too have Liz Hurley, Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears and any wannabe starlet. Now the Hollywood Smile, aka tooth-whitening, is the one cosmetic procedure which the British are taking up in hordes. Last year 100,000 people tried tooth-whitening treatments.
The biggest rise has been in the number of dentists offering “power whitening”, a technique in which teeth are painted with hydrogen peroxide gel and then subjected to a strong light which accelerates the bleaching action. It takes less than an hour, costs about ?600, and can lighten teeth by 10 shades.
But this week, the British dental Association pointed out that dentists who offer “power whitening” treatments are breaking the law by using almost 400 times the
amount of hydrogen peroxide as the law permits. There is no evidence that high doses of bleach are unsafe, but the BDA feels that, in time, patient complaints will filter through, and result in prosecutions for dentists. So how safe is tooth whitening?
Safe as houses, according to any dentist you care to ask. Dr Phil Stemmer, of the teeth For Life centre in Devonshire Place, W1, says: “In virtually every country that uses it, bleaching carried out in the dentist’s surgery is regarded as a medical procedure. It is considered so safe that there is no recommended limit on the amount of hydrogen peroxide that a dentist can use. In Britain, it is classified as a cosmetic device, and in terms of products for cosmetic use, the law says that 0.1 per cent of hydrogen peroxide is the maximum. If you put that concentration of hydrogen peroxide on teeth, it will have a negligible effect.
Dr Stemmer uses 35 per cent hydrogen peroxide in his power-whitening treatments, which he has used on Sadie Frost, Jude Law and Patsy Kensit “The method does not remove enamel, damage teeth, or increase susceptibility to gum m disease”, he says.
“Hydrogen Peroxide has been used –safely- for whitening teeth for 56 years,” says
Mervyn Druin of The London Centre for Cosmetic Dentistry, who has whitened the teeth of the Appleton sisters. “This law makes British Dentists a laughing stock abroad”
WHITER THAN WHITE
How to get that Hollywood smile:
Whitening toothpastes: “These don’t whiten the teeth at all; they just remove surface
stains,” says Dr Stemmer. Cost ?4-?8 per tube.
Over-the-counter whitening kits: “Not a good option,” says Dr Stemmer. “Some have
high acidity or are highly abrasive, which can wear away the surface enamel.” Cost ?10-?100.
Home bleaching kit, supplied by dentist: “Trays” are made to fit the teeth precisely.
Clients apply a little peroxide gel (equivalent to 5-7.5 per cent hydrogen peroxide)
and leave trays in the mouth overnight. Home bleaching takes up to 2 weeks to take effect. Cost: ?300 upwards.
In-surgery whitening: “The fastest and most expensive way of tooth whitening. A hydrogen peroxide gel is painted onto the tooth. A strong light is shone on the gel to accelerate the lightening process. “This actually changes the colour of the teeth by
oxidising stains within the tooth,”
Says Dr Stemmer. This method can take one hour. Cost: ?600 upwards.