Tooth Whiteners Work, at Least Briefly
Review Shows Short-Term Tooth-Whitening Results, With Some Tooth & Gum Sensitivity
WebMD News Archive
Oct. 17, 2006 -- Thinking of sprucing up your smile with at-home
tooth-whitening products? Your pearly whites may indeed get pearlier with those
products, at least in the short run.
That news appears in The Cochrane Library's online edition.
Hana Hasson, DDS, and colleagues reviewed 25 studies on at-home
tooth-whitening products, including products sold in stores and in dentists'
Hasson is a clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan
School of Dentistry.
In the reviewed studies, patients used various tooth-whitening gels and
strips. For comparison, some got placebos, which contain no active
The review shows that the tooth-whitening products did what they promised to
do -- make teeth whiter. As expected, the placebo was a dental dud.
Most of the studies tracked patients for up to two or three weeks after
treatment. So the reviewers don't weigh in on the products' long-term
The most common side effects were mild to moderate tooth sensitivity and gum
irritation, especially in products with high levels of hydrogen peroxide.
Those side effects might fade away after people stop using the products, the
Looking for a list of the top products? Sorry, the reviewers didn't go
there. Most of the studies weren't head-to-head contests.
But they do note that whitening strips containing 5.5% to 6.5% hydrogen
peroxide were apparently more effective than gel containing 10% carbamide
peroxide in trays.
Higher concentrations of chemical whiteners were more effective than those
with lower concentrations, the review also shows.
The review only included products containing the chemical whiteners hydrogen
peroxide and carbamide peroxide. Abrasive products weren't included.
The review was "complex" to organize because the products and
studies varied so much -- and all of the studies may have been biased, note
Hassan and colleagues.
"Given the lack of information on long-term benefits and harms, there
may be a huge void between the state of knowledge based on the trials sponsored
by the manufacturers and the experiences of millions of users of tooth
whitening products," write the reviewers.
Their bottom line: "over-the-counter or dentist-dispensed
tooth-whitening products can be recommended to the public but with strong