Beware tooth whitening’s dark side

WhiteningCould your patients’ quest for an ever-whiter smile be hiding a dark secret? That’s the fear of one of the UK’s top cosmetic dentists, who has warned that an obsession with white teeth can be an indicator of a form of body dysmorphia.

Dr Ken Harris warned that a preoccupation with the colour of teeth is commonly recognised as a symptom of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) – a psychological condition where sufferers are fixated about certain aspects of their appearance.

He adds that those desperate for ‘bright white teeth’ should steer clear of using home treatments or the excessive use of whitening toothpastes, which can leave them with severe dental problems.

‘Whitening toothpastes do not work,’ said Dr Harris. ‘They clean off surface stains but do not touch ugly deep staining and they are also very abrasive, so can wear the enamel off teeth, causing significant damage.’

The abrasive nature of toothpaste is measured by RDA – relative dentine abrasivity – and, in 2012, the British Dental Journal reported that toothpastes with an RDA of more than 100 were considered abrasive and could damage teeth and gums.

A number of popular whitening toothpastes on the market have an RDA in excess of 100, so are leaving people in danger of potentially damaging their teeth.

‘The best way to get a proper and safe whitening treatment is to see a dentist,’ said Dr Harris.

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