A Brief History of Tooth Whitening for Students at Dental Assistant School

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For thousands of years people have gone to great lengths to keep their teeth pearly white. Even today, teeth whitening is a popular procedure people around the world turn to in order to freshen up their smiles. A white smile not only looks visually appealing, but it also makes teeth appear healthier.

Today there are plenty of options available for patients who want to whiten their teeth. Whitening toothpastes, rinses, strips, trays, and professional procedures are all at a patienta��s disposala��but there havena��t always been so many options. Some of the earliest methods of teeth whitening were, by todaya��s standards, quite primitive and even dangerous.

Read on to learn more about the history of tooth whitening.

Intra Oral Dental Assistants May Find the Ancient Egyptian and Roman Period Interesting

Ita��s no secret that Ancient Egyptians placed a lot of importance on beauty. Both women and men would wear cosmetic makeup to improve their appearance. Makeup wasna��t the only thing Egyptians used to enhance their beauty, though. Teeth whitening was also a common practice among higher-ranking individuals. If someonea��s teeth were whiter than average during the Ancient Egyptian period, it demonstrated their wealth and superior social ranking. The Egyptians would apply a mixture of ground pumice and white vinegar to their teeth and use the end of a frayed stick to brush the mixture around.

Around 3,000 years ago, the Romans also had a unique way of whitening their teeth that would probably seem repulsive to most students in dental assistant school. The magical substance the Ancient Romans used was human urine. While this is certainly not common practice today, the reasoning behind the use is scientifically logical. Urine contains significant amounts of ammonia. Ita��s now known that ammonia acts like a bleach because of its acidity, which means that it could have had the potential to slightly whiten teeth.

The Progress of Teeth Whitening Through the 17th Century

Not much progress was made in developing new ways to whiten teeth until the 17th century. At the time, barbers served double duty and acted both as a barber and as a dentist. With no formal medical training, barbers would have to resort to barbaric methods for treating dental problems. The whitening process was no different. Barbers would use a metal file to rough up the surface of their clienta��s teeth. Once the teeth had an abrasive surface, they would apply a strong nitric acid.

Although the procedure did effectively whiten teeth, any professional intra oral dental assistant will tell you that such abrasive action expedites the process of tooth decay. People of the time considered this a small price to pay for the level of prestige a white smile could bring them.

Modern Techniques for Teeth Whitening Intra Oral Dental Assistants May Recognize

It wasna��t until the 19th century that major steps towards developing a new method for tooth whitening (that didna��t involve sticks, urine, or painful corrosive acids) were taken. While looking for a way to treat gum disease, dentists discovered that hydrogen peroxide was not only effective at treating gum disease, but was also an effective tooth whitener. After more experimentation, in 1918 dentists discovered that exposure to a heating lamp accelerated the lightening process. And in the 1960s, it was discovered that letting teeth soak in peroxide overnight left teeth much whiter.

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Modern tooth whitening is safe and effective

It wasna��t until 1989 that teeth whitening procedures became similar to what we know today. Dentists developed a gel that was made of opalescence carbamide peroxide and started offering whitening services that used a dental tray. Once a viable, safe method for teeth whitening was discovered, the dental market exploded with whitening tooth pastes, treatments, and at-home whitening kits that were both safe and effective.

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