The History of Teeth Whitening
August 18, 2021
From toothpastes to professional whitening, there are tons of ways to bleach teeth for a brighter, more luminous smile. Though teeth whitening is a wildly popular way of improving one’s smile, you may be unaware of how it got its start. Read on to learn more about the history of teeth whitening and how it has evolved over time to become the treatment we’re familiar with today.
Ancient Egyptians considered the beauty of the human profile to be of great importance. Having white teeth was linked to wealth and masculinity. To achieve whiter smiles, the pharaohs used toothpaste made from a volcanic rock called pumice, wine vinegar, and ground oxen hooves. Though this mixture was successful at whitening their teeth, it was also highly acidic and abrasive. For that reason, it likely caused serious damage to their tooth enamel and led to worse oral health issues in the future.
Pharaohs weren’t the only ones concerned with the appearance of their teeth. Ancient Romans were said to chew on sticks to clean their teeth, and evidence shows that they brushed their dentures with both human and animal urine. They believed the ammonia in urine would help maintain the whiteness of their dentures. Though it’s gross, it actually works! Ammonia can act as a cleansing agent, so it’s effective at whitening teeth.
The nomadic people of ancient Europe used acid to clean their teeth before filing them down. This may have made their teeth look better on the outside, but it was also uncomfortable and destroyed their tooth enamel. This made their teeth more susceptible to cavities and tooth decay, so the bad far outweighed the good.
Modern Day Teeth Whitening
Peroxide was first used for teeth whitening in 1884. In 1918, we learned that hydrogen peroxide used in conjunction with a heated lamp yielded better results. This method was standard for over 40 years. In the 1960s, an orthodontist named Dr. Bill Klusmier and a group of other dentists were testing how effective Gly-Oxide is at treating mouth sores. The Gly-Oxide, which contains 10% carbamide peroxide and is made of hydrogen peroxide and urea, was administered via a custom-fitted mouth tray. They accidentally discovered that soaking one’s teeth in Gly-Oxide overnight made them noticeably lighter. This discovery was accidental, but teeth bleaching trays have become one of the most common ways of whitening one’s smile.
As you can see, teeth whitening has come a long way. With modern whitening products and a good dentist, you will soon be on your way to a brighter, more beautiful smile!
About the Author
Dr. Thomas G. Peters and his team at Farmington Valley Dental aim to provide their patients with the best dental care around. They serve families in Farmington and the surrounding communities and offer a number of exceptional oral health services. They are experts at administering quality teeth whitening treatments so you can achieve the smile you’ve always dreamed of having! If you’re ready to set up an appointment or want more information about how to safely and effectively whiten your teeth, call Farmington Valley Dental’s office at (860) 677-8500 or visit their website.
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