A History of Cosmetic Dentistry: Tooth Whitening

By June 19, 2019 September 15th, 2019 Blog

A History of Cosmetic Dentistry: Tooth Whitening

Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

There is no denying that dentists are relatively new in the history of mankind. However, the idea of oral health and tooth maintenance is a lot older than most people think. There is plenty of anthropological evidence and records that can attest to that. So, what is this evidence, and how did it lead to modern day cosmetic dentistry as we know it?

Early Cosmetic Dentistry

Before there were cosmetic dentists in Austin, Texas, or any other place really, most people took it upon themselves to clean their own teeth. While there were certain individuals in civilizations and tribes that would focus on things like surgery and extraction, the tools and techniques were rudimentary at best.

The practice of tooth whitening was first in Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians came up with a version of whitening paste that was a composite of ground pumice stone, wine vinegar, and other various ingredients. This was the first instance of white teeth being considered a sign of wealth and status.

The practice carried over to the Roman Empire, where people were very much concerned about their teeth health and appearance. Romans had the habit of using a special type of chew sticks for brushing their teeth and keeping it plaque free. They also used urine to whiten teeth. Urine has a natural concentration of ammonia, which acts as a whitening agent. Upon that discovery, later on, the practice of using urine for toothpaste ended. Over time, the practice of tooth whitening for cosmetic and preservation purposes carried over to Europe.

What is interesting to note, however, was that whitening was not the only means of aesthetic teeth in the world. In fact, there is a process of tooth preservation that involves the opposite.

Tooth Blackening

This form of cosmetic dentistry was more popular in China, along with various Pacific islands in the surrounding areas. Also, it was in practice in sparse locations in South America. It involved dying teeth black through a combination of bugs, tree dye, and other trace elements to create a lacquer that prevents tooth decay.

The earliest evidence of this practice was in China around 200 CE. The practice spread through Japan and the surrounding islands a few hundred years later. The practice became known as ohaguro and it became a status symbol, much like tooth whitening did in Europe.

However, the popularity of this trend did not make it past the mid-1800s in Japan and most other gentrified places in Southeast Asia. This was thanks to colonialism. French explorers, along with other European figureheads were unimpressed with the sight. They even initially thought black teeth was a deterrent instead of a sign of beauty. This, combined with the new Empress of Japan in making her first public appearance with white teeth persuaded the public to pick up white teeth as a fashion statement.

Tooth Whitening by Cosmetic Dentists Today

Tooth whitening today is more available and popular than ever. Especially in the United States.

During late 1800s dentists started using chlorine as a bleaching agent for restoring yellowish tinge on teeth. Till 1900 it was a popular method of teeth whitening all across Europe. Post-1900 AD the use of Hydrogen Peroxide came in practice. During 1960, dentist William Klusimer invented peroxide-based whitening agents and till 1970 it was widely popular in practice. Onward 1989, carbamide peroxide was introduced as teeth whitening agent, which has less side affects.

Since then, with advances in research and developments, the teeth whitening products have come a long way and there is broad range of products to choose from. They range from over the counter products such as whitening toothpaste and mouthwash, whitening strips to professionally prescribed products by your dentist. As for over the counter toothpaste and mouthwash, they help maintain the color. However, some whitening toothpastes can be very abrasive and we do not recommend prolonged use. Over the counter whitening strips can be some what affective but results vary from individual to individual.

Of course, dental professionals offer more affective array of products. You can choose in office whitening which is more intense but gives you an instant result. Some post op sensitivity is expected with in office whitening but resolves within few days. There is also option of custom trays and at home whitening. You can do this at comfort of your own home, on average expect result to show in 7-10 days.

Lastly, you have the option of professional strength whitening strips. This is a great option if you are in a rush and don’t have time for in office appointment. Regardless which whitening option you choose, the results are beautiful and safe if used properly.