The History of Teeth Whitening

The History of Teeth Whitening

You may think that teeth whitening is a recent development. However, the process of whitening your teeth has been around for millennium. Bright white teeth have always been a sign of health, beauty, and wealth. For a long time, the process was only available to the wealthiest individuals. This article will take a look at the history of teeth whitening and how far the process has come.

History of Teeth Whitening: The Early Years

While the early humans didn’t necessarily whiten their teeth, they did chew on sticks to remove plaque and debris. The real practice of teeth whitening began about 4,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. Egyptians made a mixture of pumice stone and vinegar. The pumice stone acts as an abrasive, much like those that are found in whitening toothpaste today. This stone removed the stain and residue from the teeth while leaving behind sparkling teeth. In ancient Egypt, white teeth were a sign of wealth as well as nobility.

Ancient Romans also had a process for whitening their teeth. Although, their ingredients may be slightly more difficult to stomach. A mixture of urine and goats milk was the solution for yellow teeth. The ammonia in the urine acts as a bleaching agent. While this may seem disgusting today, it was a common practice for ancient Romans.

In the 12th century, physicians made a mixture of sage and salt to rub on the teeth. Another common whitening agent of the 12th century was the elecampane flower. The 17th century brought a much scarier way to brighten teeth. Barbers would use a metal file to make the teeth abrasive and then paint them with nitric acid. In the 18th century, physicians would use oxalic acid. Both of these processes had a harmful effect on both the person’s teeth as well as their body. These types of acids could end up doing more harm than good. Also, the files barbers would use could cause irreparable damage to teeth.

Teeth Whitening Processes: The 19th Century

In the 19th century, scientists made one of the biggest discoveries for dentistry to date. Thet found that fluoride could improve the overall health of your teeth. However, too much fluoride could cause discoloration.

In the early 20th century dentists made another discovery on accident. A common use for peroxide was as an oral antiseptic gel. Dentists began to notice that the gel would leave the teeth it came into contact with whiter. This marks the birth of modern teeth whitening procedures. Dentists came up with ideas to keep the gel on the teeth longer.They also found out that peroxide in combination with a heat lamp would increase the whitening effects of peroxide. In the 1980’s trays with peroxide became very popular to whiten teeth. These techniques are still in use today.

Modern Day Whitening Techniques

We have come a long way from urine and files as teeth whitening techniques. There are many readily available products that can brighten your smile. There are countless at home whitening techniques. These include whitening toothpaste, gels,  and mouthwash. While some of these products do work, a dentist may be able to offer you a better option.

There are many new techniques available to dentists. Some of these techniques combine a whitening gel with a blue light that activates the gel and increases the gel’s whitening ability. There are other types of in-office whitening procedures that use a plasma arc to cure the whitening gel. A dentist can only use these procedures on someone with a relatively healthy set of teeth.

Is Tooth Whitening for Everyone?

While tooth whitening works to remove stains, it does not fix enamel that has worn down. If there is enough enamel left on the tooth and the pulp is not showing through than whitening will work for you. Stains on teeth come from coffee, wine, soda, and some medications. If you are unsure about whether or not you are a good candidate for teeth whitening, speak to your dentist. They will be able to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision. Contact Ericsson Dental today to learn if teeth whitening is right for you.


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