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pH—Linking Whitening with Oral Health

Teeth whitening is one of the most conservative ways to change the color of your teeth. But did you know it can also improve and maintain your oral health? While professional peroxide-based tooth whiteners provide dazzling, whiter smiles, they also effectively remove plaque and—most importantly—elevate the pH level of the mouth.1

Research has shown that a low pH, not sugar, causes the perfect environment for tooth decay to form.2 Everything we eat or drink affects the pH level of our mouths. When we eat foods that are too acidic for our saliva to buffer against, the overall pH in the mouth becomes more acidic. And when the mouth is more acidic (with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5), the enamel can begin to break down, and bacteria can begin to flourish, resulting in an increased risk of cavities.1,2

But teeth whitening products containing carbamide peroxide can help. That’s because they release a byproduct called urea, which raises the pH level of the mouth to a neutral level (between 7 and 8). Urea also reduces plaque, prevents enamel decalcification, and stops cavity-causing bacteria from flourishing.3 So, not only can whitening improve the esthetic appearance of your smile, it can also provide numerous health benefits as well.

Hydrogen peroxide–based whitening products do not break down to release urea. However, some (like Opalescence Go) have carbamide peroxide added to their formulations in order to maintain a neutral pH. Other products (like Opalescence Boost) have added buffers that help maintain a neutral pH in the mouth. So discussing with your dentist which whitening product to use, be sure to talk about which products have higher pH levels in order to avoid any added acidity to the mouth.
1. Haywood VB. Bleaching and caries control in elderly patients. Aesthet Dent Today. 2007;1(4):42-43. 2. Hurlbutt M, Novy B, Young D. Dental caries: a pH-mediated disease. CDHA Journal. 2010;25(1):9-15. 3. Haywood VB. Orthodontic caries control and bleaching. Inside Dentistry. 2010;April:2-6.