What Does Teeth Whitening Do to the Oral Microbiome?

Bacteria can be a cringeworthy word, but when it comes to your mouth, it is essential! The oral microbiome is unique to every individual and it is very important to keep your ecosystem balanced, happy and healthy. So, how does teeth whitening affect the oral microbiome? Do the chemicals alter the microbiota? Read on to learn more about keeping your mouth happy and teeth white.

What Is the Oral Microbiome?

There are over 700 species of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in your mouth – on your teeth, gums, inner cheeks, tongue, or soft palate. The combination living in your oral cavity is a personalized ecosystem that directly affects your health in more ways than you might think. In fact, it’s estimated that about 97% of all diseases may start in the mouth. Its balance (or imbalance) can have a great effect on the health of your:

  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Immune system
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Gut-brain health 
  • Endocrine system (supports healthy hormone release)
  • Natural nitric oxide production (important to increasing circulation)

What Happens When the Oral Microbiome Is Unbalanced?

When there is an imbalance in your microbiome, the harmful species can overpopulate, possibly contributing to various chronic diseases. One of the indications of an imbalance is bad breath.

Your oral microbiome has big effects on your body, so giving it the attention it needs is the best way to ensure good oral and overall health.

You can even test your own microbiome through your saliva! Bristle is a saliva testing tool that can give us risk scores for decay, periodontal disease, and bad breath. It gives us a breakdown of any bacterial species detected in the mouth and how many of each type there are. You can order a test for 15% off at www.bristlehealth.com with code BLOOM15.

How Does Professional Teeth Whitening Work?

Getting pearly white teeth is easier now than ever before. In our office, a professional teeth whitening procedure typically takes 60 to 90 minutes to perform and the results can last up to four months! Here is what a typical appointment looks like: 

  • We note the current shade of your teeth.
  • We polish your teeth with pumice, a granular material used to remove plaque.
  • You’ll open your mouth for us to place gauze in it, which will keep your teeth dry. We also may use retractors to keep your cheeks, lips, and tongue away from the whitening solution. 
  • We’ll place a barrier along your gum line to protect it from exposure to the solution. 
  • Next, we’ll coat your teeth’s front surface with a whitening solution, which typically includes either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide as the bleaching agent.
  • Many whitening products require a curing light or laser to activate the peroxide. Once applied, the solution sits on the teeth for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Once the teeth reach the optimum shade, we’ll wash off the solution and (in some cases) apply fluoride to help ease any tooth sensitivity. 

What Chemicals Are In Professional Teeth Whitening?

When it comes to teeth whitening, the chemicals are the same for both at-home and professional treatments – carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. The concentration, however, is what sets the two apart. Home systems use about 3% to 20% concentration while professional application uses 15% to 43% concentration.

Professionals should be sure to handle the hydrogen peroxide-based solution with care, as leaving it on too long can dehydrate the teeth and cause major tooth sensitivity. You should also book a consultation prior to the procedure to ensure it will work on your teeth. If you’ve had any dental work in the past, the treatment may not work correctly. For example, porcelain crowns and composite tooth-colored bondings will not lighten with a whitening solution. Ready to book your first teeth whitening session? Schedule your consultation here.

Teeth Whitening And The Oral Microbiome

Carbamide and hydrogen peroxide, two common chemicals in teeth whitening, have very little effect on the oral microbiome. At-home and professional teeth whitening does alter the microbiome’s balance temporarily, but does not cause long-term effects

With that in mind, some other common consumables do affect the oral microbiome and should be eliminated from your lifestyle, including:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): SLS is a common ingredient in some toothpastes that causes foaming and bubbling. It has no health benefits and can actually cause major irritation in sensitive individuals. Here’s what toothpaste to use instead. 
  • Some mouthwashes: Some bacteria is okay to have. But mouthwashes that kill 99% of all bacteria take out the good bacteria, too! Try to stay away from mouthwashes with harsh chemicals. 
  • Triclosan: This is a common ingredient added to toothpastes to prevent bacterial contamination. It’s recently been found to alter the gut’s microbiome
  • Artificial sweeteners (such as sucrose, xylose, and saccharin): These have also been found to have an effect on the oral microbiome

Schedule Your Professional Teeth Whitening In Lakewood, CO

Book a teeth whitening consultation with Dr. Elizabeth Turner in Lakewood, CO to see whether you’re a good candidate for teeth whitening. Or, visit with Dr. Turner about your unique oral microbiome and any concerns you may have.

To learn more about our Cosmetic Dentistry Services, visit this page here.

To learn more about our General Dentistry Services, visit this page here.

About the Author

Dr. Elizabeth Turner is a whole-health, family dentist in Lakewood, CO who provides general, restorative, and cosmetic dental care. She focuses on the mouth-body connection and helps her patients smile confidently, breathe clearer, and live healthier lives. 

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