Whats the history of teeth whitening? Find out! - WhiteTeeth.ie
History of Teeth Whitening
26 maart 2020 

History of Teeth Whitening

The need for people to have brilliant white teeth goes so far back in time you’ll be shocked when you learn about it. Believe it or not, teeth whitening has been around for thousands of years! So, let’s have a look at history to see the numerous methods which the ancient world used in order to keep their teeth looking bright and clean.

Some of these methods might seem quite baffling to you, and to be honest, some of them are downright ridiculous. And yet, they all worked to a certain degree, though not always for the better! And you know what? Some of their basic ingredients still find use in today’s bleaching methods!


In the Beginning…

Obviously, people back then didn’t have whitening strips as we do in today’s world, but they did have substitutes that achieved teeth whitening-at least to some measure. Early man used branches, thorns, and frayed sticks to clean their teeth

In 3000 B.C. (yes, that far back in time!) people made use of things called chew sticks, which were literally sticks or twigs. They chewed them, and the coarse roots scraped off any particles that clung to their teeth.

Although crude, this method still gave them the results they sought. Many countries in West Africa and other parts of the world still use something similar.

In Nigeria, for instance, the people at the northern part of the country chew pale twigs, called ‘aswaki’ in the Hausa language, to keep their teeth clean. The natives refer to them as traditional toothbrushes and they are very popular up to this day.

Teeth Whitening Across Different Time Periods, Peoples and Cultures

The Romans

The Romans were known for their mighty Military adventures, but few people know about their dental ventures! Now, this might sound even more shocking than all that blood and guts, but the Romans used goat’s milk and urine to make a paste to clean and whiten their teeth! Disgusting, but effective. However, we would advise all our readers to please refrain from trying this at home!

The Egyptians

The Egyptians, known for all their riches and technology, discovered that wine vinegar and pumice whitened teeth to a remarkable degree.

The 12-20th Century

In the 12th century, during the Dark Ages, physicians found out that using a salt and sage mixture to rub on one’s teeth made them whiter and they promptly urged the public to practice it.

Another great alternative to that was to scrub the teeth with elecampane flower (elecampane is often used to make medicine).

Fast-forward to the 17th century and barbers became experts at whitening teeth. Yes, barbers! It doesn’t make sense, does it? Barbers came up with the idea of using metal files on teeth to make them abrasive. The barbers would then proceed to the paint the teeth with nitric acid. Even though superficially the teeth may have looked good, we can only surmise that the unfortunate customers teeth were severely damaged as a result of this treatment!

The 18th century also saw its fair share of procedures to whiten teeth. Physicians enlightened people on how they could bleach teeth using oxalic acid.

The 19th century saw a far greater leap in dental care than the prior years. Dental experts utilized corrective orthodontic wear and braces. It was in this time period that the dental professionals paid more attention to the health of teeth and gums.

The 20th century saw yet greater advancement in dental care. In their research and practice of using hydrogen peroxide, professionals discovered its restorative effects and how potent it was. Thus, they further developed ways to keep teeth exposed to this treatment for even longer periods of time and this became a great breakthrough in teeth whitening practice.

Hydrogen Peroxide

In the year 1918, the professionals discovered that hydrogen peroxide, Chlorid and Sodium Bicarbonate and Citric Acid in addition to a heated lamp would lighten teeth. Then in the 1960s, one scientist made a revolutionary discovery. When he soaked the teeth of a patient in these bleaching agents overnight, the teeth became noticeably whiter.

After much deliberation around the dental convention circuit, the idea of using these ingredients as a teeth whitener was finally consolidated two decades later. The year 1989 was when a whitening gel was patented by Ultradent Products, and it was called Opalescence carbamide peroxide.

Teeth Whitening Today

The year is now 2020, and these ingredients are still used in whitening gels today. Strip whitening and tray whitening services have also gained momentum. There are also people who opt to see their dentist several times to have a bleaching solution applied to their teeth. This solution is very concentrated, and LED light is used in the procedure.

Of course, dentists aren’t the only ones with teeth whitening solutions. At-home products are also extremely popular. Even though they vary in effectiveness and cost, many of them can be very effective without the significant cost of going to the dentist. Whitening mouthwashes and toothpaste must be mentioned here also because there are some excellent ones available on the market.

The type of teeth whitening procedure you use or products you patronize can go a long way in determining how white your teeth are. People in the past have experimented with so many ways. To whiten their teeth, often to the detriment of their teeth, but advancement in technology has set you leagues above them.

So, we’ll end this by asking you one thing: Aren’t you glad you were born in the 20th or 21st century? Because a few thousand years earlier and you could have been using goat’s milk and urine to whiten your teeth!

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