The History of Teeth Whitening

whiteningRemember when people rode around in horse-drawn buggies and went to the barber for their teeth whitening needs? No? Yes, indeed, the barber once did your hair and your dental care. Sounds pretty convenient, right? Well, once you find out how it was done, you’ll be glad you go to the dentist for teeth whitening.

The Quest for Whiter Teeth Begins

The ancient Egyptians were known for their beautification techniques, and they certainly sought after whiter teeth. Around 4,000 years ago, they used a paste of wine vinegar and ground pumice stone to whiten their teeth. The mixture was brushed on with frayed sticks (yes, like very small tree branches). The whiter your teeth, the wealthier people thought you were.

If brushing your teeth with sticks doesn’t sound fun, at least the Egyptians had it better than the Romans. Ancient Romans used urine for teeth whitening. Luckily, people later discovered that it was the ammonia in urine that whitened the teeth, and that practice was abandoned.

And that brings us to the barbers. Before dentists, barbers took care of everyone’s oral health. There weren’t many dental remedies at the time, so barbers fixed most issues by pulling problem teeth. They also provided teeth whitening, using metal files on the teeth before applying nitric acid to wear away stains. Not only was this process incredibly uncomfortable, but it damaged the enamel, making teeth more susceptible to tooth decay.

The Dawn of Modern Teeth Whitening

Then, in the 1980s, dentists stumbled upon a new technique. They noticed that the hydrogen peroxide used to treat gums also caused teeth whitening. Trays and gels were developed specifically for teeth whitening, and now we don’t have to use sticks, ammonia, or metal files anymore. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that teeth whitening is the most popular cosmetic dentistry procedure today.

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