Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
Teeth Whiteners and Mouth Cancer
Peer Review Status: Internally Reviewed
Teeth whitening is a relatively new cosmetic process. The possibility of long-term ill effects on users of these products has not had extensive study yet. Teeth bleaching products have only recently been widely used.
In an August 2004 meeting of head and neck surgeons, researchers reported on two patients, in their twenties, who developed advanced tongue cancer decades earlier than usual. The two patients had a history of repeated use of tooth whitening products.
Most oral (mouth) cancers are seen in people over 45 who are long time smokers and alcohol drinkers. The patients seen by the researchers were not drinkers. One of the patients smoked cigarettes infrequently.
The researcher suspects that hydrogen peroxide in the whitening gels may be the culprit. Animal studies have shown that peroxide promotes the growth of tumors inside the cheeks of rodents and caused digestive system cancers when ingested. No humans have been tested with peroxide.
It was noted by the researcher that while hydrogen peroxide is not a proven carcinogen, it does cause local inflammation and tissue irritation at high concentrations. The complex interactions of the inflammatory response, combined with other factors, have an unpredictable effect on tissues.
The researchers acknowledge that this is a very small study. More investigations are needed. Persons who are using the teeth bleaching products should consult a dentist for properly fitting trays to hold the bleaching gel. This will minimize the amount of peroxide that would leak on to mouth tissue.
Last modification date:
Mon Aug 7 13:09:59 2006