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Tooth-Whitening Products Work for Brightening Smiles in Short Term

If you're tempted to pick up one of those tooth-whitening products at the drugstore or dentist’s office, rest assured: a new review of existing research suggests there's a good chance they’re effective. //

"All the products seem to work," said Dr. Hana Hasson, clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the review. "They were dependable in terms of effects and safety."

But Hasson and colleagues don't consider the studies in favor of the products to be rock-solid, and they couldn't find evidence supporting anything other than short-term use.

Tooth-whitening products started to become popular in the 1990s, and their appeal has grown mightily over the past decade. Now, store shelves are filled with tooth-whitening products, all claiming to brighten smiles.

The products bleach the teeth with chemicals — instead of cleaning them with abrasives — and are designed to be used only for a couple weeks at a time.

In the new review, Hasson and colleagues tried to assess the state of research into tooth-whitening products that are designed to be used in the home. Tooth-whitening toothpastes weren’t included in this review.

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews like this one draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

The review authors looked at 416 studies and chose 25 that they thought were of the highest quality. Then they analyzed the findings of those studies.

All 25 studies reviewed were funded or conducted by manufacturers of tooth-whitening products, and all measured their effectiveness after two weeks. Only 13 examined effectiveness after three weeks, and just six after one month or longer.
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