Does Teeth Whitening Lead to Oral Cancer?

October 9, 2017

smiling woman in dental chair

Oral cancer claims about one life an hour on average in the US, 50% of those diagnosed this year will not live five years beyond diagnosis, and 25% of people diagnosed with oral cancer do not engage in any of the high risk behaviors associated with the disease. Sorry for throwing all those scary numbers at you, but it’s important for you to understand how serious this disease can be. Oral cancer sufferers under the age of 45 do not typically participate in the traditional high risk behaviors associated with oral cancer. Researchers are currently studying other potentially carcinogenic products that people should be avoiding, and that includes teeth whitening agents.

Causes of Oral Cancer

Traditionally, oral cancer has been linked to such behaviors as smoking, chewing tobacco, or drinking excessively. Patients with human papilloma virus are also at higher risk for this disease. Over exposure to the sun may also lead to cancer on the exterior parts of the face, head, or neck.

How Teeth Whitening May Contribute to Oral Cancer

Recently, researchers presented information at the 6th International Conference on Head and Neck Cancer that indicated teeth whitening products may be a contributing factor in oral cancer diagnosis for patients under the age of 45. Teeth whitening agents contain around 22% carbamide peroxide. While these agents break down and lift away tooth stains, when exposed to oral soft tissue, they may be causing serious damage or oral cancer. Over the counter teeth whitening products do not always keep the whiteners away from soft tissue. In fact, the study showed that non-custom teeth whitening application trays allowed more than 50% of the active whitening gel to seep out of the tray. If you decide you want to brighten your smile, consult with a professional cosmetic dentist to ensure your safety and the success of your teeth whitening plan.

Warning Signs of Oral Cancer

It’s important to talk to a dentist or physician right away if you notice any of the following warning signs of oral cancer:

  • Discoloration in certain areas of soft tissue (red, purple, or white coloring)
  • Lumps, bumps, or changes in the soft tissue texture
  • Chronic hoarse voice or sore throat
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Numbness of the tongue or lips

Meet Dr. Dandois

At the Carrollton dental office of Marc Dandois, DDS, we offer a wide range of dentistry services to meet any patient’s need, but our focus is on prevention. During regular dental checkups, at least twice a year, we assess current oral health, make recommendations for treatment, and partner with patients to create a personalized plan to achieve and maintain their optimal oral health. Every checkup in our office includes a thorough screening for oral cancer. If it’s been more than six months since your last dental appointment, contact our team to find out more today.