Tooth whitening may improve oral health of elderly

A tooth-bleaching agent may improve the oral health of elderly and special needs patients.

That’s according to US dentists who have discovered that applying the tooth whitener, carbamide peroxide, through a custom-fit mouth tray might combat problems associated with dexterity needed for flossing and brushing – and dry mouth which caused by certain medication.

Dental experts at the Medical College of Georgia and Western University of Health Sciences suggest that standard oral hygiene can be difficult or impossible for patients with mental challenges or impaired manual dexterity.

Also, certain medications can cause xerostomia – or dry mouth – and these problems lead to plaque accumulation, cavities and periodontal disease, and could further impact the patient’s health.

A report featured in this month’s Journal of the American Dental Association noted that applying  carbamide peroxide could combat those problems.

The report was based on a literature review and the authors’ clinical experiences with special needs patients and tooth bleaching.

Dr Van Haywood, professor in the Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry, and co-author of the report, explains: ‘What we’ve noticed through whitening patients’ teeth over the years is that as they bleached, their teeth got squeaky clean and their gingival health improved.’

Dentists have used carbamide peroxide, or urea peroxide, for decades to whiten teeth, but its original use was as an oral antiseptic.

It removes plaque, kills bacteria and elevates the mouth’s pH above the point at which enamel and dentin begin to dissolve, which results in fewer cavities.

The trick is in the tray, Dr Haywood said.

After a complete dental examination, the dentist can make the custom-fit tray that the patient can wear at night or for several hours during the day.

The carbamide peroxide gel can be prescribed or purchased over-the-counter.

Further research is now needed to determine a specific protocol for using tray-applied carbamide peroxide specifically to improve oral health, say the authors.

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