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Tooth whitening a big business in poor economy
By Matt Schrader
Despite the economic recession, tooth whitening has quietly become a billion-dollar industry.
From the available treatments at your local dentist to the toothpastes sold in every supermarket, whitening sales have more than tripled since 2005.
“You have your shampoo and your deodorant, and then you have your [Crest] White Strips,” said Crystal Chavarria, a senior majoring in film production at USC. “It’s totally normal to have a few tooth whitening [products].”
Chavarria is one of the estimated 100 million people who use whitening toothpaste in the United States, according to Eric Nelson of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
The early success of whitening toothpastes in the late 1990s led to the popularization of other whitening products, most notably Crest Whitestrips in 2001.
The strip remain the bestselling home whitening method in the United States, evan as other companies such as Listerine, Rembrandt, Aquafresh and Colgate have come out with their own products, almost all of which have found a place in the industry.
Danny Abrahms, a junior majoring in business at USC, has used a half dozen store-bought whitening products in the last six years.
“Some work, some don’t. … I keep trying them,” Abrahms said. “They keep coming out with more.”
More surprising is the skyrocketing number of professional treatments in the last decade, said Nelson.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” he said.
And they sure do.
Nearly three million cosmetic dental patients every year spend an average of $5,600 to return their teeth to their natural brightness.
But, interestingly enough, the most popular professional treatment isn’t the easy, one-hour bleaching; it’s an at-home product given directly by your dentist.
“We can target special problem areas,” said Ilan Rotstein, a tenured professor of dentistry at USC. “It really works better.”
Though the actual treatments of store-bought whitening trays and whitening trays custom made by your dentist are almost identical, most dentists, like Michael Jorgensen of the USC Oral Health Center, recommend the significantly more expensive, clinical option because it ensures maximum results, under the guidance of a professional.
“Things can go wrong with the Rembrandt [brand] whitening trays. It can wear away at enamel and actually do a lot of damage to the tooth,” said Jorgensen.
He said he understood the financial constraints of many people, but that there’s no substitute for a dentist-supervised approach.
“People always want to look their best,” he said. “If you can afford to spend a little bit more to have it done right, it’s worth every penny.”
And, as the saying goes, when finances are down, people will spend more on items like lipstick to look better.
“There’s always the claim that lipstick sales go up in recessions because people want to feel better about [themselves],” said Abrahms. “It’s the same with white teeth.”
“You just feel better when you look better,” he said.