Last year alone, over 37 million Americans used some form of teeth whitening. Thanks to a rise in video conferencing and other forms of telecommunication, the demand for brighter, whiter smiles has increased tenfold. Wellness methods are trending, and at-home self-care is topping priority lists.
With that also comes confusion and misinformation about what’s truly the most effective when it comes to smile transformations. Often, the rush to find product availability and quick fixes leave some unsatisfied with their results, searching for a better solution.
Before you decide which products suit your needs, it’s helpful to understand the science behind teeth whitening. Let’s examine why teeth stains occur in the first place and how best to tackle them.
The Science Behind Teeth Whitening
Today people can change just about anything they don’t like about themselves. Hair color, eye color, the shape of their nose—the same goes for the shade of our teeth. On average, teeth darken two shades every decade as we age. Some result from intrinsic stains caused by genetics, aging, trauma, and systemic conditions. Additional discoloration is caused by extrinsic stains, a result of our environment and lifestyle choices. Both need removal to achieve optimal whitening results. There are several key factors to consider in the whitening method you choose.
Active Ingredients and Whitening Agents: Hydrogen Peroxide is the gold standard in teeth whitening, clinically proven to be safe and effective. A mild antiseptic, this powerhouse also helps prevent infection and can be used as an oral rinse for a clean, healthy mouth. The concentration of hydrogen peroxide is a vital component of any whitening product, as an optimal concentration level will help remove both intrinsic and extrinsic stains at home. Still, a higher concentration should only be applied by a dental professional to ensure that your gums stay protected and avoid sensitivity. Also, check for airtight packaging as exposure to oxygen can cause hydrogen peroxide molecules to break down and degrade, resulting in less efficacy. Once hydrogen peroxide is exposed to air, it breaks down cleanly into oxygen and water.
Hydrogen peroxide is 3X more potent at equal concentrations than carbamide peroxide, another ingredient commonly found in whitening products. Carbamide peroxide requires three times higher concentration levels for equivalent efficacy, meaning that an 18% carbamide peroxide formulation is equivalent to a 6% hydrogen peroxide formulation in terms of whitening efficacy. As a result, carbamide peroxide can result in more sensitivity since a higher concentration is required, stressing the importance of checking labels and looking at concentration levels. Generally, the highest hydrogen peroxide concentrations used during in-office procedures with a dental professional are 35%, with protective barriers in place. For home use, anything above 12% hydrogen peroxide concentration is considered unwise.
There are also other ingredients products may contain that can have a direct effect on the health of teeth, gums, and the oral cavity:
- Sodium Fluoride: aids in the prevention of cavities and strengthens teeth by encouraging the formation of fluorapatite, a naturally occurring component of the tooth enamel.
- Glycerin: a moisturizing humectant that holds onto water, preventing dehydration of the tooth and reducing bacteria in the mouth.
- Potassium Nitrate: a desensitizing agent that calms the nerves in teeth to help prevent sensitivity.
- Sodium Hydroxide: raises pH and increases efficacy while inhibiting the growth of plaque-forming bacteria.
As consumers, it’s crucial to be aware of which whitening agents are trusted to be safe and effective and which may be more questionable. The following active whitening ingredients are frequently seen in teeth whitening treatments but may not be your best options:
- Carbamide Peroxide or Urea Peroxide: a teeth whitening agent used in many whitening formulations because it is easier to package than hydrogen peroxide. Only 30% as effective as hydrogen peroxide at equivalent concentration levels, it breaks down into urea and ammonia inside the mouth.
- Triethanolamine (TEA): is considered a moderately hazardous ingredient by the Cosmetics Database because it can cause allergic reactions, eye problems, and can be toxic if absorbed over a long period. Many personal care products, such as shaving cream, have removed TEA from their formulas and market them as “TEA Free.”
- Sodium Chlorite: is used as a “whitening” agent, but it is more of a disinfectant than a teeth whitener. It has many applications, but most are industrial and are not recommended for use in the mouth.
- Phthalimidoperoxycaproic Acid (PAP): is a synthetic organic peroxy acid found in household laundry detergents. Per the U.K. research, PAP whitening gels produced the most extensive alterations to the tooth surface which can be related to enamel loss and a significant reduction in microhardness as measured by the Vickers Microhardness Scale when compared to 10% carbamide peroxide, sodium chlorite, and sodium carbonate peroxide.
- Activated Charcoal: is highly abrasive, causing thinning and weakening of your enamel.
Application Guidelines: Optimal results with the least amount of sensitivity, contact time, repetition, and heat acceleration are all key. Shorter exposure time means less sensitivity, making the overall experience more comfortable, while repetition and frequency of treatment aids in better results. The addition of gentle warming heat to a whitening formulation will accelerate and amplify the results. GLO Science is the only brand that provides controlled heat acceleration inside a closed system mouthpiece, ensuring a safe, comfortable, optimal whitening experience.
What exactly is a closed system, and why is it important in teeth whitening? This means placing a barrier against the whitening formulation, sealing it on teeth to help prevent whitening oxygens from escaping as they whiten and further increase efficacy.
Causes of Sensitivity: Fear of discomfort is the main deterrent from teeth whitening. If you’ve tried products in the past and experienced pain post-treatment, you may be reluctant to try alternative methods. Zingers, described as an “electric shock” to teeth, are influenced by too-high heat, inflammation, and overexposure. Administering heat at lower optimal controlled temperatures helps prevent this discomfort from occurring. Further, recessions or abfractions (worn down enamel or cracked teeth) and sometimes genetics can also be culprits of sensitivity.
But there’s hope. Teeth whitening has come a long way and offers solutions for issues experienced in the past. It also boasts many positive health attributes, making it a smart choice not only for your physical appearance, but your overall wellbeing as well.
Health Benefits of Teeth Whitening: More than 3.5 billion people suffer from oral diseases globally, according to the World Health Organization. What’s worse is many don’t even know the extent of their oral health problems, making it imperative to keep up those regularly scheduled dental check-ups. At your next appointment, inquire about which whitening options your dentist recommends. Formulations that include hydrogen peroxide, xylitol, and even sodium fluoride, can all be helpful in promoting overall oral health in addition to whiter teeth.
It’s important to note that not all teeth whitening is safe—that is why it’s crucial to use a safe, tested, dentist-developed formula and technology. When done correctly, whitening can improve more than just your smile. It can also help support your gum health and overall oral health, leading to better health overall—something we can all appreciate now more than ever.
Teeth Whitening Treatments
When selecting a whitening treatment, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the many options and treatment types. Being an informed consumer will ensure satisfaction and safety. The American Dental Association has identified four categories of whitening products; in-office, take-home, over-the-counter, and “other.”
In-Office Whitening Treatments: Available only through licensed dental professionals, these usually offer the highest concentrations of hydrogen peroxide which must be applied by a dental professional who will take the appropriate measures to protect the gums and soft tissue. One example, the GLO Science Professional In-Office treatment uses 30% concentration suitable for most patients and 24% for younger patients or those with sensitivity. This in-office treatment uses a gentle warming heat to accelerate the pro-strength formulation for fast results without treatment sensitivity —an average of five shades whiter in less than an hour.
At-Home Devices: GLO Science is the only whitening technology to use patented Guided Light Optics both in-office and at home, delivering faster results without sensitivity. A combination of LED light, controlled warming heat, and specialized hydrogen peroxide formulations (10% through dental practices, 6% at retail) allow for at-home whitening that’s safe, easy, and effective.
Why is gentle heat acceleration so important? Without it, stubborn intrinsic stains cannot be removed. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down with heat, which is why products without it, such as plain LED light products, overnight trays, or whitening strips, are less effective and can cause more sensitivity due to the longer exposure times required.
Application Methods: A product’s ingredients are only as successful as its application. Strips, pens, syringes, and trays are all available for consumer purchase, making it confusing to determine what’s best. Some of these methods can be messy and leave room for user error. GLO Science has developed a unique streamlined application system with its GLO Vials, allowing the user to target gel toward teeth and away from the gum tissue while keeping the hydrogen peroxide whitening gel fresh and active.
Choosing the Best Whitening Treatment for You
There are more options available to consumers than ever before. The market is saturated with toothpaste, gums, rinses, and other products promising to whiten smiles. While some may temporarily lighten extrinsic stains, they don’t provide long-lasting results. Selecting the best option depends on personal factors such as cost, lifestyle, and desired results. With so many choices, how does one narrow it down?
Start by reading labels. Make sure the active whitening ingredient is best suited for your health and sensitivity level (if you’re unsure, ask your dentist). Is the product made in the U.S. or another country? Regulations vary worldwide, so you want to make sure you’re choosing a product made according to the highest safety protocols. And lastly, do your research to make sure the whitening system you select was developed by a dentist or oral health expert and is used by dentists.
While everyone’s teeth are unique and some whiten faster or easier than others, everyone has the potential to achieve a lasting, beautiful smile. Maintenance and compliance are essential. Whitening is not permanent and needs regular touch-ups and periodic treatments to maximize results. Adding products such as GLO Science’s ECO Balance to oral care regimens helps ensure healthy teeth and gums between check-ups. This specially formulated treatment is clinically proven to reduce inflammation 8X better than brushing and flossing alone when used as part of your regular oral care regimen.
Speaking with your dentist is the ideal place to begin. They will know your dental history and can help determine the best course of action for your individualized needs.
Your smile is your trademark. With proper care and treatment, it is one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
Author: This article was provided by our friends at GLO Science.