At-home teeth whitening methods compared

Whiter teeth are so much desired that methods used in the hopes of achieving them are various. We had a look at some of the most popular ones.

Oil pulling

The least abrasive, but unfortunately also least effective method for teeth whitening on our list is oil pulling. Oil pulling is basically done by swishing the oil, most commonly coconut oil, back and forth in your mouth for some time. The oil is supposed to stick to bacteria better than water for example, thus pulling them out with it. However, removing bacteria doesn’t remove stains or discoloration of the teeth.

Activated charcoal

Activated charcoal is a form of carbon treated in a way that has made its particles’ surfaces porous, causing it to effectively absorb other particles. This makes a toothpaste with activated charcoal quite an effective way to get rid of surface stains of the teeth. However, since the charcoal absorbs basically anything, also the good things, it’s also highly abrasive and can cause damage to the surface enamel of teeth. This can even lead to more staining in the long run.

Whitening toothpaste

Most toothpastes work on surface stains by abrasion, as they contain ingredients that help to scrub the stains off the teeth’s surface. Some toothpastes also contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide that are able to penetrate enamel and dissolve deeper stains. The problem is that toothpaste isn’t designed to stay in your mouth for very long, so the contact that these ingredients have with your teeth is too short for highly effective whitening. Also, because toothpaste gets everywhere in your mouth and the peroxides can irritate gums and cheeks, they aren’t usually made with very high concentration. 

Whitening strips

The strips are made of flexible plastic with a layer of a bleaching ingredient (a peroxide) and an adhesive to keep them put. In strips the peroxide has longer lasting contact with the teeth than in toothpaste, giving it time to penetrate deeper in the enamel and break down stains. Strips typically also have a higher concentration than toothpastes. They may cause gum irritation, however, as they likely won’t fit your teeth perfectly and come to some contact with gums. Teeth sensitivity is also a possible side effect of hydrogen peroxide, more likely with higher concentration and longer contact. 

Whitening pen

A pen is basically a different delivery method for the same whitening ingredients you see in pastes and strips. With the pen, you brush on and leave on the whitener. It’s convenient to use on the go, the whitening gel requiring only 10-20 seconds to dry after application. It forms a layer that dissolves on its own after some time. Unfortunately, the dissolving often happens too soon to get very good results.

Whitening gel tray + LED

Whitening gels used with a mouth tray are typically made with higher concentration of a whitening agent as the tray is supposed to keep the gel only where it belongs, around the teeth. A LED device connected to the tray releases light that speeds up the chemical process of the whitening agent dissolving the stains. This is considered the most effective at-home method for teeth whitening, but the tray can leak some gel and the stronger concentration of hydrogen peroxide can cause burn-like damage to the oral mucosa. Luckily there are gels, such as the one in the Smileo kit, that use a relatively new ingredient in teeth whitening, PAP (phthalimido-peroxy-hexanoic acid) instead of peroxide. There have been studies showing it to be as effective in whitening as hydrogen peroxide, but basically with no harm to enamel or mucosa.

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