What is Tooth Whitening Gel?

N.M. Shanley

Personal care options to get whiter teeth and a brighter smile include different types of tooth whitening gel. This usually contains different bleaching agents that remove stubborn stains from teeth. Some gels can be used at home, while others require professional application at a dentist’s office.

People use tooth whitening gel to brighten their smile.
People use tooth whitening gel to brighten their smile.

Tooth whitening gel is usually applied to the teeth using a tray, an adhesive strip, or a brush. The gel sits on the teeth for a period of time, and is then washed off. To ensure maximum results, food and drink should be avoided while the tooth whitening gel is on the teeth.

Tooth whitening gel.
Tooth whitening gel.

Bleaching provided by a dentist can be done in a single visit. Whitening gel is typically applied to the teeth with the mouth kept open. The dentist or dental assistant then points a laser at the teeth to speed up the whitening process. The process is usually complete in an about an hour. This is generally the most expensive tooth whitening option.

At-home tooth whitening gel procedures require regular use to achieve a noticeable difference in tooth color. For best results, gels must be used once or twice per day for a certain period of time, as indicated in the product directions. At-home gels are usually considerably less expensive than bleaching services provided by a dentist.

Both at-home and in-office procedures rely on either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide to remove stains and whiten teeth. Peroxides can make teeth sensitive to hot and cold foods and beverages. Glycerin is used as a base for the gel to help protect the teeth from bacteria during the bleaching process.

Glycerin may also dry out the gums, causing some discomfort. Tooth whitening gel side effects are usually temporary. Users can follow the directions on the product packaging and avoid excessive use to limit sensitivity and other complications.

If teeth are too sensitive to handle tooth whitening gel, a gentler, homemade recipe can be used. Sodium bicarbonate or baking soda, combined with hydrogen peroxide can form a natural whitening toothpaste. The hydrogen peroxide found in drugstores will not be as strong as peroxide found in professional tooth whitening gels.

Toothpaste manufacturers also offer prepared whitening toothpastes that are less harsh and easier to use than some whitening gels. These toothpastes are widely available at retail stores and online. Ready-made options often combine whitening, tartar control, and fluoride application in a single paste.

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