Teeth Whitening Pens

What are they and do they work?

White smiles young coupleAccording to a recent article, one of the best selling items in the health and beauty section of a certain well known online retailer is the teeth whitening pen. Retailing at under £20, it isn’t hard to see why this might be appealing to quite a few people.

With the likes of Love Island and other celebrity programmes helping to promote whiter teeth, anything that does so at this price is a ‘win win’ surely?

As with a lot of things in life, cheap isn’t always good. In today’s blog, our team of Clapham dentists discusses this popular ‘cosmetic tool’.

What is a teeth whitening pen?

As the name suggests, it is a pen-like implement that you use to whiten your teeth. It is convenient and can easily fit into a makeup bag for example.  You then use the pen to remove surface staining from your teeth, helping to make them whiter. In theory at least, it seems a good idea, but how does it work, if at all?

How do they work?

Each pen will vary but some do include a peroxide solution which is known to help whiten your teeth and is used in many professional teeth whitening treatments. The reality is a little more complicated than that however and we will come back to that shortly. Other types don’t include peroxide but create ‘scrubbing bubbles’ which help to lift staining products from the surface of the teeth. These are ideally used straight after eating and before the staining has hardened on the surface of the tooth.

The good and the bad

The good news is that these pens should be fairly harmless. The downside of this is that they are harmless due to the low levels of peroxide used in them. The non peroxide ones will have a very limited effect if they only remove immediate staining. They may be OK for people whose teeth are really white or perhaps to keep newly whitened teeth whiter for a little longer, but for anyone who has discoloured teeth, these will not whiten them much at all.

Even the peroxide pens will be of limited value. Yes, peroxide is an ingredient commonly used in teeth whitening, but because there are potential risks around this ingredient, it’s usage is strictly regulated and any product such as these pens or teeth whitening toothpastes are heavily restricted in the amount of the ingredient that can be used. This is very significantly less than can be used by a qualified dentist, and that difference can be seen in the results that are produced.

Restrictions and downsides

As the pen is used to apply the solution to the teeth, there is a risk with the peroxide versions that irritation will be caused if they come into contact with the gums. Although this may not be severe due to the low quantity of the active ingredient used, it could be enough to make your evening out less comfortable than you would like, and might distract from what is going on around you.

Some of these pens suggest that you don’t eat for an hour or so after using them. This means that especially if you are going out for a meal, you have to be a little careful about when you apply the pen. Perhaps the biggest downside to these pens though is that they won’t reverse significant staining. Consequently any benefits gained will be temporary and only last a short time before needing to be applied again.

Longer term solutions

Whilst we accept that these pens may have their short term uses, they won’t significantly improve teeth that are discoloured and especially those that have become a dull yellow due to age. To whiten teeth that look like this, a professional teeth whitening procedure is your best option. At the Confidental Clinic in Clapham, we offer a customised home teeth whitening treatment that allows you to whiten your teeth at home, rather than within our practice. The whitening ingredient is much stronger with this treatment and will be much more effective, whitening your teeth by up to eight shades.

To minimise the risk of gum irritation or burning, we will provide you with trays into which the gel is placed, which are produced from impressions taken of your own teeth. This not only makes the procedure safer but also improves the comfort factor while you are wearing them.

We understand why people are tempted by cheaper ‘off the shelf’ options, but it really isn’t always a good choice. We are happy to discuss this with you and also discuss the treatment and explain the benefits that you are likely to get from it.

If you would like to have a free initial consultation to discuss this with us, you can arrange an appointment by calling our Clapham dental clinic on 020 7801 9060. We look forward to helping you have whiter teeth and a confident smile!