Drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and aging can all cause your teeth to take on a dingy, yellowish tint. Teeth whitening has become an incredibly popular treatment for adults, and as the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry notes, it is the treatment most people would pick to improve their smiles. But not all teeth whitening procedures are the same. Some in-office treatments use a teeth whitening light, which is thought to speed the bleaching process. There's some concern about using a UV light to help bleach the teeth, as it might not be particularly safe or effective.
How Teeth Whitening Works
Teeth whitening treatments can be classified into three categories: professionally applied, prescribed by a dentist, or purchased over-the-counter (OTC).
Teeth whitening performed in a dentist's office usually uses a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide than products designed for at-home use, whether they are available OTC or are prescribed by a dentist. As a review of studies published in the Nigerian Medical Journal (NMJ) notes, in-office peroxide treatments often contain a hydrogen peroxide concentration between 15 and 40 percent, significantly higher than the 5 to 6 percent concentration available in OTC products.
Does a Teeth Whitening Light Work?
UV light is thought to speed the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide, thus accelerating the whitening process. A study published in the Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice reviewed the safety and effectiveness of a variety of teeth whitening processes, including the use of UV light to whiten teeth. In examining the use of a "blue light with a wave length between 480 nm and 520 nm," during the whitening process, the study suggests that using a light to activate the peroxide had no real added benefit.
The NMJ found conflicting studies that supported and refuted the effectiveness of UV light. The review suggests that a number of factors could lead to the mixed results, including how yellow the teeth were when bleached and how long the bleaching agent was left on the teeth. The researchers conclude the more yellow the teeth were at the beginning of treatment and the longer the bleach was left on the teeth, the more dramatic the results would be. The team also concludes that using a light activator did not improve results.
Is a Teeth Whitening Light Safe?
Along with questions surrounding the effectiveness of UV light to whiten the teeth, it's worth questioning the safety of such treatments. The NMJ notes that the use of light "may not be justified due to the risks involved." Some risks include the burning of soft tissue, gum irritation, pulp damage and increased tooth sensitivity.
The UV lights emitted by the sun and tanning beds are well-known to be harmful to your skin. What about UV lights and teeth whitening? Since whitening procedures with lights have questionable results, it may be best to skip them altogether just to be safe.
What Other Options Do You Have for Whitening Your Teeth?
If you're considering teeth whitening, it's a good idea to consult with your dentist first to discuss the safety and effectiveness of various treatments. He or she can recommend the treatment that will provide the best results under the safest conditions. Depending on the state of your teeth and your budget, an over-the-counter, at-home whitening treatment might be a better option for you compared to in-office whitening.
After getting your teeth whitened, either through an at-home process or in the dentist's chair, there are ways to maintain your brighter smile, like brushing with a whitening toothpaste. Colgate Optic White High Impact White, for example, is enamel-safe whitening that's good for daily use and can result in four shades visibly whiter teeth.
It's only natural to want whiter, brighter teeth. Finding a way to get a brighter smile safely will help you look and feel great in the long run.