Having a brighter and whiter smile doesn’t just improve our appearance—it improves our confidence, too. So it’s no wonder we have so many over-the-counter whitening products beyond just whitening toothpaste. One such product is a teeth whitening pen, which could be added to your oral care routine to enhance the brightness and whiteness of your teeth. Here, we’ll discuss what they are, how to use them, and their effectiveness.
Teeth Whitening Pens 101
Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications
Teeth can be stained from coloured foods, such as berries, red sauces, coffee, tea, sirap, dark-colored sodas, and cigarettes. Like whitening toothpaste, a teeth whitening pen fights these common stains—but it differs from toothpaste because of its size, portability, and general convenience.
Structurally, they are thin, plastic tubes that house a whitening gel and are designed to be small and portable. These pens can help improve your teeth' color by removing leftover stains on each tooth's surface. These whitening products often produce visible results quickly—sometimes, even after your first round of use.
Teeth whitening pens are ideal if you want to add a last-minute touchup to your teeth’s whiteness, perhaps because you have a special event coming up or want to add some sparkle in a short amount of time. And don’t be ashamed of wanting to brighten up your smile; frustration with teeth color is quite common; according to a 2016 article in Operative Dentistry, over one-third of Americans are dissatisfied with the color of their teeth. So if you’re looking for a quick and simple method for brightening your smile, a teeth whitening pen could be a great option.
So, how do teeth whitening pens work? Like most over-the-counter teeth whitening products, teeth whitening pens typically contain one of two bleaches: hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. According to the American Dental Association in the United States, these tooth bleaches break stains into smaller pieces. That, in turn, makes the stain less concentrated and make your teeth look brighter. It’s worth noting that, according to a 2016 study in Operative Dentistry, there is no significant difference in these two bleaches’ effectiveness, so a pen containing either bleach should be a good option. If you’re interested in using a teeth whitening pen or are curious about other types of teeth whitening methods, chat with your oral care provider first to discuss the best option for your needs.
The main benefit of teeth whitening pens is convenience—unlike whitening trays and strips, a whitening pen is portable and small enough to fit in your pocket or purse so that you can take it on the go. Another benefit of teeth whitening pens is that they’re relatively quick and straightforward to use. While instructions may vary from product to product, the application mainly involves a few seconds of twisting and applying—that’s it!
When it comes to these pens' effectiveness, it really depends on your type of discoloration and the application process. First, not all stains are created equal: these bleaching agents will likely whiten yellow stains but probably won’t whiten brown or grey stains. Also, this whitening method will not work on crowns, veneers, or fillings. It’s also important to closely follow the instructions, as the bleaching agents must remain on your teeth for a certain amount of time for the peroxides to interact with your stain, so you’ll have to avoid eating, rinsing, and drinking after you apply. This can be hard—but stay strong; it’ll be worth it!
That being said, if you’re using your teeth whitening pen correctly on yellowing teeth, you should see quick results. If you’re looking for a more significant boost to your teeth’s brightness, your dentist may have more powerful options, as these over-the-counter products typically contain a less concentrated amount of bleach than you would receive at the dentist’s office. Again—talk to your oral care provider about the best type of teeth whitening method.
Instructions will likely have you use it twice daily. Here’s how a teeth whitening pen typically works:
- First, start by brushing your teeth with a soft-bristle toothbrush.
- After a thorough brushing, remove the top cap of the pen and twist the bottom of the pen until you see the gel on the brush tip.
- Then, apply a thin layer of whitening gel to each tooth’s surface, making sure the entire tooth’s surface is in contact with the whitening gel.
- Finally, don’t rinse. The product needs to stay on your teeth to work.
Sometimes, you may experience tooth sensitivity due to peroxide in the whitener pushing through your enamel and making contact with dentin, which may irritate your tooth’s nerve. But fear not—because teeth whitening pens have low doses of bleach, this type of sensitivity is typically mild and temporary. But if the sensitivity feels like too much to handle, talk to your dental care provider.
You deserve a whiter and brighter smile, and teeth whitening pens can make it easy to achieve. If quick and convenient teeth whitening is your goal, then this might be the right choice for you. To make regular improvements that stay with you, follow the directions of the product you use, and you should be on your way to a brighter, sparkling smile.