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Is UV Teeth Whitening Safe?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Everyone deserves to have a beautiful, confident, and healthy smile, so it’s no wonder that there are so many at-home products on the market that help you combat yellow or stained teeth to achieve a brilliant sparkle. But there’s one teeth whitening product that’s gained attention in the past decade among celebrities and social media influencers that’s a bit more high-tech and a bit more expensive: an at-home UV teeth whitening kit. Here, we’ve laid out a few facts on the safety and effectiveness of these types of products, so you can understand how it works before considering it as an option for a whiter smile.

How It Works

These kits are similar to a common in-office teeth whitening treatment, which involves a dental professional applying a peroxide-based whitening gel to your teeth, and placing a blue UV light over the teeth. Together, the gel and light create a system that can expedite the teeth whitening process. And these in-office treatments are effective—according to a study published in the Journal of Conservative Dentistry, light-activated bleaching showed an increase in lightness compared to bleaching done without light. Further, the light-activated process lasted longer.

An at-home kit functions similarly and typically instructs you to apply a whitening gel to your teeth with a pen and then use a portable LED light over your teeth for a few minutes over a period of days. These kits often come with a higher price tag than other at-home whitening solutions, like whitening toothpaste or strips.

Safety of UV Teeth Whitening Kits

You might be wondering: is UV teeth whitening safe? While the American Dental Association does mention that in-office light-activated treatments are an option you could consider for teeth whitening, they do not mention at-home UV light kits as a recommended option. The ADA also notes that tooth sensitivity may be associated with this process when done at the dentist’s office.

Another critical safety consideration: there are no regulations associated with at-home UV light teeth whitening kits. A 2019 article in the Journal of the American Dental Association states that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines for Infection Control “do not include safety recommendations or regulations that are directly related to blue light exposure.” The article also concludes that evidence suggests you should take precautions when using dental curing kits. Further, according to the Oral Health Foundation, regulations on these kits vary from country to country. For instance, kits in Europe cannot legally contain more than 0.1% peroxide, whereas other countries allow for stronger amounts. Plus, some kits sold over the internet may contain extra ingredients that could be potentially harmful.

So, to answer the question initially stated about safety, it’s unclear. Therefore you should avoid using UV light kits at home, as the research isn’t definitive enough to say that it’s safe. Plus, the ADA has not approved this kind of therapy.

Another potential issue in using UV teeth whitening is that there can be extreme user error, resulting in damage and even burns. The ratio of gel to UV exposure varies from kit to kit, and without the consultation of a dentist, you may not know your threshold for sensitivity. What's more, applying too much gel at one time can result in the gel conducting too much of the heat from the UV light, causing gum burns.

What if I injured myself with an at-home UV whitening kit?

If you’ve experienced any injury from a UV whitening kit, don’t panic—your oral health care provider will know what to do. If you’re injured, contact your oral health care provider immediately, and have the kit on hand to provide any information. From there, they will be able to help determine the best treatment.

Luckily, there are plenty of other safe and effective whitening methods available – and they don’t break the bank either!

Teeth Whitening Alternatives

If you want to whiten at home, you’ve got options. One is to choose a toothpaste that contains a whitening ingredient, like hydrogen peroxide. You can use a whitening toothpaste every day for continuous whitening that becomes part of your oral care routine—no extra steps required. Whitening strips and pens are other options, though you should consult with your oral care professional to ensure that this is the safest method for your needs. While these methods won’t be as quick as an in-office treatment, you can take comfort in knowing that they’re safe. But before you go ahead and choose an at-home whitening option, talk to your oral care provider first, and together you can determine the best (and safest) method.

The next time you notice an advertisement or celebrity endorsement for a teeth whitening UV light kit, remember to take it with a grain of salt. With the right at-home treatment or even a treatment via your oral care provider, you can get the star power smile without the risk.