a woman with beautiful smile after using whitening gel at home
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How to Safely Use a Tooth Whitening Gel at Home

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If you're wondering how to whiten your teeth and how whitening gels work, you're not alone. Yellowed or stained teeth are a fairly common occurrence. Over-the-counter whitening gels or a gel provided by your dentist can help make your teeth appear significantly lighter. With the guidance of your dentist, you can safely and effectively brighten your smile at home.

How Do Whitening Gels Work?

It's natural to be curious or concerned about what's in dental whitening gel and how it works. Whitening gels have gentle bleaching ingredients and are safe for most teeth. Most gels contain ingredients to improve the product's performance and flavour.

Common Ingredients in Whitening Gels


  • Many teeth whiteners include added ingredients to help decrease tooth sensitivity. Two common whitening gel ingredients are potassium nitrate and amorphous calcium phosphate, both shown to reduce sensitivity. However, sensitivity after whitening is usually temporary.

Dental Whitening Candidates

Dental whitening gels lighten teeth and remove stains effectively, but they aren't for everyone. Parents should wait until all of their child's baby teeth have fallen out before whitening, and to carefully read the product label for recommended ages and instructions.

Additionally, it's best for everyone to consult their dentist before using a whitening gel. Teeth with very dark stains, crowns or fillings might not show good results from over-the-counter dental whitening gel products. Your dentist can advise the best way forward.

Tips for Home Use

See your dentist before starting a bleaching treatment with a tooth whitening gel. They can make a custom tray to fit neatly with the contours of your mouth and explain how to properly use the gel. For example, you always need to brush your teeth before applying the treatment gel. Depending on the product, you may need to wear the tray for a few hours during the day or overnight. Your dentist might recommend using the mouth tray for about two weeks to get the desired results. Be careful not to swallow any gel. Gently remove any residue that might be left on your teeth or gums with a cloth, a clean finger or a soft toothbrush, and then rinse your mouth well.

Side Effects of Teeth Whitening Gels

Some people have safety concerns about using whitening products. According to the African Dental Association (SADA),bleaching agents, such as those used in common tooth whitening can cause irritation to the gums. This can happen when the gel is used with an ill-fitting tray or applied incorrectly.

Tooth sensitivity can also occur with teeth whitening, although both irritation and sensitivity usually stop once you're done treating your teeth. The best way to help avoid and prevent these possible side effects is to whiten under the advisement of your dentist.

Using a whitening gel is a good way to make your smile visibly brighter, so ask your dentist if you're a candidate for whitening. To help maintain a whiter smile, floss daily and brush twice a day with a whitening toothpaste. Keep up your regular dental appointments — the polishing action of a professional cleaning treatment is essential for fighting surface stains. With a little work, you can say goodbye to yellowing teeth and hello to a revitalised smile!

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