Do teeth whitening pens work?

2014.11.12

I got an email from Living Social for teeth whitening pens for under $20. The ad says that the regular price is over $100, so I am guessing that these must work really well. Do they? – Meghan

Meghan – The results you will get from a pen for teeth whitening depend on several factors:

  1. The cause of the stains in your teeth – Depending on the cause of the stains in your teeth, the whitening gel may not whiten them at all. In some cases, it can actually make the stains worse.
  2. The gel – Type of gel and the strength of the gel in the pen determine how white your teeth will get. Some gels will only remove surface stains. If stains are embedded in your teeth, you will see limited results. Additionally, some pens only paint the teeth white. These painting pens contain no ingredients to break down stains in your teeth.
  3. The means of keeping the gel on your teeth – Customized whitening trays keep bleaching gel pressed against your teeth so the gel will penetrate them. Customized trays also protect your gums from irritation or burning by the gel. When you apply bleaching gel with a whitening pen and no trays are used, you will lose some of the gel between your inner lip and teeth. The gel might even irritate your lips and gums. Much of the gel will be lost, so your teeth won’t get as white as with custom trays.
  4. The source of the whitening pen – Some dentists provide whitening pens after professional whitening treatment. These pens are effective in helping you maintain a brilliantly white smile. But they are not used to whiten your teeth from the start. In-office or take-home treatment with professional-strength gel and supervision by the dentist are completed first.

Before you whiten your teeth, we recommend that you ask your dentist to examine them to anticipate the results you will receive and to determine if this is the right treatment to brighten your smile. You can also ask your dentist how he or she can make teeth whitening affordable for you.

This post is sponsored by Lowell, MA dentist Dr. Michael Szarek.