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Teeth Whitening Ingredients | What Makes Your Pearly Whites Glow?

For some time now, consumers' demand for whiter teeth and charming smiles has intensified. Professional tooth whitening, also known as bleaching, is still a popular cosmetic procedure that can use a wide range of techniques and applications to produce whiter tooth enamel.

Another common method is to use a custom-made tray for home whitening. Patients use it to apply professional-strength bleaching gel, for both night and day.

Many over-the-counter whitening products — whitening pens, patches, gels, mouthwashes, chewing gum, or films — are also widely available for self-use at home. But what are the primary ingredients in these solutions that lead to whiter teeth?

That's precisely what we plan to reveal today. When you know what's most effective in whitening teeth, you can be sure to choose the best — and safest — products.

equipment for oral hygiene

How Teeth Whitening Works

First, it's helpful to gain an understanding of how teeth whitening actually works. Unlike the teeth cleaning which we explained here, teeth whitening is defined as any process that makes your teeth look whiter than what's typical for you.  

To do this, there are usually two primary means: bleach and non-bleach whitening products. The terms "whitening" and "bleaching" are often used interchangeably. However, the Food and Drug Administration states that the term "bleaching" can only be used when the product actually contains bleach.

When a product removes food or debris from your teeth without using any bleaching agents, it is considered a simple "whitening" treatment.

The Power of Peroxide

Bleaching products contain peroxides, which are typically either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Both can remove staining on the surface and in deep layers of teeth, and make teeth lighter than their natural color.

The active ingredient in tooth whiteners provided by dentists or pharmacies is peroxide (carbamide or hydrogen). Hydrogen peroxide is a true bleaching agent, while carbamide peroxide eventually breaks down and becomes hydrogen peroxide.

ingredients label at the back of the bottle

Higher Concentration

Professional dental bleaching products are much stronger than those you can buy over the counter. Furthermore, whitening agents used by dentists may contain anywhere from 35% to 45% peroxide.

Store-bought whitening kits, on the other hand, usually have only 7% peroxide Some examples of these types of kits are whitening strips or whitening trays.

Other ingredients in dentists' whitening products and some over-the-counter whitening agents include:

  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Added flavors
  • Carbomer
  • Glycerin

You may find other ingredients, as well, but these are the most common. Keep in mind that the included ingredients depend on the type of whitening treatments you choose.

blue tube with white paste

Whitening at the Dentist (Bleaching Agent/UV Light)

Professional whitening can be done in the dentist's office in about an hour. This professional procedure involves using a tooth whitening gel containing anywhere between 25% and 40% hydrogen peroxide.

Your dentist then aims a special UV lamp at your teeth for a total of three times at 20-minute intervals each, all while reapplying the gel during each interval.

Laser Treatment

Some dentists may also use lasers, which are reported to speed up or "activate" the whitening process. Your dentist will use a protective barrier during the whitening process to keep your lips, tongue, and gums away from the whitening gel, leaving it only on your teeth.

For the best results, your dentist will likely provide you with a whitening tray suitable for your teeth so that you can use the bleaching solution for follow-up treatments at home.

The cost of light treatment for teeth whitening in the dentist’s office is about $500, while the cost of custom trays can be between $300 and $400.

Let's discuss whitening trays in further detail to give you a better understanding of what they are and how they work.

treatment at the dentist

Whitening with Trays (Bleaching Agent)

Teeth whitening tray is a method of home teeth whitening. Dentists recommend taking home whitening kits issued by dentists because they have a higher percentage of bleach. And because of this, you're more likely to get better results.

Your dentist will customize the mold for your teeth and make a suitable application tray made of flexible plastic. The custom trays ensure that the bleach is in close contact with your teeth for best results.

Moreover, they prevent saliva from diluting the bleach while minimizing the amount of bleach that may leak and may irritate your gums. Most over-the-counter trays do not fit the teeth accurately. A poor fit can actually result in bleaching leaking out and causing discomfort to your gums.

Teeth-bleaching products are typically stored in a syringe and added to the tray before use or pre-loaded in the tray. Your dentist can also adjust the concentration of the bleach and provide you with a desensitizer before or after use. The kit usually provides enough gel for a two-week treatment once a year, plus enough for several modifications in between.

A kit for teeth whitening

Whitening at Home (Various)

Over-the-counter teeth whitening kits have become popular due to their low price and ease of use. However, they contain less peroxide than the whitening products used by dentists. With that said, some people may experience good results, even though it takes more time.

Over-the-counter whitening kits and products are likely to include whitening trays, whitening strips, mouthwashes, and different kinds of toothpaste. If you're on a budget and prefer to perform your whitening by yourself, home whitening options usually cost between $25 and $100.

It's worth mentioning that the American Dental Association still recommends that whitening under the supervision of a dentist is the safest method for tooth enamel. The products used by dentists are also more effective in removing deep stains.

That said, it's important to weigh your options if you prefer a more natural approach to teeth whitening. There are many safe and effective tooth whitening options that remove surface stains without the use of harsh chemicals.

Whatever whitening product you choose, be sure to follow its direction to the letter to ensure the best results. In doing so, even those with tooth sensitivity can enjoy a brighter smile.

ingredients at home

Now that you've seen some common whitening techniques and the ingredients they use, let's continue the discussion and explore a few more.

Whitening with Rinses (Peroxide)

One of the latest products that claim to whiten teeth is a whitening mouthwash or whitening rinse. As well as freshening your breath, reducing plaque, and minimizing gum disease, these products also include bleaching agents like peroxides to help whiten your teeth.

Just like mouthwash, rinse your mouth twice a day with whitening rinses before brushing your teeth. Most whitening rinses claim that you may have to wait as long as 12 weeks before you see results. It's worth noting that some experts believe that using mouthwash for a short period of time is not enough to really see any changes.

a woman rinsing her mouth


Whitening with Strips (Peroxide)

One of the most popular methods of whitening teeth is to use tooth whitening strips, which are made of thin, flexible plastic and coated with a low concentration of bleach. The strips are packaged and attached to the teeth and easily adapt to the shape.

They can be used in other activities, and you simply discard them when the application time is up (about 30 minutes). You use most strips twice a day for two weeks.

These strips are more effective than whitening toothpaste (more on that in a moment), but they can irritate sensitive teeth and gums. If you use whitening strips and experience such side effects, inform your dentist and they can direct you as to the best solution for your needs.

Strips are generally not as effective as whitening trays because saliva can seep under the strips and make and thin the bleach. What's more, strips can easily fall off your teeth. And depending on how wide your smile is, strips might not cover all of your teeth.

a person with medical gloves unpacking stripes for teeth whitening

Due to the low peroxide concentration, most strips are considered safe. Some strips contain chlorine dioxide, however, which can damage tooth enamel. As such, it's best to avoid these kinds.

Whitening with Toothpaste (Peroxide)

Most kinds of toothpaste contain gentle abrasives, such as baking soda, calcium carbonate, silica, and aluminum oxide. These ingredients are mildly effective in removing stains on the surface of your teeth.

Whitening toothpaste, on the other hand, does not contain bleaching agents like those found in professional whitening options. They do, however, typically contain additional chemicals or polishing agents that can help remove extrinsic stains.

As such, whitening toothpaste can't remove intrinsic (internal) stains. This toothpaste may also be more abrasive than what's generally accepted by dentists. What's more, most whitening toothpaste can only whiten teeth by a single shade.

paste on the toothbrush

Need a Brighter Smile Now?

As you can see, most ingredients found in whitening products take a while to be effective. So, what do you do when you need your teeth whiter right away? Thanks to Dr. Brite's Advanced Whitening Kit, you can enjoy a whiter smile in less than 30 minutes.

This proprietary formula uses safe and effective ingredients (read about the dangers of Propylene Glycol) that leave your teeth looking white and bright. From coffee to red wine, your surface stains are quickly reduced for a healthier-looking smile.