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Debunking At-Home Teeth Whitening Light Devices

If you’re looking for a way to whiten your teeth, there’s no shortage of options. You can do it yourself with at-home products, or have it done professionally. However, if you’re planning on buying a teeth whitening kit online, you should avoid those that come with an LED light that “activates” the whitening gel. Why? Because these lights simply don’t work, and you’ll just be wasting your money. 

What the experts are saying



“They mark the price up way up because they put a little fancy light on there. Now they say this fancy like it activates the hydrogen peroxide, which increases its efficacy and makes it widen your teeth so much faster.

And that's actually, a bunch of load of BS. If you look at research studies, it really shows that there's not really a difference. And if there is a difference, it's so negligible you would never even know it. Save the money and don't buy the ones with the stupid light on there unless you really, really, really want a light. Now there is some specific professional linings that use a very hardcore light to help with, but you're not gonna get that in in a normal setting. So don't even worry about that. Don't even worry about trying to buy anything not the whitening. Those are the different types of whitening.”

  • The Bentist



The idea is that the light activates the gel and whitens your teeth more effectively. And the problem is that there's absolutely no science show that the light does anything. And if you understand peroxide, it is not a light-activated material. You don't need to use light. There's no benefit to the light.

So these things are really gimmicky. And in numerous studies, what you see is that you get the same result with or without the light because the true ingredient is the peroxide gel.”

  • Dr. Matt Nejad

Exploring the claims made about teeth whitening light devices

Most people are familiar with the general concept of teeth whitening, with or without LED lights. In the case of these LED whitening kits, users apply the gel, then hold the light device against their teeth for the recommended time period. According to manufacturers, the light is supposed to activate the whitening ingredient in the gel (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide), resulting in whiter teeth.

This sounds pretty appealing to most consumers, since at-home teeth whitening can take a week or more before the desired results are seen. At-home whitening kits have much lower concentrations of active ingredients compared to what’s used by dentists, to prevent accidental burns if the product isn’t correctly used. This means that, instead of getting your teeth professionally whitened in just a few visits, it can take up to two weeks of daily use to get the same results. 

These at-home LED teeth whitening kits seem to offer a shortcut – get whiter teeth at home, but in less time compared to other teeth whitening kits. Unfortunately, research simply doesn’t back up these claims.

Why the LED lights in at-home whitening kits don’t work

If you look at photos of professional LED teeth whitening, you’ll see a blue light being applied to the person’s teeth. The light is blue because it’s actually UV rays, which have been scientifically demonstrated to make a difference in teeth whitening. 

Looking at photos of at-home teeth whitening kits with a light device, you’ll also see a blue light. However, this blue light comes from a blue LED light bulb, which doesn’t provide UV rays. This is the major difference between at-home LED teeth whitening and in-office LED teeth whitening – and it’s why these gadgets don’t actually work. The gel will still have the expected whitening effect, but the light won’t speed up the process at all.

What if you see these devices being offered by a dentist? No matter who’s selling it, any at-home LED whitening device simply won’t work. The problem is that many people don’t look at the research, and simply trust that these expensive products will do the job. It’s common for dentists to offer at-home whitening systems in addition to in-office treatments, and LED whitening kits could be included. Fortunately, as more dental practices become aware that these products are essentially scams, fewer and fewer of them are offering them to clients.

How does teeth whitening work?

To be clear, the issue isn’t that teeth whitening kits with LED lights don’t produce results. They do work; it’s just that the LED light has no effect on how the whitening gel functions. Someone could get the same results from comparable products such as whitening strips, whitening gels, etc. The question is, how do these products work?

Each teeth whitening product will have a slightly different formulation, but the active ingredient is almost always the same: hydrogen peroxide. This ingredient has been clinically proven to safely whiten teeth when used correctly, and can be found in one form or another in most teeth whitening products.

A closer look at hydrogen peroxide

According to some people, the whitening effect happens when the hydrogen peroxide strips away the outer layer of enamel, revealing the whiter layer below. This is used to explain tooth sensitivity, which can sometimes happen after having your teeth whitened. However, this isn’t how it works at all.

Hydrogen peroxide doesn’t strip away enamel; it bleaches stains. Even though tooth enamel appears to be a perfectly smooth, hard surface, teeth are actually full of tiny pores, making them almost like sponges in a way. This is why they absorb colors from highly pigmented foods, for example. When hydrogen peroxide comes into contact with teeth, it works its way into the pores, allowing it to whiten even deep stains. 

What about sensitivity after whitening – doesn’t this indicate some level of damage to the teeth? There’s some logic to that assumption, but it isn’t actually correct. Sometimes the hydrogen peroxide works its way through the teeth’s pores to the nerves, which can irritate them. After a while, though, the sensitivity typically disappears. If the hydrogen peroxide had literally eaten its way through the enamel to the nerve, the damage would be permanent, and the sensitivity would never go away.

Alternatives to at-home teeth whitening light kits

Just because you can’t do LED teeth whitening at home doesn’t mean you can’t get whiter teeth. These are some of the best ways to whiten your teeth, as recommended by professionals and backed by research.

  • Whitening toothpaste won’t produce dramatic results, but it can make a difference for surface-level stains. It’s also a great way to maintain your newly whitened smile.
  • Whitening strips are available in many different options; some of them are for sensitive teeth, others use stronger formulations for faster results, and so on. They typically require daily use for at least a week, or longer for heavier staining.
  • Customized trays can be purchased from dentists. They’re specifically molded to fit your teeth, ensuring more even coverage compared to whitening strips.
  • Professional whitening at a dentist’s office will give you the fastest results, because the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the whitening gel is much higher. While this wouldn’t be suitable for at-home use, it’s completely safe when applied by a qualified dentist. This is why a single in-office whitening session can produce noticeable results, but it would take multiple applications to get the same effect with at-home products.

There are plenty of options for at-home teeth whitening – and LED light devices aren’t one of them. Whether you want a whiter smile for a special occasion, or you just want to maintain your pearly whites, a little research will help you get the results you want.