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Lights Out for Teeth Whitening: Are Whitening Lights Really Effective?

Lots of other in-office whitening treatments use a light or a laser during the whitening process. You've probably seen commercials for these kinds of teeth whiteners. Or maybe you've even seen kiosks in the mall where they'll use a light to whiten your teeth. Are these lights and lasers really effective, though?

The answer is no. Current research shows that hydrogen peroxide alone (the whitening agent used in Opalescence Boost) is effective in whitening teeth, and that light activation adds no additional benefit. 1 Here are some quotes from some studies that found it's better to whiten without a light. (We geek out over this kind of stuff.)

  • In-Office Vital Tooth Bleaching—What Do Lights Add? (Zoom!, Xtra Boost)

    The clinical data indicate all three systems tested lightened 83 contralateral pair of anterior teeth to nearly the same degree of 1.6 to 1.8 combined value chroma…with or without the use of accessory lights.

    Hein DK, Ploeger BJ, Hartup JK, Wagstaff RS, Palmer TM, Hansen LD. In-office vital tooth bleaching—what do lights add? Compend Contin Educ Dent. 2003;24(4A):340-52.
  • Clinical Evaluation of Chemical and Light-Activated Tooth Whitening Systems (BriteSmile, Xtra Boost)

    “The use of light did not demonstrate any benefit over the chemically activated tooth whitening systems after a 2-week recall.”

    Kugel G, Papathanasiou A, Williams AJ 3rd, Anderson C, Ferreira S. Clinical evaluation of chemical and light-activated tooth whitening systems. Compend Contin Educ. 2006;27(1)54-62.
  • In Vitro Efficacy and Risk for Adverse Effects of Light-Assisted Tooth Bleaching

    “…optical radiation did not improve bleaching efficacy relative to bleaching without irradiation. The use of optical radiation in tooth bleaching poses a health risk to the client and violates radiation protection regulations. Therefore, we will advise against light-assisted tooth bleaching.”

    Bruzell EM, Johnsen B, Aalerud TN, Dahl JE, Christensen T. Photochem. In vitro efficacy and risk for adverse effects of light-assisted tooth bleaching. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2009;8(3):377-85.
  • Masters of Esthetic Dentistry

    According to Van Haywood, “Various types of lights and lasers were claimed to simplify and shorten the bleaching technique, although the research to date has shown the contrary…Use of a light does not alter the final outcome and may give an illusion of whitening owing to dehydration.”

    Haywood, V. New bleaching considerations compared with at-home bleaching. Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry. 2003;15(3):184-187.
  • Colorimetric Assessment of Laser and Home Bleaching Techniques

    According to a study at the University of Iowa, “The recommended one-time application of laser activated hydrogen peroxide did not demonstrate any perceivable color change.”

    Jones AH, Diaz-Arnold AM, Vargas MA, Cobb DS. Colorimetric assessment of laser and home bleaching techniques. J Esthet Dent. 1999;11(2):87-94.

By choosing an in-office whitening system that does not require a light, you can get the whitening results you're looking for.

  1. www.drbicuspid.com