How Do Teeth Whitening Pens Work?


We’ve all been hearing about the amazing power of whitening strips to give your teeth a healthy, dazzling smile. But if you’re tired of using those super-expensive and inconvenient over-the-counter products that don’t work very well at whitening stains, it’s time for an alternative.

Read on to find out how one type of toothpaste can do everything, from removing plaque and stain buildup to brightening stained or discolored teeth.

You’ve seen those commercials where a tooth-whitening gel is used to reveal brighter, whiter teeth. But how does it work? And do you need the whitening pen if your teeth are just stained?

Do you want a bright smile that will attract attention from anyone who sees your reflection in a mirror or window? If so, you may be interested in learning more about using a teeth whitening pen. This handy device can help give your smile an extra boost — and its popularity has grown over time as people become more aware of their smiles’ appearance. It’s easy to see why. A little bit goes a long way when you’re dealing with something as sensitive as your mouth and teeth.

Teeth whitening pens contain ingredients similar to what you’ll find in many everyday household products like toothpaste, gels, and other cleansers. However, these whiteners generally offer more concentrated formulas than most foods, drinks, and cosmetics.

The active ingredient typically found in a teeth whitening pen is carbamide peroxide, which breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and urea after mixing with water. Hydrogen peroxide works by removing stains on the surface of the teeth while also making them appear cleaner and healthier overall. Urea helps remove stains deeper within the enamel layer of the teeth.

Whitening pens come in various colors, including blue, green, and red. They range in price from $15 to $50, depending upon the model and color. Some brands have multiple models available for different prices. While some people prefer professional dental services such as a visit to the dentist, others choose to save money on expensive procedures and opt instead for a quick trip to the drugstore.

Read on to learn what exactly happens inside the package when you take out that shiny new teeth whitening pen.

What Are Teeth Whitening Pens?

A teeth whitening pen looks much like a small tube of lipstick. You squeeze a dollop of product onto a cotton swab and then insert this into one end of the pen. At the opposite end, there’s usually a cap with a nozzle to control the amount of liquid that comes through. Once you start applying the solution, hold up the pen at various angles and notice how the color changes inside. As the product reacts with your teeth, you can view the results of your efforts in real-time.

The best part is that because the pen contains only a tiny amount of product, you won’t be left feeling greasy or sticky once you get back home. These pens often come with a travel case that makes carrying the product even more accessible. Many companies market their pens as safe enough to handle without special training. In addition, they claim that the risk of irritation is minimal since the pen doesn’t release too much product all at once.

We’ll discuss the ingredients found in these pens on the next page.

Ingredients Of Teeth Whitening Pens

While the exact formula varies between brands, most include sodium hexametaphosphate (SHMP) as a thickener and preservative. SHMP prevents bacteria growth and keeps the procedure fresh longer [sources: Mayo Clinic, WebMD]. Other ingredients commonly found in teeth whitening pens include:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate (ALS)
  • Triethanolamine (TEA), a pH adjuster and surfactant
  • Phenol ethoxylated nonylphenol polyeth sulfate (NPEPS), a biocide that kills germs
  • Fragrance

Some brands contain additional ingredients to improve the effectiveness of the pen’s formula, such as methylparaben and propylparaben, which prevent bacterial growth and fight against fungi [sources: Consumer Reports, FDA, University of Maryland Medical School].

If you want to know whether you should use a particular brand, check the label carefully before buying. For example, while some studies show that CPP-Ws (a type of teeth whitening pen) are effective, Consumer Reports indicates that other brands don’t produce the same results.

Next, read on to learn how to apply the solution.

How To Use Teeth Whitening Pens

Before you begin, remember that although teeth whitening pens are relatively inexpensive, they aren’t cheap. To ensure maximum benefit, make sure to follow directions closely. Before getting started, put on gloves, and avoid touching your face or eyes until you finish rinsing off the pen.

First, rinse your entire mouth thoroughly under warm water to use a teeth whitening pen. Then gently wipe away any excess saliva and dry your mouth completely. Next, lightly coat both sides of your upper and lower front teeth surfaces with the solution. Let the pen sit for approximately two minutes to react with the coating. Rinse your mouth again thoroughly to remove any residue. Finally, brush your teeth according to your routine, using soft bristles.

For best results, continue using the pen every day for several weeks. Afterward, you can reapply the solution if needed. Make sure to consult your dental hygienist or dentist for further instructions.

Now let’s look at side effects.

Side Effects

Overall, teeth whitening pens seem to cause few problems for users. Most mild reactions occur shortly after application. Swelling, gum irritation and soreness are among the most common complaints. Fortunately, these symptoms fade quickly. Tooth sensitivity may also develop from chemical exposure. People with latex allergies shouldn’t use formaldehyde products, a known carcinogen.

In general, however, teeth whitening pens pose less danger than some other popular bleaching methods. Dentists recommend using strips and trays because they cover larger areas of the mouth than a pen does. Also, the bleach in these methods releases chemicals slowly over time, rather than all at once. Finally, these products require professional oversight during treatment. By contrast, teeth whitening pens can be used at home without worry.

It isn’t uncommon for people to experience allergic reactions to teeth whitening pens. More than 50 percent of people report experiencing burning sensations during application. If you feel pain or discomfort during or after use, stop immediately and consult your doctor.

Ready to try a teeth whitening pen now? Keep reading to discover potential contraindications.

Who Should Not Use Teeth Whitening Pens?

People with allergies to certain ingredients — especially SLS, NPEPS, and fragrance — shouldn’t use teeth whitening pens. Additionally, people with periodontal disease, heart conditions, diabetes, liver or kidney failure, hypoglycemia, epilepsy, retinitis pigmentosa, and cancer should avoid having treatments involving bleach.

Those taking medications that thicken the blood, or suffering from severe gum inflammation, should consult with their doctors before undergoing a teeth whitening pen treatment.

Finally, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children younger than 18 should talk to their parents or guardians about using teeth whitening pens. Children younger than 12 may be exposed to high levels of hydrogen peroxide, leading to eye damage.

Now that you’re armed with information, go ahead and buy yourself a new set of pearly whites. Remember that proper brushing and flossing remain essential to healthy teeth no matter what method you select.

According to the American Dental Association, almost half of Americans aged 20 and older suffer from some degree of bad breath. Bad breath occurs when food particles trap bacteria deep within the throat, causing foul odors. Good oral hygiene reduces this problem, but consider visiting your dentist if it persists.

Jason Smith

I am a Marine who now works as a Web Developer. I have five US States left to visit. I like whiskey, wine, and coffee, soaking in hot springs or in my hot tub.

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