What Is Tooth Whitening?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on July 23, 2021
3 min read

If you’ve ever been captivated by someone's smile, you know the importance of quality dental care. When it comes to dental care, tooth whitening is one of the most requested dental treatments. Most people have some form of tooth staining from coffee, wine, and other daily habits. 

LED tooth whitening is an increasingly popular method of whitening that involves using LED lights to enhance the effects of tooth-bleaching gels for a whiter smile.

The demand for effective tooth-whitening methods is on the rise. There are many common causes of tooth stains, including:

  • foods like tea, coffee, wine, or dark berries;
  • medications or health conditions;
  • past infection or trauma to the tooth; and
  • natural aging.

No matter what the cause of tooth staining, many people are eager to find a tooth-whitening method that works. LED tooth whitening is a popular, noninvasive option.

LED tooth whitening builds on the more traditional tooth-whitening method whereby a bleaching agent such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide is used. First, the bleaching agent is applied to your teeth, and an LED light, laser, or halo light is then directed at your teeth. LED lights speed up the tooth-bleaching process by helping the peroxide to break down faster, forming free radicals that whiten the teeth. 

It’s no secret that tooth whitening makes your smile brighter, but is it good for your teeth? Research shows that, while whitening makes your teeth look better, the cosmetic procedure can be harsh and potentially hurt your dental health.

Studies show that people who use LED tooth whitening often feel increased tooth and gum sensitivity. People who get in-home or in-office tooth whitening treatments can become sensitive to heat and cold after using some bleaching products. 

Studies also show that frequent or excessive bleaching can damage teeth and gums. To reduce the risk of conditions like hypersensitivity and demineralization, use LED tooth whitening only under the supervision of your dental health professional.

Like any dental treatment, LED tooth whitening has pros and cons. Some of the cons of LED tooth whitening include the following.

  • Tooth and gum sensitivity. Studies show that sensitivity is common after bleaching, especially after LED tooth-whitening procedures. Some people felt more sensitivity of their teeth and gums in the 24 hours following the procedure. If you have sensitive teeth, LED tooth whitening may not be for you.
  • Unsatisfactory results. While LED tooth whitening shows promise, some studies suggest that LED lights improve bleaching only slightly or not at all for some people. 
  • Short-term effects. If you enjoy coffee, tea, or wine, you may be unhappy with the long-term results of your tooth whitening. For both LED and traditional whitening methods, results may last for only one month if you expose your teeth to food and drinks that cause tooth staining. However, you can make the results last longer if you choose your snacks and drinks carefully.
  • Expensive treatment. One of the biggest disadvantages of in-office whitening treatments is the cost. Fortunately, the expense can often be minimized if you choose a safe, at-home treatment. 

Don’t worry, LED tooth whitening offers plenty of positives, too! Here are some of the pros of LED tooth whitening:

  • Short treatment time. Even if LED lights speed up the whitening process by only a small amount, the added convenience is undeniable. LED lights show promise when it comes to making the most of whitening results. The quicker treatment time means you will spend less time in the dentist’s chair or waiting for your at-home treatment to be done. 
  • Beautiful teeth. People are more aware of the appearance of their teeth than ever and are looking for the best ways to whiten them. Tooth whitening can help noticeably improve the appearance of your teeth over time. 
  • A boost in confidence. You’re not imagining that confidence boost when you notice a whiter smile in the mirror. Studies show that tooth whitening can have a positive effect on your mood, confidence, and even quality of life‌.

A wide range of LED lights and lasers are available for both in-office and at-home whitening treatments. LED lights and tooth whitening agents can be harsh on your teeth, and it’s best for them to be done by a professional who is trained in LED tooth whitening.

Before beginning LED tooth whitening or any dental procedure, always consult a dental professional you trust.