Having a bright set of pearly whites is a desire everyone has, but is something that seems out of reach to many people who cannot afford to have their chompers professionally whitened by a dentist.
In comes at home teeth whitening kits to rescue! Or do they? There are loads and loads of different companies now releasing teeth whitening kits to use at home, with many more still emerging. They come with the promise that their kits are a cheap, effective, easy to use and safe way of whitening your teeth at home so that you can avoid expensive professional teeth whitening.
It sounds to good to be true doesn’t it? Well, in this post I’ll evaluate whether that’s the case, with specific reference to a teeth whitening kit I was generously sent from SmilePro Worldwide*.
How Teeth Whiteners Work
So essentially, teeth whitening is bleaching – we pretty much all know that. What has traditionally been used as the active ingredient in teeth whiteners is Hydrogen Peroxide. The same reagent that is used to colour your hair, and also the same ingredient that is administered by a dental professional during whitening at a clinic. More recently, there has been some other ingredients that have emerged as ways to brighten your teeth, such as carbamides and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
Basically, the treatment with Hydrogen Peroxide works because it can penetrate porous enamel and releases free radicals (reactive molecules) that attack the discolouration in your teeth and neutralise the stains. The LED lights that you place into your mouth with gel acts as a catalyst to speed up this oxidation process. The light, which is on the same wavelength spectrum as what is used by dentists, works by improving the production of more free radicals to remove stains with faster results, but this has been debated in various studies.
The reason why other ingredients are being targeted as whitening treatments is because of the risks involved with using Hydrogen Peroxide. It can damage the protective enamel of your teeth, which can lead to all sorts of issues like sensitive teeth and in extreme cases, tooth loss. Once enamel is gone, you can’t get it back. It can also cause gum recession if there is frequent and prolonged contact with your gums. Sounds fairly scary, but that’s why regulations are in place in Australia to prevent companies from producing teeth whiteners with more than 6% Hydrogen Peroxide levels, or 18% Carbamide Peroxide, as this is the level deemed safe by the Australian Dental Industry Association (since 2013).
The SmilePro Teeth Whitening Kit
I haven’t used teeth whitening kits like this at home before, so when SmilePro offered to send me one to trial, I thought I’d give it a go fully aware that there can be risks associated with its use.
So, the first thing I did was research what ingredients were actually in the kit. So I jumped on their website and I was surprised to see that the ingredients are not easy to find. Eventually, the only place I found the ingredients listed were in the Terms and Conditions page? Weird. You’d think they would have the ingredients listed clearly and somewhere intuitive on their website. I would honestly never think to look in the Terms and Conditions. The ingredients are clearly listed on the packaging of the kit – but I would prefer to see the ingredients listed clearly on their website and somewhere easy to find for potential buyers to look at the formula before making a decision to purchase. But even on the kit, there is no indication as to how much Hydrogen Peroxide there is, only on their terms and conditions page.
The kit comes with three 3ml syringes filled with the teeth whitening gel, an LED light, a mouth tray, a whitening shade meter and instruction manual. The kit retails for $176, but you can generally get it for a discounted price of $79 on their website. You can also purchase the gel refills for $39.95.
This is the list of ingredients for the kit:
Aqua, Propylene Glycol, Glycerol, Hydrogen Peroxide (6%), Carbomer, Caroxymethyl, EDTA, Poly vinylpyrrolidone (PVP), menthol.
Ingredients are listed in order of concentration, so water makes up most of the formula. Propylene Glycol is a carrier, a humectant that prevents moisture loss of the product. Carbomer is actually another oxidising teeth whitening agent which is apparently a hydrogen peroxide precursor. It doesn’t have the concentration in brackets which it probably should, but we know it’s less than 6% because it comes after hydrogen peroxide. Then there are some binding and thickening agents that increase the viscosity of the product and help with penetration. PVP is an adhesive polymer which absorbs water. Finally, menthol is added for flavouring to give the gel some minty freshness!
Before application, you are meant to brush your teeth with a flouride-free toothpaste. You then apply the gel into the mouth tray and attach the tray to the LED light. Avoiding contact with your gums, the mouth tray is the placed into your mouth. Switch the light on and now wait! The light has a 10 minute timer, and you are meant to repeat the 10 minute treatment for 30-60 mins. Rinse, clean the tray and you are done.
I had issues with the application. Firstly, it’s actually hard to insert the gel into the tray in a way that ensures no contact with the gums. Once you insert the tray, the gel disperses and I did notice some contact with the gums, which is meant to be wiped off – but that isn’t easily done. Second, the mouth tray was large, and I don’t have a large mouth. It takes a fair bit fiddling around and it can get messy. I think these kits would benefit from being able to come with different sized mouth trays. Thirdly, through no fault of the kit, I have a very bad gag reflex, so my version of teeth whitening isn’t glamorous I’ll tell you that. And lastly, I know you’re not meant to eat it, but the gel tastes pretty unpleasant.
I’m not going to show you a before and after photo because one, I am self conscious of my teeth and a close up of my teeth is my worst nightmare and two, because I tried really hard to get consistent lighting with my before and after photos but what I came up with wasn’t comparable and I didn’t want it to be misleading.
What I can say is yes, this worked. But I have reservations. Using the teeth shade scale, originally I was sitting at a 8-9, and I got down to what I think was a 5, maybe 6. I was pleased that my teeth shade had improved, but I had to think about a few things. I never used the treatment for more than 40 minutes, I just had paranoia doing it for an hour. I also didn’t use it everyday, again because of paranoia. All I could think about was the gel I could see contacting my gums and I didn’t want to prolong the contact time or do it too frequently. There are people who claim that this kit has made their teeth super white, down to the first 3 shades but I suspect that they would be using it more frequently and longer for each treatment than I was. That’s the key to better results, but I didn’t want to do it like that.
SmilePro do offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee which is reassuring, but they do not take responsibility for any side effects or ‘unexpected results’ as outlined in their terms and conditions. They also don’t manufacture the product, only distribute it, so who does manufacture it? It’s certainly not listed anywhere that I can find.
While these kits are an effective way to whiten your teeth without spending hundreds of dollars, I can’t help but be skeptical and think it wouldn’t come without a cost and I’m not talking about money. After using a kit for myself, yes it worked – and hydrogen peroxide is an effective whitening agent, I’m just worried about the application process and the contact of the gel with my gums. Also, teeth whitening is addictive, so frequent use of Hydrogen Peroxide may not be the best idea for me. I found the benefits of using this kit would be diminished if I stopped using, so it would have to be a continuous process.
Have you tried teeth whitening kits at home? What were your experiences if so? I’d love to know, so leave a comment!
Alqahtani, M.Q. 2014. Tooth-bleaching procedures and their controversial side effects: A literature review. Saudi Dent J. 26: 33–46.
Baroudi, K. & Hassan, N.A. 2014. The effect of light-activation sources on tooth bleaching. Niger Med J. 55: 363–368.
Dislcaimer : I am no dental professional nor a chemist so please do not take my information as professional advice. As always, do your own research or seek professional opinion.
*This product was kindly sent to me for editorial consideration. The generosity of the providing party has not influenced my opinions.