Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

The Bright Stuff: Whitening–don’t get blinded by the light.

Illustration by Stephen Haas.

You may have seen them: celebrity ads on Facebook for a home tooth-whitening system that uses light. And you may wonder—is that safe and effective?

It should come as no surprise that tooth whitening is a hot topic. Whether you are looking for a professional whitening treatment from a dentist or a DIY, at-home system, there are a lot of choices out there. The internet is full of products that promise all sorts of whitening, brightening, dazzling, glowing, zooming, booming, snowing, sparkling and shining results.

For a premium price, many treatments and products offer premium results via light driven “power” whitening. The illumination can come from sitting under a lamp at a dental office or from an over-the-counter device that is inserted into the mouth or connected to a mouthpiece. The idea is that the light activates a whitening gel to make it more effective. Don’t get blinded by the light—the truth is it does nothing. Save your money.

Whitening works when a hydrogen peroxide or similar-type gel oxidizes stain from your teeth. Different factors can determine the effectiveness, including the composition and strength of the gel, the type and fit of the tray, and the application method. However, research has shown that light has no effect. Older whitening lights and lasers designed to create “thermal” activation could overheat teeth and pose an increased risk of sensitivity or damage. More modern lights are often LED types that offer nothing more than a placebo effect.

Both professional and at-home whitening options can have value and are often relatively safe and effective. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t go off brand or look for the cheapest deal on internet. Find a name you trust. These products are more likely to be tested and quality controlled.
  • Get the OK from your dentist. Make sure you are free and clear of any dental condition that would make whitening harmful.
  • Avoid lights, secret home remedies, and other promises that seem too good to be true.

Keep Smiling,
Dr. Sleuth

Our Tooth Sleuth, Dr. Josh Capozzi, does most of his sleuthing at Capozzi Dental in Etters.

For more information on recommended whitening products and treatments, visit

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