As people are becoming conscious of their external appearance, the demand for teeth whitening procedures has increased rapidly. Teeth whitening has become a simplified procedure with the options of either getting it done in a professional dental clinic or at home.

But have you ever looked at the working of the whitening gel that you apply on your teeth? How does a whitening gel turn your yellow teeth into pearly white color?

Most of the whitening gels contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide along with specific flavoring agents to bleach the teeth gently without damaging the tooth structure.

Whether you have discolored teeth or stains of coffee, brushing and flossing cannot always provide you with a bright smile. Dental whitening gels can bring you the desired white smile.

Let’s dive into the article to learn about the mechanism of working of dental whitening gels and how you can maintain your pearly whites.

What does a teeth whitening gel contain?

The common ingredients that a teeth whitening gel contains are carbamide peroxide, potassium nitrate, amorphous calcium phosphate, and some flavoring agents.

Carbamide Peroxide

It is an essential ingredient used in the whitening gel. The primary purpose of carbamide peroxide is to act as a bleaching agent and whiten the tooth surface.

When applied to the tooth surface, it reacts with the stains and discolorations to bleach the areas and whiten them. (1)

Potassium nitrate and amorphous calcium phosphate

Both these ingredients have a symbolic role that’s is to reduce tooth sensitivity to the bleaching process. Potassium nitrate is commonly used in toothpaste that relieves tooth sensitivity as well.

Amorphous calcium phosphate plays a dual role by reducing the tooth sensitivity and also acting as a catalyst to help the absorption of carbamide peroxide into the tooth surface to allow even whitening and long-lasting effects.

How does it work?

When the carbamide peroxide comes in contact with the tooth surface, it immediately breaks down into two components that are hydrogen peroxide and urea.

Hydrogen peroxide produces by this process acts as a bleaching agent. It reacts with the enamel, stains, and discolorations present on the tooth and starts the process of teeth whitening.

The shade and the time required to get the desired result depends on the concentration of hydrogen peroxide present in the gel being used. (2)

Hydrogen peroxide changes the chemical structure of the tooth surface and removes the stains and the discoloration from the tooth leaving them white and bright in color.

Types of teeth whitening gel

There are typically two types of teeth whitening gels that are categorized based on their rate of action on the tooth surface.

Slow acting gels

The dentists generally recommend slow acting gels for home use. It is delivered after two dental appointments.

In the first appointment, the dentist takes an impression of your mouth to fabricate a tray. The tray along with the whitening gel kit is delivered in the second appointment.

These gels are suitable for at-home use and can be used regularly to whiten the teeth slowly. These gels contain 10% of carbamide peroxide which later breaks down on the application and produces 3.5% of hydrogen peroxide.

Quick acting gels

Quick acting gels are generally the solutions used by the dentist for a professional dental whitening procedure carried out in a dental clinic.

As the name suggests, the results are instant and required single to two sittings usually. These gels contain a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide.

The gels used by the dentist in the clinic comprises around 25-40% of hydrogen peroxide which provides instant teeth whitening on the application.

A dental whitening procedure may take up to an hour to get the desired results. This is because, at such a high concentration, the hydrogen peroxide loses half of its bleaching property.

Hence, it takes double the time to achieve the desired shade. (3)

Who needs teeth whitening?

Teeth whitening though is a safe method to lighten the teeth shade and remove the stains from the tooth surface, it is not recommended for children with primary teeth.

It is advised to at least wait till all the permanent teeth, especially the front teeth, have erupted. Permanent teeth differ in color as compared to the primary teeth.

So, it becomes essential to let them erupt entirely and then decide the need for a teeth whitening procedure.

Always consult a dentist before buying an over the counter whitening gel. A dentist can examine the condition of your teeth and may recommend the suitable option for you to try at home.

The home whitening gels should be used under the guidance of a dentist. A whitening treatment at home typically lasts from 2 to 4 weeks.

What can you do to maintain the whitening?

Once you’ve undergone a teeth whitening procedure and have completed the treatment, it becomes crucial to maintain the whiteness of the teeth.

You can try some of these tips to protect your teeth from staining.

  • Avoid certain foods and beverages that tend to stain your teeth quickly, for example, tea, coffee, berries, and tomatoes
  • If you wish to consume the above-mentioned beverages, use a straw to avoid the contact of the drink with the tooth surface
  • Quit smoking to protect the teeth from discoloration and staining and maintain the whiteness of the teeth

Take away message

It is essential to know any dental product that you use on your teeth. There are a variety of brands and kinds of teeth whitening kits available in the market.

But before buying any dental whitening kit, always take advice from your dentist to use the best product that can help you achieve the desired results.

Choose the right product, follow the instructions to use whitening gels at home and remove the stains quickly and effectively without causing any damage to the tooth structure.

The common ingredients that a teeth whitening gel contains are carbamide peroxide, potassium nitrate, amorphous calcium phosphate, etc.