Dr. Lara Coseo (DDS, FAGD) – Author –

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Colgate Optic White Overnight Teeth Whitening Pen

This fast-drying 3% hydrogen peroxide whitening gel is designed to be used last thing at night to literally bleach away teeth stains while you sleep. A brighter smile could be just a few simple clicks away if you add this to your nighttime oral health routine.
This clickable pen expresses gel onto an applicator brush to allow you to accurately spread the serum onto each tooth without contacting sensitive gum tissue. One Optic White pen contains 0.08 Fl Oz (2.5mL) and will provide 35 treatments in total. To achieve the best results, it is recommended that you complete 2 weeks of nightly treatments. The disadvantage of using whitening pens compared to other teeth whitening methods is that as soon as you close your mouth, your saliva will immediately start to try and neutralize and dilute the serum. However, when we sleep we naturally produce less saliva so by using the whitening pen last thing at night you are likely to get better results.


Fairywill Teeth Whitening Pen

The Fairywill whitening pen package includes 3 x 2mL 35% carbamide peroxide pens plus a bonus whitening enhancement tool. This is one of the cheapest available options for delivering true teeth whitening results.
You get about 60 treatments in total from the 3 pens and this could give you a whitening boost of between 4 and 8 shades. The whitening gel is applied to your teeth through a silicon tube and flexible brush to ensure an even and accurate coating is spread across the enamel surface. Although this product retails for less than many premium whitening toothpaste it will deliver far superior results in a relatively short period of time. As a little extra bonus, Fairywill includes a whitening tool that is designed to scrub away plaque and stains from the surface layer of the tooth to further increase the final results.


Smile Direct Club Teeth Whitening Pen

The Smile Direct Club is best known for their cheap teeth aligners, but they also have a full range of whitening products to cater to people who are looking for cheaper teeth whitening options. Their Bright On teeth whitening pens use professional quality hydrogen peroxide which is a proven technology for penetrating the tooth structure to remove a whole range of stains from the tooth structure.
The manufacturer recommends a twice-daily application of the whitening gel for one week to obtain the best results. This buster pack of 8 x 1.5mL whitening pens will give you a full year of teeth whitening. Although The Smile Direct Club suggests that you could potentially achieve a 9 shade improvement in just one week, it is important to know that everybody’s teeth and lifestyle are different and the final results will vary.

What is a teeth whitening pen?
Teeth whitening pens are an over-the-counter teeth whitener that allows the user to paint the whitening product directly onto the teeth.  They are also called paint-on whiteners and direct application teeth whitening. Whitening pens and swabs do not use any type of tray or carrier to hold the gel onto the teeth.  Because nothing covers the gel, we also call this barrier-free whitening.
The purpose of whitening pens is the same as that of all other teeth whitening products: to produce noticeable lightening of the color of teeth and improve the appearance of the smile.  As we age, teeth naturally become more yellow over time, so in contrast, whitening the teeth gives the smile a younger look.

What ingredients to look for.
For true whitening to occur, a whitening pen must contain an ingredient that will penetrate the tooth enamel and oxidize the darkly colored teeth stains present underneath.  The only active ingredient capable of this action is hydrogen peroxide or a compound that breaks down to release hydrogen peroxide.
At this time, commercially available whitening pens that actually work will contain one of these three active ingredients: hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide, or sodium perborate.  You will likely see a percentage noted next to these ingredients, which describes the concentration of the active ingredient in the pen.  The higher this number, the stronger the whitening pen is.  A higher percentage of peroxide should produce faster results that are more noticeable.
Oxidation of the dark, pigmented compounds underlying the enamel surface only occurs when peroxide takes action.  If you do not see one of those ingredients listed, or the product claims to be “peroxide-free”, then it is unlikely to have any true whitening action.  Most of these products claim to be safer than peroxide whitening compounds, but this claim is unfounded because peroxide is perfectly safe.

Why choose a whitening pen?
Compared to other treatments, there are several advantages of the pen or swab method of teeth whitening. Find out more about the different teeth whitening methods here.  People typically choose to try out whitening pens for one of the following reasons.
Teeth whitening pens and swabs can be purchased over the counter in most grocery and drug stores.  They are also available online. They do not require a visit to the dentist or any lengthy appointments.  There are no complicated instructions, and they do not require any accessories in order to use them.
Easy to Apply
The method of application is very simple for paint-on whiteners.  The technique is similar to painting your fingernails. You do not have to use any complicated applicators to place gel into a tray or attempt to place slippery strips onto the teeth.  
Less Time-Consuming
After you paint or swab the gel onto the teeth, your work is done. The gel works by sticking to the teeth and comes off the next time you brush your teeth. Compared to other whitening options, which require the removal and immediate cleanup, whitening pens only require an application. Therefore, you only spend a few minutes to apply the whitener, and you can walk away.

How do whitening pens work?

Whitening pens work by expressing a teeth-whitening gel, which “dries” into a layer of film on the surfaces of the teeth onto which you have painted it. 

The pen allows the user to place the whitening gel directly onto the tooth surface. Any whitening effect is due to the gel’s ability to adhere to the teeth without the aid of a barrier.

The active ingredient in paint-on whitening gels is typically a relative of hydrogen peroxide.  Both carbamide peroxide and sodium percarbonate break down into hydrogen peroxide, which penetrates the tooth enamel and breaks down darkly colored, pigmented stains.

Do teeth whitening pens work?
That is a great question!  No one would create a consumer product without claiming that it works.  All advertisements for teeth whitening pens and swabs promise instant, noticeable results.  They often include celebrity endorsements to “prove” their claims.  
If you are considering teeth whitening with any type of over-the-counter product, it is important to read the customer reviews.  They will tell you of real-world experience with the product.  
It is possible to find scientific research on both sides of the issue.  A few studies show 3-4 shades of whitening with nightly use of a whitening pen over a two-week period.  One project used a blue dye in the whitening gel to allow the researchers to study its ability to stay on the teeth overnight.  The results of this particular study showed that 77% of the tooth surfaces intended for whitening maintained a covering of the blue gel after overnight wear.  This implies that, for that particular brand, the gel does stay in contact with enamel long enough for the whitening ingredient to penetrate and improve color.
Studies of the effectiveness of paint-on whiteners as compared to other whitening methods consistently show that paint-on whitening products do not produce the same level of results as strips and gel applied in carrier trays.

Reasons for poor results?
 Improper Application
It can be difficult to see where the gel is on the teeth, so it is possible for people to miss areas of the teeth when applying the gel.  If the gel does not touch a tooth, you cannot have whitening results on it.
Lack of Barrier allows Gel to Wash Away
It is possible that the film formed by the whitening gel is washed away by saliva or anything you eat and drink.  In one study of paint-on whitening products, the study participants experienced much greater results when they wore a mouthpiece to “cover” the whitening gel.  The conclusion was that protecting the film from saliva kept it on the teeth, allowing it to work longer and produce a better result.
Hardening of Film Prevents Active Ingredient from Penetrating Enamel
Another possible cause of reduced effectiveness is a lack of penetration into the enamel.  The very mechanism that allows this product to adhere to the teeth (which is necessary for any result at all) could prevent its penetration into the teeth.

Are teeth whitening pens safe?

Research studying the safety of paint-on, barrier-free whitening gels shows that they are safe for use when you follow the instructions.  It is always a good idea to consult with your dentist before you use any type of teeth whitening product. The peroxide chemicals can lead to tooth sensitivity, which would be much greater in a tooth with a large cavity, tooth fracture, or gum recession.  Your dentist can advise you of any dental problems that could lead to a bad or painful teeth-whitening experience.

Most manufacturers recommend that you only use the product for two weeks.  It is not likely that you will cause any permanent damage to your teeth by using it longer than two weeks. The reason for the limitation is that you should see a difference by that time.  If you do not, you should recruit the advice of a professional, so call your dentist.

Another reason you should call your dentist is experiencing severe tooth sensitivity or sharp pains in the teeth you have whitened.  Your dentist should evaluate your teeth and gums to confirm that you do not have any active dental disease that requires treatment.

A whitening pen is safe for use by children, but only if a responsible, instruction-following adult supervises them.  It is best to wait until the child is at least 12 years old. Whitening has not been shown to be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.  There are no studies showing the levels of peroxide that cross the placental barrier or enters the mother’s milk.  Most practitioners agree that without proven safety, we cannot recommend it. It is best to defer any teeth whitening until the baby is born and after you finish breastfeeding.

What are some alternative whitening options?

Other over-the-counter teeth whitening options include whitening toothpaste, strips, and gel in a carrier tray.  Here are the important things you need to know about these options.

 Whitening toothpaste

Whitening toothpastes are abrasive and function to polish away superficial stains from the outermost surface of the enamel.  Even those containing peroxide in their ingredients do not achieve chemical whitening due to its extremely low concentration and short working time.

 Whitening Strips

Whitening Strips consistently out-performed paint-on whitening gels in research studies, so you can expect a better result.  Strips can be awkward to deal with and difficult to keep in place on the teeth.

 Whitening Gel in a Carrier Tray

The one-size-fits-all whitening trays do not provide the best contact between gel and teeth, but the barrier the tray provides leads to consistently better whitening results than paint-on whitening gels. 



In the process of writing this article, we referenced the clinical studies below.

Randomized clinical trial comparing whitening strips, paint-on gel and negative control.
Xu X1, Zhu L, Tang Y, Wang Y, Zhang K, Li S, Bohman LC, Gerlach RW.

Article Name
Teeth Whitening Pens Consumer Guide
In this article, Dr. Lara discusses over-the-counter teeth whitening pens as a method of removing teeth stains.
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