Do Teeth Whitening Lights Work?

Best Teeth Whitenning

Teeth whitening lights are one of the newest technologies that you can use to enhance your smile. Although they achieve similar results to other lightening products, these lights function differently from a tube of whitening toothpaste or teeth whitening pen.

So, how do teeth whitening lights work? Can they really whiten teeth?

In this article, we’ll answer all your burning questions about the effectiveness of teeth whitening lights. You’ll find out how they work, what products they pair best with, and how they could help whiten your smile and boost your oral health at the same time.

How Do Teeth Whitening Lights Work?

Teeth whitening kits use carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide gel to whiten teeth. The peroxide solution helps to break apart stains on your teeth and eliminate any discoloration. You can purchase a teeth whitening system as a stand-alone product. However, teeth whitening lights may be able to enhance your regular teeth whitening treatment—whether it’s an in-office or at-home procedure.

How does professional teeth whitening work with a light?

You can set up an appointment to receive your teeth whitening treatment from your dental care provider. Most offices hire a trained dental hygienist to administer teeth whitening products. However, some dentists will also offer professional whitening services.

Your dentist will begin by cleaning your teeth—a procedure we refer to as “oral prophylaxis.” This will remove any buildup on the surface of your enamel that might prevent the teeth whitening gel from penetrating stains that are covered.

They will then use a shade guide to help you decide the most appropriate tooth shade for your new smile. Many patients think that teeth whitening treatments will give them a blinding white smile. However, teeth whitening kits work by removing stains on your enamel. This means that you can only achieve a smile that is lighter and brighter in relation to the natural shade of your teeth. Will it be whiter? Yes. But, the exact intensity will depend on the color of your enamel.

Once you decide on a new tooth shade, your dentist will start administering the bleaching gel to your enamel. Then, they will aim the light over your teeth to activate the peroxide in the gel and speed up the whitening process. When the teeth whitening treatment is complete, you’ll need to rinse a few times to get rid of any gel stuck on your enamel.

Most professional teeth whitening procedures take between 45 minutes to an hour to complete. The time varies with the brand.

How do teeth whitening light systems work at home?

Your dentist may prepare an at-home LED whitening kit that you can administer on your own. Otherwise, you can purchase one at your nearest pharmacy or wellness store.

These DIY, battery-powered LED whitening kits work similarly to your treatment at a dental office. Your package should include a set of whitening strips or trays that you may need to apply for 7 to 14 days.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Follow the instructions on your package to apply the whitening agent. If you have whitening strips, you’ll need to remove their plastic lining and stick the gel onto your enamel. If you have trays, you’ll be directed to insert a drop of gel into their grooves, then insert the trays over your teeth.
  2. Some products advise you to wait for up to a minute before using the whitening light. Otherwise, proceed to the next step.
  3. Insert the mouthpiece containing the gel-activating light.
  4. Follow the directives on your package to know how long you should use the teeth whitening light. Some brands have self-timed bleaching lights, which go off automatically.

Types of Teeth Whitening Light

It’s important to note that not all teeth whitening lights are the same. Different types of light create different results for your treatment.

Below, we highlight the 3 main types of tooth whitening lights you need to know about before purchasing any product.

UV Light Teeth Whitening

Ultraviolet or UV light is normally used for laser teeth whitening treatments. UV light works by producing heat that can penetrate even the toughest stains in your enamel. Specialists consider it the most effective light whitening method. In fact, one session could help you achieve up to 10 shades of whiter teeth!

Fantastic, right?

However, UV light is very powerful. This is the same light that causes sunburn—it’s the reason we wear sunscreen when we head outdoors in the summer. The same could happen with the gums and inner cheek (note: sunscreen is not a suitable option in this situation).

In some cases, the heat from UV light treatment may even cause increased tooth sensitivity.4

As a result, FDA-approved laser whitening treatments are always performed in-office by a dental professional who can monitor your exposure. Typically, they will have you wear ultraviolet-blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes.

LED Teeth Whitening Lights

Blue light-emitting diode (LED) is the most common type of light used for enamel whitening. Unlike UV light, LED teeth whitening treatments don’t generate heat or carry serious health risks. They’re considered the safest DIY and professional light whitening treatment option on the market.1

Popular brands like Crest Whitestrips and the Auraglow Teeth Whitening Kit also include LED lights to maximize the power of their at-home whitening products.

Red Light for Teeth Whitening

Red light therapy is a form of holistic medicine, which also provides benefits to the mouth. Red light on its own cannot brighten teeth. However, some brands use a combination of blue LED light and red light in their whitening products to enhance the whitening experience.

Here’s how.

Have you ever heard scientists say that the human body is covered in bacteria? It’s true (though not very appealing to imagine). The mouth alone contains up to 700 different strains of bacteria. The majority of those microbes contribute to healthy digestion. However, there are also potentially harmful bacteria harboring within the oral cavity. This is where proper oral hygiene and, in this case, red light therapy come in: to keep these bad bacteria from multiplying and forming infections.2

Red light is also known to improve blood flow to promote healing and reduce inflammation in tissues, like the gums. In the same way, it may also reduce tooth sensitivity during whitening treatments.2

Typically, dual-light teeth whitening kits will begin emitting LED light to activate the whitening gel and begin the treatment. Then, they will switch to red light therapy mode to eliminate bacteria in the mouth and soothe sensitive teeth.

Do Teeth Whitening Lights Really Work?

There are still many mixed opinions about whether or not teeth whitener lights work. However, some studies have recorded slightly enhanced results when using LED lights during in-office whitening procedures.3

Other investigations reveal that even whitening agents with 6% hydrogen peroxide  - which is about what you’d find in an at-home teeth whitening product - may be able to brighten your smile for up to a year.5

Can you over-whiten your teeth with tooth whitening lights?

This is unlikely to happen for two reasons.

Firstly, many at-home whitening products have built-in timers which switch off the LED light, even if you lose track of time (it happens to the best of us).

Secondly, if you book an in-office treatment, your oral health provider will monitor the procedure closely to ensure that the bleaching gel is rinsed out in time. They are trained to prioritize your safety.

Side Effects of Using Teeth Whitening Lights

Tooth whitening procedures, including those which use UV and LED light, are generally safe. Yet, according to the American Dental Association, it is common for patients to experience gum irritation or tooth sensitivity from using a powerful whitening agent.6

While these side effects aren’t caused directly by light exposure, one study found that the use of LEDs may slightly increase discomfort.3

The good news is that teeth sensitivity is usually temporary, and should resolve within 24 to 48 hours after treatment. Your dentists may choose to apply desensitizing solution or prescribe medicated toothpaste to provide you relief.

Closing Thoughts

Research shows that light-activated tooth whitening products are effective for brightening your smile. However, not all teeth whitening lights achieve the same outcomes.

UV lights produce the brightest results but may risk damage to tissues and tooth enamel. Consequently, LED lights remain the safest option, especially for at-home whitening kits.

While red light may not whiten teeth, it could be therapeutic for your oral health and reduce discomfort from your teeth whitening treatment.

Speak to your dentist or dental hygienist for advice on which of these options may be the most suitable for you.


  1. Admin. (2021, June 15). What to expect during a light teeth whitening treatment? Soft Touch Dental. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from
  2. Blue Light and red light combine to optimize oral health. Kaiyan Medical. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Hayward, R., Osman, Y., & Grobler, S. R. (2012). A clinical study of the effectiveness of a light emitting diode system on tooth bleaching. The Open Dentistry Journal, 6(1), 143–147.
  4. Marzban, D. (2022, March 25). How well does led teeth whitening work? Cosmetic Dentist Burke VA - Dr. Marzban. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from
  5. Vildósola, P., Bottner, J., Avalos, F., Godoy, I., Martín, J., & Fernández, E. (2017). Teeth bleaching with low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide (6%) and catalyzed by led blue (450 ± 10 nm) and laser infrared (808 ± 10 nm) light for in-office treatment: Randomized clinical trial 1-year follow-up. Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry, 29(5), 339–345. []
  6. Whitening. American Dental Association. (n.d.). Retrieved from