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CE Sponsored by Colgate: Explore the Options in Take-Home Whitening

Professionally dispensed, patient-applied take-home whitening approaches provide a wide array of benefits to patients who want whiter, brighter smiles.

close up of teeth shade matching


What do most of your patients ask for when they come to your office? Whiter and brighter teeth! While they may have active caries, bleeding gingiva, and other oral health issues, often their main request is for an esthetic smile. A shiny, pearly white smile is a beautiful image signifying youth, health, friendliness, wealth, and well-being. 

With take-home whitening approaches, the daily use of the bleaching protocol provides excellent results if the patient can stay with the treatment for 10 days to 14 days. But most patients are whitening dropouts and stop treatment before the required time. Patients may stop using the whitening kit because they found the tray uncomfortable, experienced bleaching gel oozing from the tray over the gingiva, or felt sensitivity and irritation—all common side effects of traditional whitening treatments. 

So how do we make patients happy with an at-home whitening system? It has to be easy to use with rapid results, comfortable to wear, and without tooth sensitivity or gingival irritation as side effects. 

The New Colgate Optic White Professional Take-Home Teeth Whitening Kit provides a whitening experience that finally lives up to patient expectations—it’s easy to use, goes on without mess, and is designed for no sensitivity. The kit consists of a hydrogen peroxide whitening serum in a precision pen bleach applicator, and an LED device that emits high energy light-purple light. 

Please read the article by Sibel A. Antonson, DDS, PhD, MBA; Bernardo A. Caldas, BS; and Jaroslaw Cegielski, DDS, so you can advise your patients on how they can get the smile they want with this new whitening system, which is available only through dental professionals. Visit products/optic-white for more information.

—Phyllis Martina, RDH, MBA
Senior Professional Education Manager
Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

This two-unit CE course is supported through an unrestricted education grant from Colgate.

Improving the Esthetics of the Smile

An innovative Professionally-dispensed, patient-applied at-home whitening techinque offers patients the results they desire with few side effects.

This course was published in the March 2022 issue and expires March 2025. The authors have no commercial conflicts of interest to disclose. This 2 credit hour self-study activity is electronically mediated.



After reading this course, the participant should be able to:

  1. Describe the evolution of tooth whitening.
  2. Identify the benefits and challenges of professionally dispensed, patient-applied takehome whitening.
  3. Explain the innovative take-home technique that offers a pen-delivery system and LED activation.
  4. Discuss the results of an eight-patient evaluation in addition to case reports surrounding the use of the new take-home technique.

Advances in research and technology have improved the status of oral health in North America for most populations.1 Interventions, such as community water fluoridation and dental sealants, have helped decrease the rate of tooth loss. With more individuals keeping their natural dentition, the demand for esthetic dental treatment has grown dramatically. 

Over the past several decades, vital tooth bleaching, or “whitening,” has become one of the most requested cosmetic dental procedures.2 Due to this increase in demand, a variety of whitening options are currently available.3 In order to best advise their patients, oral health professionals need to be knowledgeable about the risks and benefits of these options.4 While there are many options for patients seeking to brighten their teeth—from do-it-yourself techniques to over-the-counter options to in-office bleaching treatments—this article will focus on professionally dispensed, patient-applied at-home whitening approaches. 

History of Whitening 

Efforts to improve the whiteness and brightness of smiles began more than a century ago and have encompassed a wide array of procedures, materials, and techniques. Vital tooth bleaching procedures began as early as 1868 with the use of oxalic acid or pyrozone, and later switched to hydrogen peroxide when its whitening ability was discovered.5 In 1989, Haywood and Heymann6 introduced nightguard vital bleaching, which incorporates a carbamide peroxide gel into custom-made trays that enable the controlled placement of the whitening agent on targeted teeth for a specified time. This safe and effective tooth whitening technique opened the door for myriad at-home methods of tooth whitening. Over the decades, new dental bleaching techniques have been implemented to accommodate individual patient expectations for comfort, availability, and effectiveness. 

Professionally Dispensed, Patient-Applied Take-Home Whitening 

Manufacturers have addressed the public’s demand for an esthetic smile by attempting to duplicate the professional delivery of dental bleaching via take-home options. Professionally dispensed, patient-applied take-home whitening offers an affordable method to improve appearance, and is widely popular, comprising a $3 billion industry in the United States.7 Ease of use and short treatment time also contribute to take-home whitening’s popularity.8 In addition, it allows patients to bleach their teeth on their own schedule and pace in the comfort of their own homes while achieving tangible results. Convenience is a major factor when considering whitening approaches, as it impacts the patient experience as well as the dental professional administering the treatment.9

FIGURE 1.In this innovative bleaching technique, a hydrogen peroxide gel is applied to the teeth with a pen-delivery system.
FIGURE 1. In this innovative bleaching technique, a hydrogen peroxide gel is applied to the teeth with a pen-delivery system.
FIGURE 2B.Shade of the patient in comparison to the baseline shade, an 8.7 shade improvement.
FIGURE 2B. Shade of the patient in comparison to the baseline shade, an 8.7 shade improvement.

Challenges of the Take-Home Approach

One of the most widely used take-home approaches is nightguard vital bleaching, which requires the complete immersion of the teeth in the either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide bleaching gel. Both of these agents are sources of active oxygen, which provides the bleaching effect, while also increasing the risk for sensitivity. Take-home bleaching may initiate dental sensitivity, which affects between 37% and 90% of patients who undergo whitening treatment.10,11 To address the inherent risk of sensitivity and gingival irritation caused by exposure to the whitening agent, innovative techniques have been developed that produce results but also reduce potential side effects. 

The need for custom-made trays in the nightguard vital bleaching approach also significantly increases the expense of the treatment. Creating the trays requires two separate appointments, one during which impressions are taken, and a second appointment to receive the whitening trays and material. Additional procedures, such as preparing the casts and tray fabrication, should be considered in calculating the active time and cost of the nightguard vital bleaching. 

FIGURE 2A.Baseline shade of the 22-year-old woman prior to beginning bleaching treatment.
FIGURE 2A. Baseline shade of the 22-year-old woman prior to beginning bleaching treatment.

Whitening efficacy is intricately linked to the concentration of the bleaching agent and the amount of time it is applied. In other words, the higher the concentration, the faster the effect. As over-the-counter products contain lower levels of the whitening agent, they are typically not as effective as professionally dispensed options.4,11–15

While the convenience and price of take-home whitening treatments may be attractive to patients, additional drawbacks exist. Some of these include the messiness of application due to the volume of hydrogen peroxide gel required for efficacy, concern about ingestion of the gel, and compliance with the daily routine. Research and development efforts have been focused on designing a system that is easy to incorporate into daily schedules, goes on without mess, produces noticeable results, and does not induce dental sensitivity or gingival irritation. 

FIGURE 2C.Patient’s final smile at recare appointment.
FIGURE 2C. Patient’s final smile at recare appointment.

Targeted delivery can help overcome some of the aforementioned obstacles. With a long history in dentistry, targeted delivery methods for dental therapeutic agents include varnishes and serums. Various dental materials can be delivered via varnishes, such as fluoride and chlorhexidine. Even though the technology seems simple, ensuring the stability of the active ingredient within a solution that is diluted presents challenges. Maintaining the appropriate solvent/serum ratio while in the packaging and allowing the solvent to evaporate rapidly to ensure effective adherence are also difficult. Additionally, the serum is expected to provide an effective dose of the active ingredient during the treatment period in a thin film.

Innovative Take-Home Technique

An innovative addition to the at-home whitening armamentarium that addresses many of the traditional issues involved in take-home approaches is a brush-tipped pen delivery of the bleaching serum that enables patients and clinicians to apply the agent directly to the surface (Figure 1). This new take-home kit includes a 6% hydrogen peroxide serum in a brush-tipped pen, and a patented LED device to amplify the peroxide activity. 

FIGURE 3A.Baseline shade of a 39-year-old woman seeking to whiten her teeth.
FIGURE 3A. Baseline shade of a 39-year-old woman seeking to whiten her teeth.

Patients will find painting the hydrogen peroxide-containing serum onto the facial of anterior teeth a simple process designed to provide the desired results in a short period of time. This is made possible by the ability to precisely place the bleaching agent where it is needed and its subsequent activation via a 410 nm wavelength LED mouthpiece. The 410 nm wavelength corresponds to light-purple light in the color spectrum, which accelerates the hydrogen peroxide breakdown without causing heat—a cause of sensitivity.15–25 

The hydrogen peroxide serum is packaged in a pen-shaped delivery system that has a flat brush on the tip. The peroxide serum is dispensed to the brush tip by pressing a button on the opposite end of the pen.

FIGURE 3B.Shade of the patient post-treatment in comparison to the baseline shade, a 6.3 shade improvement.
FIGURE 3B. Shade of the patient post-treatment in comparison to the baseline shade, a 6.3 shade improvement.

The hydrogen peroxide is dispersed in a liquid carrier, which is designed to rapidly evaporate, leaving a thin solid (not liquid) film adhered to the tooth. This application mechanism helps patients apply the serum directly to the tooth surfaces intended for whitening and helps prevent application to other areas such as the gingiva, exposed root surfaces, and oral soft tissues. This feature helps prevent irritation.

The serum is painted on the tooth surface. Once the liquid carrier evaporates, the effective hydrogen peroxide concentration increases. A proprietary rechargeable tray integrated with printed LEDs that emit light-purple light is placed in the patient’s mouth for 10 minutes. The LEDs amplify the effectiveness of the peroxide-bleaching process. After this step, the thin film of serum may be left on the tooth surface over­night, continuing to maintain contact with the tooth until the film is removed by normal toothbrushing in the morning. 

In an evaluation of eight patients who used the pen-delivery bleaching technique for a 10-day period, all reported noticeable improvement in the whiteness of their teeth and commented on the product’s ease of use. The majority of the patients noticed whitening results between day one and day five of the treatment period. The patients, who ranged in age from 18 to 70, all agreed to the following statements regarding the technique:

  • Makes whitening easier
  • Is comfortable while using overnight
  • Does not cause gum irritation
  • Provides natural-looking results
  • Uses advanced whitening technology
  • Makes me confident in my teeth’s whiteness
  • Provides gradual and gentle whitening
  • Is a premium product
  • Is safe for my enamel
  • Not messy to use
FIGURE 4A.Baseline shade of a 40-year-old man prior to whitening treatment.
FIGURE 4A. Baseline shade of a 40-year-old man prior to whitening treatment.

This approach also eliminates the need for custom-made trays. The use of prefabricated trays with the 410 nm LED lights enables dental professionals to deliver the dental bleaching kits at the time of the treatment planning, eliminating ad­ditional chair and laboratory time.

The most significant outcome noted among these eight patients was the efficacy of the bleaching without any re­ported sensitivity. This is due to the pro­duct’s 410 nm LED light activation and the precision pen delivery for the targeted placement of the bleaching agent away from the soft tissues. The easy and nonmessy application along with a quick 10-minute active period also increased patient satisfaction.

Case Reports

Results from the use of this innovative take-home whitening system are de­monstrated in these brief case reports. Patient A, a 22-year-old woman, presented for a pre-orthodontic examination. While she had expressed interest in tooth whitening previously, her se­verely crowded and rotated teeth posed challenges to the bleaching pro­cess. Fabrication of a well-sealed custom bleaching tray would not be possible for this patient due to multiple retentive areas with severe undercuts. However, a homogeneous bleaching was obtained for this patient with the pen-delivery bleaching technique. The patient opted to try the pen-delivery whitening method and followed the instructions over a 10-day period. She obtained a 8.7 level shade improvement at the end of the regimen. She was pleased with the results and did not report experiencing any sensitivity (Figure 2A to Figure 2C). 

FIGURE 4B.Shade achieved after using pen-delivery whitening technique in comparison to the baseline shade, a 3.7 shade improvement.
FIGURE 4B. Shade achieved after using pen-delivery whitening technique in comparison to the baseline shade, a 3.7 shade improvement.

Patient B, a 39-year-old woman, presented for an initial dental examination. Due to dental anxiety, she had not received professional oral healthcare in some time. Her motivation for seeking dental care was to whiten her teeth. She had generalized wear. The patient decided to try the pen-delivery whitening method. After 10 days, she obtained a 6.3 level shade improvement. The patient was happy with the results and did not experience any sensitivity (Figure 3A and Figure 3B).

Patient C, a 40-year-old man, volunteered to use the pen-delivery whitening system. He obtained a 3.7 level shade improvement at the end of the 10-day bleaching procedure. He was satisfied with the outcome and stated he would definitely seek the treatment again (Figure 4A and Figure 4B). 


Tooth whitening is a noninvasive approach to improve the esthetics of the smile. A beautiful smile has many benefits, including increased confidence in both social and professional settings. Oral health professionals are well prepared to recommend personalized options to patients who wish for a whiter, brighter smile. Professionally dispensed, patient-applied at-home whitening approaches offer patients excellent results with few side effects. 


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From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. March 2022;20(3):27-28,31-33.

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