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GLO Teeth Whitening Vs. Professional Teeth Whitening Trays

GLO Teeth Whitening Vs. Professional Teeth Whitening Trays: Which is better? There’s been a lot of talk recently about GLO teeth whitening. If you haven’t heard, it’s a $200 DIY teeth-whitening technology called Guided Light Optic (G.L.O.) that funnels the power of heat and a neon blue light in a form-fitted mouth tray. Purportedly, the intensity of the tray’s light and heat prevents active oxygen from escaping the tooth’s surface, and speeds up the whitening results while avoiding tooth sensitivity. The product won a silver medal for Consumer Packaged Goods in the 2012 Edison Awards [Edison, 2012], and has been touted by Sephora and TV doctors as the next big hit in global tooth whitening.

But how well does it really work? Let’s ignore the media buys for a second and focus on published facts rather than consumer testimony.

Do GLO lights help teeth whitening?

According to Dr. Van Haywood, a noted researcher in the field of teeth whitening and sensitivity, “The question of how effective the lights are… remained unanswered, partially due to a general lack of funding for research on esthetics” [Haywood, 2009]. Dr. Haywood discusses what’s called the “rubber dam effect”, which kicks in when teeth are sealed in and exposed to light during a whitening process. The rubber dam effect dehydrates teeth when they’re sealed off in isolation. Dehydration actually makes teeth appear whiter immediately after, though only for a short amount of time–a few hours, maybe days. GLO uses a similar seal, only lit up in neon blue.

But it’s fair to note that other researchers (granted, in articles written for cosmetic dentists or whitening products) have found that light actually does have an impact. Dr. Zachary Hilgers found that LED lights have a clear impact by allowing clinicians to reach higher levels of whiteness [Hilgers, 2009]. It goes without saying that doctors drawing conclusions on whitening products’ web pages are probably not being totally fair and balanced. But even the most impartial dental experts can’t say for sure that lights do or don’t work yet.

What they all unanimously agree on is that you can achieve the same results with or without the light, the only point in question is does the light accelerate the process thus reducing the treatment times?

The placebo effect of GLO Whitening

From Dr. Haywood’s above-quoted article, it’s found that while light does not make a difference in the final outcome of in-office bleaching, it does give customers the illusion that their teeth is being whitened, because of the aforementioned tooth dehydration. This isn’t necessarily bad–if you buy into placebo effects. “This occurrence may encourage compliance for the patient to continue with tray bleaching or to return for subsequent in-office treatments,” Dr. Haywood writes.

In other words, if you’re using an at-home tray or gel regularly, the dehydration effect–which, again, is unclearly related to GLO, though symptoms sound similar–might at least inspire users to keep going. One of the biggest problems with teeth whitening is that clients expect it quickly and give up when they don’t see results, not realizing that even in-office power blasting requires two or three visits, depending on the severity of the stain.

In this light, GLO might still speed up the process — but it will be slower than lead to belive.

Weighing the cost of GLO Whitening vs. Professional Teeth Whitening Trays

If you’re willing to spend $200 (plus shipping and taxes) on a product that’s too early to call, you might want to consider purchasing custom fitted teeth whitening trays fabricated by professionals such as Smile Brilliant instead. When purchased at the dentist you will pay $500+. However, when purchased lab-direct from Smile Brilliant ,they retail at $139.

You can also ask your dental professional first to confirm what your best options are. Different stains call for different solutions. And, if you do decide to try GLO or custom fitted teeth whitening trays at home, your dentist’s office can at least clean up your teeth from plaque and tartar beforehand, which will help avoid splotchy results.

Ultimately, regardless of GLO’s positive testimonials, the fact is that the product is barely two years old. It’s frankly too early to tell whether GLO creates a long-term solution and is a viable alternative to in-office teeth whitening.

Erin Stelbrink

Erin Stelbrink is a Registered Dental Hygienist with 5+ years of experience as a licensed hygienist and oral health care professional. She holds a passion for researching and acquiring awareness of the latest technologies and methods for providing valuable health care service and clinical treatment. Have more questions? Email Erin at