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What is Dental Gel?

By C. Mitchell
Updated Jan 21, 2024
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A dental gel is any gel that is designed to be applied to human teeth or gums. Dental gels are members of the oral hygiene product family, and they serve various purposes from cosmetics to pain relief and disease prevention. Some are administered only by qualified dentists, while others are available for home use. Gels are generally considered the best way to administer any sort of treatment to teeth, which is in large part owing to the porous composition of teeth. Although teeth are calcified like bones, they are in fact made of tissue, and are receptive to absorption. Most varieties of dental gel are chemically designed to effectively penetrate the teeth to strengthen or whiten them, or to dull pain.

Broadly speaking, oral hygiene is the practice of maintaining the mouth’s health. Brushing and flossing are the most common oral hygiene practices, but the application of dental gel fits in the category, as well. Dental gels are frequently used alongside a regular brushing and flossing regimen to prevent dental problems like tooth decay and gum disease. Gels can also be used to improve the overall appearance of the teeth.

Dental gel is usually applied by a dentist, but most gels are available in more muted forms at drug stores and pharmacies. Fluoride gels, hydrochloride gels, and professional-strength whitening gels are among the most common in-office gel treatments. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay, and is a particularly important element as teeth are growing. As such, fluoride dental gel is routinely administered to children. Fluoride gels generally contain easily absorbed mineral fluoride, along with other chemical compounds to strengthen teeth.

Whitening gels, on the other hand, are usually only applied cosmetically, and generally only to adults. Whitening dental gel generally contains bleach and other whitening agents, and is designed to remove tooth staining and discoloration. Whitening gels are increasingly available for home purchase, but those applied by dentists in the office generally contain a more potent whitening formula, and they can usually achieve whitening in a single application. These results come at a cost, however: dentist-applied whitening gel is usually much more expensive than whitening gels purchased at a pharmacy.

Hydrochloride gels, otherwise known as gingivitis gels, are gels composed primarily of hydrochloride compounds designed to be absorbed into the tooth bed and gums. The aim of gingivitis gels is to prevent or cure gingivitis, a gum disease. The gels can deliver medication more efficiently than pills or other non-topical remedies.

Most gels are administered in trays. The dental gel, regardless its variety, is divided between two trays that mimic the shape of the upper and lower rows of teeth. Dentists have professional trays ready-made, and most home remedies come with disposable trays. The trays are then fitted into the mouth, and left to absorb for a set period of time. Some home dental gel remedies, particularly those for whitening, also come in strip form. In this case, the strip containing the gel is applied to the teeth, and not removed until absorbed.

Other common commercially available dental gel products include all-purpose dental gel and pain reliever gel. All-purpose gel is, as its name implies, intended for many purposes, from reducing tooth temperature sensitivity to treating gum ailments and cold sores. Pain reliever gel is designed primarily to temporarily dull or reduce tooth pain caused by a variety of causes.

Dentists may also use a neutral, or inert, gel to protect gums during certain procedures. When a dentist is filling a cavity, for instance, or filing down a tooth, he may worry that the gums could be damaged by an errant slip of a tool, or dried out by extended exposure to the air. Gels applied to gums for protection in these sorts of cases are dental gels in that they are gels used in the mouth, but they do not serve any real purpose aside from protection.

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Discussion Comments

By Talentryto — On Jul 16, 2014

@raynbow- The good news is that dental whitening gels do work, but there are several considerations that you will need to keep in mind when using them.

First of all, a whitening dental gel only works if it stays on your teeth for several minutes at a time. This is why you will need to use a gel that comes with a tray or is on a shield that wraps around and clings to your teeth.

Next, you will need to get the type of whitening dental gel for your needs. There are many types available, from gels that work on tough stains to those that are used for touch-up applications. As a rule, you will need a stronger gel if you have very stained teeth.

When using a dental gel to whiten your teeth, it is also important that you follow the instructions on the package. If you don't, you may not get the whitening results that you want or you may overdo it.

This brings me to my last tip. It is also important that you do not use whitening gels on your teeth too frequently. If you do, your teeth may take on an unnatural appearance. You may also experience painful tooth sensitivity because these dental gels can be irritating to tooth enamel and the gum line.

By Raynbow — On Jul 15, 2014

Do dental whitening gels work? I've never tried to whiten my teeth, but I would like to. I just don't want to wast a lot of money, and I want to make sure that I choose the right one for my teeth.

There are so many of these types of dental gels on the market, and they promise remarkable results. It's hard to believe that they actually work.

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