Professional Teeth Whitening vs. At-home Teeth Whitening

Posted on August 31st, 2020 at 3:12 PM
Professional Teeth Whitening vs. At-home Teeth Whitening

Everything you need to know

According to a study done by Statista, almost 40 million Americans who were surveyed claimed to use professional teeth whiteners. This comes as no surprise compared to yet another study that reported that 32 percent of people are concerned with how their teeth look, pointing out that the United States is the number one country in the world in the number of dental offices providing teeth whitening services

Many patients, however, do not visit the dentist as often as they should. In recent years, at-home teeth whitening products have joined the long list of items we incorporate into our daily beauty regimens. Depending on the starting condition of your teeth, it’s possible to achieve fairly good results off the shelf. While both convenient and economical, over-the-counter teeth whitening kits cannot replace the capabilities of a dental office.

What’s best for you, though? Let’s break it down. 

At-Home Teeth Whitening

Teeth Whitening at Home: Quick Facts

  • Whitening teeth at home can whiten teeth by 3 to 8 shades on average. 
  • Whitening teeth at home is flexible and convenient for any schedule. 
  • There is a wide range of options available to whiten teeth at home. 

As a consumer, the number of at-home white whitening products out there might seem overwhelming. However, they can be summed up into three major categories.

  1. Whitening toothpastes ideally contain some combination of mild abrasive (a “gritty” ingredient such as silica that mechanically scrapes stains away with the action of brushing) and hydrogen peroxide, which is the active chemical ingredient. Note that the abrasives in whitening toothpastes can also scrape away tooth enamel over time, so they’re not recommended for those experiencing sensitivity.
  2. Whitening strips and trays directly expose teeth to hydrogen peroxide for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Users can expect to see the results of the bleaching process after three weeks. Consumers should exercise caution with these as well, carefully following the package directions — hydrogen peroxide applied too frequently or in too high a concentration can also increase tooth sensitivity. 
  3. Whitening devices use a light-emitting diode (LED) to accelerate the chemical reactions in the bleaching agent (again, usually a peroxide). Like the previous two methods, there is a risk of developing or worsening tooth and gum sensitivity if you overdo it.

No matter which method you choose, consistency is the key to attaining the best results. You can typically expect teeth that are 3 to 8 shades whiter if you stick to a routine. Whatever the case, at-home whitening products can only go so far. Depending on how deep the stains are and your overall oral health, you may need to seek professional alternatives (such as porcelain veneers).

older woman smiling

Professional Teeth Whitening

Whitening at the Dentist: Overall

  • Requires fewer treatments.
  • Whitens up to 16 shades.
  • More specialized treatments.

Getting professional teeth whitening requires planning and making an appointment at either your general dentist or an office that specializes in cosmetic dentistry. This extra step may turn you off to getting professional whitening treatment as opposed to just doing it at home any day you please. What balances the scales, however, is that professional teeth whitening usually requires fewer treatments than at-home whiteners. Seeking the services of a professional usually results in teeth that are noticeably more white — up to 16 shades — whereas doing it at home requires much more time and effort to garner a competitive effect. 

Dentists are the experts, and their years of experience paired with more specialized products and treatments lends itself to much more personalized services that can noticeably whiten teeth after just one application. More specialized treatment is often a better option for individuals with sensitive gums or teeth, too. 

Which Teeth Whitening Treatment is Right for Me?

This is personal to every individual. Answering this question should start with a dental consultation and routine cleaning if it has been more than six months since your last visit. Beautiful teeth and healthy teeth are many times the same teeth.

While there, ask about available tooth-whitening options. Once you do that, you can weigh your options. Keep in mind that while professional teeth whitening tends to be more expensive than at-home remedies, it provides more rapid, noticeable results and can be more tailored to you and your teeth. Conversely, learning how to whiten teeth at home works better for some because of the broad range of options available to fit any budget. 

If you’re interested in a brighter, more beautiful smile, Sleep Dentistry with Dr. Kevin Mahoney can get you there faster through our comprehensive cosmetic dentistry services, including our Lifetime Whitening program. Professionally whitened teeth are more affordable and attainable than you might think!