It used to be that if people wanted to have whiter teeth, they’d go to the dentist. But over-the-counter products have made it easier for just about anyone to get brighter teeth. How safe is professional teeth whitening vs. home teeth whitening, and what’s the best method for you? Read on to find out.
Dental office whitening procedures produce the maximum whitening results in the least amount of time (about an hour).
This is mostly because of the 30%-40% hydrogen or carbamide peroxide concentrations used to produce whiter teeth.
Benefits: Speed. You’re also under a dentist’s supervision. In the dental office, we’ll make a record of the shade you start with and then show you where you are after whitening. It’s nice to have this documentation. This encourages people to stop at a reasonable spot.
Drawbacks: Greater risk of temporary tooth sensitivity afterward. Some patients don’t feel a thing, but many complain of intense pain caused by the highly concentrated bleaching agent.
Some methods use a light that supposedly boosts the whitening effect but that could also contribute to the discomfort. A study published this year in the journal Operative Dentistry found that light-emitting diode (LED) and laser-activation did not improve whitening results, but did make teeth and gums more sensitive.
Free-standing whitening clinics or mall kiosks
Mall kiosks or shops specialize in teeth whitening using high-concentration (usually 30% or more) carbamide peroxide to achieve whiter teeth, but they’re not legal in every state.
Benefits: It’s fast. Results are promised in about an hour. Also, it’s convenient; you can grab lunch, go shopping and then pop in to get your teeth whitened.
Drawbacks: Dental pros worry about the safety of high-concentration products being used without a dental health professional present
At home (dentist-provided trays)
Patients use custom-molded trays for their teeth and carbamide peroxide provided by the dentist at home. It takes several weeks of use before whiter teeth result.
Benefits: Lower risk of tooth and gum sensitivity; can use trays for touchups later. If done in addition to the dental office procedure, the trays give you the added ability to safely continue whitening hard-to-bleach teeth.
Drawbacks: Time. It usually takes several weeks or even months to get whiter teeth.