Professional Teeth-Whitening vs. Over-the-Counter Whitening Products

Everybody likes white teeth. Teeth-whitening is a simple process. Whitening products contain one of two tooth bleaches: hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These bleaches break stains into smaller pieces, which makes the color/stain less concentrated and your teeth look brighter.

What Should You Know About Teeth-Whitening?

Not all teeth will whiten the same, and results will vary based on initial tooth color. Also dental restorations such as white fillings and crowns will not whiten, nor will exposed root surfaces. Teeth should be checked for dental decay, which should be treated before teeth whitening.

Is Teeth-Whitening Safe?

Tooth whitening is a safe process, but for best results, consult with a dental professional. After initial evaluation, the dentist will design a customized protocol for whitening your teeth. There are some side effects related to teeth whitening: Short-term, mild-to-moderate tooth sensitivity can occur. However, there have been no reported long-term adverse conditions when proper techniques are employed. The incidence and severity of tooth sensitivity may depend on the quality of the bleaching material, the techniques used, and an individual’s response to the bleaching treatment methods and materials. Teeth sensitivity can be controlled and helped by products the dentist provides. There has been no evidence documenting adverse effects of whitening agents that the dentist administered and monitored. But cases have been reported of significant enamel damage associated with over-the-counter products due to unmonitored overuse. Laboratory-conducted studies suggest that existent fillings may be affected, related to their surface hardness, micro cracks and decreased strength of restoration bond. However, such findings were not supported by clinical reports.

What Is the Best Protocol for Teeth-whitening?

You have two options for teeth whitening:

  1. In-office teeth-whitening, together with continued home whitening kits dispensed at the dental office.
  2. At-home whitening with over-the-counter purchased products.

How Long Does It Take to See Results?

Depending on dental condition, teeth-whitening with in-office treatment, followed by tray whitening at home, teeth normally significantly lighten in 3 days to 6 weeks. However, whitening of nicotine-stained teeth may take 1–3 months. Tetracycline-stained teeth may not respond as well, and it may require 2 to 6 months (or more) of dentist-supervised and at-home whitening treatment.

Can a Patient Who Has Had Veneers or White Fillings Consider Teeth-Whitening?

Yes, patients often don’t notice their teeth getting darker. Their adjacent teeth are not darker than restorations, such as fillings or veneers. At the time of placement, teeth were usually whiter, and over time, they stain. Slight brightening with teeth whitening will positively add more attractiveness and a healthier look to a patient’s smile.

Teeth-Whitening With Over-the-Counter (OTC) Products:

OTC teeth-whitening products are not endorsed by ADA and should not be used without evaluation by a dental professional to ensure safe and effective use. OTC whitening products are available at local drugstores in form of gels, whitening strips, toothpastes, mouthwashes.


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