Professional Teeth Whitening: Is It Worth It? - RealSelf (2024)

In-office bleaching (aka professional whitening)

You can expect the most dramatic results from a professional teeth whitening treatment.

You’ll start by meeting with your dentist, who will examine your teeth and gums and ask you about your oral hygiene, lifestyle, and whitening goals. You’ll go through a full dental exam and evaluation, to determine which treatment is best for you.

“Staining can be caused by problems like decay or hardened plaque on your teeth. An evaluation by a dentist is crucial, to make sure you don't have any bigger underlying problems that are causing your teeth to darken,” says Chicago dentist Dr. Kaori Ema in a .

You may have specific instructions to follow before your whitening appointment. For example, some dentists recommend using Sensodyne toothpaste twice daily for two weeks prior, to diminish sensitivity.

Before the whitening solution is applied, your gums will be carefully covered to prevent burns from the hydrogen peroxide. Then your provider will apply the whitening gel to the tooth surface.

  • Zoom contains 25% hydrogen peroxide, and an overhead blue plasma light is used to activate the hydrogen peroxide. The gel stays on for 15 minutes, and the process is repeated three times for a total of 45 minutes.
  • Glo Professional contains either 24% or 30% hydrogen peroxide. An LED mouthpiece is slipped over your teeth to activate the hydrogen peroxide formula. Dr. Maddahi likes Glo because he believes it causes less tooth sensitivity.
  • BriteSmile uses a 25% hydrogen peroxide–based gel, activated by a specialized laser. It’s typically a one-hour session, with a series of three 20-minute applications. This laser whitening or “power whitening” treatment is intended to make teeth five to six shades brighter.
  • Opalescence Boost contains a higher amount of hydrogen peroxide (40%). The consistency of the gel is stickier, and a light activator is not used. The gel also contains potassium nitrate (to reduce sensitivity) and fluoride (to prevent cavities). The process takes about an hour.

During any in-office whitening treatment, you’re encouraged to sit back and relax, listen to music, or watch TV. The process shouldn’t be painful, but you may experience occasional pangs of discomfort. “I felt the ‘zinger’ they said may happen toward the last few parts of the treatment only once, but it wasn’t bad enough to end the treatment early,” says one RealSelf member.

Take-home whitening systems

There are prefilled whitening trays that are available only from your dentist. You use them at home, so they’re easy to apply and very convenient.

  • For Opalescence PF, your dentist makes a mold of your teeth and creates a custom tray based on the impression. You squirt gel (which in addition to hydrogen peroxide, contains potassium nitrate and fluoride) from a syringe into your tray and wear it for a specific amount of time (as little as 15 minutes or as long as overnight) determined by your dentist, based on your whitening needs, for two weeks.
  • Opalescence Go is similar but uses prefilled disposable trays, which you wear for between 15 and 60 minutes for 5–10 days.
  • BriteSmile’s line of at-home whitening pens is called BriteSmile To Go. It produces results similar to those of whitening strips or lower-strength bleaching trays. The instructions recommend applying the gel twice a day for two weeks, then as needed to maintain results.

OTC whitening products

Over-the-counter whitening systems vary in efficacy and results.

  • Whitening strips are the most common (and most popular) option. These clear, disposable strips are applied to the teeth and worn for about 30 minutes a day (in the case of 3D Crest Whitestrips) for two weeks. They’re good for tackling mild stains but really reach only the front six to eight teeth, often called the “smile zone.”
  • OTC kits that use blue LED light (such as Glo Lit Teeth Whitening Device tech kit, AuraGlow, iSmile, or Zero Glow Teeth Whitening Kit) use an LED mouthpiece to help jump-start the chemical (either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide) that whitens your teeth.
  • Other OTC products, such as whitening toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash have flooded the market recently. Unfortunately, clinical trials suggest that you won’t have significantly whiter teeth compared to their in-office counterparts.

RealSelf Tip: Some teeth whitening products list carbamide peroxide as their active ingredient. In water, carbamide peroxide breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and urea. “These at home products are typically used overnight in bleaching trays, as the carbamide peroxide takes time to break down into hydrogen peroxide,” explains Dr. Davidowitz. They can be a good option for those with sensitive teeth: the breakdown results in a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide and accounts for it staying active over a longer period of time, working slowly and steadily.

Professional Teeth Whitening: Is It Worth It? - RealSelf (2024)
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