Over the Counter Vs Professional Teeth Whitening

Everyday Health: Over the counter vs professional teeth whitening: How do OTC teeth-whitening products compare to professional teeth-whitening options? Is it worth the extra cost to visit the dentist? Is teeth whitening safe?

Original Article

martin polinMartin R. Polin, DMD (drpolin.com)
Cosmetic Dentist, Boca Raton, FL

Over the counter products, such as Crest Whitestrips, work fine, but they are cumbersome to use and usually only whiten the front 6 teeth — so if your back teeth are capped, it is a good alternative. As for whitening toothpastes and rinses, they do not do very much, and any toothpaste option will do essentially the same thing.

Whitening done at the dentist’s office is much more controlled, is easier to use, and produces better results. In our office, we generally use the tray system since it gives the most flexibility to our patients and is easy to touch up every few months to maintain that sparkle. Beware of whitening done with a light. The light is more of a marketing ploy and has never been proven to add much to the whitening process.

Elisa Mello, DDS ( nycsmiledesign.com)
Cosmetic Dentist, New York City

Many over the counter whitening products are not as effective because their chemistry is either very weak and cannot bleach the teeth for sufficient amounts of time or they are very strong and dangerous to use and ingest. Professional teeth whiteners are safe, effective, and done under the supervision of a dental professional. In most cases, it is worth the extra cost to visit the dentist to get long-lasting, safe results.

Mark Levy, DDS ( stoneridgedentalcare.com)
Cosmetic Dentist, Gahanna, Ohio

Yes, teeth whitening is very safe when done correctly. I’ve whitened my whole family’s teeth — my wife and my two adult children. I’ve even whitened my own. The only over the counter product that I could endorse would be Crest Whitestrips because it is a regulated product. Anything else would be a gamble as we have no idea about what the whitening agents are or their strengths. The cost of conventional tray whitening has come down quite a lot. You should look for a dentist who offers a program called ‘Whitening for Life.’ It is a real bargain!

Christopher A. Stanosheck, DDS (thesmiledesignstudio.com)
Cosmetic Dentist, Omaha, NE 

Over-the-counter products have improved drastically over the years. Some of the products are quite good; some are not so good. I would avoid any over-the-counter product that claims immediate results. Many times, these products can contain higher concentrations of whitening solution than what is recommended for the individual. Options such as store-bought whitening strips do have some merit. Unfortunately, if your teeth are crooked or rotated, you may not get the results you want. In this case, professional whitening may be your best bet. Furthermore, decay or recession can complicate matters by increasing sensitivity. For your best results, visit your dentist and have a “whitening evaluation” to find out what system is best for you. If cost is the issue, your dentist can recommend the best low-cost or over-the-counter whitening system based on your circumstances.

Lance Timmerman, DMD (bestseattledentist.com)
Cosmetic Dentist, Tukwila, WA 

Teeth whitening is very safe, but it is safest when supervised. Easy access can lead to overuse, and long-term use may be harmful. The OTC products are very nice introductions to whiter teeth, but they are not as effective. Since they are OTC, the concentration of gel is lower. Compared to professional strength whiteners, OTC products require longer usage for a similar effect to professional strength and compliance (leading to satisfaction) is low. When done right, the investment is always worth it.

Jeffrey Dalin, DDS (dfdasmiles.com)
Cosmetic Dentist, St. Louis, MO 

Over-the-counter teeth whitening products have their limitations. Most of my patients tell me that they had little or no effect on their teeth. Every so often, the results are very good. If this is the case, the patient can stop at this point. If they are not satisfied with the results, we can make custom bleach trays for them, and they use the products we dispense in our office. A custom tray is trimmed to fit perfectly over the teeth and along the gumline. This keeps the bleaching gel on the teeth and off of the gums. It also holds a perfect reservoir of gel on the teeth for the prescribed period of time. Patients are usually very satisfied with the results from this technique, and they then keep the trays for future “touch-ups.”

Adrian Fenderson, DDS (napadentist.com)
Cosmetic Dentist, Napa, CA

Nothing that you can buy in the supermarket is going to provide you with the same results as the treatments or products you will find at your dentist’s office. Simply put, the solution that your dentist can permissibly use is far more concentrated that what you will find in a box on store shelves, and therefore will yield more beneficial results. This is not to say that some over-the-counter bleaching products do not work, but you will soon come to find that these products are time-consuming and very sloppy. In fact, many people give up before completing their treatments because the solutions taste horrible, get messy, and do not provide the results expected. In some instances, using products that promise whiter teeth can actually do the reverse. In my office, patients can choose to receive an in-office treatment, which uses a combination of whitening gel and a high intensity light to break up and remove stains and discoloration from a tooth’s surface. We also offer a custom designed and fitted home bleaching alternative that is less messy and much more comfortable than store-bought kits.

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