Professional Teeth Whitening vs. At-Home Whitening Kits

Stains and discoloration have made people self-conscious of their smiles for centuries. Today, people who are dissatisfied with the tint of their teeth can invest in a variety of whitening products that help bring back that pearly shine. While the convenience of over-the-counter options makes them attractive to many patients, there are a lot of differences between those options and methods professionals use. Before choosing a treatment, it’s important to understand the differences between professional teeth whitening vs at-home whitening kit alternatives.

When it comes to evaluating which whitening option is best, our team at Smile Design Dental will help you make the most optimal choice. Discussing the differences with your doctor may keep you from causing damage to your teeth. If you live in the Coral Springs, Ft. Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Margate, and Plantation, FL areas, call us to learn more about whitening services today! 

Why Whiten?

Some people just don’t think about the color of their teeth until it’s too late. Staining can occur when people eat or drink foods that can leave pigments attached to or under the surface of your dentition. Wine, coffee, tea, and tobacco can all leave a residue on enamel that permanently changes its tint. Brown or yellow stains may be exceedingly difficult to remove. 

Some staining is so bad that dentists can’t clean the surface, no matter how hard they try. In such cases, veneers are an option to disguise the offending dentition and renew the look of the patient’s smile. However, veneers are a permanent procedure that involves removing surface enamel. That’s where tooth whitening products have an edge. When used properly, they will maintain the integrity of your teeth while simultaneously brightening them!

Not the Same Stains

Getting stains out of fabric can be difficult, but trying to remove them from teeth is an entirely different story. Much like brightening a dull undershirt, tooth whiteners use a bleaching agent to work on tough stains. Depending on the discoloration’s depth, surface treatments may not be entirely effective. There are two different types of staining that may affect dentition:

  • Extrinsic: These are stains that form on the surface of teeth, directly in the enamel. Caused by darker-colored foods and beverages, they are easier to remove because bleaching agents can be directly applied to the tooth’s surface. Dentists can also remove the discolored enamel if staining hasn’t gone too deep.
  • Intrinsic: If your tooth’s dentin, or the layer below the enamel, is stained, it may take much more work to remove. These subsurface discolorations can be whitened with stronger bleaching agents, but in some cases more extensive work may be needed.

When consulting with your dentist, the final whitening treatment is based upon where and how deep the stains on your teeth go. Whitening procedures work best when applied to extrinsic discolorations, and your dentist may be able to offer other solutions if whitening products aren’t capable of handling your particular issues.

Counting On Over-the-Counter

At-home treatments are exceedingly popular, especially since they can usually be done on the comfort of your own couch! This doesn’t mean that they are as reliable as other methods, and that’s especially true for teeth whitening products. Over-the-counter treatments are required by law to be less intensive than their doctor-regulated counterparts, mainly because higher doses of some products can be harmful if used without the proper guidance. 

The primary ingredient in most store-bought alternatives use hydrogen peroxide as a bleaching agent. While some medical-grade options do so as well, those available to the public are of much lower strength. Some of the most common varieties include:

  • Whitening Toothpaste: Using abrasives to scrub and hydrogen peroxide to bleach, these products can have some success. However, since the bleaching agent is only applied to your teeth while you brush, they aren’t as effective as other means.
  • Strips and Gels: these materials are either stuck directly to the teeth or applied with a brush. They stay in contact with teeth for much longer than toothpaste, but the low levels of hydrogen peroxide means the change won’t be as dramatic, nor will it remove stains from teeth in the back of your mouth.
  • Tray Systems: Similar to the dentist’s treatment plan, tray procedures keep the bleaching agent in close contact with teeth using trays. These are generally loose-fitting since they need to be standardized, meaning there are still areas that the hydrogen peroxide can miss.

The main drawback to these at-home options is that they don’t have the same strength as those provided by your doctor. Dramatic whitening requires a more concentrated bleaching agent, something that only a trained clinician can teach how to use properly. Otherwise, patients would have to undergo multiple over-the-counter treatments to get similar effects to what a dentist can achieve!

Dentist Prescribed

It may be easier to swing into the local drug store and pick up some tooth whitening products, but that doesn’t mean it will be as effective as those used by your dentist. Store-bought options are generally much cheaper, but when compared to the amount of time needed to get similar results the difference in cost begins to disappear. Multiple treatments can add up quickly, especially when compared to the immediate results possible with in-office techniques.

The benefits of using professional-grade bleaching agents can easily be seen in how quickly and effectively they whiten teeth. Because they are regulated to a much higher degree, they are usually much more effective than their lower-cost counterparts Some patients may even wish to brighten their smiles in the morning for an event that takes place in the afternoon! At Smile Design Dental, we utilize two medical-grade methods with procedures that can be performed in-office or in the comfort of your own home!

Philips Zoom!

Who would have thought that whitening your teeth could be as easy as turning on a light? The Philips Zoom! Technique for brightening smiles does exactly that, using ultraviolet rays to help bring a real shine to your smile. For sessions taking place in our offices, a clinician will apply the bleaching agent to your teeth and adjust a specialized light to focus on your mouth. Patients can see a dramatic improvement right away and may find their smiles getting even brighter 2-3 days after the procedure.

If office visits aren’t an option, we also offer take-home kits that allow you to take care of the process yourself. This gives our clients the opportunity to whiten their teeth on their own terms with the same flexibility as offered in over-the-counter options. It is also more effective thanks to higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide found in professional bleaching agents.

Opalescence® Treatment Plan

While commercially available tray-based products have a bad track record for whitening, the Opalescence® counteracts their major flaw. Over-the-counter options fill generic teeth trays with whitening gel, which is then placed against your teeth. Unfortunately, since the trays are not designed for your mouth specifically, there can be gaps in coverage resulting in poor whitening overall.

Opalescence® receptacles counteract this by having them made specifically for your mouth. This creates a perfect fit for maximum coverage, allowing both front and back teeth to get the full benefit of professional-quality bleaching agents. With concentrations of the de-stainer carbamide peroxide available in doses from 10% to 35%, your dentist will help determine which whitening agent is best for your treatment plan!

The Safer and Reliable Approach

It isn’t just the increased strength of bleaching agents that make in-office treatments a more effective option. There are a number of reasons patients debate professional teeth whitening vs at-home whitening kit methods. Even though the concentrations of brighteners are higher in professional products, patients are still supervised and instructed in their use by qualified professionals. This leads to fewer mistakes and brighter teeth in much less time.

In addition, your dentist understands issues with your mouth that you may not be able to recognize. A patient may struggle with at-home options only to learn from their dentist that the stains are intrinsic in nature. Over-the-counter methods don’t have the power to handle issues such as those, and your doctor may provide you with additional options that will be much more effective at fixing your smile.

A lot of our patients are looking for procedures that can do themselves while comfortable at home. Smile Design Dental offers our South Florida clients take-home options of our products, letting them whiten their teeth at their leisure. With the strength of professional whiteners and the convenience of at-home care, our patients get the best of both worlds!

Bringing Out Brighter Smiles

Making the choice to whiten your teeth is the first step towards a brighter and more confident smile. Prospective patients looking to turn back the clock on their teeth can call our Coral Springs, Ft. Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Margate, and Plantation, FL locations to schedule an appointment. Whether it’s with Philips Zoom! Technology or the Opalescence® treatment plan, we’ve got whitening covered!

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