In-Clinic Whitening Treatments Vs Over-The-Counter Kits

Over time, even the brightest smile can be affected by the regular influence of substances such as coffee, tobacco, soft drinks and certain foods. If regular brushing and routine dental cleanings aren’t working to remove the stains and discoloration from your teeth then whitening treatments can offer an effective remedy. Of course, with so many solutions on the market it can be difficult to choose which one suits your needs best. Here is a look at some of the more popular options, and how they differ.

OTC Whitening Kits

You can find a wide variety of OTC whitening products at your local pharmacy or supermarket. In recent years, tooth whitening kits have become particularly popular amongst patients that are looking for a cost-effective cosmetic treatment for their teeth. These systems generally consist of a mouth guard that fits over your teeth, and a hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide-based whitening gel. Some kits will also include an LED light which is used to activate the gel and improve its bleaching ability.

While the application for each treatment will differ, generally the mouth tray is filled with the gel and then fitted over your upper and lower teeth. If an LED light has been included then this will usually be applied inside the mouth. One whitening session can last anywhere from 20-40 minutes, and the treatment will usually need to be applied multiple times for a period of weeks or even months before the results become visible.

Some patients will opt for whitening strips instead of the mouth tray kit. With these kits, a peroxide gel is applied to each individual strip. These swatches are then affixed to the teeth and held, where they should be kept for anywhere from 20-40 minutes (depending on the instructions). Unfortunately, oral strips can be difficult to secure as your saliva will often cause them to slip off, this may cause uneven results especially near teeth crevices where it can be hard to ensure consistent contact with the gel.

In-Office Whitening

In-clinic teeth whitening sessions are usually performed over one or more appointments by a trained oral health practitioner. The procedure for these treatments is as follows:

  • The dentist will start by performing a thorough cleaning of your teeth to remove plaque and other bacterial buildups from the enamel surface.

  • At this stage they will also inspect your teeth for any cracks or infections that may be further irritated by the bleaching agent, these issues should be resolved before whitening.

  • The dentist will insert a cheek retractor, so that your teeth are easily accessible for cleaning.

  • The dentist will apply a specialized liquid to your gums to prevent them from coming into contact with the peroxide.

  • The peroxide gel is applied to all your teeth and left to sit for a period of 15-30 minutes.

  • This agent will be removed and replaced with a fresh coat during the session.

  • The dentist may use an additional LED light to activate the bleaching agent.

  • The dentist will perform regular checks to confirm that whitening is taking effect.

  • After the treatment, the level of whitening will be checked against a scale. This color will deepen over the day as the bleaching agent works to dehydrate your teeth.

  • Multiple sessions may be required if further whitening is needed.

The Pros and Cons

  • Although OTC whitening kits use the same bleaching agent as professional treatments, these agents come in a far lower concentration (10% carbamide peroxide v 22% in professional treatments.). Of course, this will mean less effective whitening.

  • In OTC treatments the gel can often be washed away by saliva before it has created sufficient contact with your teeth. By comparison, a dentist will apply the gel directly to your teeth and ensure that all visible surfaces are covered.

  • It can take months to see real results with OTC treatments while an in-clinic treatment will create an instant impact after a short 30-60 minute session.

  • OTC treatments are far cheaper than professional whitening solutions however. An OTC kit will cost up anywhere from $20-$90 while a full-mouth whitening sessions can cost hundreds of dollars.

  • When applying OTC whiteners, patients should ensure that the peroxide does not come into contact with their gums as this can cause recession. During a supervised whitening the gums will be protected from exposure, and the bleaching agent may be mixed with additional ingredients that help to minimize any sensitivities.

For more information contact Dr. Pallavi SInha at

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