Over-the-counter vs. Professional Teeth Whitening By drednarcisi on March 05, 2014

Pittsburgh Teeth WhiteningYellowed, stained teeth can be a source of embarrassment and cause us to look old beyond our years. Luckily, teeth whitening is a quick, effective way to rejuvenate your appearance by erasing years of dental stains. When considering teeth whitening treatment, you may be wondering which to choose: over-the-counter or professional teeth whitening? Pittsburgh dentist Edward Narcisi offers this overview to help you understand the differences between the two treatment options.

Over-the-counter Teeth Whitening Systems

Over-the-counter teeth whitening systems offer the benefits of a whiter smile in the comfort and convenience of your own home. Over-the-counter treatments come in a variety of forms. Some over-the-counter treatments consist of a whitening gel worn with a special tooth tray while others use special strips with a pre-applied whitening agent.

For most at-home treatments, hydrogen peroxide is the active whitening ingredient. The peroxide forms small bubbles on the surface of the teeth; the peroxide helps lift stains. The length of time and number of times an at-home whitening treatment should be used depends on the specific treatment. In general, many over-the-counter whitening systems require 30 minutes of daily use while others may need to be used overnight for a week or two. All whitening systems will come with instructions, which should be followed for optimum results.

When looking for an over-the-counter whitening system, keep in mind that treatments with a higher concentration of peroxide will yield brighter results. Other things to be aware of when using over-the-counter whitening treatments are:

  • Gum Irritation: Using over-the-counter whitening treatments for an extended period of time can lead to gum irritation.
  • Increased Tooth Sensitivity: Overuse of at-home whitening treatments lead to increased tooth sensitivity. Typically, the increased tooth sensitivity will resolve within a few days of stopping treatment.
  • Uneven Whitening Results: Over-the-counter tooth whitening treatments can create uneven whitening results, making the teeth look splotchy. This can happen if the teeth are not properly cleaned prior to treatment or if the whitening gel is not applied evenly.
  • Unsatisfactory Results: For those with major yellowing or staining, at-home whitening treatments may be too weak to be able to produce the desired whitening results.

Professional Teeth Whitening

Professional teeth whitening generally produces better results than over-the-counter treatments. As with over-the-counter treatments, there are different types of in-office whitening systems. Many professional whitening systems, like the Zoom® whitening system, use a concentrated bleaching gel and a special light. The light used with the Zoom® system helps boost the whitening power of the gel to produce a bright smile, up to ten shades whiter, in as little as one 60-minute treatment.

Like home whitening systems, professional teeth whitening can cause minor gum irritation and increased tooth sensitivity, both of which are temporary. Using sensitive formula toothpastes after teeth whitening can help reduce dental sensitivity. There are many benefits to choosing professional teeth whitening over at-home treatments. Some of these benefits include:

  • Increased Whitening: Professional tooth whitening systems are generally more powerful than over-the-counter treatments and are used in combination with professional tools to create increased whitening results.
  • Fast and Effective: Most in-office whitening treatments can yield the desired whitening results in a single 60-minute dental visit, whereas many over-the-counter treatments require at least 30 minutes of daily wear for a full week.
  • Professionally Monitored: One of the main benefits of professional teeth whitening is it's performed by a trained dental professional who knows exactly how to apply the gel and how to obtain your desired results.
  • Better Results: Professional teeth whitening treatments give better results than over-the-counter treatments.

Find Out Which Treatment Is Right for You

To find out which whitening treatment is right for you, or to discuss alternative treatment options like porcelain veneers, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Narcisi.

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Dr. Edward Narcisi, DMD

Edward Narcisi, DMD

Dr. Narcisi is devoted to helping patients achieve stunning, healthy smiles through comprehensive dental care. He is a member of many prestigious associations, including: 

  • American Dental Association
  • Pennsylvania Dental Association
  • American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry 
  • Academy of Osseointegration 

To schedule a consultation at the Center for Dental Excellence, request an appointment online or call us at (412) 373-9447.

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