If you’re looking for a whiter smile, there are two main methods to brighten your teeth — in-office whitening sessions and take-home kits. Here’s how to decide which is right for you.
Americans love a bright smile — and the statistics prove it. According to U.S. Census data and Simmons National Consumer Survey results, 40.5 million Americans purchased tooth whiteners in 2018. A 2015 survey of dentists done by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry revealed the most frequently requested cosmetic procedure was teeth whitening.
To meet this growing demand, dental practices have begun to offer two teeth-bleaching options: professional in-office sessions or custom take-home kits. Both treatments are designed to clean away stains built up over the years to make your teeth look several shades lighter.
There are two types of stains that treatments can work to erase. Extrinsic stains discolor the surface of tooth enamel, and typically result from smoking or consumption of dark-colored beverages. Both forms of teeth whitening can remove extrinsic stains.
The second type of stain, intrinsic stains, are discolorations deeper in the interior of the tooth. Injury, aging, and certain kinds of medication are common sources of intrinsic stains. Though harder to remove than extrinsic stains, intrinsic stains can be treated with a take-home teeth whitening solution applied over several months.
If you’re considering teeth whitening, you should understand the difference between whitening and bleaching. Bleaching refers to procedures that use hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Whitening, on the other hand, can refer to any product that removes dirt from the teeth — even toothpaste.
Both in-office sessions and take-home kits use bleaching agents. Before you decide to undergo either, your dentist will clean your teeth and address any dental problems such as decay or gum disease. Which method you go on to choose depends on your budget and how quickly you want to brighten your smile.
Performed by a dental professional, in-office bleaching sessions use higher concentrations of whitening solutions. A cheek retractor keeps your mouth open as the dentist applies a liquid rubber dam or hardening resin to protect the gums. The next step is to apply hydrogen peroxide on the teeth and wait for 15 to 30 minutes. The gel is then wiped off and reapplied for another session. Some teeth bleaching methods also use a high-intensity light to speed up the bleaching process.
In-office teeth whitening produces almost immediate results. Your dentist will take pictures of your teeth before and after the treatment to evaluate the changes in tooth color. On average, in-office teeth bleaching costs $650 per appointment.
Take-Home Bleaching Kits
Unlike over-the-counter whitening products, take-home bleaching kits are prescribed by a dentist. The process begins with your dentist making a mold of your upper and lower teeth from a non-toxic putty. A lab then uses that mold to create a customized mouth tray, which usually takes about two weeks. By having a guard fitted to your mouth, you avoid any irritation from the gel making contact with your gum tissue.
At-home bleaching solutions are made of hydrogen peroxide, but at a lower concentration than those used in a dentist’s office. This lower concentration allows you to leave the gel in your mouth for an hour daily for up to two weeks. The cost for at-home professional kits ranges from $100 to $400, and when applied effectively the results can be comparable to in-office treatments.
Teeth bleaching is safe and effective, but you may feel some side effects. The most commonly reported side effects include sensitivity to temperatures and some pain in the middle of the front teeth. Such effects tend to disappear in a day or two. If they persist, your dentist may recommend toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth.
Which Teeth Whitening Option is Right For You?
At Espire Dental, we offer both in-office teeth bleaching and take-home kits. When you make an appointment, we’ll discuss which teeth whitening method option best fits your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Contact us today to create your own personal plan for a brighter smile.