Having a whiter smile would be enough to brighten anyone’s day. Whiter teeth not only make your smile more attractive, studies show that they also make you feel better about yourself and make other people see you in a more positive light. So it should come as no surprise that over-the-counter whitening products are so popular. If the promise of getting whiter teeth for a mere $30 or $40 sounds almost too good to be true, that’s because it is. In this article we answer the question, “Is teeth whitening at home a good idea?”
Your Two Choices: At-Home Whitening vs. Professional Whitening
If you want a whiter smile, you’ll have to choose between OTC at-home whitening products and professional whitening services available in your dentist’s office. The main appeal of do-it-yourself whitening kits is the affordability – most sell in the $30 to $50 range. Professional whitening services provided by your dentist, on the other hand, typically cost several hundred dollars. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why OTC whitening products are so popular. But, as the old adage says, you get what you pay for. Even though the DIY kits are cheaper, they come with some distinct disadvantages.
Why You Should Think Twice Before Using OTC Whitening Products
Before you invest in a kit to whiten your own teeth at home, consider some of the downsides to these products:
- The results are usually disappointing. If you think that you’ll suddenly have a beautiful white smile after using a drug store whitening product, you’re in for a disappointment. The truth is that these whitening kits aren’t nearly as effective as professional whitening services provided by your dentist. The reason is simple: the bleaching agent that comes with DIY products is much weaker than that used by dentists.
- Most OTC whiteners require you to use the product repeatedly over the course of many days. And even after using the product day after day, the results won’t come close to what you’ll see after just a single trip to your dentist’s office for professional whitening.
- You can’t diagnose your own oral health issues prior to using a whitening product. Your dentist will make sure that any dental problems you have are resolved before whitening your teeth. This includes issues such as cavities and gum disease, for example. You may have some of these issues without even knowing about it, and if you use a whitening product without having oral health problems resolved first, it can be very painful.
- You can develop tooth and gum sensitivity. Speaking of painful – whitening products often make your teeth and gums sensitive. This discomfort is hard to control yourself when using an over-the-counter whitener. On the other hand, when you have your teeth professionally whitened in your dentist’s office, they can monitor any sensitivity you may feel during the process and adjust the bleaching agent as needed to ensure that you don’t feel too much discomfort during the procedure.
- OTC products won’t work on all stains. Some stains on teeth require extra effort on the part of your dentist or hygienist to remove. If you indulge in a lot of stain-producing foods and drinks – such as coffee, tea, red wine, berries, etc. – the stains on your teeth might require a professional cleaning by a hygienist followed by a professional whitening session before they can be removed. In fact, most dentists will recommend that you have your teeth professionally cleaned before whitening for this very reason.
- OTC whiteners seem like a bargain – at first. While there’s no doubt that drug store whitening kits are less expensive than professional whitening services at your dentist’s office, you may end up spending just as much on over-the-counter products. This is because in all likelihood one purchase won’t whiten your teeth, which means you’ll make repeated purchases over time. When you think of it in these terms, it makes much more sense to simply have your teeth professionally whitened one time at your dentist’s office.
Why Professional Whitening Is the Best Choice
Just in case it’s not already obvious why professional whitening services from your dentist is a better choice than over-the-counter products, here is a quick review of the advantages:
- The results are better – stunningly better!
- Professional whitening services usually require only one hour-long visit to your dentist (although if your stains are extreme, it may require more than a single treatment).
- Your dentist can monitor your sensitivity levels throughout the process, helping to keep you as comfortable as possible.
- Any oral health issues you have can be diagnosed and resolved by your dentist prior to whitening your teeth.
- Professional whitening services aren’t really that expensive considering that it’s a one-time purchase and the results typically last much longer than any OTC product.
Take-Home Whitening Kits from Your Dentist
If you still want the convenience that comes with being able to whiten your teeth at home, consider purchasing take-home whitening kits from your dentist. Most of these kits come with a stronger bleaching agent than OTC products, and your dentist will typically create a custom tray for you to use with the bleaching agent. This will allow you to whiten not just a few of your teeth in the front of your mouth, but all your teeth.
Is teeth whitening at home a good idea? The short answer is: usually not! Although the OTC products may seem like a bargain, you’re typically much better off to choose professional whitening services from your dentist. And remember that whitening of any kind may not be the right choice for everyone. Whitening products are not intended for kids. If you have a lot of dental work, you should know that whitening products don’t work on dental fillings, crowns, etc. And if you have very sensitive teeth, the whitening process may be too uncomfortable whether you choose professional whitening or an over-the-counter product. To find out more about teeth whitening and whether or not you’re a good candidate, call your dentist and schedule an appointment today.