Professional Teeth Whitening Services: Worth Your Time and Money?

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White teeth are often considered attractive due to associations with health, youth, and more successful interpersonal relationships. 

Professional Teeth Whitening

Everyone wants a white and bright smile but most are not born with Hollywood-grade pearly whites. Fortunately, you can now change that.

According to one survey, more than 80 percent of American adults aged between 18 and 49 wished to have whiter teeth. It is, therefore, no surprise that Americans have reportedly spent over $2 billion on at-home whitening products annually.

Read on if you want to learn more about the benefits of professional teeth whitening and how you can also lighten your smile with it.

What is tooth whitening?

Tooth whitening is a cosmetic dental procedure used to lighten the natural color of your teeth, thereby making your teeth appear brighter and whiter. 

You can get this done by yourself at home using drugstore products or professionally at a dentist’s office.

At-Home Whitening Vs In-Office Whitening

There are different teeth whitening methods by which you can whiten your smile. Professionally administered tooth whitening can be performed at your dentist’s office throughout multiple appointments. 

Another common approach is at-home bleaching with custom-fitted trays. Numerous over-the-counter products for whitening are available in the market for convenient self-application in the comfort of your home.

At-Home Teeth Whitening

Over-the-counter teeth whitening products include whitening toothpaste, whitening mouthwashes, and whitening strips that contain special bleaching or whitening agents that naturally scrub away at the surface stains and make your teeth look whiter.

When choosing OTC products, you should always look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance, indicating that the company has met the American Dental Association’s requirements for safety and effectiveness. 

You can also get custom trays made at your dentist’s office to load with a whitening gel and use at home whenever you need to. Various teeth whitening systems or kits like Zoom, Opalescence, and Crest are available.

At-Home Teeth Whitening Tray

Some people have also reported brighter smiles using baking soda or charcoal on their teeth, however, there isn’t adequate evidence to prove their effectiveness in teeth whitening.

In-Office Teeth Whitening

Even though OTC products and whitening systems like the Zoom teeth whitening kits have been gaining traction in recent times, many people prefer to whiten teeth through in-office treatment.

The number of in-office visits will depend on the desired outcomes of whitening, however, it usually only takes one to two appointments to give you a set of brighter and whiter teeth.

What to expect at your professional whitening appointment?

Here is what to expect for an in-office or chairside dental whitening procedure at your dentist’s office.

Stage I: Initial assessment 

At your first dental visit, the dentist will examine the health of your teeth to determine if they can be removed using professional or natural methods.

Not all stains are removed the same, therefore, it is important to receive thorough consultation for your particular dental needs.

Since teeth-whitening procedures do not work for teeth discolored due to injury, illness, or medication side effects, it may be a good thing to learn if you fall in this category before starting the procedure.

Expectations, costs, and common side effects of in-office bleaching can be discussed during this visit to give you a fair picture of your anticipated treatment.

Stage II: Shade-matching

Once you’re approved for a dental whitening, your dentist will use a shade guide to record the color of your natural teeth.


This will help your dentist monitor your progress and compare the before and after results of the treatment.

Stage III: Cleaning, polishing and drying

The dentist thoroughly cleans your teeth to rid them of any existing plaque from your teeth before whitening. 

Once the teeth are cleaned, the dentist will make sure that your teeth are as dry as possible before applying the whitening agents. To do this, the dentist may use retractors to keep your tongue, cheeks, and gums from interfering with the whitening agent.

Stage IV: Whitening

The front part of your tooth is uniformly coated with a gel substance that is highly concentrated in hydrogen peroxide. A high-powered laser light is then used to activate the chemicals in the teeth, accelerating the whitening process.

The whitening procedure is typically completed in 60 or 90 minutes. Your dentist may also take an impression of your teeth to make a mouthguard so that you can use it with bleaching gel at home for maximum results.

How does professional teeth whitening work?

Professional teeth whitening uses some form of peroxide-based (hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide) whitening gel to brighten the teeth. 

When the carbamide peroxide in the bleaching gel is activated with a light, it releases one-third of its content as hydrogen peroxide, a strong oxidizing agent.

Hydrogen peroxide can easily diffuse through the interprismatic spaces in the enamel.

The reactive oxygen molecules released from the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide interact with the colored compounds within the enamel and dentin through a chemical oxidation process. This causes the teeth to look brighter in appearance. 

Most commercial whitening products contain low doses of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide, typically between 3 and 20 percent. In-office systems are concentrated with 15 to 43 percent of peroxide, making the results appear faster and last longer.

How long do whitening results last?

Once the whitening process is complete, you will see visible results within a week or two. However, you should know that tooth whitening treatments do not last forever.

tooth whitening before and after

The results of professional whitening can last up to three years when coupled with a rigorous oral care routine. The color of your teeth will look brighter as long as you cut out bright-colored foods that can stain your teeth.

You can also wear at-home trays regularly to touch up and whiten your teeth at home

What are in-office whitening costs?

Over-the-counter products are much more affordable than in-office whitening.

  • Strips and gels: $10 to $55
  • Toothpaste and rinses: $3 to $30
  • Dental kits: $20 to $50
  • Tray-based bleaching systems: $150 to $600

The cost of in-office teeth whitening may be slightly higher at $500 to $1,000. Teeth whitening is typically not covered by dental insurance as it is considered a cosmetic procedure and not an essential one.

What are the side effects of teeth whitening?

The American Dental Association (ADA) informs that your teeth may feel more sensitive after getting your teeth professionally whitened. Sensitive teeth are one of the most common adverse effects of OTC or in-office bleaching.

Your teeth can become more sensitive during the early stages of bleaching but usually resolves on the fourth day after treatment.

You can also experience gum irritation if peroxide-based whitening agents have come in contact with your gums due to improper fit of the loading trays or due to the absence of a protective barrier between the gums and the gel.

Are professional teeth whitening safe?

In-office professional whitening is safe and effective. Not only is it a reliable way to lighten your teeth but it also preserves results for a longer period as compared to over-the-counter products.

Aftercare for dental whitening

Whether you use at-home or professional whitening systems, you should strive to keep the results for a long time. It is essential to incorporate healthy lifestyle habits and take care of your teeth and gums for the effects of optimum whitening. 

  • Brush your teeth twice a day using regular toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth at least twice a day.
  • Avoid tobacco products or smoking.
  • Get regular dental cleanings to keep gum disease at bay.
  • Limit the consumption of highly-pigmented foods and beverages like red wine, coffee, and tea to not stain your natural teeth.

How to decide if teeth whitening treatment is for you?

If you’re curious about achieving whiter teeth and want to know if an in-office procedure is the one for you, you should consult with your dentist before you invest your hopes, time, and money into receiving whitening.

Your dentist will know what’s best for your smile and suggest appropriate treatment for you. Receive safe teeth whitening with in-office bleaching and look forward to a brighter future.

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